Environmental Encroachment

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Environmental Encroachment
Also known as EE, EE Marching Band, EE Magic Circus Band
Origin United States Chicago, Illinois
Genres Rock Band/Marching band
Years active 1996–present
Labels independent/unsigned
Website www.encroach.net
Members Percussion: Carlos Pecciotto Jr., Blake Beckstrom, Cindy Lortie, Jeff Strong, Kyle Davison, Quenton M. Quiney, Frankie Lombardo, Ben Taylor
Trombones: Mike Smith, Dan Merlo, Rich Capalbo, Bret Lortie, Cale Piepenburg, Christopher Dixon, Lenci Sartori, Jeremy Green, Jonathan Cox, Mo McNulty
Saxes: Jimmy Vonesh, Labratio Hamslap, Be Wilson, Pete Macaluso
Trumpets: Adam Clark, Jeff Wichmann, Yahn Van de Walle, Gary Hreben, Gapo
Flute: Cale Piepenburg Clarinets: Lenci Sartori
Low Brass: Robert Katovich, Ashley Enderlin, Stephanie Reid
Bass Guitar: John Santoro, Rich Capalbo
Hooping/Acrobatics/Motion Arts: Mike Smith, Coelti Eythay
Fire Spinning: Cale Piepenburg, Mike Smith, Be Wilson
Past members too numerous to mention

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.”[1]


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[edit]

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 designer T.J. Darwin 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.[2]

"The Magic Circus Band"[edit]

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 gave proper credit and billing to the full spectacle that the group presented up until her departure in 2011.

Bunny Ears[edit]

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.[3] 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[edit]

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.

Current Roster[edit]

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 - euphonium, trombone
Christopher Dixon - trombone
Jimmy Vonesh - saxophones, gong, vocals
Be Wilson - alto saxophone, fire
Labratio Hamslap - alto saxophone, percussion
Carlos Pecciotto Jr. - percussion, vocals, YouTube sensation
Blake Beckstrom - percussion, props
Quenton M. Quiney - percussion
Jeff Strong - percussion
Cindy Lortie - percussion
Kyle Davison - pristophonium, percussion
Robert Katovich - sousaphone, tuba
Ashley Enderlin - sousaphone, tuba
Stephanie Reid - sousaphone
John Santoro - bass guitar
Lenci Sartori - clarinet, trombone
Cale Piepenburg - flute, piccolo, trombone, saxophone, fire
Adam Clark - trumpet
Jeff Wichmann - trumpet
Yahn van de Walle - trumpet
Gary Hreben - trumpet, flugelhorn
Elain O'Sullivan - "fairy godmother", movement, crowd hype, support
Don Rupert - mascot support

Members currently residing outside Chicago/Regular special guests:
Kate Riegle-van West (Strangers in a Strange Band;Auckland, NZ) - flute, trombone, percussion, acrobatics, fire spinning
Joe Correia (Underscore Orchestra, Hungry March Band; New York City) - sousaphone, valve trombone
Joseph Lahdenperä Sheedy (Yellow Hat Band, Seattle) - saxophone
Jay Laubscher (Rude Mechanical Orchestra, NYC)- tuba
Adam Loudermilk (Hungry March Band, New York City; Itchy-O, Denver, CO; Minor Mishap Marching Band, Austin, TX) - percussion
Logan Schutts (Batebunda, New Orleans) - percussion
Tom "Breakfast" Dennehy (Mission Delirium, 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, trombone
Mike Antares (Chaotic Noise Marching Corps; Seattle, WA) - percussion
Luke Koval (Chaotic Noise Marching Corps; Seattle, WA) - trombone
Rebecca Baggenstoss (Chaotic Noise Marching Corps; Seattle, WA) - percussion
Tom Taagen (Forward Marching Band; Madison, WI) - baritone horn, acrobatics
Jonathan Cox (Madison, WI) - trombone
Camille Charlier (Portland, OR) - trumpet
Bruce Salmon (Alpine, TX) - trombone
Jessi Fehrenbach (Lexington, KY) - flute, piccolo
Allyson Lipkin (Minor Mishap Marching Band; Austin, TX) - baritone saxophone
Leah Funyan (Minor Mishap Marching Band; Austin, TX) - trumpet
Jace Toronto (Minor Mishap Marching Band; Austin, TX) - trumpet, trombone
Teppei Katori - trombone, movement art, crowd hype, harmonica, percussion, vocals

Notable Gigs[edit]

Over the years EE has performed at a variety of festivals and events including:
Riot Fest (2012,2013), Lollapalooza (2001), HONK! (2006-2015), HONK!TX (Austin), HONK! West (Seattle), HONK NYC!, 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 Burning Man Decompression, Electric Forest Festival, Chiditarod Shopping Cart Race, Chicago Halloween Art Parade


External links[edit]