Extra Action Lives Up To Its Name

Extra Action Lives Up To Its Name: Marching Band Humps the Toronto leg of their North American tour
July 30, 2005

Somewhere, on the night of July 22nd, 2005, the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Sugar were defecating, suddenly and without warning, in their own pants. Meanwhile, at Funhaus on Queen Street West in Toronto, Extra Action had taken their pants off.

I watched a man maintain a look of ecstasy on his face while being sprayed with anonymous fluid and flagellated by black pom-poms at the hands of two sadistic cheerleaders. He writhed about, happy as a clam, on a club floor which was about as clean as the bottom of a New York subway station janitor’s bucket, smearing himself with the black goo that results from a mixture of the aforementioned anonymous fluid/janitor’s bucket combo. Sunny, blonde, hairless and lean, with Atlas-style musculature, he took after Adonis, or possibly Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s creation, Rocky.

Clad only in Andy Warhol sunglasses and the most meager hotpants, Rocky begins to moult, shedding his wee scrap of bottom-concealing vinyl and displaying his resplendent black Speedo with its silk-screened red skull motif. A fig leaf would have provided more coverage. It was like watching a dangerous, man-eating butterfly bursting forth from its plastic cocoon: fascinating, terrifying, paralyzing. Par for the course with the rest of the evening, it was on some level repulsive, but contained latent musky overtones of hotness.

Let’s back up a bit. How did I come to be here, in this wild musical jungle? A cultured, well-traveled, music-loving friend left two messages on my answering machine. He had e-mailed me as well. Begging. Edge of desperation. Moral imperative that I attend. Please come, immediately, tonight. Doors open at nine. I went by myself, woefully solo but intrigued by his passionate plea, his clear need to share something incommunicable.

Initial awkwardness at the thought of braving the crowd alone soon melted into the desire for everyone else to fuck right off. I wanted this band all to myself. To be alone with them. To pick up a tuba and play with them. Because I have no idea what the set was, and I am not qualified to judge musicality, and I am a character-centric writer, you are getting only one dimension of the Extra Action Marching Band experience in this review. I will leave you to listen to the music that streams on their website, and simply try to convey some aspect of the visceral, visual experience with words.

It goes without saying that they were attired in the usual costumery: Bustiers, plaid miniskirts, eyeliner. Fedoras, collars, cuffs. Metal studded belts, S&M headgear, sequins. On second thought, no, it absolutely needs to be said. It needs quite a lot of saying. As I recall, normal gear for marching bands involves batons, plumes, yards and yards of shiny golden rope wound around hats so tall they require chin straps and always, always epaulettes. Something was very wrong here. Very wrong, or else very, very right.

Riding on the edge of homeless chic and gliding past it with ample lubrication into pure ‘derelicte’ were…

Snare Drummer: a dirty-Colin-Firth-as-a-pirate vibe was created with the clashing synergy of curly hair, red tights, a cropped ribbed sweater, cravat, crocodile shoes and old gym shorts. Peggy lee whispered in my ear, “He gives me fever”. Strangely, I concurred.

Trumpet player: red beard, red hat, red glasses, sort of Don Cherry meets the Yellow Bastard of Sin City fame… yet still hot? How is this possible?

Cowbell player: she wore black lace ribbon tied over her eyes, ending in a gordian knot behind her head, and what appeared to be another strand gagging her mouth; although it may just have been long, dark, sweaty tendrils of hair plastered to her face which looked like a gag in the dark, moist, festering-with-sex atmosphere. Unspeakably hot.

Trombonist: barefoot(!), mostly shirtless, young, sweat beaded on his supple flesh, like an advertisement for one of the more chic and expensive circles of Hell, or New Orleans on a really good day.

Cymbalist: bore uncanny resemblance to Daniel Day Lewis as the mad Irishman in Gangs of New York, replete with ostentatious handlebar moustache, glistening abdominal muscles, nattily robed in nothing but old-fashioned trousers, an old-fashioned key strung around his neck on a leather rope, and an old-fashioned pair of red satin cuffs-cum-boxing gloves with stars stitched onto the wrists, possibly made by his Mum. At one point I was almost certain that in the frenzied ferocity of his cymbal-smashing, he might bite the trombonist’s ear: I wanted him to.

Tuba player:Tall, tall, heavy-set black man in black shorts and maroon shirt the colour of dried blood. Offset by a bundled abundance of dreadlocks in an untidy queue at the back of his neck, and delicate, silver-rimmed spectacles on his face. The Predator meets Rick James meets Fat Albert. I had a powerful need to hump his leg; suddenly, as though I’d spoken my thoughts aloud, a tiny blonde waif was doing just that. He looked nonplussed.

Cheerleading, flag-waving dancer girls: insistently penetrating the crowd, their writhing, humping presence they were like… like… it would be unfair to say that they were aiming for Britney Spears, or tipping their hats to Christina Aguilera, or paying homage to Marilyn, or mimicking Courtney Love. In their ridiculously tiny cut-off jean shorts with their messy blonde wigs, they transcended these babe stereotypes. Proudly thrusting into the crowd in their angry black fringed tank tops and black shit-kickers, they burned with the souls of a hundred dead strip-tease artists, a thousand teen goths, and a million band geeks. Angelina Jolie is not this hot.

One of the girls lost her wig during an unusually rabid head-thrashing moment, and persisted in her sexiness despite the exposed mesh net and bobby-pin fiasco that crowned her. While holding a burlesque pose, she openly picked her nose and ate it onstage – and was still unassailably sexy. Like Tank Girl, these women were encased in the impenetrable armor of sexiness.

On their tour bus, the intrepid Green Tortoise, the Extra Action Marching Band must have the most incredible, surreal orgies of all time. No band camp has ever seen so much action: ‘extra’ or otherwise. Go see the show. But for fuck’s sake, leave the kids at home.


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