Perhaps it's those endless hours of practice. Maybe all that huffing and puffing draws precious oxygen from the brain, causing brass players to turn out just a little different from the rest of us.
The five funny fellows who call themselves the Brass Band are different, all right. Just ask those who attended the San Francisco group's performance at La Mirada Civic Theatre on Saturday.
Different? How else would you describe a group whose members dress in traditional turn-of-the-century band jackets, tight leopardskin pants, World War I flight goggles and fur-lined boots? What other way to characterize a collection of musicians who repeatedly wade out into the hall to move patrons from seat to seat in order to better balance the color scheme?
The hilarity rarely let up on Saturday, even when the group turned to "serious" music. A stunning arrangement of Ravel's "Bolero," for instance, found tuba player Fritz Vandervol climbing over chairs toward the stage, while a patron he'd drafted into service cleared the way. Similarly, another "volunteer" was pressed into duty, frantically turning pages for Vandervol during a suite from Bizet's "Carmen." These guys can play, whether in a rip-roaring "Orange Blossom Special," a clap-along Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody or a crisply attacked "Zampa" overture. But no one came for that. The playing wasn't the thing--the zaniness was.