Band has become a bit more predictable since I last threw on a uniform in January of 1997. Back in the day, it was a given that any show around Halloween was probably going to feature some spooky-related music (although the “Thriller” dance wasn’t a thing until well after I graduated... kind of odd, because my generation was in Elementary School / Junior High when the video came out and you would have thought we had the most attachment). Otherwise, the calendar seemed wide open - you were able to do any show you wanted.
That changed with September 11th. In remembrance, we now have Heroes’ Day celebrations and flag logos on helmet decals. For bands, it also usually means some form of patriotic show to go along with it, and typically something not too difficult as several bands are maybe in their second show and still looking to get their feet under them (perfect band day recipe).
In addition, we have definitely seen a resurgence in recognition of Veteran’s Day, both on the field and in regular life. With so many men and women involved in conflict following September 11th, and the loss of life, injuries, and mental trauma sustained by our soldiers, it’s not hard to see why the holiday has garnered more recognition in recent times (I wish that our Vietnam Vets got more support like this in ‘70’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s - they deserved it).
Anyway, for Marching Band, this means that if you are doing a show before or after the holiday, you’re doing “Salute to the Troops” - a collection of “Anchors Away”, “Army Song” (it’s “Caissons keep rolling along” forever, I don’t care how much people want to dumb down the lyrics), “Wild Blue Yonder”, “Marine’s Hymn”, and “Semper Paratus” (Coast Guard). I haven’t reviewed the shows, yet, but I’m going to put the over / under at 6.5 once I get to that section.
Still, there’s one service missing from that total, which has some of the best material ever to work with. I’m talking of the newly formed Space Force, which could go in a 1,000 different directions if they wanted to. Some folks have tried to come up with an anthem, which... eh... I don’t know if that’s the best we can do (it’s pretty dreary - every other service song is upbeat, rah, rah, let’s go kick some ass).
So, bands... let’s get creative. Until Space Force tells us we have to use something else, use this week to give us what you want to perform and recognize those men and women who are taking defense to the final frontier. Although we might be a little late for this past week, we here at OTE are ready and able to help you for next year’s performance when this inevitably is performed again.
6.5 Performances of "Salute to the Troops" (don’t peak ahead)
This poll is closed
What should be the Space Force Song
This poll is closed
Newer Star Trek (Next Generation)
Newest Star Trek (Kelvin Timeline Movies)
Auch Sprach Zarathustra
The (Original) Battlestar Gallactica Theme
Gustav Holst’s "Mars"
Gustav Holst’s "Jupiter"
Elton John’s "Rocket Man"
David Bowie’s "Space Oddity"
Other (Provide in Comments)
None of the above. We should revert back to WWI Armistice Day music
Well what do you know. I got this all wrong this week. Two. Two “Salutes to the Service”. That’s it. I literally skipped last week, because I figured I would be showing 10 of the same shows. Oh well, I ain’t re-writing the intro.
We have video on everyone for the past two weeks except the Illini and Maryland.
Win: Michigan State Spartans, Nov. 13th, “Songs from Across the Pond: Elton John and Friends”
The Spartans give us a variety of 70’s and 80’s British rock tunes, with a healthy helping of Elton John (“Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting”, “I’m Still Standing”, “Tiny Dancer”, and “Don’t let the Sun Go Down on Me”), Queen (“Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”), and a little bit of Led Zeppelin (“Fool in the Rain”) and U2 (“Vertigo”... I know Northern Ireland is UK, but seems a stretch, thematically).
Why Win? Because they sound absolutely, freakin’ fantastic. MSU has no problem featuring middle and baritone voices, and these are some great arrangements that feature the full breadth of the band. Percussion is awesome as always (“Fool in the Rain” is one of my favorite drum set songs, ever, and the Spartans held up some of that energy in their show).
Also, it helps that about 80% of these tunes are in my iPod (yes iPod, not iPhone) and among some of my favorites.
Why shouldn’t they have won? Drill was a bit light. Good for most college bands, but OSU did more, below. However, I just can’t get over that sound... it was too good not to recognize.
Place: Ohio State Buckeyes, Nov. 13th “Top Gun”
OSU doesn’t just give us the highlights of “Top Gun”, but pretty much the whole Soundtrack (which yes, I did own and still own on a cassette).
Drill is vintage OSU, with some great movement, Pinwheels, a fantastic “Company Front” (when the whole band lines up in one line across the field), and all the shape and stick figures that we have grown to love from this band. Who else is going to stage a beach volleyball game as part of their show?!
So close to a win, but as good as the Buckeyes sounded, it just wasn’t as good as MSU. Also, as great as that jet shape is, you can’t do Top Gun and not do an F-14. That looks more like a cross between an F-16 and European Tornado.
Show: Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Nov. 6th “Mission Control”
Rutgers probably got extra brownie points just by featuring about 75% of the songs that I put in my poll for space-related themes. Specifically, we’ve got “Auch Sprach Zarathustra”, “Star Trek (Kelvin)”, and “Rocket Man”, to name a few.
I think this is a really nice blend of drill and sound. They went through a fair number of sets, here - not as much as OSU, but more than most and they sounded good while doing it. I thought it was a pretty well-executed show and featured good variety while sticking to the space theme.
Honorable Mention: Michigan Wolverines, Nov. 6th “Room Where it Happens”
Michigan features the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda, including a healthy dose of tunes from “Hamilton”, but also music from “Moana” and “the Heights”.
This is where the OBE Win, Place, Show system probably breaks down. Michigan sounds incredible - clean and very well-played, with decent, but not really strong drill. If I’m being fair, that should probably place them closer to MSU’s show. However, I guess I’m just not that into Miranda’s music. I kind of stopped being a Broadway guy pre-Wicked and I haven’t bothered to see Alexander Hamilton, yet (despite the rave reviews).
So, anyway... top notch show, played incredibly cleanly, but they made the fatal mistake of not asking me what kind of music I wanted to hear, so down the list it goes.
Honorable Mention: Purdue Boilermakers, Nov. 6th, “All About Trains”
Features “A-Train”, “Night Train” (not the Guns N’ Roses version - that would have been awesome), “Locomotion”, and “Train Train”, among a few Purdue-specific songs.
The Big Band tunes in particular sound great. Drill was OK, but there’s only so many times the All-American Band can make a different train cross the field before things felt repetitive. It also could have used more harmonica for “Train Train” (it would have brought the house down if somebody could have repeated Blackfoot’s intro). Still, sound was good, clean, and full and it was overall a very good show.
Indiana Hoosiers, Nov. 13th
Good “Salute...” which includes the Red Steppers doing their thing to “Living in America” (man, we need another James Brown show sometime soon).
Minnesota Gophers, Nov. 6th
Another fun “Salute...” sandwiched between some good performances of the “Washington Post March” and “Stars and Stripes Forever”.
Other Good Halftime Shows
Iowa Hawkeyes, Nov. 13th “Olympic Theme”
Not a full show and not the best angle, but Iowa footage is rare and I want to make sure I post it when available. Always fun to listen to drunk crowd cussing in the background (not unique to Iowa by any means).
Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nov. 16th “Brothers in Arms”
Two videos this year! A bit of a unique take on Veteran’s Day with songs tied to “Brother” in the title (although, you’re stretching with Neil Diamond’s “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”). I did like Band of Brothers though. Also not the best angle, but I’m happy that we’re getting video on the Cornhuskers.
Northwestern Wildcats, Oct. 30th “Halloween Music
A bit dated and I saw this live, but given shortage of Wildcat video, I figured I would throw this in as well. Fun show, culminating with Thriller dance. They did the traditional “March of the Steelman” this past week... it felt way too early, but I was happy that they recognized seniors from last year as well.
Penn State Nittany Lions, Nov. 13th, “Various TV Shows”
Fun little mix of TV themes, ranging from the Brady Bunch to Golden Girls to the Office to the Mandalorian.
Wisconsin Badgers, Nov. 13th “Ain’t Too Proud”
Various Supremes and Temptations tunes. Sounded pretty good - the music fits Wisconsin, nicely.
Did Not Play, Coach’s Decision
I didn’t check to see if Maryland or Illinois were home, although I’m pretty sure Maryland was on Nov. 6th. Illinois... you’re going to tease me by pulling out the Latin show for the game against my ‘Cats, aren’t you?
Well damn... maybe there isn’t as much love for the troops in this conference as I thought. Still, don’t forget the guys and gals operating 50 miles up - they need a song.
After the Space Force reads this article...