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Monday, November 27, 2017

Bad Blood/Band Blood

Some of you cringed just looking at this.
This past extended weekend was rivalry week in college football. Before the turkey and stuffing we're done digesting, fans could sit down to an extra helping of matchups with names like Clean Ol' Fashioned Hate and the Civil War. Fanbases refused to speak rivals' names, don certain colors, even use entire letters from the alphabet. Amid all of the hate week hoopla, where do the bands stand?

On the one hand, the band acts an an official agent of the university, making it hard to break rank. There are those who hold the band to a higher standard, cringing that an arts organization would engage in something as boorish as a sports rivalry, even doubting that the members care what happens on the field. And not to be overstated, there is the very real mutual respect that exists between band folks, regardless of school, color, or band.

But consider the other side of the equation: A few dozen to a few hundred students gather every week in unwavering support of the team. If they're not vulnerable to get swept up in the spirit they help create, there's no spirit to be had.

The latest controversy - if you can call if that - arose as the University of Kentucky Wildcat Marching Band reprised a show featuring Bruno Mars' 24K Magic at their rivalry game vs. Louisville. The Cardinals - men's basketball specifically - were at the center of a controversy involving bribery and Adidas that lost their athletic director, head men's basketball coach, and others their jobs. Upon seeing the dollar sign drillset - logical, in context - the lazy, typical band-ignorers at the Worldwide Leader decided they had to be throwing shade at Louisville, leaving the folks at UK's band fielding all sorts of unnecessary questions.

The band folks at Kentucky assert that they had no intention of throwing shade to their cross-state foes. But if they had? It wouldn't be the first time.

Archrivals Michigan and Ohio State trade jabs every chance they get - even when their rival's not on the other sideline. Cal and UCLA - rivals in their own right - actually joined forces to throw shade at mutual rival USC. The smack talk preceding CrankFest 2017 took on WWE proportions, and among them, the opposing sidelines in the BoomBox Classic - Southern's Human Jukebox and Jackson State's Sonic Boom of the South - got in some low blows. While scatter bands like Stanford and Rice make a living of it, engaging in their schools' most salient rivalries is a mark of bands at all levels.

There is, of course, the other side of the coin. This same weekend, Texas hosted Texas Tech - arguably their big in-state rival since Texas A&M's departure for the SEC - and did a mass band performance of the 1812 Overture. In one of the most poignant tributes ever, Alabama and Auburn - perhaps the sport's biggest rivalry - joined forces to honor the memory of 9/11 at the Iron Bowl. But in most rivalry situations, my stance remains the same: Save the buddy-buddy antics for an exhibition. This is war.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Looking 100

FAMU's Marching 100 unveiled new uniforms this past weekend at the Florida Classic, to mixed reviews from HBCU bandheads. The new uniforms were a gift in action from FAMU and Marching 100 alumni Bernard and Shirley Kinsey. Stylistically, they're not a drastic departure from the previous look, and in general I'd say they're not better or worse, just different. They trade a base orange for a base green, but with neither holding the "dark" vs. "light" designation in their color scheme, that switch isn't exactly whiplash. Some have noted that the look is a little more corps style than show style, and I can certainly see where folks are coming from with that.

The front of the uniform incorporates a stylized F in the piping and striping, a technique manufacturer Fruhauf Uniforms has used before, including incorporating the pickaxe into Charlotte's band uniforms. The new uniforms lack spats, but so did the old ones. A small detail is some Rattler scaling on the sleeve, and gone are the capes that the old look used. Their covers add a plume, but seem mostly unchanged.

But perhaps the most notable change was the new drum major uniforms. While there's no word if this is their only look - past drum majors have had orange, green, and white options - the debut had the drum majors in black uniforms.

In sports, black for black's sake - incorporating black where it's not otherwise a school or team color - is typically used to make a team look faster, stronger, or tougher. Interestingly enough, the black with orange and green accents is reminiscent of the uniforms that Miami debuted during the Virginia Tech game this year. But black often has a different purpose in the marching world. Black is used, in set pieces and uniforms, to obscure, de-emphasize or draw attention away from. Speaking in gross generalities, traditional and show style bands tend towards drum major uniforms in white or school colors, the brightness underscoring their role as showmen, while corps style drum majors tend towards black uniforms, their role being less to be on display and more to serve as a metronome. Given that dynamic, FAMU has to have tended towards black uniforms either for the the sports justification, or to emphasize the black in Historically Black College/University.

Black for FAMU presents an additional issue, however: The Rattlers derive their colors from Florida citrus and agriculture. To introduce black into the palette is functionally adding rot to the scheme. It's the same reason I don't love BFBS for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, adding a storm cloud to their Carolina blue skies.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Initial Reaction

It's hate week, y'all.

Yes, I've been dismissive of the rivalry with C. Florida in the past, but I've since come around. This year's contest has everything at stake. It's a touchdown or a pick six - win the division, possibly the conference, and go on to play in a New Year's Six bowl, or watch your archrival do the same - in USF's case, while also watching them complete a perfect season.

The good folks over at The Daily Stampede broke down why I tend to refer to them as C. Florida. You should read it, but the Cliff's Notes version is that they are quite adamant about being referred to as UCF - probably so as not to be seen as a directional school or a derivative of Florida - and it really gets under their skin. For the record, our style guide wants us to simply be USF as well, but we don't get our feelings hurt quite as much. I'd also argue that we don't have a leg to stand on, considering we spell South Florida in our fight song.

Looks like we're in for a helluva game in Orlando this Friday. See you there, C Dot.
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