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Off Beat Empire: Golden Anniversaries

What is so special about 50 years?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Iowa State at Iowa

My apologies for missing last week. I had a health issue in the family and a surprise trip home to the Detroit area (everything’s fine, now).

I’m going to shine a spotlight on USC’s band sometime later this season, but my schedule has gotten a bit messed up (and will be again, next week) and I don’t have quite as much time as usual to do even half-assed research. Besides, I’m trying to psyche myself up to actually say good things about the only Marching Band thus far that has mooned Northwestern’s Marching Band and likes to wear really stupid helmets with shades… (it’s going to be tough to continue saying nice things about all bands after they join).

Instead, I’m going to take a moment and ask why Marching Bands are so obsessed with 50 year anniversaries. It was part of my intro to the season…the one thing I can count on every year is a slew of the same 50 year anniversary celebrations.

Now, some make sense… Title IX was a good topic to highlight this year. Maybe if WWII ended 50 years ago (like it did when I was in the Band, although we never did a show on that), that would be something to honor. But… pop culture 50 years later? I mean, I like classic rock, but it’s the music of my parents’ youth (actually, a little after), and I’m pretty old. How many folks are still quoting movies from the ‘70’s (OK, really bad example this year because of the Godfather, but that’s the exception and not the rule)?

Why do Marching Bands do that? Sure, there are plenty of blue hairs that come to conference games, but it seems like there are a lot more fans between 30-50 years old, they have their kids, and you’ve got a whole collection of students in attendance. Shouldn’t you play more to that audience? How many septuagenarians were really around when Iowa introduced the CamBus and how many folks really felt like celebrating that moment (OK, that was actually pretty awesome - I’m just undercutting all of my arguments today, aren’t I)?

I get that there’s 6-7 shows to fill over a season, and maybe the answer is just that they’re trying to add something for every generation. However, if you’re trying to keep things interesting for the Marching Band and crowd, it just seems like you would have more 10-25 year anniversary themes than 50. Yet, 50 is what we seem to get from every band, every year.

Anyway, I’m probably the only person on the planet who gets annoyed by these things after seeing the same show eight times, but it’s a lot of 50 years this-and-that every season, and wish that Bands would consider moving away from it when choosing their music.


Why 50 Years?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    It’s the music publishers. They’re looking for any excuse to sell an arrangement
    (6 votes)
  • 9%
    You are vastly under-estimating the portion of blue-hairs in the crowd
    (7 votes)
  • 43%
    You are vastly under-valuing the amount of money that senior citizens give to universities
    (32 votes)
  • 18%
    Directors are old and reliving their youth
    (14 votes)
  • 12%
    The early ‘70’s are the greatest times in American history, and should be celebrated forever
    (9 votes)
  • 8%
    Who cares. I’m now just waiting for the USC review
    (6 votes)
74 votes total Vote Now

Pre-Game of the Week

This week, the Purdue All-American Marching Band is our random pre-game feature. The show is from Sept. 24th against FAU.

  • Unfortunately, only an abbreviated run-on from the sideline. Stadiums without tunnels just aren’t the same.
  • Great fanfare. Nice little take on conference flags (just using basic school colors).
  • What exactly is a national award-winning Twirler? Never mind... I might not want to know.
  • Nice drum major back bend.
  • What are you doing on drill? Some random group shift to... Oh! Boilermaker Express. OK... a little different not getting there with straight lines / snaps, but everybody likes choo-choos pulling out of the station!
  • Man, that is a big band... and spread out. That leaves a lot of ground to cover on the transitions, though. I prefer sharper snaps for pre-game, but that’s just me.
  • Opponent fight song is always the right move.
  • You have a special bass drum? You’ve never mentioned it, before...
  • What poem do you recite if you’re Canadian? Can anybody from Minnesota give us the answer?
  • I can’t quite see if the show ends in a tunnel for the team to come through, or if they just come off the field. One of our Purdue fans will have to fill in the blanks.

Overall, a classic Big Ten pre-game with plenty of energy, sound, and a certain questionably ranked bass drum.

Halftime Shows

As a reminder, scoring rules are here.

Yes, I missed a week, but that just means that two weeks get combined into one.

Win: The Illinois Marching Illini (+9), Sept. 22nd “Boston Brass”

This one is going to be controversial and I’ll admit that I struggled picking the top candidates this week as well.

The Illini give us... I’m not even sure what to call it... some form of jazz influence... performing with the Boston Brass, a brass quintet that has apparently been performing since 1986 and tours the country. Honestly, I hadn’t heard of them before, but if they found their way into performing with the Illini, they must carry some weight in musical circles.

Why did I like it and place it in first? Because it’s musically interesting. There is some real depth to the arrangement, some cool licks, and some technically difficult sections. The Illini kept things smooth and steady throughout, despite going through some interesting rhythmic shifts. The Boston Brass were interesting, although the mic balance was a bit off and we got more Tuba than we probably should have. Drill was OK - not special, but enough for the show.

Why do I think this might not get many votes in the Readers’ Poll this week? Well, there aren’t very many crowd-pleasing moments in it. The music is interesting, but it’s slower than most halftime tunes and doesn’t really have the big, bold punches. It’s a technical show showing off musical prowess (which, I reward), but not really intended for the general viewing audience.

Place: The Ohio State Buckeye Marching Band (+6), Oct. 1st “Shrek”

The Buckeyes give us a show featuring some of the pop hits that found their way into the original Shrek movie, like “Holding out for a Hero” and “All-Star”. The show is, as usual, very entertaining with the drill and very cleanly played.

I’m sure that a lot of folks are going to look at this and look at the Illinois show and probably feel like this is better. However, the sound is just soooooooo flat. I’m feeling like these aren’t very good arrangements. I’m hearing basically three parts to every song... a trumpet melody, a middle to baritone counter-melody, and a low voice line, but there’s not much variation in those voices. There’s no screaming, high, bright trumpets coming out. There’s no depth to the middle parts or give-and-take between horns and trombones. The bass line just feels like one bass guitar throughout. I don’t know... maybe it’s just me, but it’s hard to get excited about that sound, and it’s a bit of a shame because there were some tunes in here that could have been more.

Still, like I said, it is executed cleanly and there are crowd-pleasing moments through the drill, so this gets the silver for the week.

Show: The Mighty Sound of Maryland (+4), Oct. 1st “Caribbean Takeover”

Includes Caribbean themed tunes like “Hot, Hot, Hot” and “Like Ah Boss” with a hype man on the PA system throughout and a pretty significant pit percussion section. A different sound (and a fun one at that) than we normally get from halftime shows, but mostly Park N’ Bark Shake It as well.

I originally just had this in Others Receiving Votes, but after listening a few times to the OSU and Illinois shows, I have to admit that the sound here (and the arrangements) are pretty darn good. It’s clean, there’s some complexity, and there’s some good percussion variety coming from both the drum line and pit. If I closed my eyes and just listened to the shows, I feel like this is the one that I would enjoy the most, even with Hurricane force winds blowing into the microphone.

Again, the drill is a bit of a let-down, but sound can go a long way with me and I think this is worthy of some special recognition.

Honorable Mention: The Ohio State Buckeye Marching Band (+1), Sept. 24th “Grease at 50”

Speaking of Golden Anniversaries, the Buckeyes give us the 50th anniversary of Grease debuting on Broadway. Again, lots of fun drill, clean execution, and I though the first arrangement was actually pretty good with some nice licks and variability. However, the rest of the show just didn’t seem to sustain the same musical energy.

With regard to scoring... from my intro earlier this season:

Anything else debut 50 years ago? Oh crap… Grease on Broadway. That will be a -2, because you’re the one I don’t want… ooh...ooh...ooh…… honey (RIP Olivia Newton-John).

Blame my older sister, her control of the TV far too many days after school, and a bootleg VHS copy from HBO, Buckeyes.

Others Receiving Votes

Michigan Wolverines Marching Band (+2), Sept. 24th “About Damn Time”

Opening with a nod to Title IX and 50 years of women in the Marching Band, this is mostly an alumni band day with a mix of women themed tunes and traditional Michigan post-game performances, like “Hawaiian War Chant”. Sounds good, but not enough drill to really place any higher.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Marching Band (+2), Sept. 17th “Dragons”

This got to me a bit too late to include a couple of weeks ago. Kind of a cool theme, though including music from TV / Movies like “Game of Thrones”, “How to Train Your Dragon”, and ?“Shang Chi”? I really like that musical sequence “Test Drive” from “How to Train Your Dragon”, so I was happy that Minnesota included it.

Nebraska Cornhuskers Marching Band (+2), Oct. 1st “Throwback Middle School Dance”

Nice moves, Cornhuskers. My middle school dances were more like hands on her hips (or, probably more like shoulders) and slow-dance. Oh, never mind... you had that, too! Still, out of all choices for a slow dance, how could you not play “Lady in Red”?!

Purdue All-American Marching Band (+2), Sept. 24th “Alumni Band”

Mostly Park N’ Bark for the old folks who joined in. I will say, though, that Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” is a great tune for a Marching Band arrangement, and it’s nice to listen to Purdue’s version in the middle of the show.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Marching Band (N/A), Sept. 24th “Band Day”

I can’t tell if Rutgers played an opening show before the high schools joined or not. If I see later video that they did, I’ll upgrade to two points, but for now I’m just including the “Band Day” portion that we do see (which is considered a non-entry). I will say, though, that this really sounds good. Maybe it’s because it’s at field level or they’ve got the pit percussion right there, but I like what I’m hearing - very clean, arrangement seems interesting... I kind of wish I had the whole show.

Wisconsin Badgers Marching Band (+2), Oct. 1st “Back to the ‘80’s”

Fun show featuring tunes like “Take on Me”, “Sweet Dreams”, and “All Night Long” (I think), among others.

Did Not Play Coach’s Decision

I think Michigan State and Indiana were on the road, nothing popped up for Penn State (they might have had to cancel due to downpour), still nothing from Northwestern since Ireland, and I haven’t seen any new Iowa shows since CamBus.

Reader’s Choice


Your Favorite this Week

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Illinois: Boston Brass
    (19 votes)
  • 20%
    Ohio State: Shrek
    (16 votes)
  • 8%
    Maryland: Caribbean Takeover
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    Ohio State: Grease at 50 (Stop voting, Sheri! I want to watch cartoons!)
    (2 votes)
  • 7%
    Michigan: About Damned Time
    (6 votes)
  • 6%
    Minnesota: Dragons
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Nebraska: Throwback Middle School Dance
    (2 votes)
  • 7%
    Purdue: Alumni Band
    (6 votes)
  • 6%
    Wisconsin: Back to the ‘80’s
    (5 votes)
  • 13%
    All shows should be 50 year anniversary shows, just to piss you off
    (11 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now

Scoring Update

Michigan (my pick for winner) and Maryland got a fair amount of love in the poll last week, but the favorite was the Buckeyes with their Top Ten: Ohio Stadium show with 22% of the vote. The Buckeyes get another three points. Updated 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

Still a lot of time left in the season, but with OSU getting more home games thus far and having a great YouTube game, they’re pulling ahead in the Constructors. I’m sure Michigan State will challenge for the top once they get a few more home games, though. Illinois only has one entry thus far, but has made it count in the average performance department. Maryland is my surprise thus far.

Next week, I’m going to be returning temporarily to my Yooper (partial) homeland and won’t be able to update the column. I always welcome a guest reviewer, if anybody feels up to it. Otherwise, we’ll just pick up in another two weeks.