Dance Band
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Dance Band


Band Rock Funk


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"Winner:Best Live Artist-Dance Band"

Good funk bands don't need to remind their audiences to dance. Then again, most don't have to deal with stiff Twin Cities crowds either, so we'll cut Dance Band some slack for their dumb name and constant imploring. "We are Dance Band, and that's what you're gonna do!" commands the group's spastic and hirsute singer, Captain Octagon. "Shake your baby maker!" The thing is, the crack rhythm section behind Octagon is so good, and their quirky electro-funk is so catchy, that every butt in the house is bouncing. Begging for something that's already happening—it's like pillow talk as stage banter. Which is appropriate, since Dance Band—like any indecent interstellar funk band—isn't really about dancing at all, except as a pretext to more explicit night moves. All this makes Captain Octagon something of a Ron Jeremy for the local hipster set. Like any indecent interstellar bandleader, he begins every show dressed to the gills in a spangly jumpsuit, and finishes wearing little more than his own chest hair. The best part: From the sound of the critical mass anthem "Pedal Power," there's even a political bone in their sweaty bodies. That'll give you something to talk about in the morning. - City Pages

"transcending pinnacles...."

It seems a band with a name this overt must either be ironic or doomed to failure. But Dance Band has successfully transcended the pinnacle of sarcasm to voyage in a whole new land of sincerity. They want you to dance as they sing in matching jumpsuits (or equally audacious costuming) about clapping, dancing, and riding bicycles- and you probably will. This is becuase Dance Band is the love child of a late night rendezvous between Devo and P-Funk on Seasame Street. -

"Album Release Show"

Almost exactly a year ago, I attended my first Dance Band show at the 7th Street Entry. My hopes were high, and just as I was starting to get into it, a man from the audience climbed atop one on the monitors, then fell headfirst onto the cold, hard floor, sending him to the hospital and ending the show just a couple of songs in. Since then, I have seen Dance Band every chance I have had, and they have established themselves as one of the premiere live acts in the city. They backed it up in spades on Saturday.

The Battle Royale opened the night and their '80s-electro infused insanity was a near-perfect start. TBR features Grace Fiddler from One For The Team and Mouthful of Bees’ Mark Reitsma along with a couple of others, but this seems like a bit more than a side project for everyone involved, while the vocals are a little atonal at times, it seems sort of intentionally so, plus the songs are well thought out. Bottom line: it’s fun to listen to and ultimately quite danceable. The crowd responded by doing just that.

Mel Gibson & The Pants took up the middle slot and surprised me a little. The last time I had seen them I remembered them sounding a lot more drum ‘n bass heavy than they did Saturday. The songs are loopy like you think drum ‘n bass would be, but they’re more rock heavy, almost classic rock-like at times, and the lyrics are rapped not sung. It was definitely an acquired taste, but the detailing of many of the songs (spare use of a vocoder, a slew of effects spread out over the course of the set) made MGP strangely enticing.

About halfway through Dance Band’s set they did a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime.” For a few seconds I looked at the band, looked at the crowd and wondered: are Dance Band growing up? But then I caught Captain Octagon dancing and flailing his arms in the air, a high school band drum corps hat atop his beard-adorned head and decided it’s not likely. But a band can’t live in a vacuum, and it was a spot-on reminder that they are aware of the outside world, even as mere visitors from Planet Dance. All of them had on suits or variations thereof, except for Captain Octagon, who had on most or all of his costume from Voltage earlier this year -- blue spandex unitard, cape, etc. -- though it was all removed down to his Speedo by the end of the show.
Dance Band were celebrating the release of their debut album, the dance-funk freakout (whatever that means) Dance Band Returns From the Land After Tomorrow and they were going to make this a party come hell or high water. Luckily, they weren't going to have to work too hard. This band wants you to dance, shake your babymaker, bust a move, whatever you want to call it, just don’t stand still. “We are not Stand Band” they are often quoted as saying in interviews and from the stage, and they are right. I was in both the front of the crowd (sweaty, younger, everyone was slightly pushy in trying to get even closer to the stage) and back (older, cooler temperature-wise, with better view of the overall crowd.) The Varsity sold out early, but not one person was standing still, whether they were just tapping their feet or dancing themselves into a near-convulsive state. Watching the crowd I was a little in awe of this. Usually the back is where people go who don’t want to dance, Saturday there simply wasn’t room up front for everyone that wanted to dance. From the back of The Varsity I was elevated a bit over the crowd, and it looked like film I’ve seen of Manchester’s legendary Fac51 (commonly known as The Hacienda) that gave rise to bands like The Happy Mondays and New Order. Everyone was a big, sweaty mess and looked elated to be. Everyone was laughing. Everyone was having a great time.

Dance Band isn’t a “serious” band, meaning they don’t tackle big topics (unless you consider zombie attacks a large issue plaguing society or you are really, really passionate about riding bicycles), but we need bands like this to remind us that it’s OK to have fun, let loose and embrace nonsense in all its glory. Not everyone is going to jump on this bandwagon (party bus?), but for those who have, it never fails to be the week’s highlight and they manage to make you forget you have adult responsibilities like work, school, bills and everything else that does not count as fun about life in general. Was I reading too much into what they were trying to accomplish Saturday? Maybe, but one thing was for certain: it was a party, it was a disco and it was definitely fooling around. -

"Picked To Click"

"I'm challenging Har Mar Superstar to a sex-down," Captain Octagon exclaims. Dance Band's bearded, bespectacled frontman is wedged snugly, thanks to a layer of persistent baby fat, into his seat at Bev's Wine Bar. Not that anyone's looking at his tummy when he takes his clothes off, which is pretty much every time the Minneapolis-based quintet plays. It's the singer's generous endowment that gets most of the attention. Hell, it even gets press—at least, a mention in a recent Pioneer Press podcast. And the Pi Press hardly ever discusses dick.

"It's widely known in our crowd that the Captain is well-endowed," says Perfect Beat, "and throughout the Pioneer Press reading and listening community."

"And in western Wisconsin," adds the Philanderer. "Everyone in western Wisconsin knows about your schvanson."

Still, there's more to Dance Band than Octagon. There's mastermind, founder, and bassist the Philanderer; guitarist the Chop; keyboardist Spacebar; and drummer the Perfect Beat. Together, they've created an irresistible marriage of funk, soul, hip hop, disco, Afrobeat, Latin, and other apparently disparate musical traditions that's catching on faster than iPhones. There's also more to Captain Octagon than his pound-and-a-half of flesh. In less than two years of performing, he's become a master at driving audiences into a frenzy—just as his old friend Philanderer envisioned back before the band even started rehearsing.

"For a long time, I was the white guy with a guitar, writing political music," recalls the Philanderer, an articulate libertarian who looks like a rebel, even in a short-sleeved dress shirt and striped tie. "I listened to a lot of punk rock, stuff like Fugazi, and as I progressed, I got more interested in soul music."

"I had no idea that the band would become this successful when I first started programming for it," he says. "Basically, it was my own little venture, to learn how to sketch out songs. A band was just something I mused over. I saw Captain Octagon as the greatest performer in my immediate sphere, but he wasn't a musician. I just knew that he had the talent."

While he lacked professional experience, Octagon had some amateur success at entertaining audiences prior to joining Dance Band. "Karaoke has the power to unlock the hidden ability in a lot of people," says Octagon. "Many of those people don't pursue it. They just say: 'Oh, no; it was alcohol.' Dance Band was about doing what everybody thinks about doing, but nobody does, because they have too much pride and too much to lose: wearing boxer shorts on your head, putting your beard in your mouth, growing a beard long enough to put in your mouth. I am the Temerity Tomato: red, round, rotund, and...rawsome."

While he's the band's only relative neophyte, Octagon isn't the only member Philanderer drafted primarily out of friendship. Nobody involved had much experience making dance-floor fodder early on; although playing was another matter. Ex-Duluthian Perfect Beat took up drums at age seven. "Before this, my only direct funk experience was a band with Alan Sparhawk called the Housing Project," he says. But as a wide-ranging listener, field recordist, and aid worker (dude has his own nonprofit, dedicated to helping Kenya's Masai people), Perfect Beat has quickly absorbed a wealth of rhythmic wisdom.

"I'm always reading the people in the first few rows," the mercurial, brown-haired percussionist says, "gauging their responses. If they suddenly look like they don't know what to do, I take corrective action immediately."

"We don't have a pedigree when it comes to making dance music," says axman the Chop. "We're just kind of searching in the dark. It guides us more than if we had some rigid notion of what we wanted to accomplish."

Philanderer lured the tall, blond, jazz-trained guitarist and Hamline alum the Chop back from China, where he'd completed his undergraduate studies in sociology. "I was living in a small city," he says, "just a little over four million people, where most of the few Americans had a pretty firm command of the language. My Chinese wasn't all that great. I got depressed and lonely and came back."

Their keyboardist was the last to join. Spacebar actually checked out a Dance Band practice and declined to sign on. "I have to admit, I did not get it at first," the lanky computer whiz says. The problem might have been his solitary ways at the time; he was used to building sample-based, laptop dub in his bedroom. Soon after, he recognized his civic duty to help motivate other people's booties, apologized, and was welcomed into the fold.

"One thing that makes us such happy collaborators," says Philanderer, "is that we're able to respond to people without all the usual tests: recording an album, marketing it, getting really far down the road before you ever see how people come back at you with it. We see how our music works in real life. It's a live show. You want what people want becaus - City Pages-Rod Smith


EP-Pedal Power, Dec. 2006
LP-Dance Band Returns From the Land After Tomorrow, Dec. 2007

KCMP, The Current plays our music.



This funk train is bound for majesty.

There was a dream of booty groovement; the stars called out into the void seeking those with buttsperience. A bright flare sparked the wasteland and succulent movement was returned to the universe.

We have returned.

I see, since we left, things have gone downhill. I, Captain Octagon, will not allow such boredom to continue! Join with me, my friends: A fist full of glory magnets will pull you closer to the truth, and glorified in the presence, you will find realizification. But a tiny glimmer from the great beyond will undoubtedly .. your attention for a moment. Will we still be there? I think we shall. In fact, instigated on the loop-ed rollerframe of mind was the designation of destination. We'll bring you home, baby. Straight on through, you know. Like a stack of pancakers, piling themselves up and out dangerously close to the sun where gravitations bend around them. Maple is the notion, butter aids the motion. Sunbaked, your curves: served.