Mucca Pazza is ostensibly a marching band, though Larry Beers puts the words in quotes.
“We don’t march,” says Beers, who leads the Chicago band’s drum section (known internally as K-12) and is one of its founding members.
“We move,” he says.
Sometimes, the movements are practiced, if not wholly coordinated. There’s what Beers calls the “duck swarm,” which is pretty much what it sounds like.
Mostly the group’s two dozen members – suited up in mismatched band and cheerleader uniforms – dance, flail, tumble and spin, all while playing music that is equal amounts Frank Zappa and John Philip Sousa.
Over the course of 13 years, Mucca Pazza has become a stalwart in Chicago’s underground scene, while earning a national reputation for its live performances. The group has performed on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” (and somehow on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series) and at music festivals like Lollapalooza, Lincoln Center Out of Doors and the Montreal Jazz Festival. Where the band once thrived on the awkwardness of crowding 30 people inside bars and nightclubs, lately it’s taken to playing theater shows and on stages meant for 80-piece orchestras that make Mucca Pazza seem small.
“Also awkward,” Beers says.
The band will do both on its current run of West Coast concerts, which includes an all-ages show Monday night at the Odd Fellows Hall in Visalia.
As is generally the case, Mucca Pazza is touring with a cast of percussion, brass, woodwind and stringed instrument players who are “generally down for the cause,” Beers says. For some, the band is their sole gig. For others, like Beers, it’s the passion project. Often, there is little in the form of actually payment. On tour, the members get “gigging bucks,” but that amount fluctuates based on the show, Beers says.
The reward is in the experience.
“It can be a hard sell,” he says. He’s currently looking for drummers for the K-12. But there’s a vetting process that includes a half-dozen weekly rehearsals, which can end up as actors workshops with hardly any playing at all. Even after all that, it doesn’t always work out with some players. The band is looking for the right combination of musicianship and performance acumen, Beers says.
“It’s not always easy to just always be having fun.”
Details: 8 p.m. Monday. Odd Fellows Hall, 116 S. Court Ave., Visalia. $12. All ages. www.snvfoundation.org
Get the blues
The draw: Daniel Castro refers to Don Heflin as “brother Don,” which makes The Central Valley Blues Society extended family.
The group has booked the Bay Area guitarist often over the last 15 years and Castro has always been impressed by its members, many of whom (like Heflin) are blues fans and also players.
“They really do promote hard,” says Castro, whose band plays Friday night at the society’s 15-year anniversary party at Fulton 55. He’ll be joined by Mike Hammar and the Nails, Glen Delpit and the Subterraneans and The Lucky Lopez Band.
For years, CVBS has been known for its Thursday night blues jam, annual Father’s Day festival and monthly newsletter, which used to be delivered via snail mail but has since become online-only. Issue No. 641 was just sent out, according to Heflin, the group’s president and driving force. These days, the group is mostly a virtual society, he says, operating through the newsletter and website, with its extensive gig calendar and 15 years’ worth of local blues archives.
“Everyone involved with the CVBS does what they do best out of their love for the blues,” he says.
“They go to festivals, concerts and street fairs trying to get the word out.”
They do that by booking guys like Castro, who made a name for himself in the Bay Area scene in the mid ’90s with tightly arranged soulful blues influenced by Alert Collins, Albert King and B.B. King. Castro says his work falls outside the straight-ahead Chicago blues or the West Coast stuff that most associate with the area. It can get funky.
“We cover a lot of ground,” he says.
“But we make it our own.”
The event: Disoriented Comedy, the all-Asian American, all-female touring comedy show returns to the Tower Theatre – and this time there’s music.
The draw: The nonprofit Central California Asian Pacific Women hosts the touring comedy show for a third year. It had sell-out crowds in 2014 and 2015.
This is a showcase for talents that aren’t normally seen in mainstream comedy venues. That includes Jenny Yang, the Los Angeles comic who founded the tour in 2012.
“Disoriented Comedy creates a platform for Asian American female comics to tour the United States,” she says.
“The Central Valley’s response to our show has been phenomenal; we’ve had some of our largest audiences here in Fresno, so we’re thrilled to be coming back to the Tower Theatre.”
Flamenco at guitar summit
The event: Fresno City College hosts students and educators for the annual Central Valley Guitar Summit.
The draw: The summit is a guitar-student showcase, with a competition, exhibition clinic and concert, designed to celebrate and bolster local middle and high school guitar programs.
Last year’s summit (the first) featured seven schools and 142 students performing in solo and ensemble settings throughout the day. This year, the event will feature guests like Mike Taylor (a local guitarist who plays with Eva Scow and The Experience), flamenco and classical guitarist Scott Wolf from Oxnard College and Oakland’s AguaClara Flamenco Company.
The company, which features Clara Rodriguez, performs the evening concert. The band’s guitarist, David McLean, will host a noon-hour clinic. Rodriguez has trained and worked in the flamenco world for 25 years, performing alongside the guitarist Benise as a flamenco soloist in his PBS special and tour. She also danced in Iron and Wine’s “Boy with a Coin” video.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Friday. Fresno City College, OAB auditorium. $8-$12. Student performances throughout the day are free.