2020 HONDA BATTLE OF THE BANDS: Performance Analysis & Rankings

We were on location at the 2020 Honda Battle Of The Bands and recorded all commentary for this post live! This year I can honestly say ALL THE BANDS WERE GREAT! However, for the sake of this post, I will be ranking the bands and sharing my opinion on each performance. My opinion is not incontestable and yours isn’t either. Through fact based commentary and debate it is my hope that the average fan will develop an “ear” for great musicianship and an “eye” for precision in marching which will raise the bar across the band world. Our readers will come to understand the fundamental standards of music and how to apply them to varying styles and approaches, which will make them informed commentators, critics, and reviewers of band performances. With that being said… Let’s get it!…

SCORING:

SCALE: ( 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0)

MUSICAL EFFECTIVENESS (4pts)

[Style & Character, Interpretation, Spirit & Intensity, Use of Percussion]

MARCHING (3pts)

[Confidence & bearing, Body Communication, Intervals & Spacing, Drill difficulty]

GENERAL EFFECT (3pts)

[Visual & Musical Effect, Continuity, Creativity & Showmanship, Use of Auxiliary]


RANKINGS:

1st – NORTH CAROLINA A&T – 10/10

2nd – FLORIDA A&M UNIV. – 9.5/10

3rd – JACKSON STATE UNIV. – 9.0/10

4th – PRAIRIE VIEW A&M UNIV. – 8.5/10

5th – BENEDICT COLLEGE  – 8.0/10

5th – GRAMBLING STATE UNIV. – 8.0/10

6th – HAMPTON UNIV.  – 7.5/10

7th – TENNESSEE STATE UNIV. – 7.0/10

PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS:

Bands are listed below in alphabetical order.

(Shout out to ShowtimeWeb for always providing premium footage. #Salute)


BENEDICT COLLEGE  – 8.0/10

OPENING/DRILL – Lines remained straight as the band marched onto the field. The DM Intro was well played, balanced, and powerful. For a DM Intro/Fanfare it was a little long and lost some of its initial excitement though executed fairly well. Great song choice on the opening drill “What about your friends”. I noticed the “dip” on 1,3,5,&7. I like it! Needs to be uniformed across the band, meaning everyone needs to do the maneuver with the same energy and excitement. Also when marching endzone to endzone make sure lines are straight and everyone’s guiding right.

FLAG FEATURE – I’m always impressed by this group! The level of execution and overall “togetherness” is phenomenal. Always a treat to watch! The routines were well choreographed. I especially enjoyed the opening sequence with one girl flipping over the poles. Very creative! Great job on the tosses with no drops… as usual. The ending was spectacular! Great job ladies!

DANCE FEATURE – Very nice look, loved the uniforms. Not much technicality but a very exciting routine nonetheless. Band continued to play well.

BALLAD – The introduction was a little shaky… I would have liked a big strong introduction then a decrescendo into the verse. Great song selection and the band is executing well. the transition to love and happiness was shaky also. I think the band was unsure during the tempo change and needed a little reassurance. Once you got in it, all was well. Great articulation and phrasing choices. The transition to my girl was much better. The crowd enjoyed this number and sang along. Good job!

DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT –  Great song choices. Energy was high throughout your routine. The crowd  responded well. The lighting effect was a great choice along with the song selection and you pulled it off without a hitch! The audience enjoyed that. Being first can be a good thing or a bad thing… I think you all have set the bar high for the remaining 7 bands and I enjoyed your performance.


FLORIDA A&M UNIV. – 9.5/10

OPENING/DRILL – “The 100 covers the whole field”… Literally. Loved the way you box in the entire field for your entrance! It’s an exciting and welcomed break from the typical field entrance and I applaud your creativity. Opening formation looked great and the music was balanced and clear. Great way to connect with your audience by recognizing Atlanta’s newly elected Mayor. I’m every woman was a great song choice. Transitions and formations were executed flawlessly. Many in my section noticed the band’s high knee lift. Some stated that this was the first band they saw, all day, that was actually marching. Kuddos to the band for getting those knees up throughout your performance.  The animation of the Centennial Park Ferris Wheel and the bomb which blew up to form the HWY 285 road sign was a nice touch as well and was well executed. Good job!

BALLAD – Wow! Is the first word that comes to mind… Great execution and dynamic contrast throughout this piece! Superb phrasing and shaping just elevated the notes and made this piece truly connect with the audience. Though the musicianship shows through on video, this was one of those moments where you just had to be there to experience it live.

DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – Great execution throughout the dance routine! There are no negative comments to be made here. I will say that FAMU never disappoints an ATL crowd when it comes to dance routines and this day was no different. Very few bands can dance and play at the same time and FAMU is one of the best of those who can. Making the state of georgia with the “A” in the center and leaving handkerchiefs in that formation as they exited was classic. At the end of the day, there was no denying that The 100 is back! Great job!


GRAMBLING STATE UNIV. – 8.0/10

OPENING/DRILL – DM intro was effective, the people in my section seemed to enjoy it. I love the tradition that pours out of this program. It was very evident from the announcers contribution to the show that the band has certainly earned the name, “World Famed” and is an HBCU treasure. The Conrad Hutchinson tribute was well executed and well received. Drilling overall was good! Lines were straight throughout the drill and even during transitions. The announcer was a little late on the “cruise ship” formation thereby leaving some confused as to what the formation was until right before you transitioned.  Overall the arrangements could be better. Don’t get me wrong… The band sounds good. Better than they have in a long time, in my opinion. However, better arrangements would elevate the band’s performance level.

DANCE FEATURE – The dancers did a great job. Their uniforms were tasteful and appropriate for the choreography. What I didn’t like was the band dancing at the same time. That took eyes away from the girls when every other dance team had the benefit of the audience’s full attention. It makes them have to work even harder to “stand out” within their own show. At some points they did… At other times it all seemed to be a big dance party as opposed to a dance feature.

BALLAD – This portion of the show was the most disappointing. There was no contrast in dynamic levels… It was all just loud. I think playing at different volume levels and moving between those dynamic levels is what evokes the emotion of a piece. I didn’t get that experience listening to you here. I was also confused as to why the band was dancing during the ballad. I was really looking forward to just hearing the band play. I do appreciate your willingness to step out of the norm and experiment, but during the ballad most people are expecting to be wowed by musicality and great visuals from your auxiliaries.

DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – This band dances well!… And a lot! There were definitely many opportunities to display choreography within this show, and you did. I do have to say that the band dances very well. There were a few students that knew the dances better than others as they were sort of leading their areas on the field. But overall good job. The lighting effect on the shoes would have been more effective if every student had the lights on both shoes and if they were bigger. It also didn’t help that Benedict did it first and it was well received by the audience. Overall, good job GSU! I look forward to seeing some great things from this program in the future.


HAMPTON UNIV. – 7.5/10

OPENING/DRILL – Very dramatic DM/band intro! I enjoyed it. Though I’m not sure if it came across well from the audience’s standpoint… and I attribute that to the acoustics of the arena, which was not great for marching bands… especially small ones with huge percussion sections. There was also a lot of variation in your marching style when marching corp style. I think you should spend some time perfecting the “heel to toe” march steps so the band won’t appear to be “walking”. I appreciated the dynamic contrast within your selections. As we start the drill, the knee lift is not clearly defined. Some band members seem to be using the corp style of march while others are more traditional. I’m Dreaming sounds good! I appreciated the baton twirlers down front! Great job!

DANCE FEATURE – Very talented group! I loved your field entrance. Teams that do double the work are always more impressive to me and these ladies didn’t disappoint! Uniforms were nice but due to the choreography, (lots of kicks and splits), many had to keep pulling them down. A full dress rehearsal could have fixed that issue. When the whole team rolled, except those two who couldn’t, it looked weird because they were in the middle of the field.

BALLAD – I ain’t mad atcha was a good song choice and was played well. Great phrasing and contrast in playing style. Auxiliary added a nice splash of color. Tubas could have been cleaner on the ending motif.

DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – Dance routine was effective. Having the auxiliary up front really helped in selling the dances. The band seems energetic and I can tell the choreography is well learnt. Once again, on the side marching, some were marching corp and some were lifting their knees. Good usage of the auxiliary and great knee lifts when the band is in the company front. Musically, the band is playing very balanced. I enjoyed your performance.


JACKSON STATE UNIV. – 9.0/10

OPENING/DRILL – Very exciting entrance with the “Tiger Run On” maneuver. I, along with many in my section, was anxiously waiting to hear “Blowing Fanfare”… We were not disappointed. The band sounded great! As the band started the down field, the sound was consistent and the knee lift was uniformed across the band. The first drill, “JSU in ATL” (In Script) was not charted correctly which made the letters too compacted and hard to recognize from up top, or any angle really. Most did not know what was spelled until the announcer told us what it was supposed to be. The step-2 drill was executed much better. The lines were straight and the turns were crisp.

BALLAD – I appreciated the attempt to “theme” the show. I’d like to see more bands do this. In keeping with the Atlanta Recording Artist theme “Cupid/I Gotta Be” was the ballad. Cupid would have been better received with a change in dynamics after the intro. Without movement throughout the piece, it loses its emotional impact. The transition into “Gotta Be” should have been more creative, from an arranging standpoint, than just snare taps. The LOVE formation was nice! Musically it could have been fine without the trumpet hangover in the coda.

DANCE FEATURE Just three Jaysettes made the trip. Overall they executed ok. There were a few instances when the two girls on the right and left fell behind a count or two. The less girls you have, the easier it is to spot those timing issues. But on the other hand, the less girls you have, the easier it should be to synchronize.

DANCE ROUTINE – The dance routine was typical. I’m really getting tired of the male dance team gimmick…. Its over done and worn out. I did appreciate the attempt at trying something different on the “JSU Rocks the house”, but the 3D JSU was not recognizable. That idea should have been scratched at some point during show planning. Overall JSU presented a quality performance that pleased the audience.


NORTH CAROLINA A&T – 10/10

OPENING/DRILL – Great Intro! Lots of excitement building with your movements and the crescendo into the opening fanfare! The band sounds great. Full and balanced sound with a great field presence. This show planning committee is probably the best in HBCU bands right now. I’m glad you recognized the fact that this Atlanta audience is different and tailored your usual drama filled thematic shows to fit this audience. Great color choices in the auxiliary.

DRUMLINE – Drumline features are like fresh baked bread… they get stale really quick. There’s a certain amount of time a typical audience member is willing to sit and watch one. In this performance you juuuust made it. Great display of technique and the visuals were awesome, and just as it was getting long you wrapped it up and transitioned into the dance feature. Great decision.

DANCE FEATURE – Nothing but positivity for these ladies. Excellent work! Easily the best Auxiliary of the night.

BALLAD – “Happy Feelings” was executed very well. The trombone glissandos on the verse were like icing on a warm cake. Excellent display of musicianship throughout the piece. Visually, the baton work was much appreciated and that big pop of color sealed the deal. Great choices!

DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – The dance routine was well executed. I appreciated the excitement from every band member. Everyone knew the choreography and performed as if every step mattered. The drill work at the end was a nice touch! Magnificent Performance!


PRAIRIE VIEW A&M UNIV. – 8.5/10

OPENING/DRILL – Very high energy DM Intro! Let’s keep it there. Like here, I wish you could have gone straight into the “march on” without the new whistle. Entertainment tonight was great as usual. I love that fanfare! Great choice on the drill selection which was well written and well executed. The transition to the drum feature had some wavy lines.

DRUMLINE – The drum feature was too long. It would have been more effective with half the time. The whole episode with the ladder should have been brought upfront. I didn’t realize the guy jumped through the ladder until I later reviewed footage! Also the red carpet piece should have been more centered and maybe escort the girls? The formation after the DL feature (with the heart in the middle) was hard to understand. I still don’t know what that was. Band played well though.

BALLAD/FLAG FEATURE – “I Have Nothing” was played well, except it would have been nice to have a change in dynamic level after the intro then slowly built back up to the original volume going into the chorus. Nice transition into “I’m going Down”. I like the arrangement! The auxiliary was phenomenal here and added to the presentation nicely! Good staging too… the band looks great. The storm swirl transitioning into the letters “STORM” was dope! I hope you do it this way from now on! This was the most creative drill work of the evening! Great Job!

DANCE FEATURE – Great execution! I’m not a fan of that much black on my dancers because I would prefer their outfits accent the band uniform. But the uniforms were nicely designed and I get the whole “black foxes” correlation so in that regards it was a nice touch. “Scream” was well written and well executed!

DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – Typical dance routine but the high energy level was highly appreciated. I like the idea of mixing old and new dance tracks…. for us older folks. The “blow the whistle” part of the dance routine was a nice addition. The band danced with full energy the entire time. Very impressive! Overall, great job band!


TENNESSEE STATE UNIV. – 7.0/10

OPENING/DRILL – Exciting DM Intro! Band has a big sound with lots of audible energy coming off the field and filling up the dome! First “big band” of the night. The “Get out the vote” Drill was executed well and also very well received. The second drill tune lost many in the audience. Many people had never heard of the Quincy Jones track the band was playing during this drill. Also, the band lost that initial burst of energy and now seems to be just going through the motions. The dancing was not uniformed across the band.

DANCE FEATURE – The DMs were not evenly spaced suring the dance feature. The one to the right was about 5 yards too far. The tempo here seems a little slower.  Why was the tempo on the drill seem faster that the dance feature tempo? The ladies executed , but I think their performance lacked aggression… which could have been fixed with a faster tempo.

BALLAD – “On Bended Knee” was nicely balanced. A little choppy going into the chorus, but other than that, nicely interpreted. This band has proven it can execute at different dynamic levels, a lost art amongst today’s college bands. The modulation was somewhat hard to follow. The last note was cut too abruptly. Was it even four counts?

DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – Great energy going into the dance routine. “No Cap” was funny and well executed. I’m not sure if the audience “got it” though. The energy of the dance routine was needed earlier in the show to project an exciting and engaging presentation. Overall, great musical moments, but many low energy moments as well.