UL-Lafayette band reflects on past season

At the end of every home game, there’s a moment when the team stands in front of the band, holds its helmets high and sings the University of Louisiana at Lafayette fight song.

Now, the band isn’t playing the song at this moment.

“We sing the fight song together,” Ethan Melancon says. “Then they go in, and we sing the alma mater.”

Melancon, 21, is a senior from Thibodaux working on a double major in public relations and political science. He’s also one of four drum majors for the university’s Pride of Acadiana Marching Band, as well as the band’s president.

And he’s ready for the Ragin’ Cajuns to take on Tulane University’s Green Wave in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday.

But now he reflects on the past season, how the band anticipated a post-season bowl from the Cajuns and those moments when the team and band would come together for a few moments at the end of every home game.

It was the team’s way of showing appreciation, because the band is always there, always revving up the crowd by playing cheers on every down.

Always setting the pace with its pregame show.

“The crowd really gets revved up when we do our pregame show,” Melancon says. “And this year, Eric Melley added what he called a peak step, which is a fast step and adds energy to the show. The crowd goes crazy at pregame.”

Melley was named assistant director of bands and director of the Pride of Acadiana Marching Band in August. Melley is formerly the assistant director of the LSU Tiger Marching Band and the university’s Wind Ensemble.

“This has been a great season for ULL,” Melley says. “Our expectations were high with Coach Hudspeth doing so well in the last few seasons, we knew it was going to be an exciting year.”

UL Lafayette hired Mark Hudspeth as its head football coach in December 2010. He has since led the Ragin Cajuns to post-season play in the New Orleans Bowl with a 32-30 win against San Diego State in 2011 and a 43-34 win against East Carolina in 2012.

This year’s opponent will be the Tulane Green Wave, which will be playing on its home turf in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game starts at 8 p.m.

“It will be different for us, because we’ll be playing a Louisiana team this year,” Melancon says. “And Tulane will be playing on its home field. But the Ragin’ Cajuns will be ready.”

The band will be ready, too.

“We performed three halftime shows on Cajun Field during the season,” Melley says. “We’ll be performing a portion of one of those halftime shows at the game. We’ll be playing ‘Malaguena,’ which was made popular by the big band leader Stan Kenton, and we’ll play my arrangement of Bruno Mars’ song, ‘Locked Out of Heaven,’ for the Ragin’ Jazz dance team. We’ll also be playing during pregame.”

The band began rehearsals on Thursday morning, then left later in the day for New Orleans, where it marched a parade through the French Quarter.

“This is an exciting event for us,” Melancon says. “We get to march down Bourbon Street, and there are always a lot of ULL fans there. The first year we marched in the parade, Bourbon Street was a sea of red. Fans were marching with us and waiting for us to pass. It’s always great.”

On Friday, the New Orleans Bowl is sponsoring a free concert in the Superdome’s Champion Square featuring the Charlie Daniels Band, followed by country superstar Travis Tritt.

“Charlie Daniels has asked for members from both the ULL and Tulane bands to join him in the song ‘The South is Going to Rise Again,’” Melley says. “They wanted percussion and brass players, so we’ve chosen some band members for this. This will be a lot of fun for them.”

The band also will perform at a few university-sponsored functions, but the main event will be the game.

UL Lafayette’s red has always dominated Superdome seats in past New Orleans Bowls.

“This year, with Tulane playing at home, we’ll be seeing a lot of green there, too,” Melancon says.

But this will not distract the Pride of Acadiana. All 260 members will be there in full force, playing its downs cheers, which consist of a different song for first, second and third downs. Not to mention a cheer for the defense when it forces the offense to a fourth down.

“We changed the downs cheers this year, but the crowd picked it up,” Melley says.

“They really got into it,” Melancon adds.

The band will keep the spirit rolling with the UL Lafayette fight song. Yes, that same song the football team sings with the band at the end of every home game.

“Now, it’s a little different at the bowl game,” Melancon says. “They might not be able to sing it because of the trophy ceremony.”

Then again, they might.

For what better way would there be to cap this anticipated third victory?