Artopia: The Hot Dorks of Drumline

Titanium Sporkestra: bringing sexy back to marching bands.

There's a reason they're called band geeks: Around these parts, marching around in ridiculous hats like the first infantry doesn't exactly scream "hip." But Titanium Sporkestra, an eight-person drum band, takes the best aspects of marching bands—the bombastic music and the showmanship—and tweaks them for an audience of hipper-than-thou Northwestern naysayers.Titanium Sporkestra plays rhythms derived from HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), though their outfits are more Oregon Country Fair than college football game. "HBCUs have some of the most amazingly talented marching bands in the country," explains David Stern, the band's dreadlocked leader. "They're known for their showmanship. They juggle their sticks and do unbelievably complicated rhythms. So we take about three-quarters of our music from those bands and adapt it to our group. It's a pretty traditional marching band sound."Stern's band also incorporates Indian and African percussion. When the group opened for Moroccan virtuosos the Master Musicians of Jajouka at Neumos several months ago, they warmed things up by getting down on the floor in matching Kanye glasses, drums strapped to their torsos, dancing (in the limited capacity allowed) and inviting the crowd to join them.Stern, a middle-school teacher, Seattle native, and main booker for the marching-band festival Honk! Fest West, started Titanium Sporkestra with bandmate Cevin Millstead after seeing a marching band from Chicago called Environmental Encroachment at Burning Man in 2007. "They were amazing, and it sort of reopened my eyes to the idea of a marching band."At present, Titanium Sporkestra is still just a round-table drum line of 20-something band geeks who've blossomed into performers as comfortable at Neumos as they are in the streets. Soon, though, the band will hold auditions for a new horn section, a cross between "epic, loud, blaring horns," Stern says, and "heavy grooves, like a really loud hip-hop kind of sound. We have this vision of our sound to be, as Cevin put it, something between 'Ride of the Valkyries' and 'Baby Got Back.'"But the drums alone are more than enough to entrance even the most reluctant crowd. "The thing with just the drums is that they're so powerful, even for people who aren't drummers," Stern says. "There's something that's relatable about this kind of music. It's like staring at a campfire. You can't help but be sucked in."

 
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