Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

The big football winner? Ohio State’s band

Sure, the city is abuzz with the Fresno State football team’s latest big win. But on a national level — at least according to my Facebook feed — all the talk is about the Ohio State Marching Band’s amazing halftime show at the Ohio State-Michigan matchup on Saturday. (Heather Parish wrote: “I literally applauded in my living room. Three times.”) The band’s formations include a flying Superman and a stomping Tyrannosaurus Rex, which ends up “eating” the drum major. From my marching band alum perspective, two things impress me most: the Ohio State band’s precision; and also the fluidity of its movements as it glides from one formation to another.

Very fun stuff. And thanks to YouTube, it’s possible now to watch college marching bands on demand. (I just caught up on a couple of Fresno State Marching Band halftime shows from this season that way.) I long ago gave up on hoping that the TV networks would actually let folks watch a band during halftime. Maybe 3.3 million YouTube views for the Ohio State band’s performance will help change some minds?

Donald’s mailbag

Ah, the thorny issue of “My kid’s high school band is better than yours.” A Merced reader named Matt responds to my recent post congratulating El Diamante and Clovis West high schools for fine marching band seasons:

I enjoyed your article, especially since my son is now a member of the Bulldog Marching Band.  However, with a little more homework you would have found that the best marching band in Northern California is in Merced. The Golden Valley Cardinal Regime went undefeated in parade competition for 6+ years. That is quite an undefeated winning streak. This year, with close to 200 members and a new director, their sweepstakes streak was broken in their first event in Antioch. However, they bounced back to start a new streak by winning sweepstakes at Cupertino and Santa Cruz. In addition, they’ve recently been in the Rose Parade (2009) and this Sunday will march in the Hollywood Christmas parade.

Sometimes I wish the whole marching band competition thing wasn’t so complicated. It’s not like a high-school football playoff schedule where there’s one eventual champion.

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Hail to the marching bands, with shout-outs to El Diamante and Clovis West

Once a band person, always a band person. (I refuse to bow to convention and label those of us who appreciate marching bands “geeks.”) At least once a year, I try to catch a marching band competition in the Fresno area — preferably the Western Band Association finals, which gives me a chance to see some of the finest marching bands in the state.

So it was great fun for me yesterday to attend the WBA competition at Central High School’s Koligian Stadium. (Because of rain, the schedule had to be revamped.) The bands I watched were very strong, with many moments of visual and musical beauty. Ayala High School of Chino Hills and James Logan High School of Union City duked it out to a first-place tie in the AAAAA (largest) division — a tie that was later broken in favor of Ayala per the rule book by considering high scores in specific judging categories. Both bands were amazing.

But the heartiest local congratulations go to El Diamante High School Marching Miners of Visalia, which placed first in the AAAA division, beating out a whopping 17 other bands from around the state. What’s more, El Diamante’s score of 90.95 meant it placed third overall among all the bands in the competition, including the bigger-division bands, just behind Ayala and Logan. El Diamante won top scores in its division in General Effect, Visual Effect and Music.

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Wish you were here: Mucca Pazza

Mucca Pazza could be the house band at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory — part insanity, part magic, all mind-bending fun. Its performance Wednesday night at Audie’s Olympic was unlike anything I’d ever seen.

Here was this marching band with mismatched uniforms and cheerleaders who had pom-poms made of “Caution” tape, either crowding onto the stage or crawling around the club, playing where ever they wanted. The crowd was smiling and laughing the whole time, something you don’t always — but should — see at a show. If you ever get a chance to see Mucca Pazza, do not hesitate, do it.

Here’s what you missed if you weren’t there.

Get Familiar: Mucca Pazza

The biggest band coming to the Valley soon? Mucca Pazza. And I don’t mean Taylor Swift, Billboard chart big. I mean big like your freshman psych class. Mucca Pazza is a 32-member “circus rock marching band.” What does that mean? Well, this bit from their bio oughta sell ya. (If the above video didn’t already do that.)

Mucca Pazza is the marching band that thinks it’s a rock ‘n roll band. 20-30 grown-up dorks with too much energy and too little self-restraint, stupefying their audiences with music that should never be performed by a marching band. In fact, this band of misfits only has one march in their repertoire, their other music includes zombie-mambo, snake-charmer-metal, gypsy-reggaeton and classical. Their mismatched uniforms and plastic bag pom poms razzle revelers while their chaotic movements and strange behavior dazzle the police.

You have two chances to see Mucca Pazza next week. The band is playing Sept. 28 at The Cellar Door in Visalia (9:30 p.m., $10) and Sept. 29 at Audie’s Olympic in Fresno. (9 p.m. $10). Both shows are 21+.