May Day Marching Band: a band by, of, & for the people (and their parties!)

On a beautifully mild and pleasant October evening, Pittsburghers of all stripes gathered in the normally quiet hamlet of Greenfield to rejoice in the re-opening of The Greenfield Bridge, a main thoroughfare connecting the community to Schenley Park and Oakland! Crafts, games, and delicious food trucks abounded, but my main reason for attending, and the perfect musical accompaniment, was a performance by the city’s own community-based band, The May Day Marching Band.

After a bombastic announcement that the bridge would, indeed, be dedicated in the spirit of Wonder by a colorful and impish Master-of-Ceremonies of sorts, The M.D. Marching Band led the procession to the “Wonder” maypole and back with a rousing rendition of “Song for Wonder,” a tune based on “Daniel Prayed” by the late, great Dr. Ralph Stanley and personalized for the event with words by Connor Sites-Bowen. The Marching Band did a fantastic job, especially considering that they had been presented with the song a mere twenty minutes before their performance. Once returning to center-bridge, the band really had a chance to shine, playing a song by Lokonon Andre & Les Volcans, “Mi Kple Dogveckpo” and a cover of the Peruvian folk song “Bella Andajena” in a spirited circle jam complete with frenzied dancing swirling around them.

Much to the disappointment of myself and the crowd, their set and celebration was cut short for some prolonged oration rife with political name-dropping prior to the bridge’s ribbon cutting. Although fun and carefree, the whole event seemed a bit disorganized. There was even a “parade” across the bridge in which the Marching Band didn’t appear to be invited to play in, a true loss.

Undeterred, the MDMB pulled double-duty that day by playing a full set at the burgeoning Glitter Box Theater, only breaking for a group meal, which is one of their only indulgences when compensated for their performances. The group of anywhere up to twenty musicians at any given appearance pride themselves on their volunteerism and have got an impressive resume to boast it, having played this year’s Women’s March on Washington and as far away as Boston’s renowned HONK! Festival in their seven or eight year career.

What’s so punk about a marching band? How about a Crass cover? Filmed by & featuring Punksburgh‘s own Thomas Koraido!

Meanwhile, back at home in the ‘bugh, the band have been a mainstay at Pittonkatonk‘s free-for-all May Day Brass BBQ. Ever evolving and expanding, the band invites musicians of all skill levels to join them under the Bloomfield Bridge from 2 – 4 pm for open practice every Sunday for as long as the weather remains above fifty degrees, after which you are invited to join them in the toasty indoors! I’ve been assured that dancers are welcome as well, although the inside spaces may prevent such revelry. Email for inside practice locations: maydayband@riseup.net.

Experience the socially-conscious party that is the May Day Marching Band for yourself when they play at Howlers on October 25th with L.A.’s folk-metal The Manx and locals Joey Molinaro playing grindcore violin, and Crisp Lake (Chris Blake, ha!) playing hobo street music, from what I gather. Sounds like a good time to me!

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