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Monday, July 27, 2015

Through Youthful Eyes

These go to 11.
When it comes to uniforms - primarily sports, but to a lesser extent, band/corps - I sit pretty squarely in the middle of the traditional vs. innovative spectrum. I have a lot of love for traditional unis, but can appreciate a new school design when done properly. But when it comes to drum corps and electronics, I remain pretty solidly old school and pro acoustic instrumentation. It wasn't until yesterday I realized the two are related.

The common refrain on newer, flashier uniforms is that they're for the recruits; that is, they hold appeal for younger folks, and may attract talent to the program. Yesterday, my four year old daughter and I were watching Blue Devils practice. We were up in the press box, and she's mostly playing around, paying little attention to the corps. But then they hit the part of their show where it's all electronics. She perked up. She got up and came to see what was going on. That sound - one that sounded more like what she hears on the radio and less like the marching bands she knew we were there to see, caught her interest. Flashy uniforms and amps - they're for the kids.


I don't see how you can hate from
outside the club. You can't even get in!
I'm going to let you, dear reader, in on a dirty little not-so-secret: For all of my excitement about NightBEAT taking place in my virtual backyard, I didn't actually attend. At least, not in the manner one typically attends a drum corps show. We're in the middle of a move, so a lot of our money and time is tied up with that. But because the show was still close, my daughter and I still made the short trip west to soak it all in.

Our first stop was Blue Devils' housing site. Because I've typically made the trip to whatever town - usually Charlotte - just in time for the show itself, I had never attended corps rehearsal on site before. If the show returns to Winston, it's certainly something I'll make time for, perhaps hitting a few more sites as well. After grabbing a bite to eat, it was off to the lot, where my daughter's fascination (both with the drums and the dirt where we happened to sit down) and my own (less so with the dirt) kept us by the Cadets' drumline most of the time. We did see the Commandant's Own practicing basics for a bit, and spent some time with Madison's drumline, pit, and guard before calling it a night.

While we never made it in the gates, I saw all I needed to to bolster my case for a return to Winston. The drum corps tailgating I've often done and spoken about was a reality - not in mass quantities, but I saw quite a few groups out there - folks with Wake Forest chairs, possibly returning to their usual spots, Phi Mu Alpha fraternity men, and other groups were treating a college stadium as though it were, well, a college stadium. My estimation from before on the proximity to various colleges was spot on, with college I hadn't even considered. The difference in styles led me to neglect to mention Greensboro's own North Carolina A&T, but I saw a contingent from the Blue and Gold Marching Machine watching the Cadets. James Madison was out in force as well; I hadn't considered them because they're closer to the show in Salem, VA, but because this is a Tour of Champions event, if you want to see all of the heavy hitters in one place, this is the trip.

The morning after report seems to be that everyone had a great time, the venue was excellent, and Carolina Crown set yet another attendance record. My position on the matter is clear, but I'd like to think the evidence from last night keeps drum corps in some capacity in Winston.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Case for Winston

It's the morning of NightBEAT 2015 at BB&T Field at Wake Forest, and before a step is taken or a note is sounded, I'm making a statement: It needs to come back.

That's easy for me to say. I live in Greensboro, a mere half hour from Winston-Salem, but closer to an hour and a half from NightBEAT's usual Charlotte home - longer the years it was in Rock Hill. But my own biases aside, there are a few other reasons a show in Winston-Salem makes good sense.

Location - Winston-Salem makes sense as a location both for what it's near and what it's not. While a move from Charlotte is a move away from the most populous city in the Carolinas, the trip is manageable for the five largest cities in NC - including Charlotte, and the three largest metros: Charlotte, the Triad, and the Triangle. Winston-Salem is closer than Charlotte to college bands at Appalachian State, Duke, UNC, NC State, ECU, and of course the host campus, Wake Forest. There's also a critical mass of band students right down the road at UNCG attending Summer Music Camp right up until the weekend of NightBEAT. And while it makes for a longer trip for the South Carolina schools and metros, they also have the Southeastern Regional in Atlanta within arm's reach. Stop being so greedy.

Hosts - While high school bands are key among drum corps attendees, most World Class marchers are college-aged and often college marching band members. Having a college band as a production partner makes good sense, and they have in Wake Forest and SOTOGAB something they've not had in Charlotte or Rock Hill. In Charlotte, a partnership may form with the brand new band at UNC Charlotte, but Wake Forest is already well established, and I've seen how their band and staff have shared in the effort of promoting NightBEAT. It's also in their house, which is not likely to be the case in Charlotte for UNC Charlotte, as I don't anticipate the show moving to Jerry Richardson Stadium from American Legion Memorial. Wake Forest's conference affiliation also means there's a well-worn path from UNC, NC State, Duke, Clemson, and Virginia Tech.

By no means am I suggesting Carolina Crown abandon Charlotte. The corps was founded there, and still calls the metro area home. For a corps that bears the name "Carolina" - neither north nor south - a centrally located show makes sense. But if NightBEAT sees fit to rotate, Winston-Salem makes as much sense as anywhere. For that matter, if Crown returns to an early season show as it once had in FirstBEAT and CrownBEAT, Wake Forest as a location is a no-brainer. Here's hoping they feel that way after the experience up to and including today.

DCI returns to the Triad for the first time in over a decade today. Here's hoping it doesn't take that long for a return engagement.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Band on the Road Year 5

(Want less talk, more database? Here you go.)

As the 2015 season approaches, we're beginning the 5th edition of the Band on the Road project. I began the database - and with it the Band on the Road Game of the Week - back in 2011, and continue to believe it is the most comprehensive database of its kind. For the unfamiliar, the premise is simple: The project chronicles marching band road trips over the course of a football season. It begins a complete as can be by my own work, digging through the schedules of each marching band to determine road games, and continues as it has since the first year: through the work of those who seek to add their own knowledge to the database.

For those who have followed for years, you'll notice an evolution to the database. What were once six power conferences became five, leading me to stop including my own American Athletic Conference. I've changed how I include HBCUs: In the beginning, I stuck with the Division I schools - the MEAC, SWAC, and Tennessee State. I've since made the shift to including all of the classics instead, regardless of division.

The big changes this year is that what was once "The Big List" is now in calendar format, including each school's full schedule and color coding Band on the Road games. In doing such, I used the "Confirmed" vs. "Unconfirmed" terminology for road games and games with visitors, as well as neutral site trips. As the names suggest, confirmed games are verified in some way, either through the band's own website or information from someone with the knowledge. The unconfirmed games are more than just a guess, however; at this point we have four previous years of data to call upon when offering an informed opinion about a band's travel. 

Because of the new calendar format, I've hidden the week-by-week lists for now. I may later see a use for them, but at this point, the database may be condensed from here on out into a single page. The format it's in now actually mirrors notes that I've kept for myself throughout the process, using FBSchedules' helmet schedules, and it's hopefully more user friendly for consumers and co-contributors alike. 

As it's been each year, this is the point where I release it into the more-than-capable hands of y'all. If there are any BOTR games that you know about, feel free to update!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Beer Review - 3rd Wave Sour Lime

It seems that summer - specifically the July 4th holiday weekend - brings beer reviews, as it did last year. Visiting family in Ocean City, MD, my transpeninsular two-steppimg has taken me to a few of the breweries I'm the area, and my most recent trip took me to Delmar's 3rd Wave Brewing Company.

I'll spare you my romanticization of a city that straddles the Transpeninsular Line and stick with the trip to 3rd Wave with my mother-in-law. I had looked up Delaware breweries and came across 3rd Wave, which is reasonably new to the landscape. I made plans to head out that way and sample their wares.

A quick note on my drinking habits: I'm a habitual trier. My stomping ground is that of the flight, of the seasonal sampler, of the never-order-the-same-beer-twice. Put another way: I have commitment issues. My sister-in-law got me a growler for Christmas a year and a half ago that has yet to be used, not because I don't love beer, but because a growler is quite the commitment.

Then I met 3rd Wave's Sour Lime Saison.

I entered with my usual MO: I got a four beer flight, which yielded a no-thanks, a couple of alrights, and, in the Sour Lime, an I'd-like-to-get-to-know-you-better. I got a pint of a fifth brew entirely, but when my mother-in-law offered a gift, I went all in and got a growler of the Sour Lime. I have since finished said growler (not in one sitting, but it was a thought) and am trying to figure out how best to get back to Delmar for another fill.

Its taste? It's what Bud Light Lime should aspire to when it grows up.

Believe it or not, that's high praise. Bud Light Lime is what I've dubbed a white shoe beverage - it's only appropriate between about Easter and Labor Day. And while "Macro We Stand" is the most to-hell-with-the-little-guy (and thus, American?) slogan ever, I'm not too much of a beer snob to kick it with an enjoyable major label beer. The Sour Lime might just be the perfect summer brew, but unlike the Bud Light Lime, I'd gladly enjoy this anytime. If you find yourself in the environs of the Delmarva peninsula and the opportunity presents itself, head to 3rd Wave and treat yourself.

Friday, July 3, 2015

One High Step for Man...

The news broke yesterday morning and sent ripples through the band world: All MEAC football games broadcast on ESPN3 will include the halftime show in its entirety.

A look at the TV tag here will show you all sorts of wishes and dreams of mine related to televising halftime shows. While it's one conference on an online network, this may be the most progress we've seen outside of show Notre Dame halftimes. Many in the band world can't help but wonder: What could be next?

First, I've long been critical of the Worldwide Leader's band coverage, or more accurately, lack thereof, so here, I have to give credit where credit is due. ESPN has taken a step in the right direction. I must acknowledge that ESPN is in the business of making money, so while the move isn't solely altruistic, that's even better in a lot of ways: It means that they see the inclusion of halftime shows as profitable.

Consider this: ESPN has a partnership with the MEAC - and the SWAC, for that matter - that includes the early season MEAC-SWAC Challenge and the postseason Celebration Bowl, which will serve as the black college football national championship. To truly sell those events, it's in the network's best interest to draw attention to those conferences' games throughout the regular season. Ironically, it's increasingly difficult for even non Power Five teams to get time of day on the family of networks, so they've really got to think outside the box to bring eyeballs to a conference that tends to perform towards the bottom of the FCS. By showing halftime, they not only add value to the broadcast, they also will likely bring in viewers who would not have otherwise tuned into a MEAC game on ESPN3. It is for those reasons I make the not-so-bold prediction that a similar announcement could follow for the SWAC. And as much as I'd like to see this extend to all conferences, I'm not sure adding halftime shows is seen as being as valuable for the major conferences. Still, because an ESPN3 broadcast only really requires them to keep a high angle camera on (though as the offering evolves, I hope the put more work into it), it could be feasible for it to extend throughout that platform.

Regardless of how it progresses, we just learned of a major step in the right direction towards the "80 minutes" ideal.

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