48 HOURS OF FOOTBALL: Band Bunch spends Friday night pumping up Columbia for the game

Friday, October 28, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 8:34 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 28, 2011

Hour 6: 9:50 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21

COLUMBIA — Only at a Band Bunch party can a person walk in the house with a snare drum in hand and have someone say “nice drum” and mean it. Although they are unaffiliated with MU, the Band Bunch acts as the official band for Rally Night, which happens every night before a home football game. In a pub crawl style march around downtown, their job is to play music and get Columbia pumped for Saturday’s game.

At about 10 till 10 p.m., members of the band pile into cars and caravan down Grindstone Parkway to Providence Road. A snare drummer in one of the cars keeps the beat along the way.

Dropped off by a designated driver at Broadway and Hitt Street, band members pile out of the car just like any other group of half-drunk college students, but this car is different. This car drops off two saxophone players and a snare drummer for their upcoming performance at The Penguin Piano Bar. Joined by a couple more saxophones, three or four trumpets, a trombone and tiger-striped sousaphone, the Band Bunch turns the stone wall at Broadway and Hitt Street into its backstage-warm-up room. Squeaks and squawks alert those already inside The Penguin that their night just got a little bit better.

Any and all ambient conversations at The Penguin immediately stop when the band arrives. Around 10:30, two bouncers in black T-shirts swing the two sets of double doors open, and the crowd knows exactly what’s coming. The band that was already playing abandons the stage as the Band Bunch piles on. Saxophones and brass are in front, anchored by the striped sousaphone. The snare drummer takes over the drum set as if it were his own. Although no introduction is necessary, a voice echoes from the microphone: “Please welcome, The Band Bunch! Hit it!”

As quickly as the band marched into the bar and onto the stage, it was gone. In a “hit it and quit it” style set list of songs, the Band Bunch did its job. The somewhat older crowd sitting at tables and sipping on craft beer had been transformed, now resembling the neighboring bars (Fieldhouse and Willie’s) on a night when drink specials are too good to pass up. Waitresses scurry back and forth from the bar and into the dining room to serve the now increasingly rowdy crowd.

The march continues. Led by the tiger-striped sousaphone, the Band Bunch mobs down Broadway. They can hardly make it a block without being stopped by Tiger fans.

“The band is here! Play something!” Requests range from everything including “Play something jazzy” to “Do the Fight Song” to “Can I play your trumpet?” Here, the essence of MU school spirit is personified. On a night before Missouri will play a top five opponent, saliva and cooties are no cause for concern for some band members or those not in the band who wish to contribute to the musical accompaniment for the evening. Although most are reluctant to share their instruments, the band can hardly say no to a few requests to toot a couple bars on the street.

The band crosses at Sixth Street, turns right on Cherry and eventually ends up at Deja Vu. They are carefully separated into two lines on their arrival: 21-and-older and the members who are not yet of age.

Playing instruments isn’t the only thing these musicians can do. From about 11 p.m. until midnight, the Band Bunch mingles with the crowd, filling the dance floor. The disc jockey spins on the 1’s and 2’s, announcing throughout the night: “The Band Bunch is in the house!” However, no combination of pop songs like the recent hits played that night by the deejay can rally an audience with such a diverse representation of ages. A set list featuring songs of a universal appreciation, like that of a Beatles cover band, the Band Bunch played the "Fight Song," "Missouri Waltz," "Hey Baby" and the "Eye of the Tiger."

And then the moment finally came. “I love rock and roll. Put another dime in the jukebox baby. ...” That’s their cue. The Band Bunch is about to take the floor. In a matter of less than a few minutes, the Band Bunch recover their left behind instruments and resume center stage.

Trumpets and saxophones line the top of the dry bar, and five guys circle around a single snare drum in the middle of the floor. The rest of the band stands on the booths that line the walls around the dance floor. Talk about surround sound. The designated director for the night pulls up a chair from the bar, climbs on up and with a drop of his arms the band explodes with the respect of a Ray Charles singing about Georgia but the excitement of Chuck Berry doing the duck walk.

Once the last song, the band’s special rendition of the "Fight Song," has ended; it’s almost closing time. A buzzing crowd mobs out of the bar with only one regret — there are still 10 hours until game time.

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