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Bang and Blow

Local musicians launch city's first marching band.

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Richmond may soon know what happens when you mix a stomach full of huevos rancheros with a burning passion for music inspired by John Philip Sousa.

It started with longtime city musicians Reggie Pace and Matt White, who spent years chewing over the dream to form a Richmond marching band. During a meal at Kuba Kuba in the fall, they finally decided to pull the pin.

“It was just this idea,” says Pace, whose other gig is fronting the No BS! Brass Band. “At Kuba, we said ‘Look, all we have to do is put a date on the calendar. We’ve just got to do it.'”

They did, and after a bit of ad-hoc promotion on Facebook, the two were joined by about 50 like-minded musicians — woodwinds, brass and drums at the ready — March 29 at Chimborazo Park.

City police promptly kicked them out for lacking an amplified music permit.

“The cops were super cool — they said people never call us when people are selling drugs here, but they call when they play music,” says White, who is part of the popular Richmond band Fight the Big Bull. “We do have a permit for Chimborazo now.”

Despite the hiccup, the Richmond Marching Band has been practicing legally on the last Sunday of each month at Chimborazo, with plans to perform on the Fourth of July.

The band continues to draw solid volunteer participation, much of it from the city's dedicated young local jazz and rock music scene. But they've been pleased to see that others are catching on — from high-school students to former band geeks turned accountants and lawyers.

“There's these guys that are like doctors or whatever they are,” White says, “and are pretty proficient on their horns — and they show up.”

Pace and White say they hope to add flag girls or maybe a step club — anything to add to the sound and fury they want to create. Uniforms remain a question mark, though one idea floating around is matching T-shirts and mismatching marching-band hats from e-Bay. 

“I'd love to do some kind of collaboration, like with an arts organization, and have them make costumes,” White says. “That would just be sick.”

Although there's organization at the center of this brass- and woodwind-powered hurricane, White and Pace say the key is the anarchic, do-it-yourself spirit.

There are enough good players, they say. Now people just need to show up — with “a kazoo or whatever — and just bang on it or blow on it or whatever.” White says.

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