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Monday, October 9, 2017

High Notes - 2017 Week 6

So I hear it was a ho-hum schedule in college football this weekend... did I miss anything?

Of course, I've caught up on the news roundup, and know I missed a helluva weekend. This week's high notes once again opens up the playbook to extend beyond just football and marching band.

This weekend, my family, a friend of my daughter's, and I went up to the Yogi Bear's Jellystone Camp Resort in Natural Bridge, VA. The trip was made possible by having won a contest on RV Family Travel Atlas, and we used it for a bit of fall* camping.

Why the asterisk? Because it was in the 80s while we were there. Frankly, while they had shut down for the season, they would have been well within their rights to get the water park going instead of the Halloween-themed goods. But we did get to enjoy trick-or-treating, a haunted trail, and fall crafts, and still hop in the river for good measure. And while up in the area, we checked out Natural Bridge State Park as well - newly minted as such from some previously private sites we had visited before, as well as the caverns, which we had not.

Columbus Day

Columbus (v.) To discover a place, item, or phenomenon that is already occupied.

As philosopher Sean "Jay-Z" Carter put it, this ain't politically correct; this might offend my political connects.

A few years ago, I made a post about non-HBCUs playing Neck, a subject I've also been tweeting about near as far back as my social media footprint goes. I stand by everything I wrote in the 2013 piece - I may have hedged a bit less in 2017, granted - and decided a new post made more sense than simply revising the earlier piece.

My most recent impetus was College Marching sharing a postgame celebration with Washington's Husky Marching Band and running back Lavon Coleman - my beef is with neither of them, it should be noted. A scant few of the commenters on either the Facebook or Twitter post verbally took exception with the presence of a song long associated with HBCU bands. But since it's Columbus Day, I'm compelled to point out: Neck has been thoroughly Columbused by bands at Predominantly White Institutions. And despite this going on for probably a solid decade, I still internally - and occasionally externally - give a mild to moderate sideeye every time I hear it.

There are a few notes in this that I find particularly egregious. First, On multiple occasions, I've seen the song associated with LSU. True enough, all evidence points to the Golden Band from Tigerland being Patient Zero - the first PWI to bring the song into the "mainstream," likely by having heard it across town at Southern. But there's no shortage of the likes of:










It's the same script as the latest Kardashijenner discovering "boxer braids" (read: cornrows) or GQ declaring Timbs "This [2016] Fall's Must-Have Boot."

Secondly, I've seen PWI bands use Neck as a tableau upon which to paint whatever they deem stereotypically "urban." South Carolina's Mighty Sound of the Southeast does the Bernie (side note: Did anyone ever actually do the Bernie?). The aforementioned Husky Band clip featured hip swivels and body rolls that would make Elvis proud. And LSU, of course, has a consistently tenuous hold on their ability even to play the song at all due to the vulgar lyrics that accompany it. Further, it wasn't so long ago that the folks lauding the "fun" that this band is having were the ones decrying HBCU marching as undisciplined, lacking in talent, or even primitive - all not-so-subtle dog whistles with racist undertones. Even in the Facebook post, some are spitting "show style" with the same vitriol one with which one may say "ghetto." And yet, in the Drumline era, and certainly with the ubiquity of social media, the once mocked becomes desirable.

These facts are not occurring in a vacuum. This leisurely stroll in the HBCU park is happening at universities that struggle to enroll, retain, and graduate Black students in particular, and in a national climate that is often hostile to those same students. While HBCUs struggle for mainstream (loaded term noted) recognition of all of the things they do well, PWIs are going viral playing a piece that's been in the HBCU repertoire for decades.

I'll note I'm an alumnus of two PWIs and work at a third - at least two of which play Neck - but you'll excuse my lack of humility when I assert that I have a decent handle on culture in America and athletic bands' presence within them. I'm not here to say that PWIs can't play Neck, or even that they shouldn't - it's far from my call to make. But I'll ask that you consider the context and don't be surprised if HBCU bandheads take exception.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Band (Nerd) On The Road

First: as I occupy space on the internet in the week of such unspeakable tragedy, I feel compelled to mention the massacre in Las Vegas and wish peace to those personally affected, and all of us, that we may move beyond thoughts and prayers and towards solution. In the world of sports and marching/athletic music, I know many of us find comfort and enjoyment in crowds of thousands to over a hundred thousand, and this sort of attack must weigh heavy on decisions to be in those spaces.

*          *           *

This past weekend, I made the trip out to USF at ECU. One of my excitements about being conferencemates with ECU again had actually not yet been realized, as the only other game in Greenville, two years ago, I was unable to make. Fortune wasn't the kindest to me in scheduling this year either, but after heading west to get east, I made my way along the two lane roads some may associate with landgrant flagships in the middle of nowhere, down to the 252, and into the stadium just before halftime.

Priority one was, of course, to get myself into position to see the band. As I got into the stands, the Marching Pirates were surprisingly playing to the side two end zone - the seats they had vacated, and presumably, the student section. They performed the rest of their show to the backfield (as the logo faces) sideline giving me a rearview of the show from my vantage point.

I then made my way around to my section - or more accurately, the section I ended up squatting in to catch a friend and be among some of the other NC alumni. While USF led by just a touchdown at the half, the momentum grew in the third quarter. ECU would score their final touchdown about halfway through the third, while USF would continue to impose its will, ultimately dropping a 60-burger (61, actually) on the overmatched Pirates.

Having arrived so late, I have an incomplete picture of the ECU gameday atmosphere I've heard so much about. While announced attendance was 35K in a stadium that holds 50, that wasn't my experience upon arrival, and apparently it didn't seem that way earlier in the game either, based on a first quarter text that read, "This place is empty." I missed any pregame tailgating, though at least some were back at their rigs after the game (no telling if they waited the game out or got an early start on the postgame).

After the game, I followed the sound of drums, as I am wont to do, and caught a pleasant surprise in the form of the ECU Drumline's postgame performance. I was the only green clad fan there, but no one seemed to mind. It was a pleasure watching them throw down before ultimately making my way back to the car and treating myself to a postgame beer - Jai Alai from Tampa's own Cigar City Brewing, naturally.

From there, it was out to the town. A friend from high school had just moved to Greenville, but we weren't able to catch up; luckily, another friend, a fellow Bull who used to work at ECU, came with several suggestions. Most establishments along the main strip were packed - perhaps a bit more of how Greenville does postgame. I got myself some eastern NC BBQ (when in Rome...) and turned my beer tastes back local as well. Before heading back west, I checked out Uptown Brewery, recommended by a friend-of-a-friend.

ECU, I look forward to seeing you again in two years. I know this season's been rough so far, which may have led to the atmosphere, but I hope we can make it a fun one in 2019.

Friday, September 29, 2017

High Notes - 2017 Week 4

Decorative gourd season has returned.
This past weekend was pretty basic: We spent the first weekend of Fall at a nearby orchard, enjoying cider, picking (banjo and fruit variety) and celebrating the season on a mid-80s North Carolina day. The bluegrass band played Rocky Top while we were there, and I got to chat Bulls with a man who splits his time between NC and Tampa, so there's that

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Taking a Knee

On a weekend when everyone, including the current occupant of the White House, is weighing in on the protests and the protests-of-the-protests taking place surrounding the National Anthem in the NFL, I suppose it's as good a time as any for me to weigh in:

I'm not currently watching the NFL.

Frankly, these days my boycott of the NFL is only slightly more impactful as my protests of Denny's and Hobby Lobby, two establishments I rarely if ever patronized. If I'm going to devote the better part of a weekend day to  football, Saturday wins every time. My NFL viewing had been downsized primarily to Eagles viewing, and living not only out of market but in another NFC market, catching the Birds from my home was a rare occurrence. Still, even that won't happen for the foreseeable future.

My choice is the reaction to a few other related decisions. Most famously, Colin Kaepernick decided to protest police brutality during the National Anthem. The NFL's 32 owners decided, individually but functionally collectively, that for this he was unemployable as a quarterback in the league. I, in turn, decided that that particular set of values didn't align with my own, so at present, I'm not watching. Contrary to popular narratives on both sides, no one's first amendment rights were harmed on the process.

As has been well documented, this is far from the only problematic thing the NFL has on its head. But not choosing to boycott before in no way precludes one's right, for whatever reason, to decide this is the time. I've also got no ill will towards anyone who decides, for whatever reason, that they'll choose to keep watching, even if they align with Kaepernick's viewpoint.

I'm not sure I know what my end game is. The end of the season? Until the league has made whatever I determine to be progress? Until Kap is employed? Until the Eagles make the Super Bowl and I ultimate backslide? Or am I done for good? At this point, I don't yet know.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

High Notes - 2017 Week 3

I'm finally exiting that annual September stretch where work obligations keepe from catch much college football. This past weekend I got got to let my feel flag fly on another way: at Greensboro Comicon.

The convention had quite a few local sponsors, but the one that led to the coolest crossover was the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Situated just down the street from where the convention took place, the ICRCM commemorates the site of the Woolworth's where the Greensboro Sit-In took place. For the event, Tuskegee Heirs' illustrator Marcus Williams created an awesome print of the A&T Four as heroes that was available at the con and with VIP admission. The print, pictures above, is about half of the reason I decided to go, and 100% of the reason I got the VIP admission.

To bring it full circle: On that same Saturday, Greensboro's NC A&T Aggies were out of town. The football team and the Blue and Gold Marching Machine had traveled south to Charlotte to take on the 49ers and ultimately notch a victory against the FBS squad. As ESPN's Ryan McGee brought to my attention, the touchdown that put the game out of reach for the Niners was an interception by Franklin McCain III - the grandson of the A&T Four's Franklin McCain.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Don't Start No... Won't Be No...

I followed pro wrestling most closely during the Attitude Era of the late '90s and early 2000s. While cutting promos has always been a part of the performance, the smack between the likes of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin was legendary.

CrankFest 2017, a battle of the bands in New Orleans is following suit, and the products are legendary. Here's what's out there so far:


I'll update as it continues, which it most certainly will. As for what they'll bring to social media and CrankFest itself, I think Bart Scott put it best:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

You Had One Job

Warning, this one's all about me, until I make it intentionally not all about me.

This is your fault, ECU.

There's a game I've had circled since before there was a date to circle: USF at ECU. Since we've become conferencemates again, I've looked forward to biennial tilts a reasonable drive away. Two years ago, circumstance caused me to miss a rainy Bulls victory in Greenville, but this year, outside of falling into the small window of weekends I'm already spoken for, surely odale the trip. Learning the day was a sigh of relief, but with a morning event on the schedule, we were in the clear, unless...

Yup, it's a nooner.

I blame you, ECU.

Surely, if the Pirates had their druthers - and the clout that typically eludes a winless team - they'd throw a dreaded Dowdy-Ficklen night game at their nationally ranked division foes. Even an afternoon would have been favorable, and personally preferable. But a noon game presents a schedule conflict that will certainly cause me to miss part of the game, if not avoid the trip entirely.

But the reason? So much bigger than a football game.

While I would have loved for the two to coexist, my Saturday morning will be spent the better part of an hour in the opposite direction from Greenville - Forsyth County's Tanglewood Park, to be exact - as my wife races in Athena's Run, an annual 5K for gynecologic cancers, which benefits the Gynecologic Cancer Fund at the Novant Health Foundation Forsyth Medical Center. My wife and I lost our friend Karen to ovarian cancer back in 2010, and the inaugural run took place later that year. More recently, our friend Dianna lost her mother to ovarian cancer. My wife is running for the two of them, as well as another friend, Mandy, who died (causes unrelated) almost exactly a year ago from the race date.

If you'd like to donate and support my wife and our team since the first race, Karen's Krusaders, you can do so here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Moving Lines

For many, seeing the worth of Band on the Road doesn't take any convincing. From either a sports or band perspective, the added value of having a marching band in the stands goes without saying. But what if their was an actual dollar figure placed on that added value?

For those who bet sports, a common refrain is that the home field is worth three points. And while that may often play out, any sports fan will tell you that not all home fields are created equal. There's a marked difference between the crowd at the Big House and the crowd at Autzen; the crowd at Death Valley (either one) and the crowd in a rented NFL stadium (either one). Some houses can be taken over by visiting fans, while others will always be tens of thousands of screaming fans rooting for the home team. But are bands part of that equation?

Consider that this past weekend, two major intersectional matchups saw the road team win. Oklahoma beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe, while Georgia went on the road to Notre Dame and came away with a win. The highest rated betting sites had each home team as the favorite by as much as a touchdown, And yet the road team walked out with a victory. And in each case, they got to hear the fight song coming off the horns and drums of their very own.

Both the Pride of Oklahoma and the Redcoat Marching Band traveled with their teams, serving up a slice of home in what could otherwise be a hostile environment. Did the friendly sounds of Boomer Sooner or Glory Glory help spur the team to victory? Were the road fans that much more galvanized by a marching band designed to do exactly that? I don't know what the point swing is for having a band make the trip, but I'd say it's something the oddsmakers ought to be taking into account.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

BOTR Game of the Week, 2017 Week 2

As you've heard from me in the past at about this time, Week 2 often coincides with sorority recruitment on the campus where I work, so these updates have often come late or not at all. This week has an amazing slate of Band on the Road games. But for recognition, I'm going to go inter-subdivisional with Jacksonville State's Marching Southerners traveling to Georgia Tech. The Marching Yellow Jackets are two for two in seeing a band across the field, having faced the Pride of the Southland in Mercedes Benz Stadium last week. Jacksonville State already shares a marching link to Atlanta: Drum Corps International's Spirit of Atlanta spent a decade calling the JSU home, competing during that time as "Spirit from JSU".
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