Now that the Band Camp and Pre – Drill Leaks have come to an end and the “Back To School Performance” Leaks have slowed down, these actions can only signal one thing: Band Season Is Here! The first major band event of the year, The Queen City Battle of the Bands, went down on Saturday, August 26th in Charlotte, N.C. As always, Block Us Up! is your source for the most in depth, unbiased, and unfiltered analysis, of each band’s performance, compared to any other location on the web PERIOD!
Our favorite bands from across the country have spent weeks getting up early, marching and playing in the heat of the southern and mid-western states to perfect a field show for this first major event. Out of respect for their tireless efforts, this article is a field show only analysis. So if your favorite band bombed on the field, but made up for it in the stands, it will not be reflected in this analysis or in the rankings. Maybe I’ll do a “Saving Face” post later… But for now, let’s focus on the meat of the craft.
SCALE: ( 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0)
MUSICAL EFFECTIVENESS [tone, intonation, attacks & releases, dynamic contrast ] (4pts)
MARCHING [military bearing & horn angles, intervals, drill difficulty] (3pts)
GENERAL EFFECT – [creativity, usage of auxiliaries, overall presentation & crowd response] (3pts)
1st – Bethune Cookman University – 10/10
2nd – Norfolk State University – 9.5/10
3rd – Tennessee State University – 9.0/10
4th – Jackson State University – 8.5/10
5th – Miles College – 8.0/10
5th – Talladega College – 8.0/10
6th – North Carolina Central University – 7.5/10
7th – Alabama State University – 7.0/10
8th – Winston Salem State University – 6.0/10
Bands are listed below in alphabetical order.
(Shout out to ShowtimeWeb for always providing premium footage that professionally documents the history of the craft! #Salute)
Alabama State Univ. – 7.0/10
OPENING/DRILL – Band started on the sideline and marched to the opening position; the traditional logo. Looks great. The fanfare could use some revisions. I think the chords could be “bigger” or “fatter”. Seems like it was written for a much smaller ensemble. I noticed your announcer didn’t make the trip… It may have helped to hear a narrator to explain certain aspects of the drill, like “N Heart = In Love”… took me a minute. Rotating the heart and collapsing (then expanding) the “N” was just a time filler. The drill writer got really lazy here… After that, the band march timed for 4 series. He needs to be fired. The arrangement is not very good. Seems to be composed of a lot of block chord rhythms on repeat. The ending was not very clear and there was no applause at the end of the drill because of that.
BALLAD/FLAG FEATURE – One of my favorite songs of all time. Great choice to pander to the crowd in Jodeci’s hometown. F horns struggled with a pitch or two in the intro. I can appreciate the glissando in the trombone section. Some phrasing issues on the bridge (too many holes in the sound). I would have made some different arranging choices with the baritones on the chorus. A lot of missed pitches and split tones on the ending. Great job ladies! Your routine was nice. Not difficult, but very well executed. I enjoyed your presentation.
DANCE FEATURE – WOW! These ladies were awesome! definitely one of the best of the day! Power, technicality, style & grace, you had everything. Choreography was good and you delivered. Great job! Music was good. That’s how you voice for baritones! Excellent!
DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – The double-time transition was well executed. Good sound on the opening. Thanks for dancing and playing at the same time(even if just for a moment)! Seems to be a lost art these days… The dance maneuvers are well executed. The ladies stole the show though… great routine ladies! Really the show could have ended there, but the sideline blow down was good too. Good Job.
Bethune – Cookman Univ. – 10/10
OPENING/DRILL – Band began on the field in four company fronts. Vocal commands are strong. Fanfare was great! Good execution with great balance. DM entrance was flawless. Love the “big band” styled fanfare. Marching is good. Uniformed marching style across the band with high knee lifts. Lines are straight and formations look really clean. The band’s sound is very balanced. All parts are heard equally and little to no exposure during the drill.
DANCE FEATURE – Power! That’s the word that came to mind. Aggressive maneuvers, technical prowess, and sassy movement embodies this group. Musically, the band is balanced but the tempo and the arrangement makes it difficult to follow the song. The tempo causes parts to be played shorter which then turns out to be sometimes unrecognizable.
BALLAD – Wow! The phrasing and style was impeccable in the intro. Great job building the volume together. Middle voices, good job on the run into the verse. Its very difficult to play a difficult passage while changing volume levels. Always impressed at how soft this band gets. The smallest band that day didn’t get softer. Great job to the DMs and dancers on the couples dance, very well choreographed down to how the girls sat back down. Very impressive.
DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – Finally a band that plays and dances at the same time. Great execution! Very uniformed execution of the dance maneuvers. Energy and excitement stayed consistent. Great job on the ending fanfare. Great show overall!
Jackson State Univ. – 8.5/10
OPENING/DRILL – Tiger run on is always a treat to see! Very well executed. “Blowin Fanfare” seemed a little slower than usual, but the sound was there. Playing “Get Ready” for the “march in” song and the 1st Drill could have been ill advised. The audience didn’t get up for it the second time. Thank you for not fielding all band members to allow for covering. Looks great to have no holes in the drill. The traditional JSU looked good and was well executed. The second drill was a step two which meant the horns were primarily pointed towards the end zones. The band projected well because not much volume was lost. Good job! Near the end of this drill (during the pinwheels) you began to experience some exposure in the trumpet section. The ending could have been played better. Nice formation! “J-Settes”
DANCE FEATURE – Wow! Big sound! I guess this is that “SWAC sound” so many bands try to emulate. Sounds great! I like the arrangement. Ladies performed well. Not a difficult routine but very entertaining. You danced through transitions and didn’t waste time walking around the field to the next set. Ending was powerful. Good job!
BALLAD – I liked the balance in the intro which featured the aggresive trombone accents on top of the smooth baritone and tuba parts. Great phrasing in the upper wind parts. I can appreciate the dynamic contrast on the verse. Love the chords going into the chorus. Great job! Awesome job on the break tubas! Very nice execution all around.
DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – Strong intro into the dance break. Some movement with the music would be nice. Tubas sound great. During the tuba breaks the movements should be bigger, especially since you’re not playing. Also bending your knees on most dances looks more exciting and will solicit a bigger crowd response. Sideline blow down was effective. Good job.
Miles College – 8.0/10
OPENING/DRILL – Band started in the end zone. DMs were well rehearsed and looked like one. Good knee lift and well defined marching style. A few lines became “wavy” after the first series. Band sounds good with no overblowing. Good execution on the big dance movements. Looks exciting even at this slow tempo! Front line was a tad bit wavy as you marched downfield. Loved the pinwheel into the “heel to toe” marching. Great effect and great sound. Ending was not as clean as it should have been. DMs should have been in the front conducting for added assurance. I hate bringing up these wavy lines again but it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Too many good things are going on for such a basic thing to distract from them. Overall, the drill and the music (before the drum break) was not properly aligned. Sections of the music were starting before or after big drill maneuvers. Vocal Commands/Chants were good. Some exposure occurred throughout the second drill as some instrumentalists faced the pressbox and others faced other directions. “Big Diamonds” formation looked good. The band sounded great when all horns were facing the pressbox.
DANCE FEATURE – Ladies looked nice. Well rehearsed group. Not many “walking transitions”, good usage of time by dancing through transitions. Most maneuvers and extensions were “completed” even at the fast tempo. Good job!
BALLAD – The formation here was not accurate across the field. Some slants were off which caused the Diamond on both sides of the field to be a little “rounded”. The flags could have really added some visual appeal here beyond just waving the flags from side to side. Their performance was a let down. Musically… some exposure from upper brass in the intro (a few trumpets were too loud). The rest of the piece was well played, sang well, and well received by the audience. This was definitely one of the top moments of the night. Kudos to the arranger! #NoDanceRoutineNeeded
Norfolk State Univ. – 9.5/10
OPENING/DRILL – Ok, you started in an on the field position, good for saving time and energy. Love the spacing in this formation makes your, roughly 136, musicians seem like a much bigger ensemble. Wow! What a powerful and well executed fanfare! Great job! Well defined and uniform marching style throughout the band. A few open spots on the “stage left” side of the band. An audience member’s eyes will gravitate to holes in formations and take their attention away from the awesome marching and drill execution. I see that we have now compacted the drill down to a squad based format, pictures are still clean and well executed, the band sounds great. Great execution on the backwards marching! You don’t see that a lot in our craft… Keeps the horns to the press box. The drill writer is smart! Whenever you need to do those big flanking movements and “To The Rears” you stop playing! That gave a great break to the winds and featured the percussion and through it all, you lost no sound to the rear of the field. Genius! While compacting the company fronts to the sideline, the lines got a little “wavy” everyone didn’t reach their stopping point at the same time. Sideline blow down always makes for an impactful ending! Drum feature is well executed. Using the flagpoles as “clickers” was very creative! I bet a lot of people missed that. The tune you played here was not executed as well as the drill (some upperwinds missed the first measure). The runs in the upper brass had phasing issues. I could tell you were playing but not together and was uncharacteristically “dirty”. Great transition and flag change auxiliary.
BALLAD/FLAG FEATURE – Can’t go wrong with a classic! Great musical execution and flags were phenomenal! Best of the night for sure! But… If you are going to include a toss (especially in a ripple) make sure everyone does it and there are no “fakers”. It ruins the effect and makes the people that executes the toss look like they did something wrong. Visually, the missing individuals in the drill takes away from the nice visual presentation, especially when you are in this formation for such a long time. I think everyone in the stadium knows where those missing spots are now.
DANCE FEATURE – Nice uniforms! I didn’t get the correlation between the african segment into the Beyonce segment. Nice arrangement though. The choreography came off as “new”. Alluding to maybe we haven’t spent enough time with it just yet. Your extensions were not complete and it came off as if you were just trying to get through it. A lot of variation from dancer to dancer, lil differences in the maneuvers. Everyone noticed the small mishap in the front, I think her shoes were too slippery, but she recovered well.
DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – Well executed maneuvers. Consisted, mostly, of tuba breaks (I guess bands don’t dance and play anymore). Sideline blowdown was effective. The crowd got the point.
North Carolina Central Univ. – 7.5/10
OPENING/DRILL – Band started on the field, great vocal commands and energy. The band was able to play to opposite sides of the field while staying in step and on tempo. Great execution. Like the effect of the auxiliary on candy girl. The audience “got” it. Band sounds great! Wow, the percussion section is really choppin! There was some exposure in the upper winds at the end of candy girl. The band did a great job at listening across the ensemble and was very balanced overall. However at times individuals were over doing it and sticking out. We could use more trumpet at the bridge of cool it now. Awesome job F Horn!
BALLAD/FLAG FEATURE – Nice “telephone” formation. The flags were on point! Nicely done ladies. The trumpets should play out more on the chorus. They did a great job at the end of telephone man! Nice arrangement.
DANCE FEATURE – Good backwards marching sousaphones. Carrying that line while marching backwards was not easy. I like the arrangement. Baritone down front, right side needs to stay within the ensemble sound. Otherwise good balance. I’m loving the bridge, nice chords. Ladies are looking classy, nice routine. Maneuvers are not difficult but the group is together. The ending was nice! The audience seemed to enjoy it as well.
DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – Exciting dance routine intro. Tubas have a really good sound. Band seemed to be enjoying themselves. The dances were high energy all the way through. I did not notice much playing and dancing, but rather tuba break dancing. Great projection on the chants. Side line blow down was effective. Great show.
Talladega College – 8.0/10
OPENING/DRILL – Drill began in the end zone with DMs on the field. After a whistle the band got right into the drill. Wow! Strong sound. Good job keeping your lines straight on the downfield movements. You ran into some issues on the “150” formation as some squads didn’t hold their slants and others didn’t guide right. A three series break to set up for the next picture and continue the song seemed like a lot of time. You may need to find a way to condense that. In the big picture with the angles, the band sounds good. It seems weird to not have the drum majors conducting here (especially with 7 of them). On the second drill, there were wavy lines throughout that distracted from the good marching that was being executed. Having some holes in the drill was an added distraction. Enjoyed the 80’s hit!
DANCE FEATURE – Nice energy ladies! Not a very difficult routine but you made up for it in energy and commitment to the moves, which were perfectly synchronized. Musically, I didn’t get a lot here. Parts were played well, but with no contrast. It could easily become “noisy”. Good job on the ending ladies.
BALLAD – Good inroduction. Great contrast on the verse! It could be even more effective if the percussion backed off there too. When they play loud, it makes everyone else want to play loud because they can’t clearly hear themselves. It would have been nice to stretch the phrases across the bars and have a crescendo into the big section instead of suddenly loud. Chorus is good. It could have been great if you made the audience wait for that power, while teasing them. Loved the ending! Great sousaphone sound throughout! On the second piece, (I saw you up there groovin’ Bonds! Lol) Maybe the girls should have stayed on the field, just under the ladder, instead of off the field which looked weird. I enjoyed this tune and the blowdown. Great job Talladega College.
Tennessee State Univ. – 9.0/10
OPENING/DRILL – Drill began in the on the field position, good for saving time and energy. Band in parade rest position. This band looks HUGE! Visually impressive… but there are several squads with only 3 members, I assume to keep the 4 company front drill format. They seem to be doing a good job of “covering down” for now… Exciting intro! Great sound, DM entrance was well executed, high knees into the opening formation kept the excitement level up. Good job. DMs could of had a better exit than just running through the slants… maybe the lean back, high kick maneuver would work better? Nice tribute to “The Culture”. JayZ tune was nicely arranged and well executed. formation was clean and the audience appreciated the HBCU love. Flags could have done more here. Looks like they are just doing simple drop spins. Flags: These are your moments to shine! You are the only movement and just because you are in the back doesn’t mean you’re not highly visible. A “new whistle” was not necessary here and adds dead time in your show. Keep it moving with the excitement of the culture tribute. Wow! Big strong sound even from the back of the field. Make sure backs are kept straight and knees are up even when closing pinwheels. Some were taking those large steps while leaning into them which made you seem as if you were bending forward or hunched over while marching. Overall, the knee lift was uniformed but not very high. Looked to be a little less than 45 degrees. I think a higher knee lift would be more visually appealing. I noticed some “exposure” from certain squads/individuals throughout the drill. Band staff must check for this and inform those individuals to back off when their squad is facing the press box and others playing the same part are not. There was a very noticeable missed pitch by an individual at the end of the drill, they did their “TTR” too early and played before everyone.
DANCE FEATURE – Nice energy ladies! Drum break right into the tune was impactful. Good execution on the sixteenth note run upperwinds. As we got into the tune we had some phasing issues. Don’t forget to watch the DMs. Dancers, the routine was together but lacked difficulty. There was a lot of hair swinging and walking transitions that ate up valuable time. The four person feature was good. Throughout your performance a few girls were getting behind on their counts then skipping maneuvers to catch up. I’m sure these things will be improved as the season progresses.
BALLAD – Nice choice in musical selection. In the intro consider changing the phrasing in the upper wind parts. Extend the voices across the bar. Loved the glissando from the trombones heading into the chorus. Enjoyed the modulation. Flags were not a positive addition to the show at this point. Their maneuvers were not together and became a visual distraction from the good things happening in the music.
DANCE ROUTINE/EXIT – “Roses” (transitioning into dance block) was grooving but it took me a while to recognize what it was because of how much it was sped up. Maybe a faster selection would have been a better choice here. A band member forgot to move out four steps for the dance block and then stopped at the wrong point which made his line look wrong because he was in front. He eventually corrected it. Dance routine was nothing but one long tuba break but it was high energy all the way through! Good job! The audience got a chuckle out of “Issa Wrap”. Great ending with the traditional TSU and I’m so glad.
Winston Salem State Univ. – 6.0/10
OPENING/DRILL – The opening fanfare had some balance and intonation issues. DMs executed well. Start of the drill piece was not together. Once it got going it was ok. Some exposure of trumpet players during pinwheels. Overall the sound is not “collegiate”. Not due to numbers, but due to a lack of attention to detail: sections aren’t playing together, the sound is not balanced, there is no set style of play (articulation, phrase usage, etc.). All college bands should play with these things in mind.
BALLAD/FLAG FEATURE – Same musical issues persist. The flags are together… for the most part. There is one flag in the far left corner that does not know the routine as well as others or her counting is off… and she was late on the ending. The drum feature was good… but too long. Just show your best stuff and keep it moving.
DANCE FEATURE – It was not bad. Watch the small things like where your hands are supposed to be on what count. The ending was nice. Musically your trumpet section sounds very thin. I can’t believe you have 14 – 15 trumpets and you’re that thin. It must be the arrangements. The sideline blow down was ok. The WSSU fans in the audience seemed to recognize your school songs. Strong baritone section. The best the band sounded all day was on the last selection. Parts were fuller and more balanced. Good job.