Environmental Encroachment (also known as "EE") is a Chicago-based marching band and performance art troupe. Its origins date back to 1994 with the mission to create site-specific adult playground installations. In its current incarnation, EE fuses traditional Latin and North African rhythms with folk, jazz, and rock melodies, along with incorporating circus antics, costumes, and dance, to provide a spectacle which has been described as "incomparable to anything in the world."
Environmental Encroachment was founded in Chicago, in late 1994 for the purpose of providing site-specific, playground environments, with interactive sculpture and music. On New Year's Eve, 1994, the founders of Environmental Encroachment--Dave Christensen and Mike Smith--along with a group of friends, built the first open-to-the-public art playground environment with a hanging cargo net for climbing, a zip-line, a revolving see-saw, and also a crude set of drums and barrels for providing music. This installation was the start of many guerrilla-style events through the year, including a net and swing hanging under the 18th Street Bridge over the Chicago River, and a guerrilla playground on a lagoon island in Humboldt Park (Chicago park). More installations became more elaborate and performance within the installation evolved. Interactive sculptures, as well as the style of net hangings and zip-line rides, were a fresh addition to Chicago's art and music scene.
Dave Christensen's "Freak Bike", a four-person drum bicycle, which Smith and Christensen smuggled onto Navy Pier for that year's Art Chicago International Exposition, became another mode of mobile and interactive art. They also rode it in the 1996 Democratic National Convention protest parade.
EE was performing within its installations in order to test them for safety before foisting them upon the general public. Masks and costumes started to be worn, and eventually video and other documentation was taken of these installations and performances.
In 1996, EE started its three year participation in HADES Haunted Houses, the Midwest's largest haunted house. EE created its own room with the nets, and sculptures, and then also performed and acted within its own installation room. There were 18 total 4-hour performances over the course of the run. It had elements of loud music, such as bass and drums running through sound effects. It also had people swinging around in scary costumes and make-up from and in nets. These three years of installations at HADES established music and costume, as well as shadow puppetry, as a main ingredient in EE.
In 1997, EE was invited to DEFENESTRATION, a large-scale performance festival in San Francisco, based on environmental sculpture. Hundreds of performers performed in an abandoned building turned live art environment in the Mission District, San Francisco, California. At that point, the late artist Peter Kadyk was putting together a marching band for the event, and members of Environmental Encroachment took part. EE brought back the idea of a mobile marching musical band to Chicago, to involve these elements and fuse them into the group.
Some of the early members, including John Santoro, Deron Cavaletti, Smith, Scott "Whitey" Larson, and Charly Barbera, had been seriously studying African and Caribbean drumming. Smith took up the trombone, Larson the tuba, and others such as saxophonist Kurt Iselt, North African-style percussionist Quentin Shaw and trombonist Bret Lortie joined EE, providing a musically-sound basis for the group's future. Iselt is credited with writing some of the first melodies for EE, a number of which are still currently used. Shaw is credited with the group's Moroccan influences.
The group was invited as a main performer in the now-defunct Cleveland International Performance Art Festival, a run in Pittsburgh at the Black Sheep Puppet Festival, and in Chicago as a regular at their Summer Solstice Performance event.
Death and Transformation:
In June 1996, Christensen was diagnosed with lymphoma. Within 8 months, he succumbed to the disease. He was 28 years old at the time of his death. David died in Richmond, VA. His work was on display days after his death in the Shockoe Bottom section of Richmond, VA. His friends and family attended two services for David, one in Richmond, VA and the other in Chicago, IL. He is currently buried in the Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.
After Christensen's death and Cavalletti's eventual departure from EE, the theatrics of the group were altered by the introduction of new energies. Percussionist Peter Mueller, a graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in Performance Studies, helped to engineer scripted puppetry. Designer and projectionist David Ruiz, along with fellow designers T.J. Darwin and David Marine, created elaborate sets, costumes and puppets. This set EE up to eventually be invited to perform at Pittsburgh, PA's annual Black Sheep Puppet Festival, appearing each year from 1999 to 2002. EE was also invited to participate in Chicago's Puppetropolis, a one-off puppetry festival held in 2001 at various locations in the city. As a puppetry troupe, EE staged various shows: "The Ancient Astronauts of Ohm-Bah", "The Legend of the Piasa Bird", and an aquatic-themed puppet play called "Tofishy". It was at this point that the group hit an all-time professional peak, participating in a number of city-sanctioned special events and even being asked to appear at a NASCAR event at the Chicagoland Speedway. There they performed a processional for the recently deceased Dale Earnhardt.
"The Magic Circus Band":
EE took on this subtitle in early 2009 with the arrival of Kate Riegle-van West, a young performer with circus/acrobatic experience. Prior to Riegle-van West's involvement, the group had already incorporated feats such as hooping while playing an instrument as well as dedicated jugglers. The subtitle now gives proper credit and billing to the full spectacle that the group currently presents.
Taking their inspiration from the Billion Bunny March, which is held yearly at the Burning Man Festival, bunny ears have become synonymous with the band. The band began to adopt bunny ears as a full-time costume accoutrement in April 2006, after an Easter "space bunnies"-themed performance. The band is friendly to all furry creatures. The theme has since engulfed the band, affecting its album titles and show titles, such as Bunny XII, music released digitally and on CD in 2012.
Unique Personnel Makeup:
The personnel of Environmental Encroachment is so numerous and fluctuates so much so (due to the lives and outside responsibilities of individual members) that it is virtually impossible to include all current members in any given appearance. Over the years, many former mainstays have moved on while the group seems to be constantly replenished by new, younger talent. This has been the continuing trend ever since the beginning. Additionally, it is worth noting that EE is also an intergenerational group: Some of its current members are grandparents, some are parents, and some are college-age and younger. At least 2 father-and-son combinations have been part of the group at one point, as well as at least 3 husband-and-wife combos.
Bob Kolovich - bandleader,
Mike Smith - trombone, percussion, acrobatics, hooping, fire,
Dan Merlo - trombone, trumpet, percussion,
Rich Capalbo - trombone, percussion, bass guitar,
Jeremy Green - trombone,
Bret Lortie - trombone,
Jimmy Vonesh - saxophones, gong, vocals,
Brad Moses Wilson - alto saxophone, fire,
Labratio Hamslap - alto saxophone, percussion,
Carlos Pecciotto Jr. - percussion, vocals, YouTube sensation,
Blake Beckstrom - percussion, props,
Peter Mueller - percussion, hooping,
David Marine - percussion, theremin,
Sache Garrett - percussion,
Cindy Lortie - percussion,
Robert Katovich - sousaphone, tuba,
Ashley Enderlin - sousaphone, tuba,
Mike Gutierrez - sousaphone,
Erik Lindahl - sousaphone,
John Santoro - bass guitar,
Megan Sartori - clarinet, trombone,
Cale Piepenburg - flute, piccolo, trombone, saxophone, fire,
Kelsey Green - flute, piccolo, trombone, tenor saxophone, clarinet,
Adam Clark - trumpet,
Jeff Wichmann - trumpet,
Yahn van de Walle - trumpet,
Abel Marin-Laflèche - trumpet,
Gary Hreben - trumpet,
Tracy Johnson - French horn,
Adam Zeisler - juggling, movement art, crowd hype, fire,
David Medina - hooping, dance, crowd hype, fire,
Don Rupert - mascot support,
Jodie Arañas - baton, dance, hooping, crowd hype, fire, Teppei Katori - trombone, movement art, crowd hype, harmonica, percussion, vocals, , Members currently residing outside Chicago/Regular special guests:, Kate Riegle-van West (Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band, Somerville, MA)- flute, percussion, acrobatics, fire spinning,
Joe Correia (Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band, Underscore Orchestra; Somerville, MA) - sousaphone,
Nathan Torrence - trombone, alto saxophone,
Joseph Lahdenperä Sheedy (Yellow Hat Band, Seattle) - saxophone,
Jay Laubscher (Rude Mechanical Orchestra, NYC)- tuba,
Eugene "Fukushima" Dean (Dallas) - trumpet,
Adam Loudermilk (Hungry March Band, NYC; Minor Mishap Marching Band, Austin, TX) - percussion,
Michelle Hardesty - (Rude Mechanical Orchestra, NYC) - percussion,
Logan Schutts (New Orleans) - percussion,
Tom "Breakfast" Dennehy (San Francisco, CA) - saxophone, percussion, vocals,
T.J. Darwin (Idyllwild, CA) - Native American flute, props, percussion, David Silverman (Burning Band, Vaud & the Villains; Los Angeles)- flaming sousaphone,
Brian Madzarevic (San Diego) - percussion,
Walid Abd al-Haq (San Diego) - baritone horn,
Llana Soleil (Minor Mishap Marching Band; Austin, TX) - piccolo,
Mike Antares (Minor Mishap Marching Band; Austin, TX) - percussion,
Tom Taagen (Forward Marching Band; Madison, WI) - baritone horn, acrobatics,
Amanda Wisely (Melbourne, AU) - sousaphone,
Camille Charlier (Portland, OR) - trumpet,
Bruce Salmon (Austin, TX) - trombone
Over the years EE has performed at a variety of festivals and events including:,
RIOT Fest (2012,2013), Lollapalooza (2001), HONK! (2006-2013), HONK!TX (Austin), HONK! West (Seattle), Chicago Folk and Roots Fest, Burning Man, Black Sheep Puppet Festival, Chicago World Music Festival, Chic-a-go-go, Boneyard Arts Festival, Houston Art Car Parade, WZRD Pheremone Friday Outdoor Festival, Undershorts Film Festival, Puppetropolis, MovieSide Film Festival with Jim Jarmusch, Swing House: Brooklyn Lyceum, Version Fest, Rotary International 100 Year Anniversary, Michigan Peace Festival, City of Chicago's Frozen Fun Fest, SOURCE Maui, Dos Equis Most Interesting Academy Flash, New York City Decompression, Electric Forest Festival, Chiditarod Shopping Cart Race
^ Smith, Missy "Environmental Encroachment Marching Band Takes Over UI Campus" - The Daily Illini 1,
^ Pietrusiak, Leah "They Got the Funk" - Time Out Chicago,
^ Smith, Mike. "Environmental Encroachment." 1996-2008. 27 March 2008