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Saturday, December 31, 2016

B4: College Football Playoff National Championship - Alabama vs. Clemson

Here we go again! The two top seeds advance to give us a rematch of last year's championship. After last year's thriller, the Tigers get another crack at the Crimson Tide with a title once again on the line. Clemson carries forth the Yamaha mantle in a field full of Pearl drumlines.



Thursday, December 29, 2016

80 Minutes, 80 Bands - 2016-17 Big Band Bowl Battle

Eighty bands from the football bowl subdivision - well, minus one notable absence - will head to 41 bowl games this year, with two bands participating in the Celebration Bowl, and another two emerging from the FCS playoffs to compete in the championship game. In the sixth year of the Big Band Bowl Battle, a few notes:

  • After last year, with a record number of dual Sudler matchups, the 2016 postseason boasts just three, with the possibility of a fourth should both Alabama and Ohio State win their playoff games. (And as always, the Sudler caveat)
  • Conversely, the possibility exists for the first 
  • No fewer than six bowls match former conferencemates. 
  • The College Football Playoff games return to New Year's Eve, but at least this time they'll find some college football familiarity falling on a Saturday.
  • Unfortunately, the corollary is the complete dearth of college football or major televised American parades on New Year's Day.
  • My favorite byproduct of the playoff persists: Elimination of the ain't-shit bowls (Looking at you, GoDaddy) from the new year. We do, however, have a "New Year's Six" bowl taking place way back on 12/30.
Every single game is listed below, except for the CFB Playoff National Championship, which will post as soon as the matchup is finalized. You can also follow on Facebook or Twitter, where each new bowl will post prior to its start. If you've grown accustomed to following #B4 on Twitter, they'll still be there, but I pivoted to a more unique hashtag midstream, so you can get used to #BowlBands for the future.

Happy bowl season, everyone!

B4: 2017 FCS Championship

The FCS Championship will feature a Sudler Trophy for the first time since... well, since the Marching Royal Dukes were last there in 2004. Youngstown State's plucky Penguins are helmed by former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.

Youngstown State:

James Madison

B4: 2017 Allstate Sugar Bowl

The Sugar Bowl gives us one of this season's few Dual Sudler matchups between two programs who have competed for national championships in the not-so-distant past.



B4: 2017 Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

While it happens, on average, every seven years, a January 2 Rose Bowl just seems odd. While Penn State had late season hopes at a grander prize, far be it for any program - especially one in the Big Ten or Pac-12 - to consider a march down Colorado Blvd. a consolation prize.


Penn State:

B4: 2017 Outback Bowl

It feels like this is an Outback Bowl that's played out several times, and I found out why: I saw the Pride of the Sunshine and the Hawkeye Marching Band parade through Ybor on the eve of 2004, and the two programs returned the year after I left Tampa.


B4: 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Living in the Big Ten footprint, the Broncos have at least one B1G program on the schedule each year, but their trip to DFW to face Wisconsin will be a payday of another kind for one of this season's only two undefeated teams.

Western Michigan:


B4: 2016 CFB Playoff Semifinal: Playstation Fiesta Bowl

Should both Clemson and Washington - both underdogs, per Vegas - win the semifinal games, we could see a Sudler-less national championship game for the first time since Florida State-Virginia Tech at the end of the 1999 season. With a dual-Sudler semifinal game every other year, this hasn't so much as been a possibility in the playoff era.

Ohio State:


B4: 2016 CFB Playoff Semifinal: Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl

Yea Alabama already memorializes a victory over the Washington Huskies in the 1926 Rose Bowl ("Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then"). Meanwhile, Bow Down to Washington will sound familiar to at least one person on the Alabama sideline: Former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, now the offensive coordinator for the Tide.



B4: 2016 Taxslayer Bowl

While Georgia Tech-Kentucky is one of this bowl season's many matchups of former conferencemates, it's been a long time since the Yellowjackets called the SEC home - and just as long since these two programs have met.

Georgia Tech:


B4: 2016 Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

Both Louisiana and Louisville owe their names to France's King Louis, though Louis XIV is Louisiana's namesake, while Louisville draws its name from Louis XVI. The dynasty that calls both kings kin The house of Bourbon, which will no doubt be in abundance with these two fanbases.



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

B4: 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl

Despite an extensive bowl history, Michigan has made a scant few trips to south Florida for the Orange Bowl. Both the Michigan Marching Band and Marching Chiefs will miss performing at halftime as the Orange Bowl's tradition will give that honor to a recording artist, this time Joe Jonas vehicle DNCE.


Florida State:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

B4: 2016 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Nebraska vs. Tennessee plays like a late '90s changing of the guard: Nebraska won the last Coaches Poll national championship of the pre-BCS era, while Tennessee hoisted the first crystal football of the BCS.



B4: 2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl

Much has been made of the fact that Stanford's Heisman finalist running back Christian McCaffrey will sit out the Sun Bowl, but the Cardinal will be without another piece: The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, which was suspended for 18 months and will miss this game and all of next season. El Paso's Horizon High School Scorpion Marching Band will fill their shoes, including learning the Stanford fight song and standing in for the LSJUMB.

Horizon High School:

North Carolina:

B4: 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl

It'll be Rah Rah or Glory Glory as the Redcoat Band and the Horned Frog Marching Band meet roughly in the middle in Memphis.



B4: 2016 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl

It's not often you see our own Air Force go to battle with the USA, but the possibility has existed since South Alabama started football and moved to FBS a few short years ago.

South Alabama:

Air Force:

B4: 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl

I'll admit to viewing the world through green and gold glasses, but when I see this matchup, my first thought is Lee Roy Selmon's alma mater vs. Jim Leavitt's school until he was hired away by Willie Taggart and Oregon.

Oklahoma State:


B4: 2016 Belk Bowl

If North Carolina's HB2 hadn't chased various sporting events from town, Virginia Tech would have just played in Charlotte for the ACC Championship game.


Virginia Tech:

B4: 2016 Birmingham Bowl

The Carolina Band's recent renaissance came during the watch of a USF alumna, Dr. Rebecca Phillips. South Carolina still plays Bulls on Parade to this day. Ten years ago, the Herd of Thunder marched into its second ever bowl game in this very contest, then the Bowl.


South Carolina:

B4: 2016 AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl

One of the season's few dual Sudler matchups, Texas A&M used to be conferencemates in a Big 12 that is preparing to get one trophy heavier.

Texas A&M:

Kansas State:

B4: 2016 Foster Farms Bowl

Kevin Wilson got the Hoosiers to their second bowl game on his watch, but he won't be around to coach them, after having unexpectedly resigned amid controversy at the beginning of the month.



B4: 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl

It feels like the Big East all over again. Miami exited the conference for the ACC in the first wave back in 2005, while West Virginia hung around until its 2012 departure for the Big 12.

West Virginia:


B4: 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Pitt's Varsity Marching Band, which routinely marches in the stadium with the most Super Bowl banners, will now march into the stadium with the most World Series banners. Northwestern, who recently played in Wrigley Field, can now add Yankee Stadium to its list.



B4: 2016 National Funding Holiday Bowl

If things had gone differently a few days ago, I might have been writing about Northern Illinois' Huskie Marching Band here, as the Minnesota football team threatened a boycott and NIU was next up. Golden Gopher and Cougar fans may do a double take hearing each other's bands: "Fight Fight Fight for Washington State" sound eerily similar to "Minnesota Hats Off to Thee" in their respective fight songs.


Washington State:

B4: 2016 Motel 6 Cactus Bowl

Boise State has been known to get it done in the desert against a Big 12 squad, so the Bears may want to beware. Then again, with Baylor's recent troubles, they may just be ready to turn the page to a new season, coach, and era.

Boise State:


B4: 2016 Military Bowl Presented by Northrup Grumman

This one's close to home for me in more ways than one: The closest FBS program to where I grew up plays the closest FBS program to where I live now, in the bowl game closest to where I'll spend the holidays. Temple was just in this stadium for the American championship game, and let's hope no one's leaked SOTOGAB's drill sheets.


Wake Forest:

B4: 2016 Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl

UNT's Green Brigade won't have far to travel to the "Zombie Cotton Bowl". While they've gotten a little more rest, Army was just in action December 10 in Baltimore for the Army-Navy Game.


North Texas:

B4: 2016 Camping World Independence Bowl

It's a capital city showdown along I-40, as the Power Sound of the South from Raleigh and the Spirit of Gold from Nashville take a detour to Shreveport for the Independence Bowl.

NC State:


B4: 2016 Quick Lane Bowl

Sure, my dear alma mater's undefeated football team won't be there, but there's something about seeing "University of Maryland" and "BC" next to one another that feels right. The Mighty Sound of Maryland may have come accustomed to the midwest given their current conference affiliation, but this is an old ACC matchup.


Boston College:

B4: 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl

Playing in St. Pete, the Miami University Marching Band would be remiss if they didn't remind you that they were a school before Florida was a state. Meanwhile, Tropicana Field may revert to the Thunderdome with all of Mississippi State's cowbells.


Mississippi State:

B4: 2016 Hawai'i Bowl

Poor Hawaii. Even when bowl eligible, they rarely get to travel to the mainland to play. It's a good thing the pineapple is the international symbol for hospitality, because they've had to show more than their fair share to visitors.


Middle Tennessee:

B4: 2016 Dollar General Bowl

This might be my most anticipated marching matchup. The Sound of the South and the Marching 110 are two strong programs, and I think there'll be a lot of mutual respect seeing each other take the field.



Sunday, December 18, 2016

B4: 2016 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Navy heads to the Armed Forces Bowl in the first year all three service academies will participate in bowl games since 2010.

Louisiana Tech:


B4: 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

ODU's Marching Monarchs will be making the trip due south (over the Atlantic Ocean) for the program's first ever bowl game.

Eastern Michigan:

Old Dominion:

B4: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Every bowl game Idaho has ever played in has been here, in state, on the smurf turf of their rival. The Vandals are currently ending their penultimate season in FBS, while Colorado State, along with many others, was hoping for the call up to the big leagues via the Big 12 earlier this year.


Colorado State:

B4: 2016 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

"I'd rather lose and live in Provo than win and live in Laramie," LaVell Edwards once famously said of BYU's former WAC and Mountain West conferencemate's hometown. I'd imagine neither the conditions or the animosity exist of sunny San Diego.

A bus carrying Wyoming band members was involved in an accident en route to the bowl; thankfully, no injuries were reported.



B4: 2016 Boca Raton Bowl

These two programs sit about four hours away through mostly-Tennessee, but they're taking the fight down to Boca.


Western Kentucky:

B4: 2016 Miami Beach Bowl

The only other time these two programs met was a home-and-home three decades ago, meaning there's a pretty good chance this will be the first time the Marching Chippewas and the Sound of the Golden Hurricane have met.

Central Michigan:


Saturday, December 17, 2016

B4: 2016 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

It's a mini-Magnolia bowl as border states face off in New Orleans. The Pride of Acadiana should just install a band room in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, where this will be their fifth appearance in six years.

Southern Miss:


B4: 2016 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Relative FBS newcomer Appalachian State returns to the scene of the crime - the only bowl they've ever known - to defend their undefeated (1-0) bowl record against the Rockets.

Appalachian State:


B4: 2016 Cure Bowl

The tunnels at Camping World Stadium (formerly the Citrus Bowl) should feel familiar to the Marching Knights' collective conscious - it was their home field until Bright House Networks Stadium opened a decade ago.

C. Florida:

Arkansas State:

B4: 2016 Las Vegas Bowl

Houston had their sights set a good deal higher this season. While the Spirit of Houston missed out on a conference championship game appearance, the Marching Aztecs got to see their team hoist the Mountain West championship.


San Diego State:

B4: 2016 Gildan New Mexico Bowl

The Spirit of New Mexico gets to stay home and play host to the Spirit of San Antonio, as the UTSA Roadrunners will be attending their first bowl game since starting football in 2011 and FBS as a full member 2014.

New Mexico:


B4: 2016 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

Grambling's World-Famed Tiger Band is no stranger to championships, having marched halftime in the first two Super Bowls. NC Central's Marching Sound Machine will represent the MEAC in the Celebration Bowl, having returned to the conference and Division I just six years ago.

NC Central:


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Champ is Here!

An event many have only dreamed of will soon become reality: A college marching band national championship.

That is the vision of the National Collegiate Marching Band Championships & Festival, which will debut in Columbia, SC December 1-3, 2017. The event is the brainchild of Bob Lane, a South Carolina Mighty Sound of the Southeast alumnus, and his team down in Columbia, who have partnered with the city and the Special Olympics, among others, to present the festival. While details are few at this point, we do know the dates, the location (Spirit Communications Park, the newly opened home of the minor league Columbia Fireflies), and the format: champions will be crowned for those who choose to compete in show band and two corps style categories (under and over 200 winds), and opportunities will exist for bands who wish to perform in exhibition. Bands have the opportunity now to apply to participate, and I can't wait to see who ends up coming to the inaugural event.

For those keeping score at home, I'm based in Greensboro, NC, about three hours north of Columbia. News of the event hit me with simultaneous excitement and pre-emptive FOMO (fear of missing out). After all, I know that that particular time frame is usually spoken for for me with an annual conference I attend, and having such an event be simultaneously within reach and unaccessible might drive me crazy. At it turns out, there is indeed overlap, but the conference will be in Atlanta in 2017, making catching at least some of the action in Columbia not just possible but actually rather convenient.

While I look forward to the event, I look just as forward to seeing how it catches on in the college band community. The chosen weekend may present a challenge for some bands: It is conference championships for all of the FBS leagues and the SWAC; FCS and Division II and III are already in the midst of playoffs, possibly causing some hesitance to commit from bands who expect their teams to be competitive in the upcoming season. With the location, participation may skew southeasterly; even bands who may participate in the SEC and ACC championships could be slated for Friday or Sunday and travel to/from Atlanta or Charlotte (hopefully) with ease. The amount of assistance available for band travel - or the value they place in the newly minted championship - may be a determining factor for those traveling from further. After all, an FBS band with conference championship aspirations will be adding this travel to a conference championship and a bowl game in December/early January; even more if they're playoff bound. A playoff program in either of the other divisions may be juggling it with even more expansive travel. Still, the allure of an event that truly brings together bands across divisions, styles, and institution types may make this too sweet a deal to pass up. There's already been some buzz from bands about dream matchups. Imagine the possibility:

What a time to be alive.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Willie Go/Strong Candidate

Earlier this week, the Willie Taggart era ended at USF, as Taggart departed form Tampa to become the head coach at the University of Oregon. While it wasn't unforeseeable, I had hoped against hope that his local ties and perhaps some unfinished business might keep him a Bull at least a year beyond what common sense would dictate. He's headed to Oregon in hopes of pursuing a lifelong dream - to become the first black head coach to win a national championship, a feat that is sadly nearly impossible at USF - and I wish him the best. It also becomes painfully evident that this is our lot in life: Every time USF tastes success, a school with more resources and a path to a national championship will be right there to snatch our coach up, and he'll likely go willingly; see the aforementioned more resources and path to a national championship.

Talk turned pretty quickly to who Taggart's successor would be. A few names surfaced, including one that would cause me to flip a table (Schiano) but at present, the bulk of the energy seems to be pointed towards Charlie Strong, who has flown to Tampa to interview for the position. While it's not yet a done deal, I will offer this humblebrag:

Prediction aside, Strong makes a lot of sense to me, and in my opinion, to both sides. For Strong, USF offers an opportunity to remain a head coach following his firing at Texas, rather than returning to the coordinator ranks as so many ousted coaches do. Hell, he won't even need to change his hand sign. Some will point to his recent failure and firing at Texas as reason enough not pursue him, but I'll counter that his most recent stop at a comparable level - Louisville, in a still-auto-qualifying Big East - was a success. While I don't wish to damn any future success for Strong, his Texas stop would be the Peter principle at work.

I've been trolling Twitter pretty thoroughly, and as of this posting, nothing's gone final. Keep an eye on the foremost Bulls source, The Daily Stampede, for news as it develops.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


As bowl season gets underway next week, there will be a notable absence. Whether that absence is lamented or celebrated depends entirely on your perspective.

Stanford's marching band, the court jester of the marching world, has been suspended for 18 months following violation of university policies. The band was found responsible for new violations that included alcohol abuse and unauthorized travel, and violating sanctions from a previous Organization Conduct Board ruling. The suspension will keep the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band from appearing in this season's Sun Bowl, and if the terms are not altered, will keep them out of the entire 2017 football season. Perhaps the most damning is the board's statement upon sanctioning that the band's recent violations are “incredibly troubling and indicative of a systemic cultural problem,” and that “[they] do not feel that the current leadership or membership is capable of creating the necessary cultural change”.

I can't help but wonder if this is the beginning of the end of the Stanford band as we know it.

Stanford has put a transition committee in place that will include a new music director and a new organizational framework. The LSJUMB is student-led by design, and is the last of the scramble bands remaining among Power 5 conferences. They've had a few high profile troubles recently, not the least of which was the last Rose Bowl, and it's possible the administration is fed up. In a statement, the university spokewoman affirmed that “Stanford treasures the band and its irreverence, its scatter-band tradition and the tree and the dollies [...] No one expects those elements to change.” but I think chances are good change is indeed on the horizon.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

#WinningSaturday to #GivingTuesday

I don't know how exactly a team can sneak to a double digit win season, but USF seems to have done it.

Win #10, the final win of the regular season, came over C. Florida in the long-dubbed, now-recognized (and trophied) War on I-4. I'll fully admit that my views on the rivalry have evolved. I don't like C. Florida. I-4 is a punk ass state route that calls itself an interstate, Orlando is in non-coastal Florida (so what's the point?), their mayor is a mouse, and while I don't follow MLS, I root against Orlando City just because. So yeah, it felt glad to beat them, raise the overall series leader to 6-2 (2-2 since becoming conferencemates) and put the newly minted trophy in the trophy case that Knights love to talk about.

But yeah, swag my Bulls out. SB Nation just did. Sure, at times our defense thinks we're still auditioning for the Big 12, but with the Gulf Coast Offense averaging nearly 40 points a game, we've almost always been able to afford it. The team finished 10-2, brought home a co-division championship (shut up, I'm counting it) and burst into the rankings in the two major polls (but no love from the CFB playoff committee). Yet it's somehow been reasonably quiet - which I don't mind one bit. Granted, I don't think that any search firm worth its salt will overlook Willie Taggart as a candidate for some high profile jobs - reportedly Oregon's already sizing him up - but my hope is that having finally come home to USF and the Tampa Bay area, combined with unfinished business and a talented QB/RB tandem that may be able to be convinced to stay, given USF's relative obscurity, he may give it another go.

*                    *                    *
This past Tuesday was culturally and commercially designated #GivingTuesday, and I took the opportunity to revive the Little Drummer Project, getting a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad to donate through Toys for Tots to a kid in need. This year, I actually get to combine my gift with my day job; our NPHC students are working with Toys for Tots to sponsor a family, and I'm donating my gift directly through them. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Staccato Notes/BOTR Game of the Week 2016 Week 12

It's been weeks on weeks since the last game of the week, but it's returning after a few short non-sequitur notes.
-Colorado's had quite a run this season, and I continue to root for their success. Because Jim Leavitt.
-Speaking of USF, I need someone to go ahead and kneecap Temple. There I go rooting against Philly football again.
-Barring that, however, we're looking at an all mid-Atlantic championship game in the American if we get Temple vs. Navy. Cresap's War redux, if you will.

For this week's game of the week, Ohio State travels to East Lansing in what this season's precedent would predict will be a shellacking of Michigan State. TBDBITL is making the trip, however, so halftime with both bands will be something to look forward to.

In the SEC Network What to Watch For, it's cupcake week in the SEC, which is surprisingly fertile ground for band matchups. My eye is drawn to the Plains, where In-state ag rival Alabama A&M will travel to Auburn and bring the Marching Maroon and White with them. The game kicks at 7, and halftime will be available via SEC Network+.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Wake Up

Recapping the game from Wake Forest about a week ago (Shmoney dance)

I headed west to Winston late in the Morning with Solid Verbal (and later The Old College Try) riding shotgun. My first stop was the Publix in Winston, which has been there for about six months. Buffalo chicken fingers Pub sub and a six pack of Blowing Rock Brewing's High Country Ale. I got to the stadium about 2 1/2 hours before game time and could already hear the Spirit of the Old Gold and Black's  horns and drums at work for the Deacon Walk. If you're familiar with the layout of BB&T Field and its environs, most of the common parking is by the LJVM Coliseum, Wake's basketball arena, and you cross through a tunnel to get to the stadium. I could hear SOTOGAB loud and clear upon parking, and headed immediately over to catch what remained of Deacon Walk and the concert by the Deacon statue.

I really try not to be condescending when discussing Wake's size, but some things can't be denied or ignored. Wake Forest is the smallest school by enrollment in the Power Five conferences, and their stadium, in kind, is the smallest in the Power Five. The atmosphere, while lively, is probably on par with many in the Group of Five or high level FCS programs. And while I do genuinely enjoy what SOTOGAB has to offer, I like big bands and I cannot lie. While I could've, I didn't directly count membership, but I'd say they're 60 members soaking wet at best. While I know I've seen them march more - and play more in their pep band, in fact - they had just two sousaphones, which is one of my key shorthands for band size. Still, they packed a decent punch even from the game, where I was across the field and still about 80 yards from them.

After their concert, I headed back to the car for a bit more of my sandwich (I scarfed half and rushed through a beer upon my arrival) and realized that while my plan was not to tailgate, even having thrown a chair in the back of the van would've probably been a better look than standing awkwardly by the side of the car, though I ultimately decided to take it over to the memorial pillars in front of the Coliseum. I enjoyed some of the area's other offerings at a leisurely pace: The school-sanctioned tailgate area, a beautiful fall day on North Carolina's Piedmont, and eventually SOTOGAB warmups and the march to the stadium. I headed in as they did.

As coincidence would have it, i was in section 9, meaning the last time I walked through that tunnel was the rainout of NightBEAT back in July. The weather was far more on my side last Saturday, and my seat wasn't too bad either: Home side, side 2 6 yard line, about 5 rows from the action. I picked it up on the secondary market, though admittedly, I waited a bit longer than I should ave, price-wise. The game was a good one between two middling ACC programs. I rooted for the home team, and was pleased to see them win and gain bowl eligibility. The crowd immediately surrounding me was energetic, if not pessimistic, and they certainly felt a bit of inevitability when #accrefs struck. Virginia had a running back who was capable of taking advantage quite a bit both from handoffs and as a receiver, and Wake had some of the most lethargic QB/RB exchanges I've ever seen, but they were able to generate enough offense - helped by the defense, including a couple of key late takeaways. Wake scored the go-ahead touchdown deep in the 4th and was able to hold on for the victory.

Spending a fall day at a random act of football, the way nature intended, had me considering again if I want to consider a partial pass to Wake Forest football. While there's no actual allegiance, if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with. I know next season will include a USF game on my turf (we play at ECU in odd years) and likely some action up in Boone, as a friend's son will be playing at App State. Still, Wake will always be an option for delightful filler.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Glass of The Finest

Here I am, after hitting the inevitable midseason slump like USF of old (and thankfully not now - how bout 'em?) and this weekend I'm hitting the road... a bit. I'm taking my talents to Winston Salem to catch my first live college football game since Clemsom-Louisville in 2014, if you can believe it. This time it's UVA at Wake, for no other reason than it's live football nearby.

Wake Forest is my closest Power Five school, at a distance less than half that of the next closest, a couple of shades of blue in Chapel Hill and Durham. If I were the sort to handpick allegiances (no), rock with private schools (hardly) or root for the contrarian choice (debatable), I might hop onto the Deac wagon, and barring that, season tickets sometimes seem tempting. Still, as many times as I've been in their venues, it has never been to root for the Demon Deacons. Rather, Wake has always been where I've gone to catch the other team, be it my own Bulls or Retrievers, my friends' Seminoles, or my part-time Terps. This weekend, I'll actually be clad in (their) black and gold, rooting for the home team with lukewarm enthusiasm.

Oh, and seeing the band.

There's always been a bit of a cruel intersection with two of my primary gameday passions. To be fully immersed in the tailgate lot often means missing some of the band's pregame traditions, and occasionally the pregame show itself. Tomorrow, I'm flying solo with no plans to tailgate intending instead to immerse myself in the Deacon Walk, pregame concert, and other traditions of the Spirit of the Old Gold and Black. I've been alternately critical and praiseworthy of SOTOGAB, due at least in part to my admitted big band bias, but I certainly enjoy them and I'm looking forward to spending some time with them.

While I had briefly considered doing what a reasonable person would consider "the most" and stopping by the A&T game vs South Carolina State before leaving Greensboro, I instead settled in on spending a complete gameday with the Deacs. The plans as of now are as follows:
-A Pub sub. There's now a Public inm Winston-Salem and the one-time Floridian in me has not yet taken advantage.
-Something brewed of the local variety: Winston's own Foothills or Small Batch,or perhaps something a bit further up the hill like Appalachian Mountain Brewing.
-Wake Forest's school-initiated tailgate zone. Not always my scene, but I'm interested to see what they've got going on.
-Deacon Walk, followed by SOTOGAB's pregame concert. In the tradition of slappoing -gating on the end of things, let's say I'm bandgating.

That's the plan, and beyond that, it's shaping up to be a gorgeous fall day in the Triad. Can't wait!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Clash

Earlier this month, Clash of the Corps debuted on Fuse. Produced by The Rock's Seven Bucks Productions, Clash of the Corps follows the 2016 drum corps season through the eyes of two corps: The Blue Devils and The Cadets. The Rock previewed the first episode the day before it aired on his Facebook page, and since then, three episodes have aired, treating us thus far to both corps' training camps, Blue Devils' first performance and Cadets' preview show. We've gotten to know quite a few of the members, both corps directors, and several other members of the staff.

The show leaps right into the action without a bunch of exposition or explanation as to what exactly drum corps is. It's a little surprising, since I think corps fans often feel the need to explain first, but they're either counting on the likely audience already being familiar (I'm sure most of us are) or the story carrying well enough without the audience knowing a mellophone from a baritone (and so far, it does). It focuses on the two most decorated corps in the activity, though knowing how last season went, I'm certain the Bluecoats are watching like:
Despite the false dichotomy, I've really enjoyed the show so far. I'm interested to see if we see much of the other corps as the season wears on. They seem to be playing the show to sports crowds as well, giving us easy-to-recognize venues like the Rose Bowl and Lucas Oil Stadium, where Blue Devils and Cadets began their respective seasons. One thing I hope to see and hear more of as the show continues are the actual corps. There has been a lot of scoring thus far, even as the corps are playing; I don't know if that's a stylistic choice, or done in part to avoid copyright issues.

If you're not already watching, Clash of the Corps airs at 11pm ET on Fuse, and can be found afterwards on Hulu and the Fuse app and website.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

All Hail

It's been a rough two week stretch for the State University of New Jersey. Last weekend, Ohio State blanked Rutgers to the tune of 58-0 in the Horseshoe. In round two of a rousing game of Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better between the archrivals, Michigan headed to Piscataway and handed the Scarlet Knights at 78-0 loss last night. In the second half, the Rutgers Band, perhaps weary from a dearth of their own fight song, did something few would have have anticipated:

They serenaded the visiting Michigan fans with their own fight song, The Victors.

Odd though it may seem, the individual pieces, if not the combination, are consistent. Rutgers' band knows The Victors because they've fallen in step with a tradition in their new conference: Playing their opponent's fight song as part of the pregame. And while this use seems unorthodox, I'm told that the home band playing for opposing fans isn't unheard of. Still, in the seventh and eighth scoreless quarters against division rivals, I'm sure it was salt in the wound of the home fans, and a plume in the shako of Michigan fans who witnessed the thorough demoralization of the Scarlet Knights, who earned their first first down in the fourth quarter. Still, given the lyrics to the Michigan Fight song, there may have been no more fitting of a tribute:

Hail! to the victors valiant 
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes 
Hail! Hail! to Michigan the leaders and best

Conqu'ring heroes, indeed.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

BOTR Game of the Week, 2016 Week 5

I could wave to the traveling band in Week 5's Game of the Week as the pass me on the highway. Today, in Tobacco Road's longest stretch, Wake Forest's Spirit of the Old Gold and Black travels east to Raleigh to take on NC State's Power Sound of the South.

Wake Forest
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NC State
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There are no confirmed full band on the road games on the SEC Network today, so for What to Watch For, I'll point you to Baton Rouge where the Golden Band from Tigerland will perform right around the time the sun finds its home in the western sky. After the dismissal of Les Miles, interim head coach Ed Orgeron will start his tenure in a famed LSU night game against Mizzou.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

High Notes, 2016 Week 4

After about two years of doing weekly High Notes, I decided to open up the playbook, for noteworthy weekend happenings that were beyond just marching, but were in other adjacents like tailgating, food, travel, beer, and the like.

The funny thing is, I don't think I've every explicitly noted football, except when it was paired with the band performance.

One of this week's high notes changes that. in the late-but-not-too-late hours of Saturday night, I got to witness a bit of Pac-12 After Dark, as the Stanford-UCLA game was at a reasonable 8pm local time for us east coasters (though I'm not gonna lie, I still stayed up for the far less reasonable Arizona State-Cal game). The ending was great by all accounts, unless you're a gambler and lost out on Stanford's front door cover. Still, that the Cardinal found a way to win on a late game drive down the field was the sort of thing those of us with an east coast bias tend to miss out on.

Call me basic, but I've long loved a good fall festival, and North Carolina is not in short supply this time of the year. My kids and I went to two here in the Triad, though from their standpoint, I took them to a couple of fields they delighted in running around.

Finally, this weekend marked the opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, and in a clip I sadly only saw in Instagram's story (so it's gone now), Howard University's Showtime Marching Band was there, fittingly, to help celebrate.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Taking a Knee

This football season, many have been using the ubiquitous playing of the National Anthem at sporting events as a platform for protest. Most notably spearheaded by the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, players and others have remained seated, taken a knee, or raised a clinched fist to protest injustice, most notably police brutality and the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement.

The protests have now hit the band world.

In a week where both Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and KeithnScott in Charlotte lost their lives to police, members of at least two college bands joined in the spirit of protest. In Chapel Hill, members of the Marching Tar Heels protested. As a formidable mass in the student section remained seated, fists raised, at least two Marching Tar Heels took a knee and did not play.

The night before in Dallas, five members of SMU's Mustang Band took a knee but continued to play during the anthem. Of particular note in this instance, SMU was using the game to honor five Dallas police officers, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patricio Zamarripa, who were killed in an ambush during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest following police related killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in a tragically bloody stretch this summer.

Much as NFL and other franchises have each handled protesting players differently, it remains to be seen how bands will address protests from within their ranks.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

BOTR Game of the Week, 2016 Week 4

Unlike most USF alumni, I didn't grow up in Florida, so I was never in the position of having to shake off old allegiances and bad habits before becoming a Bull. That said, if I have anything that resembles fanhood of any of Florida's Big Three, it's the Florida State Seminoles, who I've seen and rooted for plenty, as a good friend of mine is an alum. But while I may say Go Noles more often than not, no one's surprised I'm not in their corner today. I'm sure it's equally unsurprising that the Marching Chiefs' trip to Raymond James to take on the Herd of Thunder - now already in progress - is this week's Band on the Road Game of the Week.



For the What to Watch on SEC Network+, there are no confirmed Band on the Road games from that slate, so I'll default to the early catch: Kent State at Alabama. The Marching Golden Flashes aren't coming to Alabama, but getting to catch the Million Dollar Band is certainly no consolation.

High Notes, 2016 Week 3

It was one of those Saturdays where I didn't see a whole ton of football, and I was perfectly fine with that. It's the busy part of the semester - recruitment, and my Saturday began with Bid Day for our InterFraternity Council. The rest of the weekend gave me the chance to spend time with family, which is more than I can say the previous weekend with Panhellenic recruitment. I met my wife and kids in downtown Greensboro where we hung out at Pride for a bit, and then they headed home while I made a quick pit stop to Greensboro's Greek Festival to grab us some food (that gyro was the real MVP).

That evening, my wife and daughter went to a theatrical production downtown, and my son and I met them later  - past their bedtimes - to check out the ferris wheel that was downtown that evening. All in all, it was a great Saturday to spend here in the Gate City, football or no. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

MOB Mentality

They went there.

Rice's Marching Owl Band is a scramble band. Most are familiar with Stanford, the only such example from the Power Five, with Cal having changed its ways a half century ago and the Virginia Pep Band being banned from athletic events back in 2003. Such bands remain popular in the Ivy League, and their MO across the board is to provide social commentary and poke fun at the opposing team or area. Oh, and sometimes play some music. Tonight, as Baylor played at Rice, the MOB made clear references to the ongoing scandal at Baylor, which identified a massive university failure to appropriately address sexual assault and uncovered wrongdoing within the football program which, among other things, cost former head coach Art Briles his job. While many would consider referencing such a serious situation with frivolity in a halftime show in poor taste, the MOB went right after it, with on field formations giving nods to (Title) IX and (ousted Baylor president and chancellor Kenneth) Star(r).

Years ago, when it was improbable but still mathematically possible that Penn State and Stanford would meet in a bowl shortly after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, I wondered aloud: If the two were to meet, would the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band go there? While we never learned that specific answer, Rice may have shown us tonight that there's nothing off limits.

Friday, September 16, 2016

BOTR Game of the Week, 2016 Week 3

In this week's matchups, there's perhaps no interconferene game more anticipated than Ohio State-Oklahoma. Both blueblood programs who have each made an appearance in the College Football Playoff, the game could mean redemption for an already once-defeated Oklahoma, or a bellwether for Ohio State.

Oh, and the band matchup, between a pair of Sudler-winning programs, isn't half bad either.

Ohio State:


In this week's What to Watch - highlighting a halftime you can actually see via SEC Network+, another Ohio band goes on the road as the Marching 110 of Ohio University head south to Neyland Stadium to take on the Pride of the Southland. SEC Network+ coverage opens at 1pm; my strategy has been to open the feed and keep an eye on the game clock as the second quarter winds down.

In Flight

There's been quite the flight out of the state that boasts of being first in it.

Back in March, the North Carolina legislature passed HB2, a bill that, among other things, requires individuals to use the bathrooms that correspond with their sex as listed on their birth certificate, regardless of gender identity. The bill's original passing garnered criticism from many, including many in the sports world, but in the past couple of months, leagues have been voting with their dollars, hitting the state majorly by moving events elsewhere.

The NBA took flight first, moving the 2017 All-Star Game originally scheduled for Charlotte. New Orleans is the beneficiary (sound familiar, Hornets fans?) despite Atlanta dirty macking on the game as far back as April. But two more shoes dropped in the past week: The NCAA pulled out all non-campus-based tournaments and championships; of most impact to me was the first and second rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, scheduled for here in Greensboro. But in the most meaningful move yet, the ACC pulled its championships from North Carolina, including the football championship from Charlotte and the women's basketball tournament from Greensboro. That even this league would pull from North Carolina is particularly telling; the ACC was founded here in Greensboro and has called the state home for 63 years. Four of its prominent institutions, including perhaps the nation's biggest basketball rivalry, are located here. Their willingness to take this stand speaks volumes. No word yet as to where either is headed, though sources (and I've got my own, not just Brett "Sources" McMurphy) say football is in talks with Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

While I'm sad that I'll miss out on the events, I'm happy to see these leagues take a stand.

Game Recognize Game

Few would argue against the Ohio State University Marching Band and the Southern University Human Jukebox being among the best bands in the nation, and on top of their respective interpretations of their craft.

Right now, none of that matters.

The Southern University community, like much of Baton Rouge and southern Louisiana, was devastated by catastrophic flooding through much of the month of August, and while the waters have receded, the community - in a state heavily affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 - continues to assess damage and rebuild, both physically and emotionally.

An olive branch - or more specifically, a buckeye leaf - was extended from Ohio, as the Ohio State band sent the Human Jukebox a bass drum head, signed by all of their members, as well as a note from director Chris Hoch, letting Southern know they had their back in the face of adversity. See the video below.

Argue all you will about the talent of either band - and again, there's very little to argue - but this was an amazing showing of bandsmanship.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

High Notes, 2016 Week 2

This week's high notes won't surprise you one bit. After all, I already gave the game a nod in the What to Watch section of last week's Game of the Week. Thanks to SEC Network+, I was able to watch halftime at Prairie View A&M-Texas A&M. There is perhaps no finer clash of styles available, though it does underscore the fact that because of the SEC's footprint, there is an unintended benefit of catching quite a few HBCU bands with the new setup.

In the grander sense: SEC Network+ coverage? You've got yourself a fan.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

BOTR Game of the Week, 2016 Week 2

This week has been pretty widely regarded as a drop off from a strong week 1 slate, but from a band perspective, there are still quite a few strong matchups.

This week's game of the week is Reality of Missing Out (ROMO?) for me. Three years ago, when the Battle at Bristol was announced, I reached out to one of my football roll dogs, James, and postulated that with the sheer number of tickets available, even the expected ticket gouge at this level of event would be tempered by supply. Plenty has happened since that time, however; most notable James moving to Alabama and me becoming the fraternity/sorority life advisor, which gives me responsibility for Panhellenic sorority recruitment this weekend. Still, there's no doubt in my mind that the event is quite the spectacle, and I find the band matchup - both the Pride of the Southland and Marching Virginians are making the trip - intriguing, if not a daunting prospect for both bands. Crank it to the cheap seats, y'all.

I've decided to start adding a segment to the Game of the Week: What to Watch. While I've never been accused of an SEC bias, their current band stance gives them the additional attention it should. I'll start giving a heads up on the SEC halftime to watch, since one actually can watch it now!

But a funny thing happened. Thanks to the aforementioned sorority recruitment, I'm not posting this until halftime has already passed for the morning and afternoon games. So the call I expected to make, Texas A&M-Prairie View A&M, has already passed. Talk about a clash of styles! I watched it, and while the feed is a fixed, high angle camera, I'll take it. Both Ole Miss and Vanderbilt were hit with weather delays, so the Vanderbilt Spirit of Gold (and likely visiting Middle Tennessee Band of Blue) haven't yet taken the field. In the evening slot, my What to Watch is the Auburn University Marching Band, with an outside shot of Arkansas State's Sound of the Natural State visiting.

High Notes 2016 Week 1

What a week 1 it was! The ESPN-proclaimed Best Opening Weekend in the History of All of College Football didn't disappoint in terms of intrigue from the football standpoint, and some of the band action wasn't too shabby either.

I'll use the holiday weekend's bookends as Week 1's high notes. While there were games on Thursday and Friday, the weekend began at 7:30am Eastern with Georgia Tech and Boston College meeting in Dublin Ireland. Hey, I suppose Ireland's got an Atlantic Coast too. What's notable is that the Screamin' Eagles and Marching Yellowjackets did a joint halftime show across the pond, making it quite the Band on the Road trip.

On the other end of the weekend, FSU and Ole Miss did battle in Camping World Stadium (formerly the Shitrus Citrus Bowl). The game was a great end to the weekend, and both the Pride of the South and the Marching Chiefs brought great power to Orlando.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

It Just Means More

I questioned not long ago which of the regional/specialty/conference TV networks would be the first to incorporate regular marching content. The more I read about the development of Project X--er, the SEC Network, the more I think it's abundantly clear that they'll hop on this and run with it. -"Oh. Of Course.", June 2012

This isn't about "I told you so," but rather excitement that my prediction came to fruition.

This past Thursday night, while watching the stateside opener of major college football, host of [Memphis] Tigers Tonight and Twitter friend John brought to my attention that the WatchESPN feed had a separate SEC Network+ feed for Tennessee's Pride of the Southland (and visiting Appalachian State's Marching Mountaineers) halftime show. After a bit of research, I learned that it is now standard operating procedure for SEC Network games to have a separate SEC Network+ (online only) broadcast of halftime, available via WatchESPN. There didn't seem to be much fanfare; the first "announcement" I came across was via on Twitter. Still, scanning the SEC Network TV schedule for any Saturday will show, unmistakeably, the halftime show as separate programming about an hour into each game.

This isn't ESPN's first venture in showing halftime, but it's the most significant. Last summer, ESPN began televising halftime of MEAC games in ESPN3, but those were few and far between. They've shown bowl game halftimes in varying amounts,but those games are special by design. This current move means three halftime shows each Saturday, the regularity of such we be never seen in the ESPN era. While this is great in a vacuum, it may very well multiply in college football's arms race. Consider that the Big Ten Network is a rival on multiple fronts: the conferences, the networks (ESPN and Fox) and the fact that the Big Ten, a conference that takes marching seriously and holds 10 Sudler trophies among its 14 schools, is being upstaged by another conference. It's not unreasonable to consider that they could follow suit. At the risk of quoting myself again, from June 2012's "Band from Television":

Someone's going to hop on this, and whether it's the Big Ten, SEC, Longhorn, or some other network, it wouldn't surprise me if the others follow suit to keep up with the Joneses.

No argument here.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Week One

Most game weeks, I give you my Band on the Road Game of the Week; the game that will feature two bands that's that week's key matchup. There are plenty that fit the bill for opening week - a few that have already passed, in fact - but instead, I'm celebrating the return of the sport and the marching and gameday atmosphere that accompanies it wholesale. It's the glorious time where nearly everyone began the week undefeated (sorry, Hawai'i), old friendships are being rekindled in the lot and in the stands, and you're hearing those strains of your fight song live once more. Gotta love it.

Whether you're enjoying it from your couch, your yard, your car, or a stadium near you, happy opening week!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Rammer Jammer

If I recall correctly, I first read Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer 11 years ago, after finishing grad school but before starting my full time position - my first foray into reading for pleasure again. The lack of social media evidence corroborates this claim.

I'm far more sophisticated as a sports fan, tailgating fan, and RV enthusiast these days.

As the full title outlines, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania captures all of the madness that is University of Alabama football. Alabama native and lifelong Bama fan-turned Columbia man and New Yorker Warren St. John follows - nay, joins - the RV corps that supports the Crimson Tide at each football game. The book takes you into the lot with a colorful cast of Crimson clad fans, as well as games - home, away, and Birmingham - booster meetings, ticket brokerages, and a studio set or two. Eleven years ago, it was where I first heard of the eponymous cheer, met PAAWWWLL Finebaum, and in many ways got engrossed in a fan culture outside of my own USF Bulls, then not even a decade old. For St. John, the journey met both the journalistic need of the book itself, but also scratched an itch as a lifelong Bama fan. For me, it was the first book in a series of welcome tailgate escapes for me: To follow would be Clay Travis' Dixieland Delight, Adam Goldstein's Tailgate to Heaven, and the YouTube series Tailgate32, among others. In fact, in the larger sense, it sparked in me other literary escapism in the form of the road trip, as Tar Heel Traveler, America Unchained, and American Pie are also among reads since that time.

But now, over a decade later, I read the book with fresh eyes. No longer a mere enthusiast, I follow college football with a fervor that extends beyond just my program. Tailgating too is a passion, and I've got gear befitting of someone who gets into as often as I'd like to, which is to say far more often than I actually do. And perhaps the most recent edition to the many boxes this book checks for me, Serendipity led me to the RV Family Travel Atlas podcast, which I've been listening to for months now, adding yet another layer of familiarity to St. John's quest.

Ever since the first read, I've had distant dreams of a similar trek. Revisiting it has reinvigorated the desire. I'd recommend the book to everyone, but be forewarned: It may be contagious.

Dress those Lines

While my primary sports-adjacents are marching/athletic music and tailgating, I've long had love for uniforms as well. I'm a regular reader of Uni Watch, and have been known to do my share of uniform commenting (and sometimes kvetching) here as well.

How could I not amplify the latest project from College Marching?

College football uniforms have long run the gamut from traditional to avant garde. On the bleeding edge of design, programs like Oregon, Baylor and UMCP seem to have a new design each week. Throwbacks and fauxbacks, uniforms honoring our armed forces, breast cancer awareness, BFBS (black for black's sake, for the uninitiated), and all chrome everything are just a few of the trends we've seen in uniform design. Why not honor those who are there supporting the team, through thick and thin, from the pregame until the last note sounds - because they're the ones sounding it?

In their current series, College Marching is reimagining college football uniforms in the style of each school's marching band. The Big 12 dropped today, and the other Power 5 leagues will follow in the days leading up to opening weekend. Some might be as likely to roll off the looms at Nike or UnderArmour as Fred J. Miller and DeMoulin, while others - most notable Texas and Texas Tech - take on a far more creative interpretation. Regardless, all of the renderings are top notch. Be sure to follow along as the series continues!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

NPS 100

This year - and specifically, this week, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. Admittedly, this is an interest of mine that stretches outside the normal boundaries of sports, marching/athletic music, and tailgating on which 80 Minutes typically focuses, but it doesn't require an HBCU drum major's flexibility to tie marching music and even sports back to America's Best Idea.

I live in Greensboro, NC, and I've often said this city is at its peak in mid-March, when the ACC basketball tournament is taking place across town from the reenactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. It was at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park - where I made this weekend's centennial pilgrimage - that I first learned the ACC-ubiquitous *dut diggy dut dut, dut diggy dut dut, dut!* Go [Team Name] is actually based in a Revolutionary War-era snare call for attack.

Military music is the most obvious point of connection with the National Park Service units. The Marine Band has regular summer missions on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The Navy Band was involved in the rededication of the the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina, and each of the premier ensembles have a role in military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. At Arlington and other NPS units where Taps is sounded, I'm reminded of my own connection to the bugle call, as my college pep band director is its foremost authority. The University of Maryland at College Park even put an NPS unit - Fort McHenry - on their helmets, while partnering with WVU to reenact the bombardment that birthed out National Anthem.

Happy anniversary, NPS!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Band on the Road Project 2016

(Less talk, more database? Here you go.)

You love your team. You love them more with a soundtrack.

For some, the series needs no introduction. Band on the Road, now in its sixth year, documents marching band travel to away and neutral site games over the course of the season. As in any year, the database is completely open source, so while I've laid the groundwork based on bands' public schedules, anyone with insider information should feel free to add any travel that is missing.

Last year, the database underwent a pretty big change, and It's stayed the course for 2016. Where there were once separate lists for each game week, there is now one list, in calendar format. I've stuck to the Power 5 leagues, plus Power 5 adjacents Notre Dame and BYU, again out of scope, not slight. And I've included all HBCU classics, regardless of division, where once I had simply included the Division I HBCUs.

Without further ado...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cooking with Gas

The new grill and its majestic floral backdrop.
I don't know if it was low cost of entry, an innate, caveman instinct in my brainstem towards building a fire, or really effective marketing from Kingsford, but I've always considered myself a charcoal griller. My tailgate lot start began with with a fold out Wal-Mart unit that set me back just a couple of Hamiltons, but Old Faithful was put out to pasture after over a decade of use a few months ago, having been replaced two years ago by a walkabout propane model just in time for tailgating DCI Championships in 2014. That one became the home grill for a bit after my home charcoal model didn't make the move a year ago. But now, the beaut you see here is the new home model.

Purchased this summer and up and kicking in time for a Fourth of July party, I've since become decently proficient, if I do say so myself. I actually gave it a trial run before having folks over for the 4th; after all, with limited gas experience, I had to make sure I knew what I was doing. Turns out I had nothing to worry about; if anything, I took a step down in difficulty switching to propane. While I've often been the sort to fire up the grill frequently, there's something to be said for the easy on, easy off of gas. I'm not hauling this bad boy to the tailgate lot anytime soon, but it'll be the face of homegating from here on out.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Tale of Two Shows

I realize a week is a lot of time to wait for a drum corps post. By now, the summer tour has wended  its way far from my southern encounter, inching ever closer to next weekend's finals in Indianapolis. But a week ago, on the Sunday and Monday that flanked the July-August threshold, I got out of the summer's relative drum corps radio silence on my part and into a couple of shows in North Carolina and Virginia.

I had opined philosophically - on multiple occasions - about how Wake Forest's BB&T Field was the ideal location for NightBEAT, but hadn't fully experienced it in reality until a week ago. As previously stated, there is a formidable case for leaving the event in Winston full time. One of the first things I noticed this year - which may have been in place last year, but our schedule kept us from realizing - is that NightBEAT is far more of an event in Winston-Salem than it is in Charlotte. It's a similar argument to keeping the ACC men's basketball tournament in Greensboro instead of larger metros: While events can get swallowed up in larger cities, the smaller ones can truly roll out the red carpet. In Charlotte, the event wasn't even in the area's premier stadium, while it certainly is in Winston (sorry, Bowman Gray). Heading west on I-40 into Winston, highway display signs guided "event traffic" along their way. I even wondered aloud for a moment of we were headed to the "event" of which they spoke, having never received such guidance in Charlotte, and it quickly became evident that we were.

The CrownEVENTS team has never skimped on making sure this was not just a drum corps show, but an event. This year was no exception: The Voice's Katie Basden provided pre-show entertainment, the Commandant's Own Marine Drum and Bugle Corps returned in exhibition, and the show featured a flyover - reportedly the first in DCI history - from the Bandit Flight Team from Raleigh. As a North Carolinian of over a decade, this is where I proudly puff out my chest and note "First in Flight". Wake Forest's stadium has a jumbotron; I haven't been in a non-finals show with one since 2004-05 in the Citrus Bowl, and I don't recall that having been used for commercials, previews, and different angles on the corps for those who chose to look. We were seated at about the 2 yard line on side 2; until the kids are older and can sit more still, we opt for the cheap seats. In ACC parlance, we made it through a Notre Dame conference football schedule - just five of the eight corps - before the heavens opened with a rainstorm that ultimately called the show. While we missed Crown, the Cadets, and Blue Devils, we did get to catch this year's conversation piece and current clubhouse leader, the Bluecoats.

The next night, I was a single rider, driving solo up the road to Salem, VA for the Summer Music Games of Southwest Virginia. The two stadiums are night and day: NightBEAT took place in the fairly recently renovated stadium of a Power 5 team in an urban area; the Salem show was in a stadium most often used for high school football nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I've made the trip a few times, and Salem Football Stadium has long been one of my favorite places to watch drum corps for the scenery alone. It's also often been my chance to catch DCI's mid-majors - while I'm certainly not lamenting having a Tour of Champions show in my relative backyard, Salem's always been a chance to see what else the summer has to offer. True to form, this year's show only featured the Cavaliers of the G7 corps, while treating me to West Coast road warriors in the Mandarins and Oregon Crusaders, as well as the Blue Knights, Crossmen, Jersey Surf, and Spirit of Atlanta. I think between two nights, I might have caught every cymbal line marching DCI this summer: Santa Clara and Madison on Sunday, and Jersey Surf, Mandarins, Spirit, Oregon, and Crossmen on Monday. As a crash squad enthusiast, seven out of eleven distinct corps is not a bad haul.

I realized that before Sunday's show I had gone over a year without seeing an actual field show: With only lots and practice last DCI season and the anomaly of no live football games last season, I hadn't seen a band/corps perform a full show in uniform since last year's Crown Preview.

Remind me not to let that happen ever again.
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