MediaStrike Banner

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

B4: 2014 BCS Championship Presented by Vizio - Auburn vs. Florida State

I'm sure plenty have waxed poetic about the BCS ending at the Rose Bowl, but it truly is fitting. It's almost a tease for the Marching Chiefs and Auburn University Marching Band to head to a bowl game in Pasadena and not get to perform in the Rose Parade. Still, don't expect me to shed any tears for either band - their "consolation" prize is playing for a national championship.


Florida State:

B4: 2014 Discover Orange Bowl - Ohio State vs. Clemson

This is perhaps bowl season's biggest tease. The Best Damn Band in the Land has been this season's internet royalty, having viral success on several shows, and that says nothing of of the Script Ohio, typically even revered by the band unfriendly Worldwide Leader. And yet they find themselves headed to the Orange Bowl, which still sees fit to bring in a stage show for a college football bowl game halftime show, so instead of TBDBITL or the Band that Shakes the Southland, attendees will be treated to country artist Dierks Bentley.

Ohio State:


B4: 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl - Alabama vs. Oklahoma

As major college football begins its playoff, the Sugar Bowl will be home to an SEC/Big 12 matchup in years that it isn't hosting a semifinal game. They're getting the party started a year early here with two of the most storied programs in college football and a pair of Sudler Trophy winning bands.



B4: 2014 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Baylor vs. UCF

Both of these schools are making their first BCS appearances in the final year of the BCS. While Baylor has had a seat at the big boy's table the entire time, UCF just got theirs and made the most of it in what may be their only year to do so.



B4: 2014 Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio - Stanford vs. Michigan State

I have used the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band as a foil to the Big Ten's traditional style on more than one occasion, and I'm going to backpedal just a bit: Stanford's style IS traditional. In fact, it's a tradition shared by the oldest universities in the country in the Ivy League, and while it fell out of favor with others in major college football or on the west coast, Stanford keeps it alive, while facing a more, um, traditionally traditional? band in the Spartan Marching band.


Michigan State:

B4: 2014 Go Daddy Bowl - Ball State vs. Arkansas State

The Sound of the Natural State is no stranger to the Yellowhammer State; Arkansas State made the trip down to Mobile for the Go Daddy Bowl the past two years. This time they'll meet the Pride of Mid-America in the season's penultimate game.

Ball State:

Arkansas State:

B4: 2014 BBVA Compass Bowl - Vanderbilt vs. Houston

It's been said that there are too many bowls, but I'm more inclined to agree with the fact that there are too many less-than-elite bowls after the new year begins. Bowl season should be a crescendo, and bowl like this one interrupt that. That said, both schools should be proud to be playing here; Vanderbilt has never played in the new year, and Houston hasn't been there since the 1985 Cotton Bowl.



B4: 2014 AT&T Cotton Bowl - Oklahoma State vs. Missouri

I've said before that the current MO of college football is to take our conference rivalries through realignment and sell them back to us as bowl games. Not that this was ever a marquee matchup, but it was just two short years ago that these two were Big 12 conferencemates. Oklahoma State will find themselves back in Jerryworld in less than 8 months as they play in the Cowboys Classic.

Oklahoma State:


B4: 2014 Capital One Bowl - Wisconsin vs. South Carolina

When I saw the Mighty Sound of the Southeast earlier this year, the only band they had across the field (actually, further down the same sideline) was a pep band version of the Marching Tar Heels. They'll have significantly more to face in Orlando as they take on the Badger Band.


South Carolina:

B4: 2014 Outback Bowl - Iowa vs. LSU

I have fond memories of the Outback Bowl from my days in Tampa, and I got to see the Hawkeye Marching Band coming through Ybor City live in advance of the 2004 Outback Bowl. The Golden Band from Tigerland should feel at home among Tampa's bead-throwing tradition.



B4: 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl - UNLV vs. North Texas

As an alumnus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of South Florida, spare me the "regional school vs. directional school" rhetoric. The Cotton Bowl lives on in the Heart of Dallas as the namesake game has moved to Arlington, and the Green Brigade of North Texas won't have far to travel.


North Texas:

B4: 2014 Gator Bowl - Nebraska vs. Georgia

It hasn't been too long since these two have seen one another; this same matchup played out in last year's Capital One Bowl. This time, this dual-Sudler matchup is being played just up the road apiece in Jacksonville. Georgia met the newest member of the Sudler fraternity here earlier in the year, as they faced Florida in the they-don't-want-us-to-call-it-the-World's-Largest-Outdoor-Cocktail-Party-anymore.



Sunday, December 29, 2013

B4: 2013 Chick Fil-A Bowl - Duke vs. Texas A&M

Coming off a stellar season, the schedule did the Duke football team no favors, as they find themselves facing a pair of Heisman winners to end the season - Jameis Winston in the ACC Championship and Johnny Manziel in the Chick Fil-A Bowl. the Duke University Marching Band didn't fair much better, taking their undersized band up against the Marching Chiefs and now the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band.


Texas A&M:

B4: 2013 AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Rice vs. Mississippi State

Rice's Marching Owl Band has been known for nonstandard instrumentation and the irreverent humor native to scramble bands, so it wouldn't surprise me if they take aim at Mississippi State's cowbells, or perhaps the state of Mississippi itself, as they meet the Famous Maroon Band in Memphis.


Mississippi State:

B4: 2013 Hyundai Sun Bowl - Virginia Tech vs. UCLA

Remember the MagicJack Bowl, which set up shop in St. Petersburg before Beef O'Bradys took over sponsorship? We may see a Magic Jack in this bowl, in the form of Myles Jack, UCLA's two-way freshman who won both offensive and defensive freshman of the year in the Pac-12. Any chance someone in the Marching Virginians or the Solid Gold sound switches from horns to drumline mid-show?

Virginia Tech:


B4: 2013 Advocare V100 Bowl - Arizona vs. Boston College

Arizona is used to seeing maroon and gold across the field, but typically, its in the form of in-state rival Arizona State. Seniors marching with the Screaming Eagles may be the only ones who have enjoyed a bowl trip before - their last bowl eligible season came in 2010.

Update: The Pride of Arizona is actually not making the trip to Louisiana, instead opting to rent a band. Playing the part of Arizona's marching band will be the Demon Marching Band of Northwestern State University.


Boston College:

B4: 2013 National University Holiday Bowl - Texas Tech vs. Arizona State

It's a southwestern showdown as west Texas meets Arizona in San Diego. It's also one of this bowl season's four dual Sudler matchups, as the Goin' Band from Raiderland and the Sun Devil Marching Band have each taken home the prestigious award.

Texas Tech:


B4: 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl - Oregon vs. Texas

Texas should remember the Alamo - they were just here last year. It wasn't too long ago that both of these bands were playing on the grandest stage - Texas in 2009, Oregon in 2010 - against teams from Alabama. While Oregon has flirted with championship participation since, Texas' future is uncertain with Mack Brown retiring after this season.



B4: 2013 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech

Two founding members of the SEC are playing in Nashville. You can practically hear the strains of Dixie playing. No really - While the Pride of the South no longer plays From Dixie With Love, Dixie is still well incorporated into the Rebels' repertoire, and the Marching Yellow Jackets sneak it into Up With the White and Gold, one of Georgia Tech's official fight songs.

Ole Miss:

Georgia Tech:

B4: 2013 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl - Middle Tennessee vs. Navy

This battle of blues features two bands who are used to hosting drum corps action at their stadiums. Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium in Murphreesboro is home to a DCI Tour of Champions event, the Masters of the Summer Music Games, while Navy-Marine Corps Stadium hosted the DCA World Championships.

Middle Tennessee:


Thursday, December 26, 2013

That Which we Call a Corps by Any Other Name...

But does it need to be?
Used with permission, Quantum Marching (Mapex/Jupiter)
The next thing I say isn't going to make a whole lot of drum corps fans happy, but deep down, each one knows it to be true. A drum corps is a marching band. Sure we don't call it that. It's too common. A drum corps is a highly specialized marching unit made of brass, percussion, guard, unicorns, and lightning! No, while the makeup is different than what we consider typical, and at least that which we know as DCI considers itself "Marching Music's Major League," the fact remains that a drum corps is a type of marching band. -"The Winds of Change," June 2012

Rich Homie Quan isn't the only one out there feeling some type of way. Picture the scene: Christmas morning, 2013. My wife, daughter, and I are in the living room, unwrapping presents. the Disney Parks Christmas Parade is on - it's not an annual parade tradition, but we tuned in specifically knowing that Carolina Crown would be performing. The feed shifts to Nick Cannon, in Disneyland, to introduce the next group, which will be performing across the country in Walt Disney World. As he begins his introduction, he refers to Carolina Crown as an "award-winning marching band". It was as though I could hear the screams from fellow band nerds nationwide.

I'm sure it didn't help matters that the vile phrase was uttered by the star of Drumline; Hollywood's only marching band-based movie remains polarizing among those in the marching band community. But the fact remains: Whenever a drum corps is referred to as a marching band, many of us recoil as though someone used a non-PC term or worse, a slur. I'm not saying I don't understand the reaction. It wasn't long ago I would have it myself, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't internally cringe just a little, if only out of empathy. But when we get on our high horse like this, we don't do ourselves, or the activity, any favors.

The way I see it, the fanatical insistence stems from one of a couple of things. One is, if I may be blunt, an inferiority complex. An overwhelming majority of drum corps fans who don't like the association are members of marching bands themselves. Somewhere, anecdotally or through personal experience, they have been led to view marching band as "less than" - not a worthwhile experience, something that draws at best indifference and at worst ridicule. There is a desire to disassociate the summer activity from that negative connotation - the rock stars, superheroes, and gods who march DCI (and to be clear, while they aren't the only drum corps game in town, that is nearly exclusively what many mean when they say drum corps) couldn't possibly be in something as common as a "marching band" - although nearly all are.

The second reason is nearly the opposite: Exclusivity and elitism. As drum corps fans, we use the term "drum corps" - and the knowledge not to call it a marching band - as a shibboleth to denote an insider of the activity. If someone gets it wrong? Well it tells us they don't know, don't belong, or are worthy of mockery. The problem with this is that as much as we preach "grow drum corps," this is a horrible way to get casual fans involved in the activity. Those who aren't closely engaged will make this mistake - and to be clear, it's really not a mistake - and in our "correcting" we may very well turn them off from the activity. After all, there's a decent chance that being a fan of or a part of marching band is why they are familiar with drum corps in the first place (was it for you?) and suggesting that it isn't either breaks the connection with their interest, or worse, makes them think that drum corps fans aren't the type of people they care to be around. What's more, the honest truth is that marching band is a household term. Drum corps isn't. How do you get people involved when you distance yourself from your closest relative and dearest ally? As the Quantum Marching ad above quips: "It's hard to explain." While it can be difficult to express drum corps to those who are previously unfamiliar, I'd argue it's only as hard as you choose to make it, and if you choose to hamstring yourself by refusing to say "marching band", You're not doing yourself any favors.

Is there a difference? In a lot of ways, yes, mostly qualitatively, but the simple truth remains: Drum corps are marching bands. If you don't want them used interchangeably, do your part by not doing it yourself, but understand that not everyone loves it like you love it. More importantly, do whatever you can to help make sure that the average person does know what drum corps is - even if they call it a marching band.

B4: 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl - Michigan vs. Kansas State

If commercials are to be believed, a bowl sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings is bound to go into overtime. While it is associated with another bowl in name, both bands will march in the Fiesta Bowl Parade as part of the festivities surrounding bowl season in the Valley of the Sun.


Kansas State:

B4: 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl - Miami vs. Louisville

This is just a preview in what could become a key matchup in ACC. The two football teams will meet down in Coral Gables in the 2014 season, but for now, Louisville and the Marching Cards will meet the Band of the Hour on slightly less partisan grounds in Orlando.



B4: 2013 Belk Bowl - Cincinnati vs. North Carolina

This is my local bowl - it's right down the road from me in Charlotte, and I attended twice (as the Meineke Car Care Bowl) when USF played. Cincinnati vs. UNC sounds like a decent hoops matchup, but it's not bad on the gridiron either. Last year, Cincinnati played in Charlotte against UNC's archrival Duke.



B4: 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers vs. Notre Dame

With Rutgers' proximity to New York and Notre Dame's national presence, this matchup has the potential to be a big draw. Rutgers is wrapping up its tenure in the Big East, while Notre Dame ended its relationship this past year. With the Marching Scarlet Knights headed to perform at the Super Bowl pregame in MetLife Stadium, it's quite the tour of great NY limelight for a band that also performed at this year's Victoria Secret Fashion Show.


Notre Dame:

B4: 2013 Fight Hunger Bowl - BYU vs. Washington

Since BYU went independent, the Pac-12 is the most logical regional dance partner. While archrival Utah falls off the schedule for the next two years, the Cougars have Cal next year. They'll get their Bay Area preview here, while Washington plays its Pac-12 North foes Cal and Stanford here on a regular basis.



B4: 2013 Texas Bowl - Minnesota vs. Syracuse

I'll admit, Syracuse vs. Minnesota hasn't sounded like a bowl matchup in most years, as both teams trend towards the bottom of their respective conferences, but Minnesota nearly made a run at the Legends division, and Syracuse is doing just fine in their new conference. This won't be the Pride of the Orange's final hurrah this season; they will be involved in the pregame festivities for the Super Bowl at the Meadowlands.



B4: 2013 Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman - Marshall vs. Mayland

The Terps succeeded in keeping a band from West Virginia off a Maryland football field earlier this year; as they played West Virginia in a home-away-from-home game in Baltimore, College Park home rules prevailed, ensuring only the Mighty Sound of Maryland performed during halftime. While they're still in their home state, they've got no dominion over the technically-neutral-site bowl game in Annapolis, meaning the Marching Thunder get to shine as well.



B4: 2013 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl - Northern Illinois vs. Utah State

Northern Illinois and the Huskie Marching Band had their sites set on returning to the BCS before plans were derailed in the MAC championship game. While the paycheck's a little different, there's something to be said for wintering in San Diego, where they'll meet Utah State and the Aggie Marching Band.

Northern Illinois:
Utah State:

B4: 2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl - Bowling Green vs. Pittsburgh

Pitt left the Big East - now American Athletic Conference - behind, meaning that they forego the annual bowl season trip to Birmingham in favor of Detroit. This year's Pizza Bowl is an all Rust Belt affair, as the Pitt and the Varsity Marching Band will take on the MAC champions in Bowling Green and the Falcon Marching Band.

Bowling Green:


Saturday, December 21, 2013

B4: 2013 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl - Oregon State vs. Boise State

Two bands from the Pacific Northwest meet way out in the Pacific in Hawaii. While I'm sure travel for a Christmas Eve bowl may cut into some folks' holiday plans, you can't complain too much about a trip to Honolulu.

Oregon State:

Boise State:

B4: 2013 Beef O'Bradys Bowl St. Petersburg - ECU Pirates vs. Ohio Bobcats

Road trips to the Tampa Bay area will soon one again be commonplace as the Pirates are entering the American Athletic Conference and will be reunited with USF. Ohio's Marching 110 cap the year in Florida after starting it in Europe, with a tour that included stops in Dublin and the Vatican.



B4: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - Tulane vs. Louisiana Lafayette

The nightcap of bowl season's opening Saturday is an all Louisiana affair. Tulane gets a curtain call in the stadium they've called home for nearly four decades, while Louisiana travels east to New Orleans to play here for the third year in a row.



B4: 2013 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Buffalo vs. San Diego State

The two schools competing here are coming from opposite corners of the US. While the Marching Aztecs didn't make the trip, San Diego State found themselves in Boise last year after Boise State joined them in the Mountain West. Still, I'm sure there's a touch of home with the blue hue and cold weather for the Buffalo Bulls.


San Diego State:

B4: 2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - Fresno State vs. USC

It's a California in-state matchup taking place in nearby Nevada as the Bulldog Marching Band meets the Spirit of Troy. The latter will be down one of their biggest proponents, as noted fan of the program Ed Orgeron left the university after being denied the head coaching job. And while the two tunes are distinct, you can go a strong two notes into the schools' respective fight songs and not realize which side has stricken up the band.

Fresno State:


B4: 2013 Gildan New Mexico Bowl - Washington State vs. Colorado State

It all starts out west. whether a century ago when the Rose Bowl began college football's postseason, or this year at the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. This postseason will end out west as well. But before the New Years Day march down Colorado Boulevard, Colorado State will begin the bowl action in Albuquerque, and much like every college football Saturday, the day will begin with the Washington State flag flying.

Washington State:

Colorado State:

Big Band Bowl Battle: Year 3

Bowl season is here once again, and with it, the third installment of the Big Band Bowl Battle. I'm comfortable in declaring this the most extensive bowl band preview to be found, providing a glimpse into the 70 bands bound for college football's postseason each year. In the weeks between now and the national championship game, previews will be preceding each bowl game, featuring videos of the two participating bands and a brief synopsis. The schedule is as follows:

12/21: Gildan New Mexico Bowl through Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
12/26: Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl through Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
12/29: Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl through Chick Fil-A Bowl
12/31: New Year, non-BCS bowls
1/1: BCS Bowls

They will all post here on the days above; stay tuned here and on Twitter and Facebook for these and more bowl band news this season!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

BOTR Game of the Week: 2013 Conference Championship Week

This time of the year is bittersweet. There's a whole lot at stake this weekend, with championships up for grabs in all but one of the major conferences (I'm counting the American for as long as we have an AQ, dammit!) Unfortunately, it also means the season is effectively over.

There are a few notable band matchups this weekend as well. Believe it or not, this year will be the first that the Big Ten championship game matches a pair of Sudler Trophy winners (thanks, Wisconsin). The SEC pits a stalwart pair of tigers against one another in the Auburn University Marching Band and the Marching Mizzou.The LSJUMB will make the trip down to Arizona to play on the Sun Devils' turf, and while I can make assumptions, I've never seen the DUMB live and look forward to seeing them in the ACC championship game.

Through all that, though, Houston's the place to be this weekend for the SWAC championship festivities. First, in something that I didn't realize until earlier this season, the SWAC invites all member bands to participate in a battle of the bands following the game, a 10 band affair that is numerically (and one could make the argument star-power-wise) larger than the Honda Battle of the Bands. What's more, the game itself will be a rematch of the BoomBox Classic, pitting Jackson State's Sonic Boom of the South against Southern's Human Jukebox. In case you missed it, this 5th transpired the last time they met:

I can't believe I somehow never put this up as an Amazing Happens Every Saturday. Southern's rendition of Holy Grail may be my top band moment this season, and I'm not particularly fond of the song outside of that context. These two getting to meet once again will be a treat.

If you can't say something nice...

I'm going to say a few nice things about things you don't normally hear me praise. You're welcome.

-Yes, I knew UCF would beat us. Didn't expect for it to go down how it did, but the outcome was a Knight victory. Now a cold hard truth: It's easy for us USF folk to point out that they're now 1-4 against us all time, but the inconvenient truth is that in matches when the two teams were on equal footing, UCF is 1-0. UCF has won the conference and is headed to the BCS, and we've never finished better than 3rd in this or any conference. Do better, Bulls.

-It's a foregone conclusion from nearly everyone that FSU will mop the floor (wipe the field?) with Duke in the ACC championship game. I'm only slightly less convinced - I have seen FSU lose to Wake Forest - but I hope it's a good deal closer, both because I'll be there and would like to see a reasonable game, but also because Duke doesn't deserve to be embarrassed. David Cutcliffe may be a damn wizard for taking Duke to 10 wins and an championship game berth. Some will point to this as evidence of a weak ACC - they're not necessarily wrong - but it doesn't change the fact that this Duke team is damn good. To ignore that fact because of the other 100+ years of Blue Devil football is to support the system that rewards/punishes teams based on their history and name, not on their current merit.

-I still don't have anything nice to say about Rutgers. Sorry/not sorry.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

1 Second of Regulation

I'm confident that the end to the 2013 Iron Bowl will be one of college football's "where were you when..." moments. I write this as much for myself than I do for anyone reading; I need to capture the memory before it fades with time, and at least for now, it's as fresh as it was two nights ago.

So where was I? A hotel room in Staunton, VA.

My wife, daughter, and I were splitting up the trip from Thanksgiving in Baltimore back home to Greensboro and checked into our hotel as the game was in progress. I actually missed nearly all of what I hear was a great game all around; as we settled in, my wife tuned the TV to a movie that was somewhere deep in our Netflix I'll-get-to-it-eventually list, I had plugged in my laptop and was looking to get a lay of the land of the end of the 3:30 games/start of the evening games when Twitter's eruption at the tying play led me to to watch the remainder of the Iron Bowl. I tuned in just in time. I saw the game almost end. I saw the countless angles, the review that seemed like it took forever, the one second returned to the clock, the audible disappointment from the Auburn faithful at Jordan-Hare.

And then I saw The Play. I don't know if the college football intelligentsia have named it yet, but there's no doubt a name is coming. I watched it all unfold completely incredulous at what I was watching transpire. I said something in utter disbelief, probably "Oh My God," which prompted my wife to ask what happened. There was a full beat before I could gather myself enough to break down what had just happened, and even longer before I could put into words what had happened, how it came into being, and what it meant. This is as close as I can probably come to a stream-of-consciousness of my experience with the game.

He didn't get out in time. We're going to overtime.

They're taking a look at it.

No, it looks like he did get out in time. But one second? It'll be an improbable Hail Mary, then probably overtime.

Field goal? Sure whatever. He'll make it, and Bama'll win, just like we thought, or, more likely, he'll miss and we'll see overtime.

Hey wait, there's a guy back there.

Ah well, they'll get him, and the game's going to overtime.

See there. He stepped out. Overtime.

Wait he didn't step out. He's still going. They've got nothing but big guys out there. He's going to... he just... HTRAFGROAHTEROGJA

That last big was my brain shorting out.

Of course, my wife wasn't nearly as enthused as I was, and I had to share the moment with someone. The tweet above and an accompanying Facebook post was all I could must at first, and frankly, the truth. Then the phone came out.

First text was to my friend James, a Florida State alum dating an Auburn alum. I'm headed to the ACC Championship game with James this weekend.

HOLY SHIT. Tell Julia I say War damn Eagle. Do we lose y'all to Atlanta or do we have a week to figure out how to get a tv to the tailgate?

Thankfully, Saturday's plans are intact. My next text was to my friend Kathleen, an Ohio State fan.

War. Damn. Eagle.

Her Buckeyes, of course, should be in the driver's seat to the national championship game with Bama out of the way. Turns out, she was working an event and hadn't even seen the outcome yet.

How amazing did I think it was? I was too in awe to even take note of the reverse Rammer Jammering I can only assume took place at the hand of the Auburn University Marching Band - unless they were on the field as well. I make no claim to be a sports historian, or even have a vast history behind me, but that has to be one of the top finishes of all time. It would have been amazing in a vacuum, but given that it also altered the course of the SEC and national championship races, it was all the more epic. Perhaps Buster Olney put it best:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mild to Moderate Annoyance Week

It's the last week of the regular season in most conferences, and it's Thanksgiving weekend. In a lot of places, that means one thing: Hate week. The week your fanbase waits 51 weeks for, to get a crack at an archrival to vie for the only acceptable outcome: Victory, and the year of bragging rights that come with it.

Thing is, I'm a USF alumnus. We don't have a longtime anything in football, much less a permanent rival. We are matched up, appropriately, with UCF this week and probably analogous weeks in the future. The degree to which I believe it's a rivalry changes by the day, but I'm certain that even if it's not now, it will be.

If I may take a page from 8 Mile's B. Rabbit, yes, UCF will beat us this year. They're a better team, likely BCS bound, and at present, we're garbage. They've got every right to take numbers like 4-0 and 64-12 out of our collective hind end on the field come Friday. Call this a defense mechanism, an attempt at a reverse jinx, or simply an objective assessment - it's all three, really - but that's how I see it. And yet, as much as I'd love to give in to the dark arts of hate, I can muster little more than what I consider UCF more often than not: A mild to moderate annoyance.

Having said all that, the folks over at SB Nation's USF site, Voodoo Five, have all of your MMAW needs. Check 'em out.

Monday, November 25, 2013

B1G Saturday

This weekend, The Ohio State University Marching Band paid tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (with a passing nod to the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination) with a Civil War-themed show. Perhaps it holds a bit more timely significance for the Buckeyes; after all, the perceived strength of their conference against their southern neighbors could spell the difference in Ohio State going to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl or the National Championship game. TBDBITL did get to toss some surreptitious support to a team that could help them in their quest: Battle Hymn of the Republic, featured in this field show, doubles as Glory Glory to old Auburn, a team that could punch the Bucks' ticket to the championship with an Iron Bowl victory.

Down in College Park, the Mighty Sound of Maryland commemorated their final ACC home game by forming ACC before morphing into B1G, their conference a year (and potentially $52 million) from now. While there is no homogenized ACC marching style, the Terps may have done well to accent the Big Ten tribute with a high step or a back bend. After all, the band stepping onto their new conference's Sudler-rich landscape may be one of the biggest challenges of their realignment. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Forward Pass

I'm posting this one from the phone so I'll keep in brief: The Band of the Fighting Irish re-innovates the forward pass with their own version of Dorais to Rockne, a century later.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

BOTR Game of the Week 2013 Week 13

Sometimes, the game of the week isn't the most competitive, or the highest profile, but the biggest story. This week, the Florida Classic will be a two band affair for the first time since the death of Robert Champion. The event will be significant, if not competitive, as the Marching 100 is far from full strength since their return earlier this year.



Monday, November 18, 2013

...and Sometimes Thursday

When I stated that Amazing Happens Every Saturday, there was no slight intended or implied at Thursday games (or Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday, for that matter). Here, Clemson's Band that Shakes the Southland gives us a little 8-bit on a Thursday night:

A few states north, we get a first-person view on Saturday afternoon in the Penn State Blue Band. Well, that is, if the first person were tiny and mounted on a bass drum facing the drummer:

Home Stretch

Seasons seem to come and go so quickly, and we're down to just two weeks remaining in most conferences' regular seasons. In the midst of a national picture that seems sewn up, should each of the leaders keep winning, there are some interesting conference races out there.

Yes, Central Florida leads and will probably look to take 64-12 out of USF's hide come Thanksgiving weekend. Frankly, I'd say they could stand to be ranked higher than their current #17, especially if they win out with their sole loss coming by 3 to South Carolina. Even one loss will likely send them to the BCS - they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Louisville, and with the next tiebreaker being BCS ranking, they'd probably be fine over unranked Cincinnati, who they don't play this season, should it come to that.

Florida State has already emphatically clinched the Atlantic division, but things are a good deal more interesting in the Coastal. As much as a five-way tie is still not only possible, but not entirely far-fetched. I have a few thoughts about this race, and they're all entirely selfish. As much as I hate Duke, I almost - ALMOST - want to see them win the division, in that rooting-for-the-underdog sort of way. Still, I'm going to the ACC Championship game, and the thought of being in amongst a critical mass of Dookies nauseates me. Miami would bring about the matchup the ACC football championship was created for, and could send my friend Josh up this way. I have no desire for Georgia Tech, as it would mean a rematch of last year's championship. The five way tie would send Virginia Tech down here, and I wouldn't mind seeing the Marching Virginians in action. Still, with the human element remaining in the BCS standings, while FSU's title bid seems unquestionable, you'd have to wonder what voters may do if FSU should somehow struggle with a four loss VT or GT if Ohio State should cruise past a one loss Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. Which leads me to...

Big Ten
I can't bring myself to be bothered by the fact that Ohio State could go 25-0 over two seasons and still miss the national championship game. After all, had they self-imposed a bowl ban after Tattoogate and forgone the Gator Bowl appearance, they may have played Notre Dame for the title last year. Meanwhile, while the Spartans are still in the driver's seat to win the division, it only takes a slip-up from them this weekend for Minnesota to have a shot at the Legends division crown when they face Michigan State. If Ohio State and Michigan State both hold serve, however, we'll see a dual Sudler matchup for the first time in the history of the Big Ten championship game.

Big 12
The two teams ahead of Baylor on the schedule are the two teams behind them in the league standings. If they beat Oklahoma State, they can revert their focus to whatever shot they have at the national title hunt. Lose there, and the Cowboys hold tiebreakers over Baylor and Texas as long as they themselves can survive Bedlam.

With Stanford's loss this past weekend, Oregon is back in the North division driver's seat, though if they drive to Pasadena, it'll be a week earlier than they may have liked, barring mass disruption ahead of them in the BCS. In the South, Arizona State can make it easy, but UCLA still controls its destiny with the Sun Devils and Trojans remaining on the schedule.

Done with their conference slate, South Carolina has become Aggie and/or Rebel fans, as they need for Mizzou to slip up. If they lose either of those games though, the Gamecocks take it in the tiebreaker. Out west, another set of Tigers licks their chops, as the Iron Bowl gives them the chance both to knock off their archrival and punch their ticket to Atlanta. In perhaps the most suburban dad move ever, I saw the end of their game against UGA on the TV in an Ikea, but that win keeps hope alive on the Plains.

I hate that the season's this close to the end, but there's still plenty of excitement to be had between now and bowl season.

Friday, November 15, 2013

BOTR Game of the Week 2013 Week 12

The pickin's are quite slim for this week of football, with only four verified Band on the Road matchups on the docket. I'm going to give the nod this week to a game with Big Ten Legends division implications, as the Spartan Marching Band from Michigan State makes the trip out to Lincoln to take on Nebraska.

Michigan State:


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Traditional. Power.

I've heard both Stanford head coach David Shaw and his predecessor Jim Harbaugh state how their interest is not simply in building a team but building a program. At least one of them mentioned he would like to see them get to the point where Stanford not being a winning team is a distant memory, and with their continued success they're certainly well down that road.

Last week, Stanford derailed Oregon's title hopes for the second time in as many years, while giving themselves an outside shot of entering the conversation. Not only are they in the conversation for a Pac-12 championship annually, but they are doing it in a traditional fashion; their pro-style offense serves as a foil to Pac-12 North rival Oregon's spread.

While the football team is traditional, their band the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, is anything but. In the tradition of Ivy League scramble bands, Stanford's band is perhaps the most nontraditional in the major conferences. While I know that Stanford embraces their "nerd" image, as one of the most academically rigorous programs in major college football, I don't know how much they embrace their unorthodox band.

As Stanford's football team continues to raise its national profile, might there be pressure on the LSJUMB to be a little more traditional? After all, probably their closest counterpart was the student-run Virginia Pep Band at UVA, which fell out of favor a decade ago and was replaced by the Cavalier Marching Band. Half a century prior, Stanford's baymates in Berkeley, the Cal Band, made the change after meeting Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Stanford's band the last of a dying breed at their level of competition, but is anyone seeking to change them? Each year, as they vie for a Rose Bowl berth and more likely than not a matchup against a traditional style, Sudler Trophy-winning band, the light is shone on how they are different. Will this remain their calling card or become an uncomfortable wrinkle to be smoothed out? The answer lies in Palo Alto.

Setting the Spread

I can't pretend to be a lifelong tailgater. As much as I love it, it's really only been a decade, since I started at USF in 2003. Even so, until relatively recently, I had a pretty narrow definition in mind. Put simply, a grill had to be involved.

I strayed from this a bit a couple years ago when we went fairgating prior to FSU at Wake Forest. While the beers-and-a-bumper piece of the equation prevailed, the edibles came courtesy of the Dixie Classic Fair.

I went a slightly different route earlier this year. With an early start for UNC Charlotte's first home game, I opted for breaking out the camp stove to cook up some eggs, bacon and bagels. A little different, but it's cooking on site all the same.

This year, again, at FSU-Wake, I changed the game. Faced with another noon kickoff, I decided that while I was there to see FSU with a couple of alumni friends of mine, the tailgate would be distinctly North Carolina. Going the storebought route for the first time, the morning consisted of sausage balls from Biscuitville, biscuits from Bojangles, and doughnuts form Winston-Salem's own Krispy Kreme. The beer from Red Oak made for a tailgate firmly rooted in North Carolina's Piedmont.

On the one hand, Bojangles would be glad to see that their #TailgateEverything campaign at least served to claim one more tailgate, but from my standpoint, the call made good logical sense. The members of my crew for this game traveled to Winston from Greensboro and Charlotte. Firing up the grill prior to the nooner wouldn't have been practical, or would have at least required us to arrive in the lot a good deal earlier. The camp stove could've come back out, but I think the call we made was the right one. So while the grill came out for the postgame, the "catered" pregame was certainly the ideal move.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday Morning Drum Major

I'm just going to have to ask you to go ahead and ignore me when I put a day/time of day on this sort of post.

I've been critical of Wake Forest's Spirit of the Old Gold and Black Marching Band (SOTOGAB), and I realize that a big part of that comes from a bias I hold: I like big bands and I cannot lie.

A big part of that is my own experience, but part of it is strictly functional. Having always experienced BB&T Field as a visitor, I find myself on the back side of drill and in line with SOTOGAB in the stands, and with the bells never pointed in my direction, they're difficult to hear. While the lopsided nature of yesterday's game put fewer bodies between me and them, getting the full effect was still difficult, though I was able to move right over next to them at one point. Still, while the basketball iteration of SOTOGAB has always impressed me, I find their football version lacking, and it's pretty much for that reason. I don't blame them for this, one bit; Wake Forest is, after all, one of the smallest schools playing major college football, with an undergraduate enrollment of less than 5,000. Their numbers - they march about 50 winds - are decent relatively speaking, but unfortunately, they just don't have the sonic output I'd like. Sorry/not sorry.

That said, I stuck around for their halftime show - I wouldn't not - and enjoyed it, both in concept and execution. They did the world's fastest football game, running through a game (and ultimate Wake Forest victory) through the course of halftime. The game-winning field goal, not unlike this one from Hawaii, animated a giant kicker on the field to put the ball (a flag, which I thought was a great use of guard and preferred to Hawaii's version) through the uprights. There was even a great show-within-a-show moment where halftime of their halftime game was their Jazz 101 halftime show from earlier in the year.

Here's where the Sunday Morning DMing comes in: I can think of just a couple of things I would have done differently with that show. First, maybe it's just me trying too hard to make the band/football team analogy work, but especially since they march four sousaphones, there's no reason they couldn't have been down linemen at some point, especially lined up against the bass drums.

Perhaps most poignantly, though, I think SOTOGAB missed a prime trolling opportunity. I don't know how many uses that show will get this year, but I believe it made its debut at this game. Perhaps it's not the best time to poke fun at the opponent when you're losing 42-0 at halftime, but then, perhaps it's the perfect time. Knowing FSU's history, they instead could have lined the opponent up for the game winning field goal, missing it wide right.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thursday Night Lights

When you're in college, the weekend starts on Thursday nights. Every club within flyer-dropping distance of a campus hosts a college night on Thursday. Anyone whose schedule allows avoid Friday classes. The lure of the coveted weekend and all that comes with it is too great. And in college football, it means getting things underway on Thursday night.

For the record, as a USF alumnus, I hate Thursday night games, my dear alma mater being 0-for-everything in them. Still, my own teams woes aside, it is nice to have football to enjoy before the work week ends. Likewise, teams that play on Thursday nights get to enjoy a much less cluttered space than those who join the fray with everyone else on Saturdays.

Once simply the bastion of also-ran conferences - I'll include my own Big East/American in this  - Thursday nights are increasingly hosting marquee matchups, but never has there been a Thursday slate more anticipated than this week, featuring #10 Baylor at #6 Oklahoma AND #3 Oregon at #5 Stanford. This confluence comes at the collision of two entities jockeying for position: The fledgling Fox Sports 1, which is televising the Big 12 matchup, and the Pac-12, which seeks attention to combat the east coast media bias. Both games were expected to be big, certainly, but I'm sure no one knew when the schedule came out that a Thursday night in November could be this big.

For perhaps the first time since the series began, I'm recognizing a Thursday night game as the Band on the Road Game of the Week. The Oregon Marching Band is making the trip to Stanford, which is significant for a few reasons. First, mid-week games require the team and the many moving parts that accompany college football to miss class, especially for the away team. Secondly, the Oregon band isn't one that does a whole lot of away travel. In fact, the Stanford game is the band's one trip this year, not even making it to Washington, a border rival and a mere 4 1/2 hour bus ride as opposed to the 8 1/2 to Palo Alto. What that says is that this is a big game - it has decided the Pac-12 North for as long as such a division has existed - and that the Oregon brass believe that having the band present at a big game is advantageous, which I love to see. Whether it's bringing a slice of home into a rival stadium or playing defense against the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, the Nike-clad Ducks are hitting the road.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Everything Old is New Again

What if I told you that the new and exciting shows the Ohio State Marching Band has put on recently aren't actually that new at all.

Exciting? Absolutely, and I think few would disagree that TBDBITL is executing this particular style possibly better than has been done before. As for new, however, it may be the veritable three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust to what some in the marching arts are putting out these days. So while Urban Meyer may have brought the spread offense to Columbus, its marching band is as traditional as ever.

Traditional here is not a value judgment (or if it is, it's a positive one) but simply a declarative statement. In oversimplified terms, corps style incorporates the roll stepping and often abstract drill embodied by the corps of DCI and a majority of high school marching bands, while traditional style involved high stepping and typically more straight lines and concrete drill. The show style, represented by HBCUs and many historically black high schools, dovetails most closely with traditional style. I know that during Ohio State's current 15 minutes, many HBCU bandheads have pointed out that HBCU bands have been animating drill for years, and they're right. But this isn't a matter of someone getting their first; rather, it's a matter of those who remain there.

As far as the marching arts are concerned, corps style folks will tell you they have innovated, and in a lot of ways, they're right. A friend of mine, a corps alumnus and color guard instructor, had the recent Ohio State video shared with him on Facebook, as many of us in the band world did. A friend of his, presumably also a band insider, quipped derisively: "Boy, I bet this was a bit hit back in 1965 when this kind of thing was still innovative." I think this shows a couple of things: One, with all due respect to this gentleman, there's more than one way to innovate. And while many of us believed that what Ohio State did was amazing, it is by no means a universal truth. This also illustrated a philosophical divide: For some, if you're not at the forefront of a specific type of innovation, moving in the direction the activity seems to be headed collectively, you're in the dark ages. But the millions of hits on the recent YouTube videos from TBDBITL would seem to tell a different story: When appealing to the masses, sometimes the principle of parsimony prevails.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

BOTR Game of the Week, 2013 Week 10

A few consecutive busy weekends kept me from identifying these games a few weeks in a row, but I'm back in the saddle.

Not to be on Ohio State's, um, buckeyes too much, but after the viral acclaim of the last two weeks, they have earned the "What will they do next?" expectation. This week, TBDBITL goes on the road as Ohio State takes on Purdue, and the band that made MJ moonwalk a few weeks ago will face the band that actually had a member walk on the moon. It's a Big Ten Network game, and the station would do well to put what may be the conference's best foot right now forward and show halftime. For that matter, if you're in the vicinity of West Lafayette, tickets are available on StubHub for just $6.50. I'm positive halftime alone will be worth that price of admission.

Having given you your fair share of Ohio State's Marching Band recently, I'll instead just include the All-American Marching Band's intro video.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sunday Morning Drum Major

Yes, I'm thoroughly aware that it's Monday afternoon by the time this posts.

The Ohio State University Marching Band wanted to be sure they stayed on everyone's minds, so after moonwalking MJ last week, they doubled up on the viral presence with this week's Hollywood show. Check it out:

While they left the visiting Penn State Blue Band (seen in the beginning of the video exiting the field) alone, they had some jabs for archrival Michigan. You may recall that, much as in the field show, Michigan fired first, using Ohio State's Brutus Buckeye as the Bond-style villain in their From Ann Arbor With Love show earlier this season. TBDBITL fired back, gobbling a Wolverine up with a T-Rex and sinking their ship.

The show was something to behold, and I think their drill writer much have majored in animation for formations that continue to amaze me. I've also got a new metric for a band's entertainment value. A wise man (my high school band director, ironically enough a product of Michigan himself) operated from the philosophy that football is enjoyed by folks who are drinking beer and eating pretzels, and the field show should be planned accordingly. When video of this week's performance came to my attention, I watched it along with my 2 1/2 year old daughter. She was easily able to understand and articulate what was going on. "He stopped the building from falling." "It's a T-Rex!" If you're going for a concrete show, it needs to be executed to that level.

A good deal further south: Florida State welcomed back Bobby Bowden (and, only slightly less significantly, my friend and FSU alumnus James) and the Marching Chiefs showed him some dadgum love.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Honda Odyssey

Is this the Honda we've been waiting for?

The field is set for Honda Battle of the Bands 2014. This January, you can expect to see:
  • Alabama A&M University, Marching Maroon & White (SWAC) 
  • Alabama State University, Mighty Marching Hornets (SWAC) 
  • Bethune-Cookman University, Marching Wildcats (MEAC) 
  • Morehouse College, Marching Maroon Tigers (SIAC) 
  • North Carolina A&T State University, Blue and Gold Marching Machine (MEAC) 
  • South Carolina State University, Marching 101 (MEAC)
  • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South (SWAC) 
  • Winston-Salem State University, The Red Sea of Sound (CIAA)
Prior to the 2010 Honda, the format changed. Instead of two representatives from each HBCU conference (and two independents) Honda went to a format not too dissimilar from the BCS: Autobids for each conference (and an independent), and at-large opportunities beyond that. They also trimmed the field to eight bands from ten. Conventional wisdom was that the Division I conferences, the MEAC and the SWAC, would gobble up all of the at-large slots, but that was never realized. In no year did either conference net more than two participants; the field each year looked a good deal more balanced than I would have expected, with only the SIAC ever putting three (conveniently close to/in Atlanta) participants in the field.

Until now. 

This year's battle is heavy on the heavies, with both the MEAC and SWAC bringing three bands to the Dome. The SIAC and CIAA each get just one in, and there is no independent representation. Even the CIAA's representative, Winston Salem State, was in the MEAC just a few short seasons ago, while the SIAC is represented by hometown Morehouse. With all due respect to the smaller conference bands, this year's event seems tailor-made to put butts in seats of an already beloved program.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Battle for the Buckeye State

If I may quote myself again, from the post that spawned a series:

When things like this blow up... it's always interesting for me, doing what I do. I usually get a couple of questions: "Did you see that? Wasn't it amazing?"

To answer the first: Chances are quite good I'm the biggest band nerd you know, and as such, yes, I've probably seen it. 

For the second--Wasn't it amazing? In most cases, if it's being passed around, yes, it is amazing. But here's the thing: Amazing happens every Saturday on football fields throughout the country, and a lot of it happens when the game clock isn't running. Amazing happens in a variety of marching styles, with a variety of musical offerings, and it happens largely out of the view of television cameras, and sadly, also out of the view of live spectators who take the opportunity to grab a beer instead of watching what's going on on the field. The band featured in particular makes amazing happen pretty much every time they strap on their spats. So I'm sure you'll allow me the role of both hipster and evangelist when I say yes, I've been seeing marching bands do great things before it went pop. I encourage you to get out there and check it out yourself.

All that said, I say with true sincerity that I'm flattered and humbled that when many folks I know think of marching bands, they think of me. The video I'm about to share was posted on my wall or tagged with me no fewer than four times on Facebook, with still others referencing it in person or elsewhere. So yes, I've seen it, but I appreciate y'all for thinking of me.

Christy over at Diary of a (Female) Bandhead, who had a similar experience, did point out that this sort of form has been done by HBCUs, but it doesn't make it any less amazing. I'd add that this going viral is evidence that the larger audience can appreciate the concrete. With all due respect to curvilinear drill and Z-Pulls, something that's very easy to see makes crowds happy.

And finally: I never intended for Amazing Happens Every Saturday to center in the state of Ohio, but if the Marching 110 and TBDBITL keep bringing it, I'll keep recognizing it. That said, someone did point out to me that an early version of an article incorrectly attributed Ohio U.'s Gangnam Style and Party Rock Anthem to Ohio State. Thankfully, someone fact-checked them on that quickly.

Friday, October 18, 2013

High Notes, 2013 Week 7

It's not often I can say that I didn't catch a lick of college football in a weekend, but this past week I didn't. I didn't even know a good deal of what went on until sometime on Sunday.

My wife, daughter, and I went camping out at Hanging Rock State Park here in NC, and my high note for this week comes from that trip, though not from the campground. Since we were in that part of the state, we had planned to spend part of a day in Mount Airy, Andy Griffith's hometown, that now spends its days playing Mayberry. We went to check out that scene, but didn't realize we were arriving smack dab in the middle of the Autumn Leaves festival. Sooner or later, I will have made it to every autumn festival between here and the Tennessee line, and I'll take it. The cool thing about a small town street festival is that they are somehow all the same and yet all completely different, with their own local flair and charm. And while one might expect the Mayberry theme to be overdone here, that wasn't the case at all, at least not on this day. Someday, I'm sure we'll make our way back for the likes of the Andy Griffith Museum and what-not, but this was just a cool day in a small foothills community.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Band on the Road (Some Restrictions Apply)

Tucked within the statement that led to the situation in Knoxville was a bit of information that has implications far beyond Rocky Top. The nugget: "It is the band's understanding... the athletic directors voted to curtail band travel across the conference in 2014 by requiring band's to request permission from the athletic director at a host school to march at halftime."

That's a heavy accusation that I clearly needed to look into.

It turns out that the statement is accurate. Specifically, SEC Bylaw, section 8, states:
In order for the visiting team marching band to perform at half-time, the visiting team must request 
permission from the host institution’s Athletics Director by February 1. If the host institution’s Athletics Director does not grant permission, the visiting team marching band may not perform at half-time. (Effective for competitions after August 1, 2014.) 

This is cause for concern, or at least it could be, if athletic directors choose to use it liberally. I'll admit that there are times that such a rule makes sense. For example, if a Homecoming game will feature, say, the crowning of royalty or recognition of a Hall of Fame team, there may simply not be time to include that as well as both bands' halftime shows. Consider that the one game Ohio State's band is not traveling to this season is the Northwestern game, because it fell on the Wildcats' homecoming and they would not have had the opportunity to perform at halftime. What's unclear is if this new policy simply adds formality where there was none or if it changes the previous policy.

Where it gets sticky is what the Pride of the Southland fears. They state that an athletic director could choose to fill the space with marketing or canned music, and they certainly could. What's just as bad, this could be used for gamesmanship, rivalry fuel, or simply spite. Auburn could choose to deny the Million Dollar Band a chance to perform simply to stick it to their archrival. An athletic director could attempt to minimize a rival band's presence to gain a competitive advantage or maximize their own home field advantage. While denying a band a spot at halftime doesn't keep a school from bringing their whole band, it greatly disincentivizes it. And simply a pep band, especially in a packed, loud, SEC stadium, almost isn't worth the trouble.

The SEC has a great tradition of band travel. Even with incomplete data, the conference well eclipses all others for Band on the Road games. It would be a shame to see this go by the wayside, especially since, as a standard bearer for college football, what the SEC does could easily influence other conferences. On the other hand, this could be a non-issue. Similar to the way all athletic directors agreed to grant teams' requests for white jerseys at home, I would love to see common sense prevail for the good of the sport and the preservation of a true college football atmosphere.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rocky (Top) Relationship

The University of Tennessee's Pride of the Southland is "locked in a bitter battle" with the athletic department. The band cites having their budget cuts and canned music in the stadium as symptoms of the disrespect.

Athletic bands often find themselves at an uneasy crossroads between the music department and the athletics department. From the inside, it can sometimes feel like the band is claimed by whichever entity is less advantageous in a given situation. So while Athletics is often a natural home for the band, the relationship can at time be contentious, and in Knoxville, this is one of those times. The Pride began an online petition that caught the attention of the Athletics Department and, perhaps more importantly, the media. Tennessee Athletics has since responded to the allegations.

Of the two primary complaints, I only see one as a surefire sign of disrespect. While  a dwindling budget is cause for concern, it's important to note the climate. If the Athletics Department's fact check is truthful, the Pride of the Southland had their budget reduced by less than 1%. This is in a climate where Athletics had a significant financial shortfall, due in no small part to the Vols' on-the-field woes over the past several years and an inability at times to fill their stadium's over 102,000 seats. Frankly, it would be easy to see the band as expendable to satisfy the bottom line; that their budget didn't take more of a hit seems to me to be a testament to the support they continue to have for the band.

The second I consider a good deal more insidious, and part of a disturbing trend: The NFLification of college football. The passion and pageantry present in college football make it, by design, a separate quantity from the NFL, and in my opinion, the better one. This isn't the case of an upstart university with an untested band simply seeking to emulate what they see most often on TV - not that I like it in this case, either. No, this is the storied Tennessee Volunteers, boasting membership in the standard-bearing Southeastern Conference, one of the most recognizable (if not reviled) refrains in all of college athletics with Rocky Top, and, of course, the Pride of the Southland. That this band, in this situation in particular, should have to compete with the latest edition of Jock Jams is every bit the insult the band reads it as.

It would seem that for now, either through clarification or backpedaling, the two sides are amicable. The true test may come this coming Saturday when the Vols take the home field in Neyland Stadium again.

UPDATE (10/14): Pride of the Southland director Gary Sousa has been placed on administrative leave for the remainder of the fall semester, with insubordination cited as among the reasons. It is unclear if this stems from the initial situation or subsequent actions. Don Ryder, Associate Director for Bands, will assume responsibilities in the interim; Ryder already works extensively with the Pride of the Southland.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

High Notes, 2013 Week 6

My east coast bias almost got the better of me. I knew that both Notre Dame and Arizona State's bands were traveling to the Shamrock Series showdown in Jerryworld, but I failed to realize until much later that this was a dual Sudler matchup, mostly because I had forgotten that the Pride of the Southwest won, quite a few years before Notre Dame ever did. The game didn't disappoint one bit sonically, so I'm giving this one to both bands.

In the open playbook, I've got to give it up to the Dixie Classic Fair. This was the site of fairgating two years ago when it lined up with the Florida State game. Wake was home this weekend, against NC State, and I hope some folks took advantage. I went with my wife and daughter, let the little one get on rides (and had to accompany her on one), watched a double figure 8 race, and checked out all the goods the fair has to offer. I got my fill of fried fair food, and came to a realization: While I went to the FSU game with my friend James an alumnus, it was more or less football-for-football's-sake from my standpoint. So it made me think: Why not do it again? It was the perfect mix of fall, football, fair, and beer, and spaced it all out over the day for maximum consumption. Had I done it this year, I would have made it to a band on the road game as well, since the Power Sound of the South made the trip from Raleigh. I'll have to keep an eye on Wake Forest's schedule this coming year to see if I can bring this glorious pairing about again.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Offensive Lineman

Did you hear about the time an offensive lineman called a sousaphone player fat?

It could almost be funny, stereotypically speaking. The two are, after all, functional equivalents. But it's no laughing matter when a professional athlete sees fit to verbally abuse college band members, as Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola did with members of the University of Wisconsin's Badger Band as the took the field in Green Bay. Raiola reportedly called tuba players fat during pregame, upping the ante at halftime where he questioned members' sexuality, made fun of another players' weight, and used other offensive language. He has since apologized, spoken with Badger Band director Mike Leckrone, and promised a sizable donation to the band.

I am fortunate that I never had to know firsthand of the band nerds vs. jocks dichotomy that plays out on so many schools. The majority of my former marching band was varsity athletes, and being a member was far from the social stigma it can be elsewhere. Still, I'm well aware that this is alive and well in many places, and one of those places seems to be in the mind of a 34 year old center making over 3 million dollars a year. That he should see fit to bully college students who have the opportunity and honor to march onto a pro football field is beyond belief.

For the sake of argument, I can even entertain the possibility that Badger Band members started it. It may be unfair to the band, but their reputation precedes them - though while we're talking reputations, this isn't Raiola's first brush with non-players. Still, consider that the Wisconsinites were likely to be in support of the Lions' NFC North rival Packers, or that Raiola graduated from Nebraska, now a Big Ten foe of the Badgers and their opponent in last year's Big Ten championship. I can envision a scenario where, when in close proximity, verbal jabs occurred, possibly even in a lighthearted manner. Even if that did occur, it shouldn't matter one bit. As a 295 pound lineman, you've got to be the bigger man, literally and figuratively, and not engage with them. If it did happen, I'm strangely pleased that Raiola didn't stoop to the level of "they started it!" - perhaps he realized how foolish it would have made him look. Still, regardless of reason, by engaging with members of the Badger Band, Raiola makes himself look like a meathead who never progressed beyond his high school social strata.

Friday, October 4, 2013

BOTR Game of the Week, 2013 Week 6

You'll note there was no High Notes feature this past week; I didn't watch enough football to catch anything worth recognizing.

As we move into the Game of the Week for Week 6, I'll note that last week I steered clear of the HBCU matchup only because it had no media. While I realize ESPN3 perhaps fits only the loosest definition of television coverage, I'll count it, and this week I'm naming the Bank of America Atlanta Classic. I had the pleasure of seeing South Carolina State's Marching 101 come to Greensboro to take on A&T's Blue and Gold Marching Machine last year, so it definitely makes it a matchup to look forward to this year. The only downside is that they take this game to Atlanta. The Georgia Dome notwithstanding, this battle needs to take place in Greensboro, Spartanburg, or back in Charlotte as the Rivalry Classic. This time around the videos are mine, taken from last year's matchup.

North Carolina A&T:

South Carolina State:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blurred Yard Lines

I've had a strange relationship with Blurred Lines ever since the pop tune came out. On the one hand, lyrically, it is at best misogynistic and at worst downright rapey. On the other hand, musically, it's one of the catchiest tunes in recent memory. I felt pretty good it would hit the field this marching season, and while I've seen at least one rendition I didn't much care for, I figured that wouldn't be the only one. It may not be, but the Marching 110 won't be among them.  

Ohio University's band director made the decision - a consensus with other university leaders - that the band would not include Blurred Lines in its field show, for the detractions mentioned above. I can see both sides of coin here. On the one hand, the subject matter and surrounding controversy could diminish the overall intent of the 110, which is, of course, a crowd-pleasing show. If there's knowledge that the song would make some uncomfortable, pulling it makes sense. That said, I wouldn't have been mad - or admittedly, thought twice - if they had kept it. My reason (rationale?) is this: That which makes the song objectionable lies in the lyrical content. The band arrangement, then, contains only the damn catchy tune, the tune which placed it in heavy rotation at radio stations worldwide and kept it at the top of the charts. So in the sense of pleasing a crowd, I have no doubt they would have gotten it done had they made that decision as well.

The Marching 110 will be bringing back The Fox from an earlier field show to fill the vacant spot at halftime this week. Having seen that one already, I don't think the audience at Peden Stadium will object.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Not Box 5

Amazing Happens Every Saturday was conceived to highlight some of the happenings in the marching band world that went viral. Well, every rose has its thorn, and sometimes there are bloopers. Ladies and gentlemen, the first entry in Not Box 5: Down go the sousaphones!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Marching Covered

I've been known to call out a marching-related article that I believe mailed it in, but I was quite pleased to see that a recent article in Rolling Stone didn't do that at all. In what they bill as "Ten Mind-Blowing College Marching Band Cover Songs", the foundational music magazine takes a foray into halftime, highlighting quite a few pop tunes that got field time. many of which I would've included myself, has I written such a list.

A few notables: I loved Temple's arrangement of All of the Lights since I first laid ears on it. Chris of All Subjects Everything fame said early on that he'd love to hear this particular Kanye tune coming off of HBCU horns, but having heard a few arrangements, I'm not sure anyone's done it quite like the Diamond Marching Band. Thrift Shop was the pop tune du jour during the end of this past pep band season, and who hasn't wanted to play a little Cee-Lo after a bad call from the refs? The Marching 110's rendition of Gangnam Style one one of the early viral hits, the likes of which spawned Amazing Happens Every Saturday.

On the flip side - by no means bad choices, just not my cup of tea - I'm not a big fan of the drop the beat, drop our instruments, and let the loudspeaker take over that that Michigan State did. And expecting Blurred Lines to find its way to a lot of fields this fall, I came across Jackson State's rendition early on, and to my surprise, the Sonic Boom of the South's rendition was a bit too marcato for my tastes, though it works better on the field than it does in the stands.

And then there's the University of Michigan's Beyonce medley. For a band so steeped in tradition, they're certainly changing the game with a modern take, using resources available to them in the Big House and truly embracing the Under the Lights of their big game. Their beginning, Destiny's Child's Lose My Breath, is particularly fitting: The tune starts with a drum riff borrowed from a Michigan Marching Band cadence.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

...Especially in Athens

I may have to amend the "Amazing Happens Every Saturday" tag to append "Especially in Athens", as I find myself recognizing the Marching 110 yet again.

Admittedly, I didn't even know of Ylvis' The Fox until both of my parents, independently, sent it to me as a song my daughter may like. And yet, I turn around, and Ohio's already all over it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

BOTR Game of the Week, 2013 Week 5

I'd really love to take this week to highlight the Boombox Classic. Jackson State's Sonic Boom of the South and Southern's Human Jukebox is always highly anticipated, and I know the Marching Podcast - hosted by Jackson State alumnus Joseph Beard - will be covering it this week on the 90 Degree Show. Unfortunately, with no media coverage, there'll be no way to see this one live outside of Baton Rouge. And while the other band from Baton Rouge has typically been good for a feature, I cannot seem to confirm or deny if the entire Golden Band from Tigerland is making the trip between the hedges. So instead, I'll head north, as will the road band.

Last year, the victory over Oklahoma was Notre Dame's high water mark and when serious national title contention talks got louder for more than the folks who will say it every year because they're Notre Dame. This year, Oklahoma heads up to South Bend, and they're bringing the Pride with them. Recent controversy notwithstanding, it'll be a dual Sudler matchup between two historical football powers in the relative shadow of the College Football Hall of Fame. Thanks to the complete media coverage of Notre Dame via NBC, we should be able to see both halftime shows, as home Notre Dame halftime performances are typically available on


Notre Dame:
discussion by