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PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Soldiers of the 8th U.S. Army Band in poodle skirts? On duty?

Really?

Well, some of the women in the band, sure. And some of the men will be wearing ’50s-style jeans and leather jackets.

It’s all because the band wants to knock ’em dead — in the musical way — at this week’s annual gathering of international marching bands, set to begin Friday and last through Sept. 9 at the Wonju Tattoo Stadium in Wonju.

The band, stationed at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, has been putting in long hours drilling in the summer heat, and rehearsing rock songs and marches until they can perform them by heart, said band Sgt. Maj. Mark T. Eister.

"We work very hard so that, to be honest, we can strut our stuff," Eister said.

The 2008 Wonju Tattoo International Military and Marching Bands Festival is a diverse mix of military and civilian marching bands.

Bands from Thailand, South Korea, Australia and Canada are scheduled to perform, as well as the U.S. military — the 8th Army Band and the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

Also on the bill: the Gunsan Happy Kindergarten and Yum-Kwang Girls’ Information High School.

Bands spend a lot of time on their showmanship, Eister said.

"There’s a couple of things we really want people to see when we go to perform," he said. "When we’re doing the traditional marching band, disciplined portion of the show, we want them to see that we are very disciplined American soldiers, and everything we perform, we perform it as precisely and as exact as possible.

"But then when it comes time to have fun, that’s when we cut loose and let them know that we know how to have fun and that we can entertain them, too."

The band has worked up its own arrangements and march routines for a 15-minute performance it’ll give each of the five days of the tattoo. The routine will open with "Summon the Heroes," featuring march movements in which the band forms itself into pictures.

But then comes the cutting loose, and that’s where some of the performers will be in ’50s costumes.

"We’ll break into a rock section, and we do ’50s rock, vocals with band back-up," Eister said.

That’ll be followed by what Eister said is a huge crowd-pleaser, a percussion feature made up of a full drum line — five snare drums, two bass drums and four cymbal players.

"Very, very difficult, very, very intricate," he said. "They’re all stationary, intricate high-sticking movements, playing each other’s drum — ‘cross-sticking’ — the percussion feature really draws the audience in."

For their close, they’ll return to military music with "Trooper Salute."

"We intend to leave two very distinct impressions on their mind: very disciplined and very entertaining," Eister said.

For more information, see www.wonjutattoo.com.


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