Seed & Feed Marching Abominable marks 50 years of brass destruction

Inman Park Festival parade will reunite band and alumni for a celebratory performance.
The Seed and Feed Marching Abominable Band performs a blitz on the Beltline. Libby McCullough was part of the ensemble that brashly marched through several restaurants including Ladybird, in a flash-mob-style performance.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

The Seed and Feed Marching Abominable Band performs a blitz on the Beltline. Libby McCullough was part of the ensemble that brashly marched through several restaurants including Ladybird, in a flash-mob-style performance. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Midway through their performance of the John Philip Sousa masterpiece, “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” it appears that the Seed & Feed Marching Abominable won’t make it all the way to “forever.”

When they reach the second “trio” section they begin to stagger, then droop, while the music dwindles. Finally the entire marching band, dressed in beads, sequins, feathers and finery, collapses to the pavement.

Is this the end of the Seed & Feed? No. A lone trumpet player stirs, spins out a few bars of “The Saints,” and the band revives to make its way though the last “grandioso.”

The ritual death of Atlanta’s most notorious street band is one of the oldest “bits” employed by this boisterous ensemble. While they’ve expired in the middle of hundreds of performances, the band, in reality, seems unkillable. This year the motley ensemble celebrates its 50th anniversary.

With a rotating crew of, at any given time, about 200 members, the Abominables (they are often referred to in the plural) had their first rehearsal in 1974 and made their first major appearance at the Inman Park Festival the following spring. They’ve been part of the festival’s Saturday parade ever since.

This year’s festival, April 27-28, will be extra festive for the Seed & Feed, with the arrival of alumni from around the country, a special brew being bottled in their honor (tentatively called “Abominabeer”), parties, gold anniversary-themed costumes and the publication of a 150-page, full-color history of the band.

The book bears the self-deprecating motto: “Making music with the best of intentions since 1974.”

“We really were abominable at first,” said Bill Scott, a trumpet player and a 50-year member, “but we got better.”

On cue from the drum corps, members of the Seed & Feed Marching Abominable point at audience members and growl. It's a routine called "Boom Boom Bop." Photo: Juliette Mansour/Casa Dresden

Credit: Seed & Feed Marching Abominable

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Credit: Seed & Feed Marching Abominable


In the 1960s, when theater professor Kelly Morris was staging experimental productions at Emory University, it was a time of demonstrations and protest, usually accompanied by the ruckus of horns and drums. One of those bands was Morris’ own Asa Candler Memorial Marching Atrocity Band.

In 1973, after Emory urged him to seek opportunities elsewhere, he founded the Seed & Feed Theatre in downtown Atlanta. Shortly thereafter he invented a marching band to inject some zest into one of his productions.

The theater closed in 1979 and Morris went on to champion medieval music with his Schola Cantorum, a 24-voice chorus specializing in sacred music from the 16th century, and their annual production of the medieval passion play “Herod.” But The Seed & Feed Marching Abominable continued to flourish and has become a brilliant thread in Atlanta’s cultural fabric.

The Seed & Feed Marching Abominable Band, seen here in a Christmas-themed group shot, celebrates 50 years of music and mischief-making. Photo: Juliette Mansour/Casa Dresden

Credit: Meghan McCloskey

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Credit: Meghan McCloskey

The book

Charles Bohanan, a trombonist who’s been a member for 24 years, is assembling a book about the history of the band. His DeKalb County house, stuffed with trombones, guitars, keyboards and a tenor sax, is also stocked with photographs, scrapbooks, minutes from band council meetings and other historical documents.

Photos of the corps, assembled outside the Garnett Street theater, show a bunch of long-haired types being led by a musical director with a broom. “They were old hippies putting a band together,” said Bohanan, “though they weren’t old at the time. It was free-flowing.”

The Seed and Feed Marching Abominable Band, including tuba player Mureen Kumpf, gathers for a blitz on the Beltline earlier this month and marches through Rathbun Steak at owner Kevin Rathbun’s invitation in the flash mob-like performance.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Credit: Jenni Girtman

Proofs on his laptop show scenes from the band’s checkered history: An appearance at the celebrated strip club the Clermont Lounge; the late Congressman John Lewis dancing with a band member during Bacon Fest at Dad’s Garage Theatre; an impromptu performance for Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman’s birthday party, when he was in Atlanta filming a non-Marvel movie; playing the “Hosanna” number from “Jesus Christ Superstar” during a production staged by Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers; a reveille sounded for the rebirth of the much-loved Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon.

The band has enlivened the Spoleto music festival in Charleston every year since 1991 and is also a regular part of the Saturday parade during Dragon Con. Bohanan said the band has included, over the years, every percussion and wind instrument, plus three accordionists, an electric guitarist with a rolling amp, a one-armed cornet player and a didgeridoo.

At their first appearance they improvised uniforms, adorning thrift store dark suits with bright yellow tape along the leg seams and lapels.

The Seed & Feed Marching Abominable heads up Peachtree Street during the 2022 Dragon Con Parade. Photo: Steve Schaefer/

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

Later their theatrical instincts kicked in, and costumes began to include wigs, wings, tutus and huge puppet heads shaped like rabbits and such. (Inside Bohanan’s costume closet: A green feather boa, a purple-sequined Homburg hat and a zebra-striped suit.)

At the most recent Dragon Con parade there were five Barbies on cymbals — and one Ken.

The Zoom room

The pandemic clamped down on the Abominables’ performances, and rehearsal inside a small enclosed room was impractical. Instead, they practiced outside under the covered walkways at the Yaarab Shrine building and met on Zoom for fellowship.

The Zoom meetings demonstrated how important the social function of the band was for many members.

Some players, like many Atlantans, found themselves coming unhinged during the stress and isolation of the COVID years, and they turned to other musicians for help. “You’d see someone post, ‘It’s three in the morning and I don’t know what to do with myself,’” said Joann Cebulski, the band manager, a job that goes by the title “The Mouth.”

Right away, she said, another band member would respond, “Go in the Zoom room, we’ll chat, we’ll play games.”

Said Cebulski, “It saved people’s lives.”

The band and its leadership are all-volunteer. Half the gigs are unpaid and are meant to bring a little happiness to the community. Half the gigs are paid, and the money goes to cover transportation, new music, scholarships to support other struggling musical organizations and an emergency fund for members with medical bills or other problems.

Performing live at the Super Bowl 2019, the Seed & Feed Marching Abominable entertained thousands. Courtesy of Alan Sandercock

Credit: band photographer Alan Sandercock.

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Credit: band photographer Alan Sandercock.

Practice makes perfect

The band rehearses every Tuesday evening, formerly at the Little Five Points Community Center, now at the First Existentialist Congregation’s stone church in Candler Park.

At a recent rehearsal a volunteer handed out ear protection, a nod to hearing loss in the band’s aging demographic, but also to the fact that inside a stone church building this band is really loud.

Meghan McCloskey, a dancer with the band (dancers are known as Despicables), was celebrating her birthday, and, in keeping with tradition, passed a tray of tiny paper cups bearing shots of bourbon (Ole Smoky Salty Caramel). She also brought jars of pickle spears.

Her daughter, 15-year-old flautist Marissa Rainey, is the youngest member of the band. “Everybody’s really nice to me,” said Rainey, a sophomore at Midtown High School. “They give me old costumes.” Rainey enjoys “blitzing” — making a sudden unofficial appearance before an unsuspecting audience — and was part of a recent blitz of the restaurants along the Eastside Beltline.

The reaction to being blitzed, said Rainey, “usually starts with confusion, then a lot of people get really excited, especially little kids and old people. Those are our target demographics.”

The rehearsal included a run-through of the perennial “Stars and Stripes,” but also a brace of newer tunes, including Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and a TikTok trend called “Fireball.”

Why has this band survived? A constantly refreshed set-list helps, as does a very relaxed membership policy, a 100% volunteer ethos, the pleasure of the music and the entertainment value of bringing a thunderous moment into someone’s conventional day.

Fifty-year band member Henry Slack has fun with the crowd. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Credit: Jenni Girtman

“In part it’s about friendship and being creative,” said Slack. “I tell people we’re very serious about being silly. It brings us joy, and it’s what we try to do for our audiences too.”


Inman Park Festival parade. 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27. Steps off at the intersection of Edgewood and Euclid avenues, heads east on Edgewood to Hurt Street, north on Hurt Street to Euclid Avenue, and northeast on Euclid Avenue to Austin Avenue.,

Abominables glossary

Abominable: A band member

Abominette: a twirler in the band

Bookie: Band council member who books performances

Broom: Conductor of the band at gigs or blitzes

Despicable: Dancers in the band; they entertain the crowd and protect the band.

Incorrigible: A child of a band member who is invited to family-friendly gigs.

Mouth: Band manager

Scribbles: Band secretary

Scrooge: Band treasurer

Semiconductor: Rehearsal conductor

Spawn: Spin-off band created by former Abominables, such as the Hill Stompers in Los Alamos, New Mexico, who themselves spawned Splendid Chaos in Lansing. Michigan, which makes the Chaos grand-spawn.

Whisk: A Broom in training.