DIY to Death: Remembering Dancing Feet March To War
Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.
RFT's Daniel Hill wrote an article last week about Stlpunk, a localized proto-social networking site that helped musicians and fans connect to each other in surprisingly efficient ways. Stlpunk is one of the many trademarks of the St. Louis DIY music scene circa 2002-2006 whose significance is difficult to describe to those who were not involved (other examples: the Mega Rad Youth Crew, "Turtle Pole," and Adam the Devastator). One such strange, singular fixture of the time was the band Dancing Feet March To War.
DFMTW was a spitfire noise punk band that formed around 2004. I saw most of its first shows, all of which were memorable for better or worse. Sometimes the band would put on a performance that made it seem like the only relevant group in the universe, and other times its shows were so attemptedly abstract that they were flat out embarrassing. The band appeared fearless at times, even though it was so caught up in ideology and concept that it was internally petrified of becoming part of some vague capitalist system if it achieved any amount of success.
DFMTW was the brainchild of bassist Stephen Inman (previously of streetpunk band Nineteen) and guitarist Robert Mayfield (formerly a member of adorable garage rock group The Reactions and later part of hardcore band Civic Progress). The band had a revolving door of drummers including perpetual band quitter Corey Smale, Clayton Kunstel of So Many Dynamos, Mic Boshans of The Floating City/Humdrum/Union Electric/Nee, and this one dirty hippie named Tyler.
The unofficial fourth member of the band was Lemp Arts Center owner Mark Sarich, who mentored the group. The phrase "Dancing Feet March To War" was even a Sarich quote. His involvement was obvious; he stood at the front rim of the crowd at every show and gave its members lengthy critiques afterwards. Much of his advice ate away at Inman and Mayfield from the inside, causing them to live so far inside of their own heads that what came out of their mouths and instruments was distorted or poorly translated. Some turn Sarich into a scapegoat for DFMTW's faults, but the band would not have even existed without his influence.
When DFMTW succeeded, its shows were legendary. Inman turned his confrontational frontman persona into performance art, and he sometimes ended shows by lulling the audience into sitting cross legged on the ground while he led a quiet singalong. Mayfield was more insular, and he had a way of convulsing that made me worry he was going to pull a muscle and made him lose about thirty pounds by the time the band ended.