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Friday, September 29, 2017

High Notes - 2017 Week 4

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Taking a Knee

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

I'm not currently watching the NFL.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

High Notes - 2017 Week 3

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

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

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

You Had One Job

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

This is your fault, ECU.

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

Yup, it's a nooner.

I blame you, ECU.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Moving Lines

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

BOTR Game of the Week, 2017 Week 2

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

High Notes - 2017 Week 1

College football roared back last weekend for its second week of action last week - Week 1, because we learned a lot in college. As usual, the landscape of campus based contests were dotted by high profile neutral site games, and one in particular caught my eye.

In Landover, MD, two teams from adjacent states renewed a rivalry for the first time in a dozen years. Conference realignment has broken up more rivalries than it has started, and West Virginia/Virginia Tech, who used to be rivals in the Big East is among them. The two last played two years after Virginia Tech left for the ACC, and the rivalry has laid dormant until this year.

I'll admit there are a few things that made this game stand out to me. The renewed rivalry aspect is the biggest. I also have a soft spot for rivalries involving West Virginia. Historically West Virginia seceded from Virginia after Virginia seceded from the Union, so it's got that aspect similar to Kansas Missouri (which we also lost to realignment) and Cresap's War, a realignment gain.

The atmosphere just outside of DC seemed electric, fueled by requited rivalry, a damn good game, and if I were a betting man, a good deal of alcohol. These two need to keep playing, either in this fashion or, ideally, on their respective campuses.

Elsewhere in the week's high notes: SEC Network's commitment to showing halftime of games they air allowed me to catch a few shows last week. Missouri State visited Missouri and went Band on the Road, and while both shows were good, FCS Missouri State gets the nod for putting on a great show on the road.

Transition Tradition

At one point, my blanket statement for the separation of seaaons is that you'd never catch me drinking pumpkin beer and wearing seersucker at the same time.

Now I do it on purpose.

Some time a few years ago, I figured it was a great ceremonial transition on one of the unofficial ends of summer. That which was once abhorrent became an annual ritual. And while it's still typically a bit before I head to the Punkin Ales and Oktoberfest of the world full time, it's a good time for a first taste.

This year, that first taste came NY way of New Belgium's Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin. While the pumpkin was evident I'm the name, the kiss of heat in the finish from the habanero was the perfect allegory that summer's not yet over.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

JI Row Scope

Courtesy of @OhioSt_Drumline
Ohio State's snares have a new look, but it feels quite familiar.

The latest look from The Ohio State University Marching Band's approximates the stripe on the Buckeyes' helmets, carrying the gameday tradition through halftime in a visual way. The snareline's new look replaces solid silver drums.

In addition to looking damn sharp, the new drums serve an additional purpose: Were TBDBITL's look not so iconic, there are few markers, save for miminal striping and scarlet and gray plumes, that tie the deep navy uniforms to the home school. This addition makes them unmistakably Buckeyes.

Only thing that's left to do is add buckeye leaf stickers.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

BOTR Game of the Week - 2017 Week 1

There are always high caliber matchups in Week 1, but I'll say that my game of the week is Chalky Studebaker - after all, it's what everyone else picked: Florida State vs. Alabama in Atlanta. College Gameday will be there, it's a top 3 matchup, it's the opening college football game in Mercedes Benz Stadium, and oh yeah, both bands will be there. In a stadium that will host Honda Battle of the Bands and DCI's Southeastern Championship, the Marching Chiefs and Million Dollar Band get first crack at it.

Queen City

So yes, merely a week later, the recap of Queen City Battle of the Bands. First, the twitrospective and social media recap:

So here's what's not immediately evident from the story. First: I left Greensboro sometime in the 4pm hour, with the intention of getting down in time for any pre-show activities. I got rerouted a few times on and off 85 and its perpetual construction, and after crawling through the actual stadium traffic and parking, I was going to be just in time. Or would have, were it not for some disadvantageous entry management that made it take forever to get in. I missed Winston Salem State - no big deal, which I say not as a dig at the Red Sea of Sound, but as acknowledgment that they're relatively down the street from me. With my first priority being to get in and get seated, I first found myself at the side 1 20 yard line. It actually wasn't a bad spot - the stands element of this year's Battle put me right across from the bands, so I was in the blast zone for both Talladega and Jackson State. But then Christy hit me up, and I headed over to the 50 to hang with her crew.

As I mentioned in High Notes, Norfolk State took it in my opinion, but they certainly weren't the only band worth writing home about. Tennessee State's sound was great. Bethune Cookman, while undeniably talented, felt like a business trip, though not as much as Honda often does for them. But my biggest honorable mention goes to Miles, who, among other things, initiated the QCBOB Mass Choir.

I will note on Miles' part, part of my intrigue with them was overcoming my own bias. Even though I cognitively know better, I still place higher value on the Division I - MEAC, SWAC, and Tennessee State - bands. Add the regional disconnect, and I really didn't have any expectations for Miles. What impressed me the most was the degree to which every instrument held their own for a full sound.

Speaking of sound, QC was a crankfest of sorts. On the one hand, I love a hornline that can push your hairline back, and there was no shortage of those. It was a welcome contrast from earlier this summer in DCI - which I also love - still bringing power but in a different way. I'm told the stands battle was a new element. It's design gave each band two two-minute sets per pairing, but the selections were hit or miss.

The SWAC side of the equation - Bama State and Jackson State - fell towards the middle of the pack, taking an L not necessarily to the MEAC, but to the field. Jackson State in particular didn't put their best foot forward, choosing to start their show marching all the way to side 2 for an entrance.

I find that my threshold differs from a band-specific event than to seeing bands in a football context, but I will say even the "lesser" bands were mostly enjoyable - sort of the same philosophy of a bad day fishing topping a good day at work.

QCBOB was a great time. It was an announced sellout. I don't know where they set that threshold, but the concert side stands were pretty full and there were a good amount of folks on the backside as well. I'd love to see this event move to Bank of America Stadium - as it was rumored earlier this summer - in future years. Charlotte, as a city, fashions itself as an Atlanta proxy as a major southeastern city, and QC is essentially Honda without the name or longevity. They could stand to move into the city's premier stadium. In fact the HBCU band world could do far worse than having QC and Honda roughly bookend the season. Regardless, I'll be back.

Friday, September 1, 2017

High Notes 2017 Week Zero

I know I still owe you a Queen City Battle of the Bands recap, and I promise you it's coming - hopefully even before the Week 1 Game of the Week. In the meantime, though, true to form, I've got to offer up my High Notes for Week 1. As you know, while the football was limited, I got more band - and certainly more live band - than I typically get to take in by heading down to Charlotte. With that in mind, my High Notes citation for Week Zero goes to Norfolk State's Spartan Legion for doing the damn thing in the Queen City.

My second high note isn't a band, but another part of the experience. I got to hang out for most of the show with Christy, founder of The 5th Quarter and - essentially redundant from the previous descriptor - bandhead extraordinaire. The 5th, for those unfamiliar, is essentially the pioneering bandhead community online, and has been for what has to be approaching two decades now. Christy and I connected on Twitter a few years back, on Facebook a bit more recently, and got to meet at QC, where she was graciously able to squeeze me in with her crew right on the 50. I also got to meet Gerard from Marching Sport after the show, and take the picture of a few stops on the bandhead internet.
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