Scandinavian prudishness surprises Extra Action Marching Band

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By Lasse Lundberg Andreasen
Photos by Pelle Rink

The young festival worker only offers one piece of advice: “Do not enter their hotel room. They are wack. They will flip you upside down and snort coke from your ass. Also, they might be gay”.

The rumours about Oakland's 27-piece Extra Action Marching Band (EAMB) had arrived in Copenhagen long before the band. EAMB was invited to the Danish capital to perform at the Distortion street festival in early June this year.

Performances by this massive ensemble include a flag team, barely dressed male and female dancers and a bullhorn performer. A combination, which led to some confusion among the audience. “I’m pretty sure one of them was a transvestite”, a woman says out loud after the show, clearly in doubt about the appropriateness of her own statement.

The Bay Area band was somewhat perplexed about the sexual focus. “This is so weird. It’s the second time someone has asked us about homosexuality since we arrived," says Violet Angell, a drummer in the band.

“Yes, some in the band are homosexuals, others are brothers or someone’s aunt. It’s not an issue for us at all. The time we just spent on this question is the longest time we have ever spent talking about it. Ever. We have started wondering what the Danish people are hiding in their closets”, Violet Angell adds.

In the US, the bands performances spark other kinds of reactions. “After a gig in the US a woman wanted to know why our female dancers was dancing the way they do. She thought it was degrading for the women. I just told her: You got issues – I play music. That’s it”.

One of the founding members of EAMB, Simon Cheffins, explains, “Our performances are not about entertaining. Rather we want to blur the lines between a band performing and an audience passively receiving. That’s why the dancers and musicians get so intimate with the crowd.”

Later in the evening, it’s time for the second act at the festival. However, this time the performance is not in a hotel and the crowd has been drinking for hours.

“We like to play late gigs. People are more drunk”, a band member says just before EAMB push their way into the massive crowd.