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Off Beat Empire: The Final Serenade 2021

Wrapping up the year in B1G Marching Band

Indiana v Michigan State

Before I go too far, I do want to take a moment to recognize all of those affected, but particularly those in the Marching Band, who were attacked this past weekend in Waukesha’s Christmas parade. I’ve been in countless parades over the years, and never could have imagined a joyous occasion like that being turned into such a tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers for those who were killed and injured, as well as those grieving for them.

Given personal travel schedule (or the fact that I’m trying to get to my Yooper compound before the Twirlers get released from their band obligations for the year), I’m going to generally be unavailable for early next week. Therefore, I’m going to wrap up the season here and now even though some bands still have a game left.

My overall impression of 2021 is that these Bands worked very hard to be able to come back to the field, and for the most part, it seems like they haven’t missed a beat. The music is good. The traditions are on display for all to see. Entertainment is back into the stadium. The soul of college football is restored. Congratulations and thank you to all of those involved.

As is custom, I’m going to end the season with a pithy comment on each ensemble in the spirit of BTN’s Final Drive:

  • Illinois: Every year I’m just more impressed with everything that this ensemble can do. This is a very clean band that makes a lot of different musical styles work well and I enjoy seeing what the Illini are able to come up with each week.
  • Indiana: Best Thriller dance of the year, hands down (I think the Tubas made that happen). I don’t know what happened to the football team, but your day in the Sun (at a warm Bowl, celebrating a victory) will hopefully happen someday soon.
  • Iowa: We didn’t get much video, but I did enjoy the ‘80’s show that you delivered. Stick with the leggings, Golden Girls!
  • Maryland: The Terrapins had some really solid shows, particularly early in the year. I like the ensemble’s balanced sound and just wish I had seen some more later season video to be able to feature.
  • Michigan: Pending review of this week, Michigan probably had the best overall season of all the conference bands this year. They didn’t repeat any early shows or take any shortcuts despite a very demanding four-game home stretch early in the year, and really, the Wolverines have sounded very good week-in and week-out. This was a strong year for the maize n’ blue.
  • Michigan State: I still think this is the best-sounding band in the entire conference. They have such a rich mix of middle and baritone voices, as well as great percussion section, that I feel like they get more out of arrangements than other ensembles. I didn’t quite see the “season’s best show” out of the group, yet (which they have earned over many of the past several years), but who knows what they have planned to close out the season.
  • Minnesota: A lot of fun shows this year for the Gophers. I still love the video game show, but you’ve got to make the rows disappear in Tetris!
  • Nebraska: I’m excited that we were finally able to get at least two of your shows on video late this year. This band really sounds full and fun, and I’m hoping that we will get to see more going forward.
  • Northwestern: Still doing a lot musically without much. Keep those purple sousaphones reproducing! Sorry you had to sit through that season.
  • Ohio State: Still one of the best. Only the Buckeyes would have brought us the volleyball scene from Top Gun.
  • Penn State: There were some very solid performances by the Blue Band, but I’ll admit that I’m still trying to figure out why you put some of the music themes together that you did. Don’t let the Blue Sapphire hunt me down.
  • Purdue: Don’t you dare ever let some little school tell you where you can and cannot take your drum for the day! Best trumpets in the conference.
  • Rutgers: A band that continues to succeed in delivering some unique performances to the conference. I like what is being built at Rutgers and while I used to say they “did more with less”, now it feels like they are “doing more with more” - it seems like they have had some recruiting success while keeping standards high.
  • Wisconsin: This is the best that group has sounded since I started covering them. They’ve kept the high step, but I think they’ve found a way to up the quality of the music, and that makes for a very good combo on gameday.


GTom’s fate when the Twirlers are once again released for the season

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Game Over Man! Game Over!
    (3 votes)
  • 10%
    Space Force already has him on satellite and are just waiting for the orders
    (4 votes)
  • 24%
    It’s gonna be Rush fans from Canada who get to him first... they’re closer
    (9 votes)
  • 37%
    The U.P. is his refuge. No Twirler is strong enough to endure a Yooper Winter or the mosquitos of Yooper Not Winter
    (14 votes)
  • 18%
    This is all just a ruse... he’s escaping to some tropical location
    (7 votes)
37 votes total Vote Now


I had video on five groups this week, including Indiana, Maryland, OSU, PSU, and Wisconsin.

Participation Trophies: All Nov. 20th

I’m not sure there really was a clear-cut best show this week (maybe the Buckeyes), so I’m just going to show them all in alphabetical order...

Indiana “Karaoke Night”

Tunes included “Mr. Brightside”, “Brown Eyed Girl”, and “Don’t Stop Believing”. I don’t know about you, but I think the Band is trying to say something about the football this year with two of those tunes. The Hoosiers also recognize their seniors. I’m a Killers fan and always had an affinity for those “born and raised in south Detroit”, so I enjoyed the show.

Better luck next year, Hoosiers.

Maryland “Hall of Fame Tunes”

The Terrapins give us a collection of Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees, including (among others) “Bang the Drum All Day”, “I Feel the Earth Move”, “The Pretenders”, “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, and “Let’s Go”. A very nice, even performance by the Mighty Sound of Maryland with some good sound behind it.

Seniors were also recognized as part of this show.

Ohio State “Broadway Retrospective”

In fairness, this is probably the best show of the day, featuring music from “Hair”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Phantom of the Opera”, and others. The chandelier drill sequence to Phantom was pretty impressive, and there were a few other good animations and pinwheels to the drill as well. The crowd seemed to like the Company Front (big single line across the field).

Still, if you’re going to do Hair... do the nude scene, you cowards!

Penn State “Delayed Salute without the Salute”

Patriotic show that seems like it should have been a Veteran’s Day salute, but came a bit later (and without the “Salute to the Services”, which I’m told they played with Maryland when they performed on the road that week). Tunes included Neil Diamond’s “America”, various George M. Cohan tunes, and “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

Wisconsin “Queen”

Various Queen tunes intertwined into “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Do my eyes deceive me, or are there actually writing and recognizable shapes embedded in this performance?! That’s not typical Wisconsin, but I like it. Sound is very good.

Did not Play, Coach’s Decision

I saw Northwestern’s performance at Wrigley, which was (I hate to say it) a third repeat of their Wicked / Hamilton / Fiddler on the Roof Broadway show. I love my ‘Cats, but we shouldn’t be doing three of the same shows for home crowds. Iowa video was not available. Everyone else was on the road.


Thanks to the Bands for doing what they do after a challenging year. Thanks everyone who took the time to read and comment this year. Time to stay one step in front of the Twirlers and make my escape.