Jared Peyton stands behind the baseline of Virginia Commonwealth's basket. Clad in a black softball jersey with "Rams" across the front in script, and the number 1 on his back, he matches every other member of VCU's band. During halftime's intermission, he slides off his shoes, leaving him in stocking feet, a pair of well-worn, loose-fitting blue jeans with his jersey and T-shirt neatly tucked into them. His sweat-drenched brown hair, three shades darker than it was before the game, show the level of effort he's put into his own spit-flinging first-half performance -- jumping around, gyrating his hips (always counterclockwise) and bending over backward to the point that his spine comes within probably six inches of the carpeted floor. That last one's his favorite.
"It's something I just kind of beat myself into shape to do," Peyton says.
It's hard enough to dance around all game as it is, but Peyton's doing all those moves while carrying a little extra weight than his slight frame would normally have - he's had a tuba on his left shoulder all game.
In one simple, swift, well-rehearsed move, Peyton steps out of his jeans and reveals a pair of American flag boxer shorts over a pair of white tights, which he wears for the rest of the game (after slipping his shoes back on, of course).
"You don't want to go to war with the Rams ... Don't start no stuff, won't be no stuff."
You can't say that Virginia Commonwealth's band didn't warn Wichita State's when it screamed that across the Rose Garden before Thursday night's game. But the Shockers' band shockingly didn't heed that warning. Instead, it started the game out with "We Want the Funk."
Oh, they got the funk, and they got it all night.
From the first moment VCU's cacophonous corner came to life, it was clear which team's band was more dominant.
"They've got to get out of that 'band in a box' sound," Peyton says. "It's not their fault, but a lot of these schools that are in the middle of the country haven't gotten into the modern music."
Instead of the conventional pep band sound, VCU's band became known for its funk-infused melody and heavy low-brass sound. It has patterned itself off the New Orleans brass band sound and has even taken inspiration from a Richmond group, the No BS! Brass Band, but has applied those to their adopted arena home.
"We not only come to play for the basketball team, we come to play for ourselves," Peyton says. "We just recorded a CD. We're a group that can be put in the arena and then taken away from the arena to perform."
The band has also gained fame for its creative and involved antics, especially those of its attention-grabbing tuba player.
"After our Final Four run last year, we got a lot of coverage during the games, and then when I went back home, there was a kid who I know who said he started playing tuba because of me," Peyton says. "That was probably the greatest thing I've ever heard."
I can say the same thing about Peyton and his cohorts.
Peyton, a junior music performance major from Richmond, actually didn't even pick up the tuba until he got to college, and had grown up playing euphonium. His first year in the band was actually spent as a trumpeter before he moved to the low brass section.
"It's nice playing on a high brass instrument because you get the melodies, but I just love playing this huge piece of metal that when I blow air into it, it just vibrates in my hands," Peyton says. "When I look at an LED screen, it actually shakes because it's vibrating at such a low frequency that it actually vibrates the eyeballs in my head."
Throughout the game, the band was as relentless as VCU's "Havoc" defense. But instead of full-court presses and backcourt traps, it was launching barbs and insults at Wichita State's players, mascot, band and location. The Shockers' Carl Hall was simply "TRAI-TOR." One band member said the Wichita State mascot "looked like a bag of popcorn." (It kind of does.) When the Shockers' band was playing the introduction to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," one band member screamed "What?! Are you playing your instruments?! I can't hear you!" at such a volume that everybody heard him. And the band also told Wichita State's fans that they couldn't find the state of Wichita on a map, probably in the hopes of making it easier for them to find their way home after their season ended in a loss.
Thanks to a last-second swarm on the perimeter that forced a missed #superhoop by Wichita State center Garrett Stutz, this game didn't end in a loss for the Rams.
For Peyton, it ended in Mid-Majority's National Anthem and a hug from Rodney the Ram.
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 62, WICHITA STATE 59 03/15/2012
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 29-6 (15-3) -- B. Burgess 6-16 2-2 16; D. Theus 5-7 0-0 10; T. Daniels 4-8 0-0 10; R. Brandenberg 3-11 2-4 9; J. Reddic 2-5 0-0 4; D. Haley 1-1 2-3 4; T. Graham 2-6 0-0 4; B. Weber 2-5 0-0 5; D. Hinton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-59 6-9 62. WICHITA STATE 27-6 (16-2) -- J. Ragland 6-10 1-2 15; T. Murry 3-10 3-4 10; C. Hall 4-7 2-3 10; B. Smith 3-9 0-0 7; D. Kyles 4-9 0-0 9; G. Stutz 2-11 0-0 4; D. Williams 0-2 0-0 0; T. Cotton 2-3 0-1 4; J. White 0-1 0-0 0; E. Orukpe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-62 6-10 59.
Three-point goals: VCU 6-23 (B. Burgess 2-7; T. Daniels 2-5; D. Theus 0-1; R. Brandenberg 1-6; B. Weber 1-2; T. Graham 0-2), WICH 5-16 (T. Murry 1-1; D. Kyles 1-4; G. Stutz 0-2; D. Williams 0-1; J. Ragland 2-3; B. Smith 1-4; J. White 0-1); Rebounds: VCU 31 (D. Haley 7), WICH 33 (C. Hall 8); Assists: VCU 9 (B. Burgess 4), WICH 13 (T. Murry 5); Total Fouls -- VCU 12, WICH 12; Fouled Out: VCU-None; WICH-None.