Scramble bands.
October 7, 2002 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Scramble bands. The Ivy League (as well as other U.S. universities, typically with bad football teams) have a notorious tradition of marching bands that don't march. Columbia's band recently got in hot water (again) for a swipe at the Catholic church during a Fordham game. Did you play in the marching band at your college? More importantly, did you play a real instrument? Me, I blew bubbles and played the squeegee mop at Columbia.
posted by mkultra (28 comments total)
The actual joke, btw, was "Fordham tuition going down like an altar boy". Crude, yes, but I thought it was pretty funny. The president of CU has since apologized to Fordham, but the band remains obstinate. I, along with at least one other lurker here, was a "miscie" (short for "miscellaneous", the non-musical section of the band) in the early 90's, and was personally involved in writing jokes for halftime shows that were crasser than that. Any scramble band alums got some good stories?
posted by mkultra at 9:27 AM on October 7, 2002

One of my fraternity brothers was in the marching band at Yale for a couple of years. Every year they do something strange (at homecoming, I think?) One year they played pong on the field - the band divided up into two squads for the paddles, and my brother rode his unicycle across the field between the two "paddles". The other quasi-stunt I remember him telling me was his arrangement of a song called 1-4-5-4 for the band. It was called this because it was a medley of about 20-30 pop songs that all use the 1-4-5-4 chord progression. None of the titles come to mind except "Lola", but you'd know them if you heard them.
posted by starvingartist at 9:28 AM on October 7, 2002


"Michael Huijon, a member of Stanford's band, said that when the band went to a brewery festival in China as part of a cultural exchange mission, members were taught a single phrase in Chinese: 'Excuse me, I was wrong. I'd like to go to my consulate now.'"

This is almost as good as MIT Hacks.
posted by SpecialK at 9:30 AM on October 7, 2002

I'm guessing "Louie Louie" was probably in the 1-4-5-4 medley. Along with "Hang on Sloopy", "Twist and Shout", "La Bamba" ... that would have been fun to listen to (one time).

I played trombone in a mostly serious marching band (high school). We did form a shaving cream can once (fire extinguisher for the foam) and during practice, marched down Hubbard Street and up an entrance ramp onto the Route 17 expressway. (not much traffic at that time). Tame stuff. We always got good seats at football games.

I even went to summer band camp. Sorry, no "this one time" stories to tell.
posted by kurumi at 9:36 AM on October 7, 2002

The best thing the marching band at my school did was the "Longest Cheer in the World". It was your standard "Gimme an A! Gimme a B! Gimme a C!" call and response cheer, but we spelled out the name of our school:


People hate that cheer.
posted by starvingartist at 9:37 AM on October 7, 2002

The comment "got blown out of proportion," he said.

posted by yhbc at 9:42 AM on October 7, 2002

When I was in the Brown Band, we were famous for our buttons (scroll down to Holy Cross, those are classic) and being the world's first and only ice skating band.

We've been banned permanently from Holy Cross, Army, and I believe a few others.

We were famous for a lot of other things too, but if I told you I'd have to kill you.
posted by PrinceValium at 9:45 AM on October 7, 2002

Wow, finally logic to their nonsense. When I went to Penn, my friends and I used to watch in bewilderment at the Scatter Bands. The acoustics in our stadium were atrocious and as a result, we could never hear the punchlines from the PA announcer. They always looked like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off. In fact, they were the butt of our jokes for many a game.

Actually, we were just bitter and annoyed at the band because they were always situated right behind the student section. They were so loud; we couldn't even hear ourselves think, (that was more a basketball than football complaint though).
posted by gwong at 9:49 AM on October 7, 2002

My favorite marching stunt was a scene in the Gene Shepard classic,
Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss

I won't spoil it for anyone unfamiliar with the movie, other than to say
it was Doug Kenney's bit in Animal House times ten.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:52 AM on October 7, 2002

starvingartist, you've obviously never heard the CUMB spell out
posted by mkultra at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2002

I played bass drum in Fordham's marching band my freshman year. That year, we played a medley of movie tunes for the football half-time shows: the themes from "Mission: Impossible," "Jurassic Park," and the "Star Wars Saga." Ah, memories.
posted by fredosan at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2002

This is almost as good as MIT Hacks.
Not even close.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:17 AM on October 7, 2002

Soon after the Louisiana Superdome was completed, the Rice band did a tribute to the Astrodome (Rice home field at the time), calling it "The World's Smallest Domed Stadium". Judge Roy was not pleased.

My favorite version of the "Gimme an A" cheer comes from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (AKA SD Tech). They do the "Gimme an M, Gimme an I", etc. to spell out Mines, then at the "What's that spell?" part, answer with "Tech!" I heard this during a visit there and almost fell out of the stands laughing...maybe you had to be there
posted by joaquim at 10:21 AM on October 7, 2002

starving artist, I think you've just scared me from going to any CWRU games now that I'm here for grad school.

On other unrelated idiocies, the worst memories I have from the University of Rochester is the infamous cheer.

'We Are'
'U R'
'We Are'
'U R'
Depending on how peppy the cheerleaders (and the pep band which I was in) this could go on endlessly.
posted by stryder at 10:22 AM on October 7, 2002

'We Are'
'U R'

I was actually very fond of one of Fordham's cheers: "F-U! F-U! F-U! F-U!..." It was like swearing at the other team without actually saying the words. :)
posted by fredosan at 10:40 AM on October 7, 2002

Well, I was in a Drum and Bugle Corps, which is its own weird subculture and also has the same SCA-Routiers dynamic (well, we're better than a marching band because...). I did play a real instrument, but it's surprising the number of people who hear that I was in a marching band and assume I was one of the "flag girls".
posted by kate_fairfax at 10:59 AM on October 7, 2002

I'm surprised no one has said "This one time at band camp..." yet.
posted by spungfoo at 11:04 AM on October 7, 2002

I retain my longstanding affection for UCI's infamous "zot, zot" cheer (for the anteater in the comic strip B.C.). But I'd dearly like to know what the cheer is for UC Santa Cruz, which has a rather, er, unique mascot. ("Squish!"?)
posted by thomas j wise at 11:22 AM on October 7, 2002

I was in the Ball State marching band and pep band for a couple of years. My favorite cheer was "Ball U! -clap clap- Ball U!" repeat, repeat, repeat...
posted by internal at 11:25 AM on October 7, 2002

this one time at band camp...

the Marching Lumberjacks of Humboldt State University are a lot of fun. they play every year at the Clam Beach Run which is run partially on the beach, and their big finale involves marching out into the ocean up to their waists and sometimes necks, never missing a beat. seemingly tame, but the water temp up here is in the mid-to-high 40's.
posted by modge at 11:28 AM on October 7, 2002

I love stuff like this! It (almost) makes me wish I went to a "real" college.

Plus, band geeks are sexy.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:29 AM on October 7, 2002

hey now, nothing wrong with us "flag girls"!
posted by saralovering at 11:29 AM on October 7, 2002

i suppose this conversation is remiss in that no one yet has mentioned The Extra Action Marching Band, which I would, i guess, describe as a "scramble band without a school" (or maybe read this review.)

I've had the good fortune to see them at a number of events, and even played concurrently with them this last fourth of july.

they for the most part, wonderful drunkards with brass (whether intoxicated or not), running from one locale to another, rocking "freebird" on the bart, or "louie louie" in the middle of an intersection, piling into bars and screaming for people to "show us your man-titties!" through megaphones. They generally annoy and harrangue the public, and i must say, i'm quite fond of them.

as is david byrne of the talking heads, so, hey, they come recommended. if you live in or near the san francisco bay area at all, do yourself a favor and check into their calendar of events (or just keep an eye out -- they do a lot of unannounced stuff), and show up prepared to get, uh, well, extra-action-ized (byo-brown bag, typically).
posted by fishfucker at 11:54 AM on October 7, 2002

I don't think there is a college band that operates further from the scramble band model than the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band. Well, it's less a band, and more like boot camp with instruments. But with moves like these, it helps to be disciplined. Both my parents and my brother attended school at Texas A&M, and I grew up watching them perform at many a football game.

All of the tricks that they perform are amazing, but none are better than the four way cross. Here's a page full of images and video, including my personal favorite.
posted by thewittyname at 12:14 PM on October 7, 2002

Thanks for this link, mkultra; I really enjoyed it.

In 1980, the Stanford band was put on a year-long hiatus after it deployed into the shapes of a spotted owl and a chain saw on the field at the University of Oregon, a move that offended both local loggers and conservationists.

That would seem to be the ultimate scramble -- getting both sides of an issue mad at you.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:33 PM on October 7, 2002

DOnt forget the Yale Precision Marching Band a glorious group of fools who barely march but are always comical.
posted by pjgulliver at 1:53 PM on October 7, 2002

I must confess here and now there has been only one marching band to ever affect my life. It happened one day after some obscure footbowl game years ago between the Georgia Bulldogs and Wisconsin Badgers.

The game was forgettable despite my team's thrashing of the Badgers, but we had heard Wisconsin fans like to party win or lose without even leaving the stadium. The Wisconsin marching band and their fans put on the best fifth quarter party I've ever attended. We only thought we had the party school until we ran into those people.
posted by oh posey at 2:44 PM on October 7, 2002

I can't comment for college marching bands, but I can tell about my high school band. Largest band in the state. Of course, the state IS Wyoming, but still. Any band that has 150 people in a town of 6000, and basically consists of 1/4 of the entire school is large. Our band director loved doing very usual things. My favorite was when we marched in the dark. We all had little flashlights strapped to our legs, and we looked like glowing frogs.
posted by stoneegg21 at 8:27 PM on October 7, 2002

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