USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘band’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Kicking the Lightpost – USC Band Tradition

“So the band has a tradition of, every time we march to the football stadium–the Coliseum–for games, everyone has to kick the bottom of the light pole as we are leaving campus for good luck. Then, we also kick it on our way back on [campus] after the game.

If we win the football game, we always play ‘Conquest’ at Tommy Trojan as, like, a celebration.”

Context: The informant, EK, is a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band (also called Spirit of Troy), and specifically part of the drum line of the band. We were having a discussion about some of the strange and somewhat rituals that the band does on game days (football) and how they affect the outcome of the games. EK feels an obligation to participate in this ritual as she is a member of the band, and fears the consequences of not participating in the tradition as it is a highly ingrained belief in the student group. The band, according to EK, relies heavily on many superstitions and traditions in order to ensure the success of the USC football team.

Analysis: For the informant, this ritual is extremely important for the band and to ensure a good outcome for the football game that they will be performing in. In this manner, this ritual is a demonstration of folk belief and superstition and how it supposedly affects the outcome of events that can be seemingly out of our hands. With this superstition, this group of performers can have a level of control over an unpredictable event.

There is also a participatory context for this superstition. If you do not participate in this ritual and kick the light pole, then if the football team loses, the band can blame the person who didn’t kick the pole. In a way, knowing and participating in the superstitions of the marching band is a way to figure out who is a member, and who is an outsider. Due to this, if you choose not to participate, or merely forget, your band members will see you as someone who is not really a member of that group anymore, and only after you resume your participation in that ritual can one resume their membership. This is mirrored in many other societal groups, from firefighters to physicians to USC students. Particular superstitions and customs are defining components of culture, and the groups that perform them claim them as a piece of their identity.

Customs
Game
Humor
Musical

Long Island High School Band Customs

A – “There are a couple things we always did, every day we had class, once we got to class back in high school.  There’s this thing at Schreiber [our High School] where, every musician with their instrument ready would blow out some really poor-sounding tone, and then there would be a response from the other side of the room.  It didn’t really matter who responded, so sometimes there was more than one, but, you know, as long as there was a response.  And yeah, just a really poor tone coming from any instrument.  So this would happen every class, so twice a week, before our teacher/conductor got there, we were all getting ready.  This is kinda just our way of maintaining our individuality from the other students at school, I think we were all rather proud of being in the band.”

How were you Introduced to this tradition?

A – “So the first time I got into the band my sophomore year, I noticed people doing it, but no one actually said anything about it.  It took me a couple weeks before I realized that it was, like, an actual thing that we always did.  Taking part in that was kinda like a rite of passage, once you did it, you were a real member of the band.”

A – “I definitely won’t forget that we did that, I think just because it brings me back to my time in the band, where I had a lot of fun and spent time with people I liked.”

 

I was actually in the band with A, and I got there a year before he did.  So it was fun for me, who had gone through the same sort of vetting process with this one tone call and response, to watch him as he learned of it’s existence, and soon became proficient in it.  I definitely agree with his idea that this was a sort of rite-of-passage situation; I’d also add that it was almost a weird way of hazing new members, getting them to think that we sound awful, getting them to wonder why they’re even there if that’s the case.  Then we start playing.

Customs
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

TMB Band Name: Cumquat

While interviewing my informant, Audrey, I decided to document her Band Name. She got her Band Name from the upperclassmen of her section in the Trojan Marching Band (TMB). Audrey is a member of the Mellophone section. I asked her to perform her band name to me as if she were asked to “introduce herself” by another member of the band:

 

Killian, who was sitting near Audrey during the interview, chimed in to start her off just as he would when asking another band member to introduce themself: “Who are you!?”

 

Audrey: “Once upon a time my name is Cumquat.”

 

Killian: “Why?”

 

Audrey “Because I Cum Quat-ly.”

 

My informant would usually perform this Band Name/Joke ritual in a social setting with other members of the TMB. Sometimes she is asked by alumni of the band who are interested in hearing the new Band Names their section has come up with. Members of the band also frequently ask each other because they are often humorous or come with humorous jokes attached. It is also used to test the band Freshmen to see if their jokes are up to par with the standard set by current band members.

 

According to my informant, everyone in the band has a Band Name that they have been dubbed by their older section members. The Band Names are different in each section. Some sections give their members short names that function as traditional nicknames (example: “Egg”). My informant was mostly able to give me knowledge of how the Mellophone section names its members.

 

My informant’s section gave her a strange because they have to figure out how it applies to them/ what the other section members know about them. My informant is not entirely sure why she is dubbed ‘Cumquat.’ She knows that it’s a reference to the movie xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Other than that, she is unsure why the older section members decided to call her that.

 

Analysis

I have seen my informant introduce herself on many occasions with a few different Name Jokes. The particular joke she gave me is about average compared to the usual raunchy, outrageous jokes the section normally uses, although it requires a little more thought to understand. I think this is a good representation of how Mellophone Name Jokes usually are. I personally enjoy this social band tradition. Everyone has a name, so it’s fun to get to know all the members of the band just to hear them. The tradition of Band Names also further unties the band as one entity.

 

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Joke: How To Get A Drummer Off Your Porch

For our discussion section, we were required to meet up with a fellow student and collect folklore from each other. LA is the person I collected from, PH is myself. Our conversation is as follows:

LA: I have jokes, if you want those.
PH: Oh, yeah.
LA: My childhood friend’s dad is this older Jewish punk dude and he had a lot of good jokes.

(pause)

Alright, so I have two drummer jokes which are frequently passed around for people in bands because we love to make jokes about drummers.

Number one: told to me a long time ago by a family friend who was in a punk band in the ‘90s.

What do you do to get a drummer off your porch?

PH: What?

LA: Offer to pay for the pizza.

The second joke collected is documented in its own post.

Customs
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

TMB Band Name: Talko Supreme

While interviewing my informant, Brianna, I decided to document her Band Name. She got her Band Name from the upperclassmen of her section in the Trojan Marching Band (TMB). Brianna is a member of the Mellophone section. I asked her to perform her band name to me as if she were asked to “introduce herself” by another member of the band:

 

Brianna: “Once upon a time my name my name is Talko Supreme”

 

In the background, Peter aka Venti Four Logo says “whyyyyyy?” He’s sitting on a couch nearby where I am interviewing, and chimed in like he naturally would when another band member was introducing themself.

 

Brianna: “Because when you’re with me, you’re gonna eat out.”

 

My informant would usually perform this Band Name/Joke ritual in a social setting with other members of the TMB. Sometimes she is asked by alumni of the band who are interested in hearing the new Band Names their section has come up with. Members of the band also frequently ask each other because they are often humorous or come with humorous jokes attached. It is also used to test the band Freshmen to see if their jokes are up to par with the standard set by current band members.

 

According to my informant, everyone in the band has a Band Name that they have been dubbed by their older section members. The Band Names are different in each section. Some sections give their members short names that function as traditional nicknames (example: “Egg”). My informant was mostly able to give me knowledge of how the Mellophone section names its members.

 

My informant’s section gave her a strange because they have to figure out how it applies to them/ what the other section members know about them. My informant is dubbed ‘Talko Supreme’ for a couple reasons: 1.) My informant is Mexican, hence the name’s play on ‘taco supreme.’ 2.) My informant is known for talking a lot and being very social, which is why the first part of her name is “Talko.”

 

Analysis

I have seen my informant introduce herself on many occasions with a few different Name Jokes. The particular joke she gave me is about average  compared to the usual raunchy, outrageous jokes the section normally uses. I think this is a good representation of how Mellophone Name Jokes usually are. I personally enjoy this social band tradition. Everyone has a name, so it’s fun to get to know all the members of the band just to hear them. The tradition of Band Names also further unties the band as one entity.

general
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

TMB Band Name: Sexing a Bush

While interviewing my informant, Killian, I decided to document his Band Name. He got his Band Name from the upperclassmen of his section in the Trojan Marching Band (TMB). Killian is a member, and section leader, of the Mellophone section. I asked him to perform his band name to me as if he were asked to “introduce himself” by another member of the band:

 

“Someone would say ‘who are you?’

And then I say, ‘Once upon a time, my name is Sexing a Bush’

Someone would say, ‘why?’

‘Because my dead dad didn’t like to shave down there.’”

 

My informant added after the performance that he doesn’t like to use the same joke twice, and that that’s important for me to note in my documentation.

 

My informant would usually perform this Band Name/Joke ritual in a social setting with other members of the TMB. Sometimes he is asked by alumni of the band who are interested in hearing the new Band Names their section has come up with. Members of the band also frequently ask each other because they are often humorous or come with humorous jokes attached. It is also used to test the band Freshmen to see if their jokes are up to par with the standard set by current band members.

 

According to my informant, everyone in the band has a Band Name that they have been dubbed by their older section members. The Band Names are different in each section. Some sections give their members short names that function as traditional nicknames (example: “Egg”). My informant was mostly able to give me knowledge of how the Mellophone section names its members.

 

My informant’s section gave him a strange name because they have to figure out how it applies to them/ what the other section members know about them. My informant informed me that he is dubbed ‘Sexing a Bush’ because it’s a reference to a song from the popular show Crazy Ex Girlfriend. The other members of the section believed that the lyrics of the song fit his personality.

 

Analysis

I have seen my informant introduce himself on many occasions with a few different Name Jokes. The particular joke he gave me is very extreme and inappropriate (I debated even including it in the archive). The section normally uses raunchy, outrageous jokes, but I consider this joke a little too outrageous. I personally enjoy this social band tradition. Everyone has a name, so it’s fun to get to know all the members of the band just to hear them. The tradition of Band Names also further unties the band as one entity.

 

Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

TMB Band Name: Venti Four Logo

While interviewing my informant, Peter, I decided to document his Band Name. He got his Band Name from the upperclassmen of his section in the Trojan Marching Band (TMB). Peter is a member of the Mellophone section. I asked him to perform his band name to me as if he were asked to “introduce himself” by another member of the band:

 

“Once upon a time my name is Venti Four Logo.

Someone then asks me ‘why?…’

Because I’m a Marshal Snake.”

 

My informant would usually perform this Band Name/Joke ritual in a social setting with other members of the TMB. Sometimes he is asked by alumni of the band who are interested in hearing the new Band Names their section has come up with. Members of the band also frequently ask each other because they are often humorous or come with humorous jokes attached. It is also used to test the band Freshmen to see if their jokes are up to par with the standard set by current band members.

 

According to my informant, everyone in the band has a Band Name that they have been dubbed by their older section members. The Band Names are different in each section. Some sections give their members short names that function as traditional nicknames (example: “Egg”). My informant was mostly able to give me knowledge of how the Mellophone section names its members.

 

My informant’s section gave him a long, complicated name because they have to figure out how it applies to them/ what the other section members know about them. My informant is dubbed ‘Venti Four Logo’ because of a few reasons: 1. He’s tall, hence the ‘Venti’ part. 2. He has a history of getting coffee at Starbucks, hence the ‘Venti’ part. 3. He’s obsessed with Apple, hence the ‘Logo’ part. He does not yet know how the ‘Four’ part fits into his name, although he recognizes that “Four Logo” is a play on the drink “Four Loko.”

 

Analysis

I have seen my informant introduce himself on many occasions with a few different Name Jokes. The particular joke he gave me is a little tame compared to the usual raunchy, outrageous jokes the section normally uses. I personally enjoy this social band tradition. Everyone has a name, so it’s fun to get to know all the members of the band just to hear them. The tradition of Band Names also further unties the band as one entity.

 

Customs
general
Initiations
Kinesthetic

Band laps

“You take a lap. You have to, like, run around the entire band and if, like, Bartner, or something happens that is about you, related to your name, where you’re from any like quirky traits you have, activities you do. [The purpose:] to point out that you have associations with that.”

 

The informant is a member of the University of Southern California Spirit of Troy. She is a sophomore, both in the school and in the band ranks, studying Computer Science and Computer Engineering. She plays alto saxophone and has travelled with the band to the Weekender and to Notre Dame.

 

Th informant was asked of any band traditions that take place during a practice. She had first learned and experienced this tradition at her first full band practice, and has participated in it ever since.

 

The first thing to know about the marching band is that usually a week or two after joining the band, every one is given a band name, often referred to as their “real name.” For some people, that becomes the name they are known by for the rest of their time in band. The are often only a few words long, but some have been as long as the verse of song. They are often based on traits that the person has or something that they did, and they often tie back to some kind of popular culture, like a movie or book. Some people are even given two names, in which case they are “so-and-so” AKA “something-else.” There are a lot of traditions that are attached to these band names, including taking a band lap.

Practices can be long and kind of boring, at least for rowdy college students, so there are many band traditions that are meant to pass the time and release restless energy in order to get more work done during practice. The band is a group of volunteers, so it is important to keep people entertained enough to keep coming back. One custom, meant to entertain, is taking a band lap. Everyone must constantly be on the look out for an excuse to take a lap, or to make someone else take a lap. The most common reasons to do so are if leadership says something related to someone’s band name, saying the city or state where someone is from, or some clearly identifying feature or characteristic of the person, like “chorus” (in reference to the location of the song, but pertaining to choral people) or “sexy” (anyone who thinks they’re sexy takes a lap). There was one time, the informant shared, where the band was playing “Play That Funky Music” and the director starting singing the main line: “Play that funky music, white boy…” and all of the white males in the band had to take a lap. That kept the band pacified and laughing enough to finish playing the song without outbursts.

Another purpose for taking a lap is to condition the band. A lot of stamina is required to survive a game day, where a band member may be on their feet for up to 12 hours at a time with little to no sitting down. Taking laps periodically during practice keeps band members in shape and more able to stand for such an extended period of time. Also, as the informant mentions, laps just point out that you have an association to that trait or name. It is possible to see who else in the band is Irish by seeing who takes and Irish lap (in the case of “Beat the irish” for notre dame [opposing teams and their mascots do not earn the respect of having capital letters]) with you. It is a way to bring people, who might never have met in the more than three-hundred person band, closer together and encourages connections with other sections.

There are also particular ways to take a lap. Under normal circumstances—mostly during music practice but under other instances, as well—the person whose name, characteristic, or home state was mentioned takes a lap around the entire band, including directors, silks, and all of the instruments, but not including twirlers or prop crew (if they are far away). This is always done in a counter-clockwise rotation. If the band is working on drill for a show, or during a gig when it would not be prudent to run around to the confusion of the audience, then a lap is taken in place, still counter-clockwise. If the band is at attention, then no laps are taken until after the band is put at ease. Then people can do make-up laps for the time when they were at attention. If a band member is sitting down or it is physically impossible to take a lap, but the band is not at attention, the they will do a “finger lap” and point their right index finger to the sky and move their hand in a counter-clockwise direction. There are also more local instances for taking a lap. The informant had a section leader, for example, who would encourage “Galen Center laps” during basketball and volleyball games. The band member would then have to run around the inside of the Galen Center. This is not a band-wide occurrence, just a section-wide one. Other sections have their own special lap circumstances. The flutes, for example, take laps whenever the first letter of their name is called. Since the marching band divides its music into sections with “A,B,C, etc.” letters get mentioned a lot.

Folk speech
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

No Eye Deer

“What do you call a deer with no eyes?

No eye-deer [spoken like “idea” with a drawling a that ends in an r].”

 

The informant learned this and other jokes (most of them he claimed to be especially bad, and possibly prized for their cringe-worthiness), during band camp when he was an undergraduate, (he was introduced to many of them in his freshman year. The informant said that telling jokes is part of the ritual of band camp, partly to foster camaraderie and boost morale, and partially to evade boredom on buss trips. He said you had to tell jokes because “you can only drink so much on a bus trip.”

This particular joke holds no specific significance for the informant, but is representative of the types of jokes he remembers.

This joke, and the group of jokes of a similar type that it comes from, seems to have a universal hold on different age groups. It’s extremely similar to the types of jokes that might be told at a camp for youths. Word play is as understandable to adults as it is to children, and the frequency of the retelling of these kinds of jokes suggests that English speakers (and perhaps speakers of other languages as well) find humor in the manipulation of speech, which is such an ordinary part of life. This works with surprise to create humor.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

Three Dog Night

Transcribed Text:

“A three dog night, which as far as I can tell, means like, harsh, like probably cold night. Comes from dog sledders, when they were traversing the wilderness. A three dog night would be a night where you would have to like cuddle up with three of your dogs to be able to stay warm for the night.”

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California and he does not recall where he first heard this piece of folklore. It is a saying that is normally only used in extremely cold weathered countries where sled dogs and freezing temperatures are the norm. It has a literal meaning behind it, where in these extremely cold areas, people would huddle and sleep with their dogs in order to stay warm for the night. A three dog night is an especially freezing night, because a person doesn’t need one, or two of their dogs to stay warm, but needs three.

It is said that the band Three Dog Night is named after this saying, where one of the vocalist’s girlfriend heard the phrase being used in a documentary about Australian Aborigines. However, there has also been debate about the saying originating with the Inuits. This search unable to trace back to a single point indicates how the original source was lost and this saying has now become like many other pieces of folklore; with no one author.

Annotation: The Australian band Three Dog Night formed because the vocalists girlfriend heard this piece of folklore about indigenous Australians.

[geolocation]