For three football seasons now, I’ve put up with the Slovenian-army uniforms, the hats bought on clearance from Pierre’s Styles of the French Foreign Legion Boutique, and the damned high-stepping as if the entire gridiron were an Afghan minefield on which fifty St. Bernard’s with dysentery had done their business. But this year, Cal Band, you’ve gone too far.
As much as I loathe your langurous tempos and tendency to drag, and as much as that repetitive rat-tat-tat drum beat makes me want to sodomize my neighbor with a broken Amstel Light bottle, you’ve always been able to keep my interest with the purity and power of your music.
But why, oh why, did you have to go and do what you did at the Big Game? Here was your chance to come forward and perform the show of your life in front of a packed house of 70,000 cheering fans! You could have played your balls off, bringing the audience to its feet. You could’ve played a great show! Perhaps a medley of fight songs, or famous tunes from previous years of Cal greatness, or even a trite but witty collection of the Billboard Top 40 from 1995. Instead, you disappointed us all. You disappointed your parents, your friends, and your classmates, not to mention the wide-eyed members of that inner-city youth marching band who were standing in the end zone eagerly awaiting a stunnning performance from the (albeit self-described) “pace-setter of college marching bands.” At the very least you could have left them all with a sense that there was some meaning to those ten minutes of their life that you stole. Instead they got 150 geeky college kids awkwardly hacking through an arrangement of Nelly’s oh-so-seminal hit “Hot in Herre.” For shame.
Your performance shook my sensibilities to the very core. It wasn’t that your rhythm and tempo was squarer than Conan O’Brien eating a saltine covered in mayonnaise while doing the hokey-pokey and it wasn’t the fact that you cracked more notes than a note-cracker on crack; it was the fact that you danced. You stripped. You stomped about with a skill and unison only marginally better than that of the Cal Dance team. We shouldn’t have to see two dozen white and Asian bandos attempt to do a choreographed dance charade. First, learn to march to your sets together, then try dancing.
You may argue that you had a good crowd response to your performance, and this may be true. But it was not a pure response! They were not cheering your marching or your music, they were doing what any half-witted band of Philistines will do: they cheered your implied nudity. It didn’t matter that you were still dressed in more layers of fabric than 90% of the crowd, the simple act of faux-stripping will get cheers and laughs from even the most ignorant of audiences. It was a cheap, cheap, and shameful crowd reaction.
Oh, please do not treat this as just another mindless criticism. This is a call to action for those of you who truly desire to resurrect a once proud institution! You have grown complacent and formulaic and I’m here to give you a much needed (and well-deserved) kick in the pants. Onward and upward, Cal Band! Excelsior!
And no, I would not like to join.