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Off Beat Empire: Be Excellent to Each Other

A Tuba is not a driving range ball collector

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3rd Annual Geekie Awards Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images

Given a bit of news for the day, I figured that I would focus this week on fan etiquette toward opposing bands and real and perceived slights that you sometimes experience when you put on the uniform. LincolnParkWildcat was kind enough to forward a few tweets / stories to me regarding a less-than-ideal trip to Ames by the Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band. For those not within the know, here is one article from the Des Moines Register with some high level official information...

Unofficial information (i.e. unproven gossip until proven otherwise) alludes to objects being thrown at band members, partially filled beer cans being rolled under the band as they marched to / from the stadium, and an irate, out-of-control ISU athletic rep swearing at the band for being on the field after they were directed to do so by another ISU rep.

I’ve talked about this in other comments before, but I figured that I would open up the floor a bit to discuss “band abuse”, which sometimes includes road fans, but can also include stupid crap pulled by the home team fans. Let me start by saying that I’m really not surprised with anything about the Iowa story except maybe the part about an administrator out-of-control. I personally experienced a few negative incidents while at Northwestern in the mid ‘90’s, which included the following:

  • There was a Northwestern student section tradition for many years of throwing marshmallows at the band, with a particular emphasis on getting one into a Tuba. A few folks wanted their marshmallows to carry a bit further, so they would load them with a few pennies or other loose change. Fortunately, the year I joined the band was the year that the school started getting serious about cracking down on the practice and they started searching for marshmallows going in and tossing anybody who threw one, but there are more than a few old alums who still glow with pride about the time they nailed a Tuba who shouted back at them.
  • The Michigan band used to have students throw marshmallows at them in the end zone after going back to their seats / prepping for a halftime performance. I saw it once first-hand on a road trip in 1995, although they had already cracked down on it a bit and it wasn’t nearly as bad as what I remember from the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s.
  • I did experience small liquor bottles being thrown at us (including one that came very close to me) at Kinnick in 1994. It was after halftime while returning to seats and passing the student section.
  • More of an example of band-on-band activity, but our buses were “mooned” (and not the scoreless at halftime, kind) by the USC Trojan band buses in and around the Rose Bowl.

Were any of these events a big deal? Eh... we didn’t really think so at the time. Some of it was annoying and there are clearly dicks in this world who will make their presence known, but none of it really got us riled up all that badly. You expect a little bit of hostility going into some other team’s environment wearing the wrong colors and playing the wrong songs. In most cases, the official representatives of the school bent over backwards to make us comfortable... feed us, share time with the other band, carve out space and time to perform.

So, given the fresh comments about the Hawkeye Band trip, I am curious if there are others out there who experienced something similar, or worse. Anything get to the stage of, “well, we’re never going back there, again”? Now, fair warning... this isn’t meant to open the floodgates on what you heard from your sister’s best friend’s cousin about “pee balloons” thrown at Penn State. Try and stick to stuff that you’ve seen or experienced yourself, maybe a moment or two when you took too many liberties with an opposing band, yourself and how far you think things can go before they are too far.

Even though I personally didn’t take it too badly in the moment, it’s still a very wimpy, crappy thing to do to throw stuff at anybody in a band. I mean, WTF is the matter with you that makes you feel like throwing garbage at another human being? It’s a bunch of students who traveled at their school’s own expense to perform for you and the smattering of opposing fans who were able to obtain seats. Do you like kicking puppies as well (Jon Ross, do not answer)? You like throwing marshmallows or beer and don’t think it is a big deal... are you going to contribute the cleaning bill (often times borne by the student and not the school) for getting gooey sludge all over that uniform? A lot of those kids don’t have much, and you’re going to go out of your way to make things more miserable for them?

Aside from supporting their own team, most bands are coming to your environment because there is something positive that they want to experience at your stadium. They probably boarded a bus at some ungodly early hour to get there, or stayed at some rat trap the night before with six to a room. At most, they are hoping that they can show you a thing or two about how good their performance is, take in a good football game, and be on their way. Why do you want them to walk away thinking that you’re just a bunch of vile idiots? I’ve never seen a band “go rogue” and egg on anything but the mildest response from opposing fans, so to those marshmallow and beer can warriors out there, just lay off, maybe politely listen to and applaud a visiting performance, and enjoy the day.

Anyway, tl;dr some guys in Ames are apparently not nice, I’m curious how many others have examples of not-nice things that their or other fans should stop doing, and don’t be dicks to band members.


What Punishment Should Marshmallow Warriors be Subjected To?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Forced to eat all of the pieces that fall to the ground
    (56 votes)
  • 2%
    Beer shower
    (3 votes)
  • 23%
    Force them to perform at halftime / after the game
    (25 votes)
  • 20%
    Must attend the next game dressed as the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man
    (21 votes)
105 votes total Vote Now


Band is many things, but what I’m learning going into year three of this column is that the halftime shows aren’t always unique or original. Last year, it was all about the Greatest Showman and Aretha Franklin. This year, it looks like the Summer of ‘69 and some variation of “Women of the xx’s” is going to be a common theme throughout, and we have a few examples of both this week. In addition, it’s the greatest of all early season traditions... Band Day!... where you hide Park N’ Bark and thousands of empty seats behind local high school bands in full uniform. Anyway, a quick word before I share the best of this week... I’m always at the mercy of what is posted and when. I realize there are a couple of new videos this week that go all the way back to the first game. I even have video for one group (Iowa) that preceded something that I’ve already written about. I realize that in a perfectly fair world I would compare shows for the week that they were performed as opposed to the week in which video became available, but this is not a perfect world.

Win: Penn State Blue Band Higher Faster Louder Part III (Sept. 14th)

OK, I admit that I’m an absolute sucker for Big Band / Jazz Latin compositions translated to large ensembles, and the Blue Band gives us a really good one in the form of “La Suerte de los Tontos” by Johnny Richards followed up by the not shabby either “Firebird Suite” composed by Igor Stravinsky. I am a bit disappointed by the quality of the recording... the Blue Band has done a good job recording their shows in recent years and I’m not quite sure what is going on with this standard def, long-distance camera that they are using here. However, even without the benefit of modern recording equipment, you get a really nice sense for the full sound, range, complexity, and interplay between instrumentation that really makes both of these pieces pop. The musicianship is top notch... very clear, very cohesive, but full of that big band swing and style during “La Suerte” and nice crisp bursts of sound where called for in “Firebird”. The drill isn’t super complex, but it’s paced just well enough that it never feels like it is coming to a full stop, either and there are some really nice effects that are built into the Firebird Suite finale. I also have to give credit where credit is due... (this is so painful for me)... but I presume that most of that applause is for the Blue Sapphires and feature Twirler, and while the definition keeps me from seeing what exactly they executed to deserve the applause, the crowd definitely seems to be into it. Nice job, ladies.

Place: Iowa Hawkeyes Dancing Through the Decades (Aug. 31st)

I kind of went back-and-forth between the next few shows as to which was the second best, but ultimately there was something about this Hawkeye show that I just found to be thoroughly entertaining and worthy of feature. This was actually Iowa’s first week (but was posted a bit later than their second show), and for their performance Iowa chose a number of dance tunes through the ages, including Whitney Houston’s “I want to Dance with Somebody”, a couple of Spice Girls tunes (I only caught the first one as “Viva Forever”), followed by DJ Sammy’s “Heaven” and “Every Time we Touch” by Cascadia. I thought the Hawks exhibited a really nice sound throughout, including a touch of energy and brightness that kind of set them apart from some of the similar shows performed this week. The sound was very cohesive and clear throughout and the drill, while nothing too aggressive, had some nice little effects like the early gates and pinwheels in “I want to Dance”. Also, that Tuba dotting the “i” of Whitney at ~2:33... priceless. If you somehow happen to play OSU in the Championship game, this NEEDS to be a part of that show for that reason. Just an overall, very entertaining performance on the part of the Hawkeyes to open the season.

Show: The Mighty Sound of Maryland Today’s Women Who Rock (Sep. 7th)

This show confirmed two things I already knew. First, the Mighty Sound of Maryland has a really good sound, especially when playing modern music. Second, I know less than nothing about some of the most popular female singers after, say, 2000. I admit it, I don’t know Beyonce... I barely know any Destiny’s Child. She’s only one of the biggest and longest-lasting musical acts on the planet, probably has more Grammy’s than I have pairs of shoes, and I don’t know her music... at all. Anyway, music featured apparently included BlackPink “Kill this Love”, Beyonce “Before I Let Go”, BIlly Eilish “Bad Guy”, and Lizzo’s “Juice” - none of which I am familiar with. What did I like about this show? Again, it’s Maryland’s nice and full sound, which includes just enough of that big, R&B funk to keep what I assume is the spirit of the original. There’s nice little Tuba bass lines, some good swinging horns, and they’re willing to slow down and relax the pace when it’s called for in the show. The drill features a reasonable amount of sets, and while like Iowa it isn’t necessarily continuous motion, it never quite feels “stuck” either. Toward the end of the show Maryland is joined by their equivalent of Band Day, which one the one hand I admire that there is only one member from each school, but given the amount of empty seats in the background... you’re doing it wrong, Terps! Get all of the kids and their parents so you can hide how empty that stadium is.

Honorable Mention: Spartan Marching Band Ladies of the ‘80’s (Sep. 14th)

Sparty played a whole lot of tunes honoring female singers of the ‘80’s ranging from Madonna to Cyndi Lauper to Pat Benatar. What is great about the performance? The usual for Sparty... big full sound... perfectly clear... every note of every trumpet lick perfectly timed and beautiful. What’s wrong? Eh... I want the music to make me want to Dance with somebody... it needs soul... it needs funk... it needs more of a buildup as opposed to just covering the melodies from the various pieces. What we got was a bit more like SNL’s old “Sprockets” skit... very precise... very Germanic... but not much soul. Sparty took it a bit easier on drill this time with delayed moves from set-to-set, but drill was still descent overall. Again, a technically well-executed show and still very entertaining, but it needs a bit more style to really hit everything that it could be.

Repeat: OSU @ Indiana Performing Music of Ohio (Sep. 14th)

A repeat show from last week, but well-executed on the road and a really nice performance by the Buckeye Band.

Band Days!

Marching Illini (Sep. 14th)

Nice little opening featuring Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” in honor of the Engineering school before being joined by an impressive horde of high school bands and finishing with the “Three-in-One”. As always, very clean marching style and sound by the Illini.

Minnesota Summer of ‘69 (Sep. 14th)

A little more traditional approach to Band Day with everyone on the field at once.

Others in Action

Purdue Thriller (Sep. 7th)

Not a complete video of the performance, but a nice little clip of the All-American Band’s Performance of Thriller. I can’t quite figure out if you should be able to move the camera view or not, but you get a reasonably good sense of Purdue’s strong sound and, of course, we have to have the annual “Thriller” dance.

Wisconsin Various Modern Artists (Sep. 7th)

I’ve been curious what the Badgers would look like under new direction, and this is my first look at the group for the year. Of course, the fact that it is a fan video with a tough angle makes it hard to evaluate too much, but so far so good. The Badgers still have that step that makes musicianship a bit more difficult, but they seem to have designed the drill to be a bit more active than usual and the drill does time certain less disruptive steps for melodies, which helps to smooth the music out. Again, it’s tough to read too much into this performance given the recording, but overall it seemed like a fun show.

DNP Coach’s Decision

Michigan was off this week, as was Rutgers. Still no video posted on Nebraska or Indiana. Nothing yet for Northwestern, either, although I saw their show live and it’s just Band Day.


Be nice to your visiting band. They’re good, they’re there to entertain you, and they work too hard to have beer thrown at them. Don’t be petty and welcome them with open arms.