With the Florida Classic being the point of my focus this week (though unfortunately, due to ESPN Classic having technical difficulties, I didn't even get to watch it) I dug into the archives for a post I made just after attending the Florida Classic Battle of the Bands in the Fall of 2004. Before 80 Minutes of Regulation was ever thought of, I kept a LiveJournal, and while neither sports nor marching/athletic music were the focus, there are posts that speak to that. Here, with limited editing, is that original post.
Actually, there's no audio, but given the auditory nature of the subject matter, it seemed appropriate.
Last night I got the opportunity to see the Bethune-Cookman College Marching Wildcats and the Florida A&M University Marching 100 live for the first time. While I have seen both bands, it's a whole new experience seeing them in person!
What's that, you want to know Curtis' take on who's best of the rivalry? I think I'll give it to the 100, but let me tell you, it was the difference between ABSOLUTELY AMAZING and MORE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. That being said, I think in a battle of the drumlines, I would give it to BCC. A few specific stats on the comparison:
-Snare drums: Advantage: FAMU, but only slightly
-Quads: Advantage: FAMU; difference negligible.
-Cymbals: Advantage: BCC. Both cymbal squads were very impressive, but BCC got bonus point becuase they were slinging 18s, vs. FAMU's 16s. BCC did lose cool points, though, because there was one portion where their cymbal players were being cymbal stands for the snare players. They wre the only band all night to have made that transgression.
-Bass drums: Advantage: BCC by a long shot. They had all the flare of a HBCU band and all the chops and even tonal runs of the Blue Devils bassline. They were amazing.
-Tenors/field drums: Eh, who cares? BCC had chest mounters though, FAMU had strapped field drums.
Of those two, FAMU came out first. As they started out, a decent amount of people were coming out, but I thought they looked a little small. At first I thought they may have only brought a portion of their organization because they were on a 50 yard field (It was in the TD Waterhouse Center, home of Arena Football's Orlando Predators) and they are 300 strong. However, I soon realized that was just the drumline. They march 10 basses, 9 tenors, 10 quads, 4 cymbals, and 20 snares. Got damn. Other comparisons:
-Sousaphones: Advantage: FAMU. They marched 22 and BCC marched 24, but BCC's tone always suffered like they were overblowing.
-General arranging: FAMU. They even did this arrangement of the State Farm theme to commemorate the sponsors of the classic that was amazing.
-Technique/Drill/Choreography: FAMU, but it was close cuz BCC definitely put their thing down. And while drill was involved, there was very little actual marching drill, probably because it's tough to do things with 300ish people on a 50 yard field.
-BCC had the burden of having to dress their lines after their interest. There is no shame in having to dress lines, obviously, it's standard operating procedure. But when you perform after a band who came out in perfect formation and didn't have to adjust at all, it all of a sudden looks bad.
My one qualm with the 100 is that while their drum majors were all awesome showmen, I don't think they conducted anywhere at all. I have never been a fan of the drum major being merely an auxiliary performer/squad. There is no reason why your director should be conducting a field show, particularly when you have 9 drum majors. I am all for drum majors being the showmen they are, but I think that a drum majors primary responsibility is as a field commander and conductor.
As far as the high school bands were concerned, once we got to a certain point in the show, everything was excellent. There were a few bands in the beginning that probably bolstered what a bunch of corps style kids think about show style marching--they were all dancing and melody, no musicianship and considerably dimished marching skill and chops, in the drumline and otherwise. The better bands definitely did our style proud though. Many of the bands were from Florida, but there were bands from GA, NC, and even one from KS. I have never seen a significant amount of performances from HBHSes though, and after having done such, I can proudly say that the Alexis I. duPont High School Tiger Marching Band would have held their own, even without playing the latest radio hits or otherwise switching our swag up, we honestly would have represented.
I would have given the win (there was no winner. Despite the title, the battle of the bands was an exhibition, not a competition.) to this band from Morrill (sp?) GA. Best drumline would to go Frederick Douglass, from ATL.
Again, I turn to the pageantry of drum majors: There are some excellent things done with HBHS/HBCU and for that matter, Big Ten and other show style marching bands. I love the mace work, the backbends, and the other aspects of the performance. But what I'd love to see that there was none of would be a good ol' drum major salute. I feel like there's something in the salute that very much solidifies the drum majors position as the leader of the organization and is a sound acknowledgement both of the crowd and of his/her role as a representative of the band. All of this is going into my mental file, of course, for when I get to make a marching band of my own.
Anyway, as far as the evening was concerned, I was quite pleased, as were the people I went with, Ashlea, Stacy, Stacy's sorority sister Jernita and her son, and Stacy's friend Donna. Then again, you knew I would enjoy it, it's a band dork's dream. The one thing I would have changed is that it was 4 1/2 hours straight, with no breaks to speak of. There should have been a halftime--with a football game played during it.