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Off Beat Empire: Look Who’s Coming to Dinner, Part 2 (USC)

Helmets, sunglasses, and bare bottoms... oh my!

University of Southern California vs Stanford University Set Number: X164149

First off, sorry for posting this late (and skipping last week as I was travelling to God’s country). For the record, this is what it looks like when the gales of November come early...

Sorry for the spray / rain blurriness...

The wind had to be constantly blowing at 40+ mph and is still healthy, albeit a bit diminished today. Two trees snapped at the base, one pulled up by its roots, and no power (and therefore, no internet) for most of Monday night and Tuesday. Surprisingly, it stayed as rain the whole time, though. When I finally left to warm up in a bar where they did have power, there was plenty of snow on the ground.

Second, it’s time to talk about the other newest entry to the B1G’s collection of Marching Bands, the USC Trojan Marching Band. Top notch half-assed research is as follows:

  • Nickname: The Spirit of Troy.
  • Size: 300+. It looks like auditions are not necessary, and their site claims only 7% are music majors (with engineers being the largest portion).
  • Founded: They claim 1880, but details on what exactly the early years were comprised of are limited. Through my other half-assed research projects, some schools had real bands by then, whereas some other schools had a quartet playing for the dining halls that they claim as the start of their program.
  • Instrument Composition: Both brass and woodwinds.
  • Spats or heathens?: Spats.
  • Hats: Trojans ain’t f@#king around... they’re bringing helmets with plumes (probably plastic, but you know... they’re ready for war).
  • Sunglasses: Yup. Only band I’m aware of that includes shades as part of the uniform.
  • Capes: White and Gold.
  • Twirler: They have in the past and it’s listed for auditions (albeit, the web site looks like it was last updated in 2018). However, I don’t think they have one right now.
  • Memorization: I think so. The only pictures I see with flip folders seem pretty old and no phones show up on their halftime videos.
  • Fight Song: One of the more famous tunes in collegiate circles, Fight On. Composed in 1922 by a student, Milo Sweet (with Glen Grant collaborating on lyrics).
  • Other School Songs: Tribute to Troy and Conquest. Tribute to Troy came in 1965, and if you’re like me, will probably drive other B1G fans crazy when it is played for the 132nd time. I featured it in a previous article as one of the five most annoying songs in all of college football (Scratching Nails on a Chalkboard), and I featured it first, which should tell you something. Conquest is kind of a cool tune, though, and if memory serves me right they use it for their victory celebration immediately after the game has been decided.
  • Style: High step.
  • Awards: No Sudler (which I don’t put much stock in, anyway), but they claim a USA Today Best College Band designation in 2017 for some reason. Apparently, that was the only article that USA today ever wrote on the subject.
  • Drum Major Entrance: What did the field ever do to you?
  • Horse: Traveler. Used to come out of the tunnel as part of pre-game, but I can’t tell if they do that anymore or not. I have to admit, Drum Major arrivals by horseback are pretty impressive.
  • YouTube Game: Looks decent. They’ve got their own channel and a reasonable number of videos posted, but maybe not quite one for every week (as is the standard for some of the better B1G bands).
  • Films: Numerous. USC is all Hollywood, and even though the Bruins have made their fair share of screen appearances as well, it looks like the Trojans are the studios’ first call.

Best Trojan film appearance, ever (wait ‘til 1:18 - Spoiler Alert)

  • Reputation with other B1G Bands?: Not great. Maybe it’s just because of the Rose Bowl rivalry, but when Northwestern went in 1995, we didn’t interact much, they seemed kind of like jerks when we did, and a whole busload mooned one of our busloads. I’ve seen comments from some Purdue former band members that echoed similar behavior.

Are they like that now? I don’t know. 1995 was a long time ago and people and organizations change. I have a friend and former colleague who is a passionate USC alum, and he seemed a lot more classy and respectful than everyone who gave us the two-finger salute (which I guess, is better than one) when I was visiting Pasadena. Still, the shades and helmets and other antics kind of point to trying to maintain some sort of bad boy persona, which is almost universally laughable when it comes to Marching Bands.

So, will they fit in with the rest of the B1G? Well, the Trojans are something different. I’ve seen a bit of video on their halftime shows and they seem to be pretty decent. They’ve definitely got tradition. I’m not sure that they will be welcomed quite the same way that UCLA will, but they will definitely add color and pageantry to the Saturday landscape. Just, you know... keep the pants up, Trojans.


Trojan Marching Band in the B1G

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Welcome brothers and sisters
    (17 votes)
  • 33%
    Sunglasses aren’t necessary for Midwestern permacloud
    (34 votes)
  • 14%
    Will the Spartan Marching Band bring a Trojan horse to LA?
    (15 votes)
  • 4%
    I like moons
    (5 votes)
  • 7%
    Bunch of rogue jerks, and I’m going to tell you why in the comments
    (8 votes)
  • 21%
    The Band is fine, but I still don’t want expansion
    (22 votes)
101 votes total Vote Now

With all the chaos of the past two days, I’m going to forego the Pre-Game show this week.


Plenty of shows for the past two weeks, including one that just missed the cut-off two weeks ago. Rules for scoring are here.

Win: University of Minnesota Marching Band (+12), Oct. 1st “Latin Hits”

Oh Gophers, you know the way into my heart. Opening with a strong rendition of “El Toro Caliente” and ending with “Malaguena”, Minnesota gives us two of my absolute all-time favorite arrangements for Marching Band. “El Toro” sounds particularly good in this set with some bright high trumpet licks and good percussion. Unlike others in the conference, the Gopher Color Guard seems to like to break out the rifles for a fair number of performances, which I think is fantastic. They always look sharp when added to halftime. The Gophers do include a performance of “Bruno” (a popular selection this week with three bands performing it - must be the publisher special for 2022) and ?“Dead Zone 22”? and then finish with alumni for a Park N’ Bark Malaguena.

I do have this to say... the announcer needs to shut the hell up when they’re playing “Malaguena”. I can’t hear a damn thing he is saying, anyway, and you do not cover up that kind of music with constant PA interruption! It seriously almost cost the Gophers the win, but “El Toro” was so good and “Malaguena” still sounded great that I’m willing to overlook it. For scoring purposes, +3 bonus points for “Malaguena”.

Place (+6): University of Michigan Marching Band, Oct. 15th “A Night in New Orleans”

I mean, what can you say when you have Winton Marsalis joining you (I assume that is him opening on the trumpet - I’m not entirely sure)? Michigan joins up with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to feature New Orleans big band jazz tunes like “Feeling Good” and “Sing, Sing, Sing”, as well as funeral processionals like “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” and “When the Saints Come Marching In”.

This sound is absolutely outstanding. The guest ensemble is elite and the sound engineering is of very high quality to make sure they get appropriate featured. The band does a very good job in accompaniment as well. Everything flows together, the broader band adds accents without drowning out the feature group, and the sound is just so, so clean. Drill gets a bit basic at times, but is still a complete number of sets for college halftime show.

Needless to say, I came very close to giving this the Win this week, but a part of me feels like that would have been giving more of a win to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra than the University of Michigan Marching Band. I know I rewarded Illinois in the last column for pretty much doing the same thing, but Illinois didn’t have the same level of competition in the form of Minnesota’s Latin show. Still, I would not be surprised if this proves to be the fan favorite for this week, because it sounds fantastic.

Show (Tie):

Michigan State Spartan Marching Band (+4), Oct. 15th “Broadway”

The Spartans give us a variety of Broadway tunes, more from the modern era (I think the oldest they cited was 2008). All of these seem to be beyond my time paying attention to Broadway, so forgive me if I’m messing up songs versus the names of actual shows, but I was able to make out “Waving Through a Window”, “Waitress”, “Six”, and “Everybody Say Yeah”, amongst a few others. As usual, the arrangements are fantastic with a whole lot of musically interesting parts coming and going. Also as usual, the Spartans play it to perfection. There’s a really nice variety of sounds mixed in, some absolutely great horn licks, and really solid percussion throughout. Drill is complete and interesting.

Dang... the more I listen to this, the more I wonder if it should be placed higher, but then the whole Wolverine show just sounded so great, the Gophers really brought it for El Toro, and Purdue had a great show this week as well. Sometimes, the bands are so good that it’s really tough to pick a winner, but I hear a lot of things in this show that have made me respect the Spartans over the years, and this is a really, really high quality performance. Anyway, if you think I’m wrong, support the Spartans in the Reader’s Poll.

Purdue All-American Marching Band (+4), Oct. 15th “Tribute to Farmers”

Purdue gives us Copland’s “Hoedown”, BTS’s “Butter”, Lil’ Nax X’s “Old Town Road”, and a guitar / singer collaboration for “Here’s to the Farmer” by Luke Bryan. Great sound from the get-go, although it did pain me a bit to hear the (probably necessary) loss of some of the violin / fiddle notes from “Hoedown”. I really did like the arrangement of “Old Town Road” and think it’s fantastic that we have a theme show like this that features both a bit of country / pop crossover and a K-Pop tune - that’s a pretty original set that the staff came up for on this one.

I thought the accompanied finale sounded great as well... good band involvement, but good feature of the singer / guitarist. Overall, a very strong performance. I will note that my Copland bonus points were specifically reserved for “Appalachian Spring” and “Fanfare for a Common Man”, but I really should have included “Hoedown” in that mix.

Honorable Mention

Illinois Marching Illini (+3), Oct. 8th “Broadway”

Like Michigan earlier this year, Illinois added theater students to perform tunes like “No Business Like Show Business” and “Bruno”. I think the Band sounded very good for this show and the drill was sustained throughout in a way that I think sets it above a few of the later entries. However, maybe just because of microphone placement in this instance, but I’m guessing more due to the sound engineering, the voices got lost for the vast majority of the show. It might have been better if more of that came through. Still, a solid performance by the Illini.

Michigan State Spartan Marching Band (-2), Oct. 8th “Progressive Rock”

At first, I thought this was going to be mega points for MSU when the announcer said “Heavy Metal”, but then he clarified that he was talking about Progressive Rock. I generally don’t know much about the genre, but I know enough to know it’s not “Metal” (and most of the groups named are pretty much “meh” in my eyes). Unfortunately for the Spartans, they also felt the need to throw in Rush’s “YYZ”, which is godawful as a song and is a -5 point Rush reduction per the scoring rules.

All that said, the performance is of high quality and the drum line gets in their great Neil Peart moment at ~8:15 in the video. Technically, this is probably as good as the show I gave more points above, but sometimes the Spartans just pick the wrong theme for the wrong judge. This will probably be the only show all year to get both Honorable Mention and negative points.

Others Receiving Votes

Illinois Marching Illini (+2), Oct. 15th “Homecoming Alumni Show”

I heard “Black Cat”, “Old Time Rock N’ Roll”, and “Superstitious”. Almost entirely Park N’ Bark for the alumni, other than the traditional 3-in-1.

Indiana Marching Hundred (+4), Oct. 8th “50th Anniversary of the RedSteppers”

I wrote about it before, but this was a big step (pun intended) toward integrating women into Marching Bands. Congrats to the ladies on their success. Show featured various tunes with “Walk” or “Boots” in the title (“Walk this Way”, “Boots Were Made for Walkin’”, etc.) and the Hoosiers collect a +2 bonus for an Aerosmith tune.

(+2) October 15th, “The Music of BTS”

K-Pop! I hadn’t even heard of this group until I researched the Purdue entry above. Well played and fun show.

The Mighty Sound of Maryland (+2), Oct. 8th “Disney’s New Grooves”

Maryland gives us a variety of Disney Tunes, from some of their more recent animated movies. For those who haven’t been able to tell from my last few columns, I’ve really liked Maryland’s sound this year, and this show is right up there.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+2), Oct. 7th “Title IX”

Various tunes featuring women artists. Sounds great. However, can somebody tell me why they’re performing in T-Shirts rather than full uniforms? Did they get sopped from Hurricane Ian residual and trade them out at some point?

Did Not Play, Coach’s Decision

Many teams were on the road over the past two weeks and a few just haven’t posted videos. I know that Northwestern played a Bruno Mars alumni show for homecoming, which was a bit of a cop out because they use all three tunes in their stand music, anyway.

Reader’s Poll


Which show was your favorite?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Minnesota "Latin Hits"
    (16 votes)
  • 13%
    Michigan "A Night in New Orleans"
    (11 votes)
  • 6%
    Michigan State "Broadway"
    (5 votes)
  • 17%
    Purdue "Tribute to Farmers"
    (14 votes)
  • 10%
    Illinois "Broadway"
    (8 votes)
  • 2%
    Michigan State "Progressive Rock"
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Illinois "Homecoming Alumni Show" (anyone who picks this is probably an alum who just wants to vote for themselves)
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Indiana "50th Anniversary of the RedSteppers"
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Indiana "The Music of BTS"
    (0 votes)
  • 5%
    Maryland "Disney’s New Grooves"
    (4 votes)
  • 3%
    Rutgers "Title IX"
    (3 votes)
  • 18%
    How many times do we have to tell you... we’re not going to watch videos.
    (15 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now

Scoring Update

Well, gosh darn it, you folks agreed with me in the Reader’s Poll for the Illini “Boston Brass” show two weeks ago. I didn’t know if it would be too esoteric and thought that OSU’s “Shrek” would edge it out, which it almost did, but 24% still picked the Illini. I’m really curious to see where this week ends up, as I think three of the top four could all end up being the fan favorite.

Revised standings are as follows:

Constructor’s Cup Standings*

School Total
School Total
Ohio State 47
Michigan 42
Illinois 37
Purdue 34
Penn State 31
Minnesota 29
Michigan State 27
Maryland 21
Nebraska 19
Indiana 15
Iowa 15
Wisconsin 12
Rutgers 6
Northwestern 2
* Does not include this week’s Readers’ Poll

Performance Average Standings*

School Average
School Average
Iowa 7.50
Ohio State 6.71
Penn State 6.20
Illinois 6.17
Michigan 6.00
Purdue 5.67
Minnesota 4.83
Michigan State 4.50
Maryland 4.20
Indiana 3.00
Nebraska 2.38
Northwestern 2.00
Rutgers 2.00
Wisconsin 2.00
* Does not include this week’s Readers’ Poll

As I suspected, things have gotten more interesting in the overall standings. “Malaguena” did a lot for the Gophers and the extra three points from the Readers’ Poll keeps the Illini toward the top of both scoring tables, as well. There’s a bit of a pack emerging, but if you have one good show and get some of the bonus points, then it’s anyone’s game.