I knew that this college marching band would be unforgettable the first time I saw them.
It was during my years as an undergraduate at UCLA—I was at a Bruin football game at the Rose Bowl, watching the team get it on, when halftime arrived and a very interesting sight materialized.
About 120 students sprinted onto the field wearing bright red blazers, white fishing hats with roughly 20 buttons of various sizes and shapes pinned on them, black pants, and the weirdest ties you could find; actually, not all of them were wearing that outfit, nor did they all carry real instruments.
Some of the drummers were wearing dresses, if you can believe that, while others weren't playing any kind of drums at all.
These non-drummers were banging on things like trash can lids, kitchen sinks, car bumpers, and beer kegs, all led by a funny-looking tree mascot that looked like it was made in a fourth grade art class.
And I absolutely loved it!!
The amazing thing about it all was that this band of musical anarchists hailed from arguably the finest institution of higher learning in America, and certainly the best school among the BCS conferences—Stanford University.
This one, only and incomparable Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band can be described in one word:
One of only ten scatter bands (bands who don't march) in the country, along with Rice, Virginia, and seven of the eight Ivy League schools, the LSJUMB is the epitome of irreverence and humor, so much so that they've had a history of having a little too much fun on the field at their opponents' expense.
Having been a student-controlled organization since 1963, when director Arthur Barnes ceded control, the band has been suspended several times over the years, notably for...
Making fun of the endangered spotted owl while doing a halftime show at Oregon in 1990.
Mocking Catholics and Irish in South Bend, IN during a show at Notre Dame in 1997, which got them banned from there for a few years, and...
Making fun of Mormons by parodying plural marriage at a BYU game in 2004.
Despite all of that, the Stanford band's popularity has stayed strong over the years, as they continue to entertain fans with their scattering, their five-member Dollie dance team, their Tree mascot, and what I consider my favorite college fight song, "All Right Now."
This tune, a hit in 1970 from a British rock band called Free, was adopted by Stanford in 1971 and debuted at the 1972 Rose Bowl; the song's highlights include a big jump during the climax of the song and an eight-bar interlude in which excerpts of tunes such as Black Sabbath's "Ironman" and the theme to Broadway's "Jesus Christ Superstar" are played.
Another one of their staples is a 1975 hit from the Tubes, "White Punks On Dope," which flat-out rocks the house as the songs featured chants from the band.
Being that the band's repertoire consists of mostly classic rock, funk and R & B, they have produced and released 13 albums since 1967; the LSJUMB was one of the first college bands to do such a thing.
All of this adds to a musical experience in college sports that's unlike any other.
Other marching bands may dispute the LSJUMB's ability and not take them seriously but you know something? I've always felt that the purpose of a college marching band is to entertain, and this band from Palo Alto, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, does it as well as anyone.
I would certainly put this band up against Ohio State, Southern, Texas, and especially USC (who the Stanford band is a lot nicer than) any day of the week.
If you want to see what I'm talking about for yourself, the LSJUMB will be at the Rose Bowl for the Stanford Cardinal's game against the UCLA Bruins this Saturday night; I strongly suggest that you check them out.
I guarantee that when those red-jacketed musicians are done, you will have a big smile on your face; I always do every time I see them.