“I gotta have more cowbell”

The Pacific Pep Band, part musical group, part cheerleading squad,  perform at men’s & women’s basketball games, playing tunes such as “Eye of the Tiger” and “Hey Baby” and doing chants and cheers to rattle opposing teams. For as long as I can remember, there has always been at least one person playing the cowbell. Some have been very demonstrative in their performances while others are more subdued. Sometimes you can really hear its hollow knock-knock-knocking over the band, other times it just blends with the rest of the music.

This year’s cowbell player is student Sam Berris of Oakland and he is a show unto himself. He struts, jumps and prances as if he were Mick Jagger in his prime. Hitting the cowbell with a drumstick with such force that at times it seems that he’s louder than the entire the band. At times he hits the bell so hard that little pieces of the wooden drumstick go flying off. Just watching him, one can’t help but to have their spirits lifted by his zeal. I don’t know if the rest of the band is taking cues from his enthusiasm this year, but they have their own set of choreographed moves and perform them with nearly the verve and vigor of Berris’ impromptu steps.

Strangely enough, the pep band isn’t a part of the music program at UOP but is actually run under the auspices of the Pacific athletic department. While many members are music students, the band is open to all Pacific students.

The cowbell player is usually one the percussionists in the band. They tend to switch off between the drum set, tambourine and the aforementioned cowbell. Berris breaks that mold by not being a percussionist at all, but rather he plays an orchestral instrument that’s not really suited for the pep band. What does he normally play? The bassoon.

Saturday Night Live aired a skit on April 8, 2000 gave a fictionalized account of the recording of “Don’t fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult. Will Ferrell played the made-up character of Gene Frenkle who vigorously played the cowbell. A fight ensues when Ferrell and other band members – played by other cast members of SNL – argue over Ferrell’s playing of the cowbell.

Guest host Christopher Walken, playing fictional music producer “The Bruce Dickinson” comes out of the sound booth and says: “I got a fever; and the only prescription is more cowbell!”
Berris’ verve and energy at playing the cowbell puts even Ferrell’s relentless performance to shame. So if you’re feeling the need of some energetic entertainment and just “gotta have more cowbell,” then Berris has the cure for what ails you.

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Still pictures can only capture so much. To get the full effect of Berris’ enthusiasm and energy I shot some video of him playing during a recent game. Enjoy his performance here.

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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