Ladies and gentlemen, I am very excited to share my Saturday experience with you all, as I’m FINALLY home from seeing famous teen violinist Giovanni Mazza perform live at Purcell Pavilion this afternoon, and I feel the need to describe the sights that were seen, sounds that were heard, and feelings that were felt. I don’t want to waste any more of your time, so let’s get after it.
I arrived at Purcell JUST before the action began, thanks to the lovely, deliberate schedule of the South Shore train and the less-than-speedy stylings of my Uber driver. Once I finally got to my seat with the other press members who get relegated to Section 13 when there are lots of media people in attendance for a game, I was treated to the beautiful tune of Archie Eversole’s “We Ready” as I gazed out upon an arena full of Giovanni Mazza fans sporting green, because I assume that’s his favorite color or something.
After the Purcell video board used this captive violin audience as an opportunity to promote the local basketball team with a video set to Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA,”* the main event began.
*Pat Rick note: that’s a fine choice of song, but I do think something like, say, this song would be an even more effective choice to sell me on the men’s basketball team
Of course, by “main event” I mean 13-year-old violinist Giovanni Mazza strutting out to mid-court in a Notre Dame jersey and hat to play the national anthem on his violin. No surprise here, he was fantastic and it really set the tone for the rest of the afternoon at Purcell.
Some quick background on Mazza, mostly gleaned from this appearance/interview/performance with ND’s own Jordan Cornette:
- 13 years old* and from Chicago
*Pat Rick note: he is better at violin at 13 than I have ever been at anything in my entire life; and I mean that both as an insult to my dumb self and as a big-time compliment to Giovanni, who is incredibly talented
- Discovered by a Chicago Bulls youth talent search
- Has played at a ton of basketball games at the NCAA and NBA level (e.g. at locales like Madison Square Garden, the United Center, Vivint Smart Home Arena)
- He performed at the 2016 and 2018 NBA All Star games
- He got to meet Chris Paul while wearing Chris Paul shoes
One embarrassing note: when they announced Mazza for the national anthem, I tried to make a quick note on my phone as to who it was they just announced, and I typed out “13-year-old violin boy, Giamatti Mazza.” I’d like to sincerely apologize to Giovanni for thinking he was named after the bad guy from Big Fat Liar.
Anyway, this was one of the weirder concerts I’ve ever been to just in terms of schedule, as the opening song was a cover of “Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key (strange choice to not open with one of the hits), and then there was a roughly one hour intermission before we saw Mazza perform again. I loved the idea of covering the national anthem and making it clear that this kid is both patriotic and talented (he is), but I do question why we were subjected to what appeared to be the Virginia Cavaliers basketball team either playing against a local South Bend high school squad or reenacting, with real basketball actors, a classic blowout victory from the Ralph Sampson era. Either way, strange choice.
Anyway, before I get to the second performance by Giovanni after that weird basketball interlude, I do want to note a few things within the arena that I observed and appreciated as we built up anticipation to see our guy Mazza riff on his violin to some classic hip hop.
At one point, there was a “Dance Cam” going on on the Purcell video board, and they were playing “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. It was all well and good until some grown man who was apparently competing for the Creepiest Fan Award was shown dancing with a leprechaun puppet that he ostensibly owns and brought with him, in public, to the arena. I guess when you go to concerts, you’re bound to see some weirdos.
There was also a guy wearing one of those costumers where it looks like you’re sitting on some person’s/creature’s shoulders/back, and in this case it was a leprechaun. It was funny at first, but it does trigger an interesting conversation about the subjugation of magical creatures in human society today. I’ll save that for another time, though. I’ve been listening to too much Binge Mode: Harry Potter, clearly.
The small children sitting behind our media table spent the entire afternoon yelling “Go Irish!” no matter what was happening on the floor below. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that Giovanni is actually Italian-American — their enthusiasm and positivity were just too infectious to correct them.
Later on, the symphony orchestra that Giovanni must tour with began playing that “I DON’T CARE I LOVE IT” song (I refuse to look up the name — I don’t do research for this, you guys), and that got me excited. That’s a good song.
Some dance troupe that apparently also travels with Mazza to all his gigs, called the “Pom Squad,” did a little number at one point, but unfortunately it was the very same performance I saw from them live and in-person a week ago — I love Lady Gaga medleys, don’t get me wrong...I just was hoping for something more fresh, what with Mazza being there and all.
There was a student in the front row of the student section wearing a purple Lakers Kobe Bryant jersey. Weird thing to wear to a violin concert, but okay.
The crowd wasn’t all that into all these side-shows and the weird basketball intermission, but there was an especially goosebump-inducing moment that involved people throwing t-shirts into the crowd. I have never seen so many adults get so excited over something so cheap and generally useless. However, on multiple occasions one of those clothing projectiles nearly hit me, so I want to give a shout-out to all the fans and media members who managed to get a hand on those laser-rocket shirt throws and keep me alive.
We got to have another Dance Cam involving “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan, and that faded into Smashmouth’s “All Star,” which I appreciated the heck out of as well. None of this was Giovanni Mazza, but damnit did I still enjoy it.
Finally, some dude who clearly didn’t get creative in picking his basketball reenactment character’s name, Kyle Guy, made a shot to put his team up by 17, and then those actors went to take a lunch break while the concert got going again, with Giovanni coming out on the floor to dazzle everyone with his ridiculous violin playing coupled with popular hip hop songs.
The crowd was abuzz as he stepped out there, and was immediately infatuated with the kid as he began playing his violin in conjunction with “Walk It Out” by DJ Unk, which I think we can all agree is one of those instant classic songs that everyone, of varying generations, knows all the words to.
From there, Giovanni just kept riffing on a bunch of different songs, (e.g. “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled) and honestly each one was better than the last.
Mazza’s performance is obviously mainly a product of the beautiful music he can make on his violin, but the way he plays his violin is so active and aggressive and passionate that you really get sucked into the performance, hanging on every twist and turn and song change.
So honored to play anthem and halftime for @NotreDame Men’s Basketball game today. Even more honored that @CBS @CBSSports @CBSSportsNet mentioned me on TV. @NCAA #ncaa #fightingirish #anthem #halftime #notredame pic.twitter.com/sISc1uUjzS— Giovanni Mazza (@giovanniviolin) January 26, 2019
Just check out the One Foot Down twitter’s tweets from my live-tweeting during this performance:
The halftime show is a kid playing violin...in the beginning it was him playing along to Walk It Out by DJ Unk. This is all sorts of wild.— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
This slaps, this kid is great https://t.co/2IWDjbzQeA— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
Oh my goodness he's doing some sort of Pitbull medley. WHAT WHAT WHAT https://t.co/ZlbpjQk5qp— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
If any of you know anything about me, you know that I LOVE Pitbull — unironically. It might have started as a bit ironic, but at this point I genuinely love and appreciate the hell out of Mr. Worldwide and all the catchy bangers he’s contributed to our lives over the years. That’s why I went to Naperville, Illinois, via a 1+ hour train on a Thursday night, to see Pitbull perform at Naperville Ribfest. It. Was. Amazing.
So when Giovanni finished his set by cranking out violin performances alongside “Fireball,” “Don’t Stop the Party,” and a couple other bangers, I KNEW he was on another level than most other performers I’d ever seen.
NOTE TO HALFTIME SHOW SCHEDULERS:— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
MORE GIOVANNI MAZZA, LESS QUICK CHANGE https://t.co/xXK8HA1xph
I personally don’t see the appeal for Quick Change, but if the below happened, maybe I would reconsider:
Actually wouldn’t mind performing WITH Quick Change https://t.co/1jYwZxa7Vz— Giovanni Mazza (@giovanniviolin) January 26, 2019
Anyway, my guy Giovanni finished his set beautifully, earned a big-time ovation from the crowd that I haven’t seen since Red Panda was last in town, and then he walked off to allow for yet another hour-long reenactment of a CYO “C” team playing against the Golden State Warriors.
During that post-concert time, there were a few more interesting happenings I’d like to quickly mention:
- The Purcell DJ played “Sandstorm” and “Jump Around” back-to-back and the crowd exploded accordingly
- The video board showed a bunch of highlights from the basketball episode of Season 1 of The Office, but with Jack Nolan’s voice giving play-by-play of ND games dubbed over it. This led to them announcing that the February 19th game vs. Wake Forest is “The Office Night,” where they will have free t-shirts for fans, “nifty gifties,” and encourage fans to come dressed as their favorite The Office character. This is amazing and the potential for great crowd shots is unbelievable
I want a whole section of Prison Mikes and another whole section of Date Mikes and another whole section of Tobies (plural of Toby?) https://t.co/S6KnFmTtxw— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
- As the basketball reenactment reached its final act, the acting troupe made it even more dramatic and ridiculous by “subbing in” scrawny guys for Virginia who looked more like the high school son of one of the coaches than actual players on the varsity squad. The student section acted equally ridiculous, chanting “We Are ND!” as their team was “losing” by 20+ points in a time-filler at a violin concert. Really weird stuff
Oh yeah, that basketball game was real and happened and Virginia just completely outclassed Notre Dame in every aspect of the sport. When the high point of the game is Notre Dame making the crowd go nuts due to them cutting the deficit to TWELVE, you know it’s just a bad performance.
ND got rocked, so let’s just focus on the fact that Giovanni Mazza was absolutely ELECTRIC with his violin, and tomorrow we’ll get Red Panda to make up for Zion Williamson dunking the entire Irish squad into the floorboards.
I refuse to go into more detail about the game, so I’ll just let my tweets from during the game play us out on this one...it wasn’t exactly the most competitive or interesting game to tweet about:
Irish look great so far, tied 0-0 with 20 minutes to play in the first half— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
Irish now on pace to lose 80-0— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
Kyle Guy with a nice offensive rebound and bucket...more like Kyle Man, amiright?— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
UVA is now up 10-0 at the 14:26 mark. Morale is low. Fans are starving for points. Some are already discussing who they will eat if the Irish don't score soon.— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
DJ Harvey with a deep 2, and all of a sudden the Irish are on...a 4-0 run?— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
UPDATE - IRISH NOW ON PACE TO SCORE 19.5 POINTS TODAY https://t.co/sgeec19h8m— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
Khal Djogo just drained a three, you guys.— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
The play was dead because ND stepped out of bounds before it happened, but just thought y'all should know
This run is now over— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
Ty Jerome is starting to take over, he must have heard me making fun of his two first names. I am so so sorry— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
WHO IS THIS PERSON AND WHAT HAS HE DONE WITH 2ND HALF DJ HARVEY???— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
A coast-to-coast, aggressive take for a layup, a block at the rim, and a deep three from the sophomore...Notre Dame is somehow, some way, only down 54-42 right now. What in the world
Virginia up 65-44 with 7:51 to play. It's t-shirt toss time, though, so the crowd is LIT— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
Cavaliers up 72-47 now. That's an 18-5 run since the DJ Harvey moment, unfortunately— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
Well folks, we are winding down over here on the hoops side. Irish trail 77-53 with 1:45 to play. See you Monday when we do this all over again vs. Duke— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 26, 2019
God help us.