A Little Marching Band
A Little Marching Band
MUCCA PAZZA assembled itself in a steel mill parking lot along the Chicago river. Combining marching band traditions and street theater experience with rock band sensibilities, Mucca Pazza quickly found a home for its 30-odd members in the thriving Chicago underground music scene. Their eccentric, frenetic visual presence, and genre-bending original compositions earned them critical praise and a loyal local following. Before long, with their live show’s reputation preceding them, Mucca Pazza began to branch out nationally, appearing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, WFMU, and the Kentucky Derby, as well as supporting major national acts and performing at numerous national music festivals like Lollapalooza, Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors and the Montreal Jazz Fest.
“Ceci n’est pas une Marching Band”
Despite the drums and brass, cheerleaders and uniforms, Mucca Pazza seldom marches, musically or physically. The uniforms do not match. The cheers are strange. There are no recognizable patterns, no discernible formations, no militant airs. However, the force and presence of a marching band remain, both sonically and theatrically. The brass harmony, rich and powerful, the drums, tight and idiosyncratic, combine as a sum greater than its parts. The band might even move from point A to point B. But this is where similarities end. Mucca Pazza dances, flails, tumbles, and spins in circles. Amplified by speaker helmets, the freak section wields violins and cellos, accordions and guitars - instruments that have no business whatsoever being in a marching band. The cheerleaders rouse, encourage and confound the audience with asynchronous absurdity. The music moves from Balkan to brass band groove to noise-rock to avant-garde game show themes without missing a step. Performances can induce geeky freak-outs and nerdy rapture, from either audience or band members, often both. The American tradition of the marching band - whether as presidential entourage, half-time show, or second line party favor - receives both fresh love and artful abuse from Mucca Pazza.
It takes more than gravity to keep Mucca Pazza sitting in chairs; it takes music stands and artistic discipline to keep the members of this mobile orchestra from bounding out of their seats and into the audience. Dressed for a formal affair in pastels and dinner jackets, this composers’ collective draws inspiration from Ellington, Esquivel, and Zappa, for a headier, swankier set than their usual off-the-chain rockers. The careful listener may recognize a movement by Stravinsky or a theme by Morricone, or the somehow-familiar soundtrack to a nonexistent film. Still staying true to their mobile roots, Mucca Pazza embodies the music, making their intricate compositions and lush cinematic arrangements visually accessible to all audiences. Cheerleaders, now Masters of Ceremony, play host to a set that will surely incite future and former band geeks to rescue instruments from dust bunnies, lockers and local pawn shops.
"Clowning constantly but playing precisely, Mucca Pazza's compositions invoke a world of brass bands and marching bands, from American high-school style to zigzagging Balkan tunes to something akin to a Fellini soundtrack - fun in a relentless way." - The New York Times
"Chicago's Mucca Pazza splits the difference between Balkan gypsy brass bands and American football-game-style halftime marching bands with a brilliantly calculated mondo-bizarro dementia, and liberal amounts of humor." - The Wall Street Journal
“Wearing mismatched, thrift-shop marching-band getups and sporting a full range of brass, drums, violin, accordion and electric guitar — plus a gaggle of nerdy cheerleaders ("I Heart A Scientist," proclaimed one's T-shirt) — Mucca Pazza wreaks visual havoc onstage. But here's the surprise: It also puts on an incredibly tight performance, with music that's an irresistible blend of punk DIY aesthetics, a Balkan brass lilt and the irrepressible energy of good old-fashioned American high-school marching bands.” - NPR Music
“Seeing this irresistible band of horns and violins, guitars and accordion all parade in and eventually take the stage is infectious, chaotic fun. But it’s also an incredibly coordinated and choreographed performance full of cheers and bursting with energy that is easy to get caught up in.” - WNYC
“John Philip Sousa would not be amused.” - Chicago Tribune
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