The Danse Macabre, or Bones Band, is group of musicians that plays Renaissance Faire Music at a variety of events, ranging from Renaissance Faires throughout California to the "Dia de los Muertos," or "Day of the Dead" parades in San Fransisco.
Our music and appearance is not intended to scare anyone away, most particularly not Death, as some seem to think, but rather to celebrate the joy and frivolity of Life and re-affirming our communion with the Ancestors.
The tradition of the Danse Macabre dates back to the Middle Ages, perhaps earlier, and many different theories exist as to what was its original purpose. It is a cross-cultural phenomenon, occurring in English, French and Spanish folklore and art, among others.
Some thought the images of skeletons dancing in the streets would intimidate Death so that no one would be taken away. Others thought it was to trick Death into thinking all the villagers in this particular area were already dead... and enjoying it! So there was nothing for the spectre of Death to do and He would fly on. Still others thought it a way to point out no matter if you are Queen or serving wench, Bishop or bastard, minstrel or milliner... eventually we all will danse the Danse Macabre.
As it is currently incarnated, the Bones Band has existed since the late 1970s. A fellow named Greg Dana - aka Grego - was researching percussion instruments of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance when he came across prints from woodcuts showing laughing, happy skeletons playing music, dancing in the streets and escorting various members of society. Grego and his friends were joined by others over time and the tradition of having "dead" musicians wander the streets of ren faires was born.
Grego left the Ren Faire scene in the mid-1980s to pursue other artistic endeavors, but the spirit of his creation lives on as one of the "liveliest" pickup bands around...