The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 26: Why Are We Still Here? Just to Suffer?

Plink.  Plink.  Plink.   Behind the wall in Hal’s dorm room, water dripped.  No matter how many times he tried to block it out–plugging his ears, playing white noise from his phone, summoning Cthulu, crying into his textbook–it persisted.


Why am I studying anymore?  This is literally the final day of finals week.  There’s literally no reason to be on campus.  Hcould have left last week were it not for these dang tests.  It didn’t matter anyway; his GPA was going to be a flaming dumpster fire no matter how well he did on today’s exam.


“Why are we still here?” he croaked, flipping the page of his book with tater tot-crusted fingers, “just to suffer?  I can still feel the heat of the sun…taste the freedom of the wind upon my face…and yet, here I am, alone.  Alone but for the silence of self-reflection and tater tots.  After being up for 69 straight hours, I have finally snapped.  This, all of this, is just manufactured to induce torment as punishment for mentioning my love of math on my application.  Well, that love of math is no more.  The only thing I know I can cling to is the presence of pain, the absoluteness of agony, tater tots–that’s three things, but I can’t count very high.  Anyway, all I see when I glimpse into the future is pure torture designed to throw a wrench in my plans to ever feel an inkling of happiness for as long as I shall live.


“I’ve done problem after problem in this book, this dang book, and none of it has yet to make any sense.  I might as well try to learn how to dance the Macarena for all the good this is doing me–this isn’t even that relevant to my major.  I am only here by the sheer will of the university and the professor who schemes and plots and plots and schemes to bring about my downfall.  Not even tater tots will tie me to this place, not when the bustling of freed students fleeing their cramped doors has kept me up all day after nights spent attempting to study for this blasted test, a test that will amount to nothing in the end.  The only thing I gain from this is being one step closer to my next plate of tater tots, and then–even then–it amounts to nothing.”


Hal picked up his textbook and held it aloft, stroking its problem-ridden pages with a hatred that could dim a thousand suns.  “Tonight,” he hissed, “you are going to Oh*o where you belong.”


We have survived finals week!  Probably.  Maybe.  Well…it’s been fun, everyone!  Not sure if this is my ultimate or penultimate post of the week, but either way, The Rise of the Band Geeks will be back!

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 25: They’re Called Rehearsals, Not Camps

“They’re called rehearsals, Hal!  Not camps!”  A snare drummer, Billy Bob, twirled his drumstick with his ring finger before flinging it in the air and catching it with his pinky.


Hal grinned mischievously and waggled his reversible stuffed octopus.  “I know.”


It was an inside joke:  the drumline summer rehearsals were not camps because camps were optional, but rehearsals weren’t.  Of course, the drumline members screamed this phrase in a jocular manner whenever said rehearsals were mentioned, or when someone either accidentally or deliberately misspoke.


“Where’d you get that?”  Franklin F. Franklin jabbed his finger toward Hal’s octopus.


“Bruh, I just came her to have a good time and I honestly feel so attacked right now.”  Hal cradled his octopus, surreptitiously flipped it so it showed its amgery face instead of its happi face.


Billy Bob flung his stick into the air again.  He caught it with his thumbnail and flicked the digit around so that his stick mimicked a figure 8 motion.  “Pretty sure he’s had it since last fall.  You know, when everyone got a stuffed octopus…”


“Oh.  Alright.  Carry on.”  Franklin sidled away, blowing air through his mouth in a horrid attempt to whistle.


“Why are we even here?” Hal questioned.  He stroked his poor amgery octopus and wondered why he hadn’t named the plushie Franklin.  “We don’t even have practice.”


“I don’t…actually know.”  Billy Bob frowned.  “In fact, I don’t even know how I got here.  Or what I’m doing.”  As he spoke, he balanced the drumstick on his hangnail.  “You?”


“I live in the supply closet.”  Hal shrugged.




“Oh, nothing.”


Now, Billy Bob had the stick perched on the bridge of his nose.  Despite what gravity and common sense might have you think, the stick did not fall.  “I…can’t say I know when my finals are either.  Or what classes I’m taking this semester.  Or next semester.”


Hal knitted his eyebrows together.  He, too, had had the same experience; he felt like his high school career was a blip in his mind, and everything before that was darkness.  “Say, do you ever go anywhere other than your dorm and the band hall?”


“Not…really?”  Somehow, his drumstick was now vertical as it pressed a divot into Billy Bob’s nose.  “I don’t know what the world beyond this band hall is.  I think…”  He trailed off, and the drumstick fell at long last to the ground.


“Hal, I think we’re fictional characters.”



The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 24: We Are Not a Cult (Paragraph 3 will Shock You!!)


Professor Ross Eforp

English 269.001




We are not a cult.

This, I can promise with absolute certainty.  They say in statistics that you cannot be certain and everything is subjective, but this is not statistics; this is a blog.  So I can confirm based on my own experience that marching band is not, and never will be, a cult.

What?  You think calling the band director “Fearless Leader” has a cult-y vibe to it?  That is just a coincidence!  These things happen in life–it’s just probability!  See, we respect the Fearless Leader, and the Fearless Leader leads us fearlessly from atop a ladder that has no back rail.  It takes guts to climb that thing, so it is only fair to admire the Fearless Leader’s dauntlessness with this impeccable adjective.

I’m serious!  We are not a cult!  We do not all wear the same thing and secretly identify each other as though through some secret code.  It’s not like we all got comfy beanies or show shirts or anything!  No, we just…got those from the M Den!  Yeah!  No, we don’t get cool swag or anything…our status as student athletes is (wrongfully) disputed.  So how could we possibly be detecting other band kids by their beanies, bags, or t-shirts?

Besides, cults don’t have their own theme songs.  We sure do!  Because…we’re a band…so–uh, yeah.  Songs are what we do.  But do cults follow around stuffed octopi and say “Uprising?” to one another?  No!  Then again, I’m not in a cult, so I don’t know what a cult is like–heh…heh…..heh……………

In conclusion, marching band is definitely not a cult, and this is definitely an essay that would have earned me a 5 on the AP Lang exam.  Indeed, this is a bastion of academia, a beacon of integrity!  Everything said in this can be confirmed by reputable sources such as Wikipedia and Twitter.  It’s legit!

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 23: Drum Cheers

Continuing my series on fun game tunes, today’s post focuses specifically on–wait for it–drum cheers, aka the cool stuff the drumline plays in the stands.


Cheer 1.  What makes Cheer 1 so great is its versatility:  it’s an offensive cheer, a defensive cheer, and, in hockey games, what the drumline plays when fans shout “Drop the Puck!” at the refs.  All three variations (that I know of) consist of distinctive yet simple arm motions.  Cheer 1 is very short and relatively simple, but it gets the job done in terms of hype.


Cheer 4/Raise the Roof.  What happened to Cheers 2-3?  Well, they are not Cheer 4, that’s what.  Cheer 4 is also known as Raise the Roof, and it is played after major plays (I think; don’t quote me on this) in games.  Cheer 4 is the one where people go “Oooooooh” and pump up their hands (as though they’re raising a roof) to a rhythm from the drumline cadence.  It is often combined with something called C1, which starts with the winds and segues into Cheer 4.


Cheer 6.  Cheer 6 is essentially the rhythm of “Let’s Go Blue” in 7/8, which evidently gives it a “disco” feel; indeed, the band shouts the name of whoever is on the ladder (or the name of another staff member) with the moniker “Disco” during the rests of the cheer.  (For instance, when the Fearless Leader is on the ladder, we yell, “DISCO FEARLESS LEADER!”)


Cheer 8.  I mentioned this in my recap of The Game the Saturday after we beat OSU as a cheer that is played when victory is in our sights.  The dance includes the whip, the nae-nae, and doing the thing where you walk backward and forward while rotating your arms in front of you before turning around with a “Yeeeeeee-haw.”  This is always a great cheer to play, and nothing beat hearing Cheer 8 called on November 27th–except, of course, the moment we won.


Cheer 10.  The rhythm of Cheer 10 resembles a familiar tune whose title is alluded to in the accompanying dance, which mimics taking a shot in basketball.  It’s got a lively rhythm and is, in my opinion, not played frequently enough.


Beyoncé.  The rhythm of this is inspired by/is a Beyoncé song, reminiscent of a Beyoncé-affiliated show that happened before my tenure.  It is in the opening line of the drumline cadence and involves a dance routine that I assume is also inspired by Beyoncé.


Sailor.  Yes, this is the name of a piece in the cadence–the ending tag, to be specific.  Sailor gets its distinction by having a cymbal crash on the “e”  of three every odd measure.  It sounds like duh-duh-restDAH, duh-duh, DAH, with the final note being a simple quarter note.


Eights.  What drumline cheer repertoire would be complete without the most basic drumline warmup known to mankind?  The Michigan Drumline’s repertoire, of course.  They do not need to play Eights in the stands because they have all the epic cheers listed above.


If you or a loved one has played Eights as a drum cheer, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 22: Uprising?

Deviating from last week’s exploration of Michigan Traditionals, today’s post focuses more on songs made popular in more recent years.  A rock song played over the stadium loudspeakers or a pop song heralded by the band can carry just as much emotional weight while being relatable to the students, who would much rather listen to Seven Nation Army than Varsity.


Seven Nation Army.  This adrenaline-inducing 21st century anthem emerged in 2003, making it about as old as the younger end of this year’s freshman class.  Its solid angst-ridden lyrics are largely ignored in favor of “Oooh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ooooooh-ooooooooh,” which, to be fair, is the tune that makes the song so popular–but you’ll never hear them at a sports game because of the aforementioned “Oh”-ing.  This song was played after we beat TTDS at The Game while the field was being stormed, so it is also a victory anthem.


Pump it Up.  This song by Endor has very, very straightforward lyrics:  “You got to pump it up / Don’t you know? Pump it up,” but its significance at Michigan home games cannot be understated.  After The Trio, the stadium (whether it be Yost or The Big House) blasts this song, and everyone repeats the mantra while high-fiving each other and basking in the glory of our team having scored a point.  Unsurprisingly, it was played multiple times on November 27th.


Uprising.  The question mark in the title is on purpose.  After this song was played during the third halftime show of the season, the Fearless Leader started asking the band if they were ready to play Uprising in the stands with a simple question:  “Uprising?”  It became a running joke for the remainder of regular season (I can’t testify to anything after November 27th).  It’s enough of a power anthem that it warrants a spot as a stand tune next year in my 100% unbiased opinion.


Blues Brothers.  Ah, yes, the Blues Brothers theme!  With an amazing, peppy melody and a fun dance, you can’t go wrong (unless you get the moves to the dance wrong).  It’s quite a shame that this happens during commercial breaks, because this is about the only time I am doing something that passes as dancing.  (The Cha-Cha Slide does not count because it isn’t really played in the stadium.)  Also, the final bit where we cheer and shout, “I QUIT!” is an incredible way to unleash pent-up tension.


Mr. Brightside.  From the moment you read the first sentence, you knew this was coming.  It had to.  No list about modern band/sports game anthems would be complete without the punk rock gem by The Killers released in September 2003.  After all, nothing quite makes your day like a stadium of 100,000 people belting out the verse, bridge, and chorus to a song that, for its upbeat tempo and catchy melody, is really depressing when you read the lyrics.  But there’s something magical about shouting the (hopefully correct) words and feeling your voice getting swept away by the sheer number of people who are screaming around you.  The anticipation builds as you reach the line, “But it’s just the price I pay,” where the audio cuts out and everybody finishes the chorus in a thunderous mass of shout-singing.  Even when it was 30 degrees and snowing, the rendition of Mr. Brightside on November 27th was impeccable–especially since, once the field was stormed, the DJ played Mr. Brightside and solidified it as a modern Michigan victory jam.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 21: Traditionals

The Michigan Marching Band has a storied history accompanied by songs so ingrained in our collective psyche that we dare not go one football game without playing them at least once.  Such songs, aptly named “Traditionals” because they are, well, traditional band tunes, feature some of the most iconic music ever to grace Planet Earth (The Victors), as well as a couple others (Varsity).  Below is a brief description for every traditional I can think of at the moment, complete with a 100% unbiased analysis that contains no opinion whatsoever.


We will, of course, start with The M Fanfare.


The M Fanfare.  Pregame always begins with this amazing composition.  Drawn out in dramatic slowness compared to The Victors, the M Fanfare ushers forth a resounding burst of maize and blue from the hearts of all who behold it.  It also features the Drum Major’s iconic back bend during football pregame, and as such is accompanied by loud cheering.


The Victors (As Written).  The glorious march by Louis Elbel is a glorious rendition of everything glorious about the University of Michigan, particularly the glorious victories of Michigan Football.  It begins, as all marches should, with a trumpet fanfare and cymbal crashes, then moves through spacetime in thrilling waves comparable to the adrenaline rush one gets when thinking about Michigan’s countless triumphs over TTDS.  Loud, proud, and a definite workout, the unabridged version of The Victors inspires awe in audiences and the buildup of lactic acid in band geeks’ muscles.  Of course, every single note is a gift from God, and together they produce what can only be likened to the music of angels.


The Victors (Pregame).  The version of Elbel’s march played every pregame is not the same as As Written.  Rather, it is shortened, with some repeats taken out to give the band geeks some illusion of mercy after doing entries onto the field.  It is just as glorious as the above, of course, and is always greeted by resounding cheering from the hundred thousand or more Michigan fans soaking up every holy note.   The sound delay coming from the opposite end of the stadium isn’t so bad–as long as you don’t get distracted by it while playing.


The Victors (Trio.)  The chorus of The Victors, the trio is nearly always played at warp speed because its emergence is always preluded by a touchdown, field goal, and, at the end of the game, the W.  The trio is a pure lightning bolt of awesomeness, particularly when the victory is against TTDS for the first time in a decade.


Varsity.  The song played in pregame right after The Victors.  It primarily serves as a transition from the opposing team’s fight song to Let’s Go Blue in football pregame.


Let’s Go Blue.  Groovy, upbeat, and brimming with maize and blue, Let’s Go Blue is a short and wonderful tune that engages fans both during pregame and in the stands.  Broken into two parts based on the trumpet part, Let’s Go Blue can be played in even shorter segments between plays during games.


Temptation & War Chant.  I had to mention this here.  It’s just–it’s just so beautiful.  From the first note, it’s bound for greatness:  listening to it alone is incredible, but playing it transcends the mortal realm and temporarily elevates you to a deity so that you can finish the song without dying of exhaustion.  And good Lord, is it fun to play.


The Yellow and Blue.  Hearing the alma mater without the Trio and at least one set of entries immediately following it feels wrong after doing this after almost every game during marching season.  When you sway and lock arms while singing the lyrics, you must be prepared to play the Trio when you’re in band practice or postgame. If you listen to The Yellow and Blue in an isolated situation, your skin begins to itch with the desire to play the Trio, but alas, ’tis not meant to be.