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Off Beat Empire: The Final Serenade ‘19

Indiana v Michigan State

Another year has gone bye and it is time to wrap up the season for the various conference marching bands. In the spirit of BTN’s “The Final Drive”, here are a few pithy thoughts on each Band’s season as a final serenade...

Illinois: The Illini continued to demonstrate an impeccably clean sound and look - everything that the Marching Illini performs just looks and sounds crisp and sharp. One of my favorite memories of this season is their successful attempt to bring Led Zeppelin to a halftime show... not easy to do and yet the Illini pulled it off. Enjoy your Bowl destination (but, not the HAT!).

Indiana: I am so sorry that I didn’t find your updated video page until late in the season. When I did find it, I was happy to hear that continued great sound and crowd-pleasing show selections. I hope your seniors enjoy every minute of what should be the best Bowl destination in decades. #9WINDIANA.

Iowa: On the flip side, Iowa I am so happy that your Band started a Youtube channel and that I was able to share far more shows this year. The Hawkeyes have a good sound and I enjoyed some solid shows, especially the Whitney Houston number when you had the gall to dot the “i” in “Whitney”.

Maryland: Out of all the groups that play R&B or Rock that is sometimes difficult to bring to the football field, Maryland is consistently one of the more successful ensembles. There were some really good riffs being performed by the “Mighty Sound” this year and I’m happy that we were able to feature a bit more video than has historically been the case for this group.

Michigan: Always one of the premiere bands in the conference, and there were some really good shows that the Wolverines brought to life this year. My favorite, though, is still the dancing penguins... that show was immensely entertaining.

Michigan State: Out of all the groups in this conference, nobody can quite blow me away the way that the Spartans can. Their Latin Jazz show was superb... I could watch and listen to it 1,000 times and never tire of that beautiful sound.

Minnesota: The Gophers just always seem like they’re having a good time out there, performing. I still enjoy the “Mound of Sound” when you pull it out of your bag of tricks. I hope that you enjoyed a pretty magical 10-2 run, and what should be a very warm destination for the Holidays.

Nebraska: I’m so sorry that I’m not able to find more video on your performances, but what little I have found (like the performance below) shows great sound and consistent drill. I hope we get to see more of you in the future.

Northwestern: You guys always make us alums proud. You do the most... great sound and great drill... with the least. Let’s work on getting rid of that “least” part going forward.

Ohio State: What else can I say than the Buckeyes are fantastic. You continue to maintain a high standard on drill that is both entertaining and shows off some of your technical prowess, and your sound is always solid. One of my favorite memories of you this year is when you brought on the piccolos to perform the “Stars and Stripes Forever”.

Penn State: I apologize to the Blue Band for not being willing to show more independent video while I was waiting for your official page to load (which it never quite did on time). What I did see was up to a high standard and the Band continues to look and sound great.

Purdue: It was a great joy getting to hear you perform live in Evanston this year. You have a fantastic, full sound and never disappoint on the drill. I’m sorry that I didn’t have more video to feature this year, but everything that I did see was top notch in quality.

Rutgers: The other band that I feel does more with less. You brought us some very interesting tribute shows this year, and the one that sticks out in my memory is the Paul Robeson tribute, particularly the piece performed with Charles Wesley Evans... what a great voice.

Wisconsin: YOU DID CURVES!!! REAL HONEST CURVES!!! Seriously, though... a really nice transition from what Wisconsin is known for into just a touch of better drill variety and what I think is a better sound. Keep up the good work.


What should GTom do now that the season is over?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Continue writing snarky, passive-aggressive comments on OTE
    (9 votes)
  • 5%
    Prepare for next year’s review of the Superior Dome (it is going to happen)
    (3 votes)
  • 21%
    Start randomly hunting down incoming Freshman to Northwestern and encouraging them to join NUMB (it won’t be creepy at all)
    (11 votes)
  • 11%
    Wallow in his Bowl-less (but not Hat-less) winter existence
    (6 votes)
  • 43%
    Cover the US Twirling Association National Baton Twirling competition in Stockton from July 14th-18th (maybe I’ll meet Crabby Mary there)
    (22 votes)
51 votes total Vote Now


For the final week of the season, we got new video on Maryland, Michigan, MSU, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwestern.

Win: Michigan “Welcome to the Roaring ‘20’s” (Nov. 30th)

Michigan’s nod to the 1920’s era jazz, including “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” recorded by Fergie, Q-Tip, and GoonRock for the soundtrack to The Great Gatsby, “And All That Jazz” from the musical Chicago, and “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” from The California Ramblers. I don’t know why, but it seems like some of Michigan’s most successful shows over the past several years have had a deep, jazz theme to them. The Band is just so good at sounding simultaneously full, crisp, a little dirty, and yet a bit laid back... all of the essential elements to really perform a good jazz show. Not every band can pull that off, but Michigan just seems to excel at that kind of music. The drill had a nice flow to it (nice little dig with “the” and “the team” toward the end), not the most complex shapes in the world, but still it fit nicely with what was going on in the music and had good variety and spacing. Overall, it was a very well-executed show.

Place: Maryland “One Hit Wonders” (Nov. 23rd)

Tunes played included Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” (or the “F@#k You” version if you prefer), Katrina and the Waves “Walking on Sunshine”, Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science”, and Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”, closing with kind of a random “Salute to the Services” (thankfully with no shapes). Why did I pick this as the Number 2 performance this week? Well... you can see that it’s miserable... the stadium is not well attended... the band is wearing their rain coats... and yet if you close your eyes, you here this super bright, happy sound that does a great job capturing the essence of the source material (how a song called “F@#k You” can be so happy is a little beyond me, but it is). I just love how the Band sounds, and as I pointed out above, Maryland seems to do the best in transferring modern music to the football field. The drill is active and entertaining. It’s a great show that not everybody can pull off.

Show (Tie): Michigan State “Classical Show” (Nov. 30th)

For their home closer, the Spartans performed portions of “Carmen” by Bizet, “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini, and Dvorak’s “9th Symphony (New World)”. What is great about it is what is always great about the Spartans... absolute top notch music that is clean, crisp, full and punches where it is supposed to punch and flows where it is supposed to flow. Honestly, this is probably the best sound out of anybody featured today, but the drill was super simple so it was hard to put this on too much of a pedestal relative to others. Still, the Spartan Band just always impresses me. I really do need to find an excuse to see them perform live before too long.

(Tie): Nebraska “Heroes Show” (Oct. 29th)

As you’re aware, I struggle to find video on Nebraska, but we got a good snippet this week from a fan of them performing music from Captain Marvel, Spider Man, and the Justice League. I think that Nebraska sounds outstanding in this clip... really clear and concise music with some good hits throughout. The drill has some nice motion to it and makes good use of the full space of the field. An entertaining, well-performed show...

Honorable Mention: Minnesota “The Link Up” (Oct. 30th)

First, it’s interesting that seniors flip their capes backwards for Minnesota. The show featured pieces including “Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz, “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele, and portions of “The Firebird Suite” by Stravinsky. I particularly liked portions of “The Firebird Suite” and I liked the sound to “Over the Rainbow”, but the pace of the first two tunes seemed to slow things down more than I think you really want to do for a marching show. Very simple drill is featured throughout.

SUPER WIN... OMG... THE BEST EVER!!!: Northwestern “The Old Plus Four (March of the Steelman)” (Nov. 23rd)

OK, I did a whole feature on this last year, but if you’re a NUMB-alum, it never gets old. The show starts with a space show that frankly, they’ve played three times this year (which is quite repetitive considering that there were only seven games). However, if you skip to the five minute mark, you will see some of Northwestern’s most simple, yet most meaningful drill to the season to the refrain of “The March of the Steelman” by Charles Belsterling. Excuse me... I’ve got something in my eye...


It’s been another fun year. Thanks for everyone who read my humble column this year and congratulations to all the graduating Marching Band Seniors.