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Off Beat Empire: Coming Home

Geezers on parade... literally

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 15 BYU at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re getting to that time of year where every B1G administration has looked at their schedule and tried to figure out if they’re playing one of Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue, Illinois, or Northwestern (thankfully, happening a bit less in recent years), so they can generate that perfect combination of fall colors, cool but not cold temperature, pristine historic campus, tastefully over-shared alcohol, and winning football afterglow that creates an environment most conducive to the opening of wallets. That’s right... Homecoming!

As a former band member, this means one thing... multiple e-mails calling you back for your days of Marching Band glory where you will have the opportunity to break your hip in front of tens of thousands. Now, I’m a bit of a cynical asshole to begin with, so this really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to many, but I have never attended a NUMBalum event and I have a bad habit of laughing at those that do. Even as somebody who likes to write about halftime shows twenty years later, my social circle never really revolved that heavily around band and there’s something about seeing the same person every year who was a bit too into band that makes me think it’s a collection of those who can’t move on after graduation. Of course, that’s just the kind of stupid, anti-social thinking that makes me perfectly at home writing for OTE and really isn’t fair to those who do attend. The truth is that I’ve always combined football games with family and friends, and I haven’t really wanted to split away from them to arrive early to practice to be able to participate. I would also be the one guy who did break his hip and collapse coming onto the field, so I’m probably saving some embarrassment.

However, there are a lot of folks who do attend these events (some who read these columns), and I’ve always been a bit curious how much they’ve enjoyed them. Anybody try and pick up their horn after a decade and give it a go? Is it like riding a bike and you never forgot how to do it, or is it a reminder of how much more you were able to accomplish in your youth? Aside from seeing old friends, what brings you onto the field? Do you still feel that sense of camaraderie? Do you like showing your kids what their old man / lady used to do in your youth? Is it just nice to go down memory lane? Is it just one extra excuse to bring you back onto campus for a football game - maybe the only one you will be able to attend all year? I’m just curious.

For those of you who aren’t band alums, I pretty much know what you are looking for, which is who is the oldest member who’s still doing their darndest to ham it up for the crowd. There’s nothing like watching an octogenarian high-stepping onto a field with a bass drum, or the aged former beauty queen who is still willing to do the splits while twirling. There’s nothing more life-affirming than elderly folks who don’t give a f@#k and want to enjoy one last hurrah the main stage. I salute you... and will make sure to call the ambulance after you go down for the count.

Anyway, to all those who are about to take the field as an alum, I hope you enjoy your day. For the rest of us, remember the best prop bet is over / under on how many alums injure themselves and need to be helped off the field.


Alumni Band

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Chance to catch up with old friends
    (13 votes)
  • 19%
    Cruel reminder of what awaits us all
    (16 votes)
  • 21%
    I’ve got $50 on the 70-year old playing the Tuba as the first to fall down
    (18 votes)
  • 42%
    We’re going to make GTom attend and perform as a twirler (the twirleratti)
    (35 votes)
82 votes total Vote Now


This week we have some footage on Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, MSU, Purdue, and PSU.

Win: Michigan Step in Time (Sep. 28th)

If I wanted to design the perfect show that encapsulates what College Marching Band should be, this is probably the best example that I could come up with. Specifically, it should sound great, have an element of complexity to it, but it should be on a theme that audiences can relate to and above all it should be fun. Michigan brought us all of that with this performance of various Mary Poppins numbers dedicated to one of the members of their administrative staff who recently passed away. The arrangement of the music is outstanding - it showcases the entire range of the band, maintains a lot of energy throughout, and just does a fantastic job rotating between melody and counter-melody. The band is extremely clear and precise, and what perhaps impresses me the most is that the band keeps the tempo together despite some changes in pace and the fact that they’re pretty spread out for much of the show. The drill isn’t super complex, but has a number of really fun elements to it, including the umbrellas and the large penguins. Oh, and those dancing penguins... absolutely adorable! I literally laughed out loud when I saw what was coming out of the tunnel. That’s the kind of fun little element that can just shoot a show over-the-top in terms of entertainment. I thought the flag corp looked really sharp as well and were well-integrated into the drill. Just an outstanding, thoroughly entertaining, and well-executed show by the Wolverines.

Place: Purdue Military Appreciation Show (Sep. 28th)

For one of their first complete shows posted this year (by the every-loyal and hardest working band fan on the internet, purduebandfan), we have an All-American show performed by the All-American Band featuring Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band”, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by the Andrews Sisters. Purdue is one of those bands that always has a really full, big sound, which is on full display throughout this show. I like some of the contrast between the rock / funk, the hymnal, and the big band jazz, but I think Purdue’s best sound in this entire sequence was “Boogie Woogie”, which included a lot of energy and some great trumpet riffs. I thought the drill was pretty good, albeit nothing particularly special (although the eagle head was a nice touch), but the ancillary groups (especially the dancers) really looked good and fit well with what the band was performing. The drum sequence was pretty good during Boogie Woogie, but I have to be honest that I was actually hoping for a bit more, especially from the snares, but the little sequence where they played the melody on the toms was kind of special. Overall, just a solid sound and a great performance by the Boilermakers.

Show: Iowa Black + Gold = Spirit (Sep. 28th)

Apparently in honor of “Spirit Day”, the Hawks played a number of tunes dedicated to their primary colors, including “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones and “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars, finishing with “If I Can’t Have You” by Shawn Mendes. Musically, I thought that “Paint it Black” had the best drive with some nice energy and a big full sound. I’ve heard a lot of bands perform “24K Magic” over the past few years, and I’ve come to the conclusion that despite having a nice melody and keyboard bass line, I just haven’t heard it translate well, yet. With Bruno Mars, it’s this fantastic abrupt, cut-off sound where he presents the riff, but doesn’t dwell on it and leaves sharp edges between the different sounds. Too many marching bands, Iowa included in this performance, round the sound out and then you basically lose all the funk that makes Bruno Mars pop. Still, the Iowa performance has some really nice hits built in, especially in the trumpets. This is the first time I’ve ever heard “If I Can’t Have You”, but it sounds like the kind of teeny-bopper tune that should be performed by a bunch of high school dancers, so well-played ‘Hawks. Drill was on the medium-simple side, but well executed. An entertaining show throughout.

Honorable Mention: Purdue Boogie Down (Sep. 7th)

Although a bit dated from earlier this season, this is the first I’m really getting video on Purdue (there was a little snippet of the thriller dance from this show up last week). This pretty much featured all of the dance moves that you will ever need to know for a wedding, plus a couple of fun funk pieces, like Kool and the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” and Al Jarreau’s “Get Your Boogie Down”. The band dances were a lot of fun and the sound was good, but this was kind of the equivalent of Band Doritos in that it was fun while it lasted, but didn’t have a lot of substance to carry over. Still, it’s fun watching engineers boogie down and the show was very entertaining.

Alumni Band! Michigan State (Sep. 28th)

Really just one tune before the Spartans are joined by the alumni, which is John Phillip Sousa’s march, “Washington Post”. I kind of wonder sometimes if the old school marching on display is indicative of what performances were really like before the 1960’s. I suspect that might be the case. One of these days when I get tired of offending twirlers and I really develop a death wish, I’m going to feature and criticize Texas A&M’s stupid halftime show, which is pretty much just this with a few extra blocks. However, I have to admit that it’s kind of quaint in its simplicity and while I’m glad Sparty doesn’t do this every week, it was kind of fun as a simple opener.

Other Bands

Penn State Boy Bands (Aug. 31st)

So, I had featured one of the videos from the official Penn State site for Sep. 14th’s show and I haven’t seen any others on their youtube channel, but they do have somebody who regularly films and posts the performances. I haven’t shared this show or the next one, yet, because I had been waiting for the official Blue Band video, but it looks like those might be slow in coming and I would rather err on the side of sharing more shows than less. That said, I didn’t consider this show or the next one in the context of “Win, Show, or Place”. Why? I don’t know... I had seen these videos earlier and they just felt older to me so I didn’t feel like dwelling on them. That said, the Blue Band is a very talented group and both of these shows have some really nice sound and drill. This one featured Boy Band performances...

Penn State Moon Landing (Sep. 7th)

... and this one featured various space-themed music in honor of the moon landing. I really liked this show and it had some fine moments, such as the Enterprise featuring music from the updated film franchise and a fantastic unfurling of the moon flag to “Rocket Man” around 4:55. I’m sorry I waited as long as I did to include video for it.

Nebraska School-Themed Songs (Sep. 14th)

I’ve seen a few of these Go Pro videos popping up on youtube, which normally I wouldn’t feature, but we have so little video on Nebraska that I show what I can when I can, and honestly it’s kind of an interesting perspective for those who maybe haven’t been in band to see things from the typical members perspective. I have to say about this particular member, he absolutely did his job in memorizing his music (let the flip folder versus by memory battles begin!). Also, if you haven’t been in band before, note how there isn’t a single second of this performance where young Mr. Trombone doesn’t have a perfect view of his drum major conducting (although she’s a bit hidden by the camera angle toward the end... she’s still in sight) - very important if you’re going to deliver a successful performance. Thank you to the young ‘Husker for sharing.

DNP Coach’s Decision

I still have no video this season on Indiana or Northwestern. Most other schools not shown this week were traveling or off.


For those joining their alumni bands within the next few weeks, have fun. Don’t break a leg.