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Monday, August 25, 2014

Band on the Road 2014

There are a few surefire signs that college football is fast approaching. The annual college football magazines come out. Players return to campus to begin fall practice. Your favorite college football media increase in frequency. More recently, as a celebration immediately preceding the first college football Saturday, College Colors Day urges fans to get into the spirit with their favorite team gear.

And then there's 8/25.

Three years ago, to commemorate their 25th anniversary, marching shoe brand Dinkles declared 8/25 (Eight T[w]o Five, for the marching aficionados) International Dinkles Day. I've since seen fit to seize it as a commemoration of all things marching. The date play on words notwithstanding,  it also tends to fall in the week leading up to the return of college football and marching.

For the second year, 8/25 also mark the release of the Band on the Road Project.

Now in its fourth year, Band on the Road chronicles road trips taken by college marching bands. While the groundwork has been laid by research, Band on the Road is a fully editable spreadsheet, allowing all users to contribute with knowledge they have of band travel. The database is for band fans and football fans alike; after all, when traveling to an away game of your favorite team, it's great to know if there will be a little slice of home there with you.

New for 2014
As much as it hurt my heart as an alumnus of the American Athletic Conference's USF Bulls, the original inclusion of BCS conferences translated to simply including the Power Five conferences as the new iteration of college football's elite. As I said when debuting the series, sticking to those conferences is by scope, not slight; narrowing in this manner allows for a manageable load when inputting the original data. However, because the document is fully editable, anyone with a passion for the other conferences - or even FCS, Division II, or Division III schools - can certainly add them.

I also changed the manner that I include historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Because their passion for college marching is unparalleled, I couldn't create such a list without including HBCUs in some format. Previously, I stuck with the MEAC and SWAC, the two Division I (FCS) HBCU conferences, again for the sake of scope. This year's change involves some give and take: I included all of the classics, which omits the week-to-week for MEAC/SWAC schools but includes classics between Division II programs.

Even with one conference down (though to be fair, the American only contributed four confirmed travel games) bands traveling this year slightly out pace last year's road games, 106-102. New columns denote the number of trips per conference, as well as the number of non-conference visiting bands, though the latter is decidedly slim because the only bands from outside the power conferences included are those noted by the host band's site. And while one of my working documents - a highlighted version of FBSchedules.com's helmet schedules - notated speculations of road bands, the numbers here nearly exclusively include travel that was confirmed in some way by band schedule. In a few cases, bands indicate that at least a pep band attends all road conference games; in those instances, such games are included in the schedule. The small amounts of speculation included here are major rivalry games where travel is a foregone conclusion, though neither band explicitly stated it.

All in all, this document gets more robust with each passing year, both as my research improves and more bands make calendars available. Again, any omissions or mistakes you may see are editable, and I empower all users to make those changes as they see fit. Moreover, I will be updating during the course of the season as I notice road bands when watching football, and invite you to do the same.

Happy football/marching season!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Before the Clock Starts: SEC

Before the Clock Starts is back for a third year, and this time, we're doing full conferences.

As with last year, we'll take a look at what college bands do before the clock starts: The pregame show. Designed to set the tone for the football game to follow, pregame shows are, by design, high-energy, crowd-focused, and school-centric. On the final Saturday before football rejoins our lives, we conclude with the SEC.


With all conferences, I look for the most recent representation I could find, and in many cases, those came from this past season. With a few schools, I had to look further back, and with just a handful, there was no true video at all. I'd love to see these schools step up and give us something to appreciate!

Getting antsy and want to see all schools? Here's the master playlist.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Before the Clock Starts: Pac-12

Before the Clock Starts is back for a third year, and this time, we're doing full conferences.

 As with last year, we'll take a look at what college bands do before the clock starts: The pregame show. Designed to set the tone for the football game to follow, pregame shows are, by design, high-energy, crowd-focused, and school-centric. At two weeks until the start of the new season, we continue with the Pac-12.


With all conferences, I look for the most recent representation I could find, and in many cases, those came from this past season. With a few schools, I had to look further back, and with just a handful, there was no true video at all. I'd love to see these schools step up and give us something to appreciate!

Getting antsy and want to see all schools? Here's the master playlist.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Can't Stop the Beat

My wife and I have never been the sort to let the grass grow under our feet when traveling, so when I brought the Street Beat 5K going on as part of the championship festivities to her attention, she said "why not?" True enough, despite being paired with the marching arts, it wasn't my sort of 5K, but I knew she'd love to run it, even though it meant getting down to downtown Indy at about 7 that morning. The run was at Indy's Canal Walk, a cool part of the city we'd return to later in the day. The run was sponsored in part by the Boston Crusaders. A corps from Boston sponsoring a run? Why not? The race seemed to draw folks from the area with no affiliation with drum corps as well; the female winner was a student at IUPUI who now has a drum among her race trophies.

We headed back over to the city center for breakfast at Panera, but because of the early race time, it would be a bit before the museums we intended to hit would open. We headed back to the car for a recharge - of selves and phones - we headed back out to catch Drumline Battle, one of DCI's new, more accessible initiatives.

I'm not sure how the average DCI fan takes to Drumline Battle - we know how many feel about Drumline - but seeing the concept for the first time, I really liked it. The two lines facing off against one another take turns stepping into the square and throwing down. A coin flip determines the order; the winner can elect to receive or defer. After a ground level vantage point was blocked by photographers and other official type folks, we went up into the adjacent parking garage for a high angle view.

Following the battle - we caught a few individual battles, and a few more corps in the warmup zone, we headed to the Rhythm Discovery Center. Unsurprisingly, I'm sure, I was like a kid in a candy story at the Percussive Arts Society's de facto showroom, a drum-based museum with plenty of hands-on opportunity. The feature exhibit was the history of the drumset, and in addition to a cool history lesson about the way the set has evolved, they had a few classic example's including sets from Neil Peart and Ringo Starr. And while those weren't playable, many more instruments were.

If there would have been another musical opportunity to cap the way with - we headed back uptown to my brother in law's before any corps warmups started - I could have considered the next activity a sports halftime in a day of marching/athletic music. As it stands, though, the NCAA Hall of Champions was our final visit of the day. As long as you acknowledge up front that it's a mouthpiece for the Association, the museum is enjoyable, featuring interactive exhibits, information on every NCAA championship at every level (including the two UMBC has from the D-II days) and a touch screen with every NCAA program in the country. It was actually a busy time there adjacent to NCAA HQ; just days after the O'Bannon verdict and the day after the Power 5 conferences' autonomy was granted. Coincidentally, their exhibit spoke of the 40 years that had passed since Divisions II and III came into existence.

I'm not saying we'll necessarily be back next year, but I'd love to, and on at least a few occasions, we spoke as though we would be. Getting to go see Chris was great, and being able to pair that with Championships - especially if I can get some of my pep band buddies to come along - makes for a great trip. Whether next year or later, you haven't seen the last of us, Indy.

Sweet 16

This past weekend, DCI closed the door on its 2014 campaign, with Blue Devils notching championship #16 with their Felliniesque program. While I wasn't there finals night, I did make the trip up for championship weekend, opting instead to attend Friday's semifinals.

The trip was a great opportunity to get up to Indianapolis for the first time since my brother in law has lived there. A stop in Chillicothe, OH on the way up got us another national park stamp at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park before continuing on to Indianapolis. Thursday took us down to Holiday World in Santa Claus, IN with my brother in law, his girlfriend, and another friend of theirs. It was awesome.

We were met by rain on Friday as we headed out towards the stadium. This trip was actually the first use of my new gas grill; I'm typically a charcoal griller, but I've often longed for the easy-on, easy-off of a gas grill in the tailgate lot. After a little figuring out of the new toy, we were, quite literally, cooking with gas.

I was pleased to spend a bit of time with a few fellow UMBC Down and Dirty Dawg Band alumni. Matt and Paul have made the trip to Championships the past few years, and I reached out to them both once I knew we'd be headed to Indianapolis. Paul and I overlapped a few years in the band; Matt and I were never in band together, though he and Paul overlapped. Between the three of us, we span nearly the entire history of the band; I joined in its second year of existence, and Matt's the current director. Imagine that - three alumni of a school with no marching band meeting up at the championships for Marching Music's Major League.

Allow me to also draw attention to my shirt: Baltimore Colts Marching Band: Established 1947. While my sister in law did march with the Colts Band, this is a fauxback. I made it before the trip to Finals in 2008, which was slated to have been the first event in Lucas Oil Stadium before a delay in construction moved the event to Memorial Stadium at Indiana University. Despite traveling to Indy with three different corps shirts, I had to remind the city and stadium of their ill-gotten goods.

On with the show! It was only a week or two before the trip that I realized that with the new championship format, semifinals now featured 25 corps instead of the 17 I was used to. With all due respect to the Open Class and the bottom of the World Class corps, I didn't exactly hurry in from the tailgate lot. In fact, by the time my wife and I arrived in the stadium, we decided to peruse the souvies at a leisurely pace before the corps broke for the first intermission; we ended up with 17 corps after all. We took in the veritable smorgasbord of merch, copping a few free stickers and purchasing a few more things. A Baltimore native now living in Utah strikes up a conversation with me over the shirt (leading with "What do you know about the Baltimore Colts?!")

This year and last, circumstances have only afforded me one DCI show, which is unfortunate. Still, I'm pleased that my one this year was semifinals. While I love the Tour of Champions corps, the fact that the Charlotte's NightBEAT is a TOC show means I've missed some of what I deem the "mid majors" I enjoy seeing. It was a pleasure this year to catch Spirit of Atlanta, who in my opinion owned what Honda Battle of the Bands aficionados term the "wake up spot", and their south-facing show Magnolia. The recent Open Class callup Oregon Crusaders get a bit of 410 respect from me for putting a Raven on the Colts' home field. And for myself, as a self-described traditionalist who doesn't have deep enough corps roots to be one, the Troopers are always a pleasure, even though I felt teased by how little Battle Hymn of the Republic was in their show. And the Crossmen, who like myself once called Delaware home, have returned to the red in their uniforms in a big way. I don't need a reminder that there's excellence to be had throughout, but it sure is fulfilling to experience it.

During the second INT, I got to meet Ann, who I had connected with some time ago on Twitter, following her journeys to a jealousy-inducing number of midwestern drum corps shows. I also met Mac, who is hustling hard to put out Scouts Honor: Inside a Marching Brotherhood, a drum corps documentary which follows members of the Madison Scouts.

If I had one complaint, it was the same ludditical belief that I spoke about in Halftime. Some of the uses of electronics, especially narration, were just too antithetical to enjoying the show. In an enclosed stadium where I was closer to the retractable roof than the playing surface, so much of the voice was garbled, which committed two sins: The first was a garbled mess detracting from the music; the second was that when you use narration to drive the show, the show loses everything when the narration is lost. Still, there were enjoyable shows throughout, and the top of the order was no exception.

While I didn't attend finals night, the outcome - a 16th Blue Devils victory - was to be expected. I've drawn the New York Yankees comparison, but don't share quite the same disdain. Instead, perhaps the Blue Devils are a bit more like the San Antonio Spurs - so often, they're not my cup of tea, but their excellence cannot be denied.

The sports and marching/athletic music fun in Indianapolis didn't end on Friday night; stay tuned for the rest shortly!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Indy Appetizer

I owe you all a proper post on my trip to Indianapolis for DCI World Championships. It will come in time - I got back into town last night, and still have family here - but in the meantime, a quick photo tour of the parts of my trip that fit here in 80 Minutes. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Before the Clock Starts: Big 12

Before the Clock Starts is back for a third year, and this time, we're doing full conferences.

 As with last year, we'll take a look at what college bands do before the clock starts: The pregame show. Designed to set the tone for the football game to follow, pregame shows are, by design, high-energy, crowd-focused, and school-centric. At three weeks until the start of the new season, we continue with the Big 12.


With all conferences, I look for the most recent representation I could find, and in many cases, those came from this past season. With a few schools, I had to look further back, and with just a handful, there was no true video at all. I'd love to see these schools step up and give us something to appreciate!

Getting antsy and want to see all schools? Here's the master playlist.

Friday, August 8, 2014

World Class City

I write this from Indianapolis, where I'll be waking up in the morning to enjoy DCI's semifinals. Through a few twists of fate, this will be my first and only DCI show this summer; there was no early season show in the Carolinas this year, and car trouble on the way down to Charlotte left us unable to attend NightBEAT. We opted for semis; more corps for less money, and the battle for top 12 promises to be just as competitive as the quest for a championship.

It promises to be an 80 Minutes-filled weekend, including:
-Tailgating
-Open House at DCI headquarters
-DCI semifinals at Lucas Oil Stadium
-SoundSport and Drumline Battle
-The NCAA Hall of Champions
-The Rhythm Discovery Center

I'll be providing a full recap here, of course, but if you want a bit closer to up-to-the-minute updates, be sure to follow on Twitter and/or Facebook. See you on the other side!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Before the Clock Starts: Big Ten

Before the Clock Starts is back for a third year, and this time, we're doing full conferences.

 As with last year, we'll take a look at what college bands do before the clock starts: The pregame show. Designed to set the tone for the football game to follow, pregame shows are, by design, high-energy, crowd-focused, and school-centric. At four weeks until the start of the new season, we continue with the Big Ten.


With all conferences, I look for the most recent representation I could find, and in many cases, those came from this past season. With a few schools, I had to look further back, and with just a handful, there was no true video at all. I'd love to see these schools step up and give us something to appreciate!

Getting antsy and want to see all schools? Here's the master playlist.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Before the Clock Starts: ACC

Before the Clock Starts is back for a third year, and this time, we're doing full conferences.

 As with last year, we'll take a look at what college bands do before the clock starts: The pregame show. Designed to set the tone for the football game to follow, pregame shows are, by design, high-energy, crowd-focused, and school-centric. At five weeks until the start of the new year, we start with the ACC.


With all conferences, I look for the most recent representation I could find, and in many cases, those came from this past season. With a few schools, I had to look further back, and with just a handful, there was no true video at all. I'd love to see these schools step up and give us something to appreciate!

Getting antsy and want to see all schools? Here's the master playlist.

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