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Off Beat Empire: Where to Go on your Fall Vacation

Going to see the in-laws

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Iowa at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Just like many fans in the B1G, about once every year B1G Marching Bands decide to load up the old RV station wagon bus (it’s always a bus) and check out what life is like somewhere else in this fine conference. Where you go usually has to be picked before the season to make sure that the host school will be accommodating and actually provide tickets, so a lot of careful consideration needs to go into making your choice of locale to visit. The right choice can lead to a lot of fun and morale-building, whereas the wrong choice leads to Iowa (just kidding).

Because there is no Trip Advisor set up specifically for Marching Bands, I’m going to share the golden rules with regard to picking a venue...

  • The wheel on the bus goes round-and-round: Lincoln, NE to College Park, MD is 18 hours by bus. Those Bands are never going to visit each other. I mean, I’ve done 25 hours straight in a bus when in high school, and young college men and women are more malleable than others, but there is a limit. Nine hours or less is pretty much your universe to play with. If your school is kind and has a good budget, you might actually even stay in a hotel both Friday and Saturday night. If your school is on a budget, that 3:00 AM bus boarding is going to be a lot of fun or you’re going to meet some locals (and stay at their house) near your destination.
  • Don’t punch up too high: Look, we all know that the ‘Shoe is one hell of a venue and we all want to visit the Big House at some point or Penn State during a whiteout. That’s fun when you’re maybe an MSU or a Wisconsin or an Iowa who can actually go there and maybe not be completely shellacked. If you’re an Illinois, don’t do it... you’re not going to have a good time when your team is down 63 points and there is still a quarter to go (recent 9OT Penn State game excluded - heck... the 9OT’s might have made it worse). Recognize before the season if your team is going to be a King, a challenger, a mid-tier bowl participant, or cannon fodder. Never go more than one step above your position.
  • Punching down is no problem: Let the Plebeians witness your awesomeness.
  • Which in-law do you hate the least?: Nobody wants to be around assholes. Most B1G venues I think are reasonably accommodative of their guests for the day (from personal experience, much better than they were in the ‘90’s), so fortunately, I don’t think this comes into play too often in our conference in the modern era. Still, every now-and-then you see some schools get into a tizzy over “fake injuries” or something else stupid, and nobody wants to be Ole Miss visiting Tennessee.
  • Even beyond that, though, how welcoming is the school going to be? Are you going to have reasonable seats (end zone, lower level), or are they going to jam you in a corner because they’re too good to actually accommodate anything much better than you standing around their field (*Cough* Michigan *Cough*). Are they going to tell you that you can’t go on the field for post-game because you might ruin the turf, or is their Director going to try and organize a joint show that features everyone? Are they going to tell you that you can’t take your big drum onto the field? Nobody wants to visit Aunt Pearl if she won’t clear out the Hummels from her guest bedroom and makes you sleep in her basement, instead.
  • Don’t wait too long, unless you’re good and it’s worth it: Given timing of non-con games and Homecoming, the earliest any Band is going to be able to road trip is mid-October or later. If you’re expecting to have a bad team, don’t schedule anything after early November. It ain’t worth it. Getting killed in the cold is not fun, and if the other team is just as bad as you, nobody is going to be there. If you’re a King or Challenger... OK... maybe you have a bit more calendar to work with. Still, nobody wants to be in Champaign in late November.
  • What else is there to do?: Some places will always be good destinations for Saturday night or Sunday. For the great bands, you can maybe work your way into an NFL halftime show on Sunday. Maybe there are great museums to visit, or something else compelling in the area to go see, as is the case for Minneapolis, Chicago, DC, and ?NY / NJ? (I dunno... if anybody has road-tripped to Rutgers, let me know if you went to NYC afterwards). Even if every other condition on this list fails, sometimes it can be worth it if you have a good enough side-trip planned.
  • You need to pay-it-back: Has Indiana visited you three times in the last decade? You’re due for a trip to Bloomington. Don’t wanna? Don’t care, that’s the rule. Aunt Pearl came to your place several times, and now you have to go visit her at least once.

I’m sure somebody out there is smart enough to fit all of that into a formula (enjoyment = inverse logarithmic bus ride length x average temperature x expected point differential divided by level of Iowa).

Anyway, those are the rules. Ignore them at your own peril.


Most significant consideration of visiting another B1G venue

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Ease of travel (expense / time)
    (27 votes)
  • 11%
    Rocking sporting venue
    (11 votes)
  • 4%
    Friends / family in the area
    (4 votes)
  • 27%
    Cool place to visit before / after the game
    (26 votes)
  • 18%
    Should be a good game
    (17 votes)
  • 8%
    Aunt Pearl came to our place and the wife wants to stay in the Will
    (8 votes)
93 votes total Vote Now


Lots of video popped up this past week... more than I anticipated.

Win: Purdue All-American Marching Band, Oct. 23rd “Superheroes”

You know, it’s easy for everyone to jump onto the Marvel bandwagon, or the most recent movie from the DC side of things. Shows based upon whatever comic book was converted to a movie is probably going to be a staple of Marching Bands until comic books turned into movies is no longer a thing (as in, probably never).

However, you know you’re dealing with a well-rounded, All-American first class Marching Band when they not only give you themes from “Wonder Woman”, “Spider Man”, and “Black Panther”, but they mix in classics like the theme from “Mighty Mouse”, “Underdog”, and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” as well. Not only that, but they finished with the soundtrack from Kevin Costner’s “Robin Hood”, which if you’re like me and came of age during that early ‘90’s era was the absolute pinnacle of what you wanted to be able to play as part of a Marching Band.

The sound is good throughout, but I think it’s the variety and fun that really set this show apart a bit. The stick-figure arrow shot to Indiana was a nice touch to the drill and Purdue maintained good pace in the drill throughout. Fun show.

Place: Michigan Wolverine Marching Band, Oct. 23rd “Fire Up, it’s Saturday!”

Billed as kind of a combination of celebrating game day in Ann Arbor and a little bit of a tribute to their trailer driver who recently passed away (our sympathies to the Wolverines), there are some great tunes played extremely well within this show, like “Life is a Highway”, “Sweet Dreams”, and “Red Solo Cup” amongst others. There’s a fun stick-figure segment in the drill playing a game of cups and like the Purdue show, there seemed to be good pace and a healthy number of sets to keep the drill going.

The sound was so clean that I almost... almost gave this a win today, but i) mixing Michigan’s fight song into at least 15% of everything else was annoying, ii) saying that every game is victory is false advertising and pretentious, and (sigh) most importantly, iii) you were playing (although barely beating at the time) my beloved ‘Cats you arrogant #3$%’s of #%^#W$6!!!!! (No, I’m not bitter... not at all).

Anyway, really nice sound, good drill, good show.

Show: Penn State Blue Band, Oct. 23rd, “Rock through the Ages”

Penn State gets a top three showing for one primary reason, which is that after complaining last week about Rush shows, this week I feel like Penn State took some chances on non-standard songs like My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade”, the Killers’ “Mr. Brightside”, and even involving the alumni with AC/DC’s “Back in Black”.

I’m not sure they entirely succeeded in capturing the essence of the darker Welcome or Brightside (the sound was just a bit too bright, a bit too upbeat to really replicate the original), but they still sounded good and I’m a bit happy to hear something different. I know it was just the alumni playing “Back in Black”, but I’m now convinced that a full AC/DC show is eminently doable, and somebody in the conference has to get on it.

Also, for the love of all that is good and holy, STOP ENCOURAGING THE TWIRLERS! You send some alumni out there with a thin metal stick and you all go nuts!

Honorable Mention: Indiana Marching Hundred, Oct. 23rd “Get Up and Dance”

Again, I’m happy to be getting so much more video on Indiana than has been the case in the past. This isn’t a particularly tough show and the drill isn’t setting anything on fire, but it’s just a bunch of fun dance tunes played with a sense of joy and energy. Sousaphones are coming through loud and strong throughout everything!

I think I also like the first “Thriller” dance of the season, even though I’m going to be sick of it by the fifth time I see it next week. Still, I haven’t seen too many “Gangnam Style” performances lately, so that’s a nice touch.

Beyond that, the Weekend’s “Blinding Lights” is definitely the publisher special of the year. Indiana has to be at least the 8th B1G band I’ve seen it from so far this year.

Other Very Good Shows

Illinois Fighting Illini Marching Band, Oct. 9th “Girl Power”

Video is a bit dated from a few weeks ago, but I wanted to post Illinois’ celebration of the 50th anniversary of women being admitted to the Band (I cannot for the life of me fathom why Band was all-male to begin with, and that it took until the ‘70’s for many conference Bands to amend their ways). A few songs like “Respect” and other female-related themes. The female announcer and alumni band were nice touches, and it got me thinking that we could use a few more women PA announcers in the conference, not just for Band, but for games as well.

And oh... Illini... you know the way to my heart. I’m not going to post the video now from a competition that the Illini performed at, but a certain Latin Show that I assume will be halftime within a couple of weeks is a very early contender for Win when it shows up.

Minnesota Gopher Marching Band, Oct. 23rd “Broadway Tribute”

The Gophers bring us several selections from Broadway, ranging from “Phantom of the Opera” to... to... apologies as I can’t hear the announcer very well and I don’t recognize the tunes, but assume that at least one is from “Wicked” and another is probably from “Hamilton”. I did pick up on “My Girl”, but really don’t understand how it fits in.

Anyway, good sound, reasonably good drill, and the Gophers spent a lot of time celebrating their athletic squads, and particularly their national champion hockey team (women’s from 2019, who I assume didn’t have a chance to enjoy their day in the sun in 2020).

Wisconsin Badger Marching Band, Oct. 16th “Panic! at the Disco”

I actually posted this last week, but it was from an end-zone angle, so I wanted to post in case somebody wanted to see a better angle.

Did Not Play, Coach’s Decision

Most missing squads this week were off or on the road. Still no full video on a Nebraska halftime show.


Busses are not comfortable. Don’t neglect Aunt Pearl. Nobody wants to be in Champaign in late November... nobody (and my ‘Cats get to finish with them every year.... yay).