“Under tunnels we yell. Uh, if the bus driver brakes too quickly or suddenly, we sing the bus driver song: ‘My father’s a bus driver, a bus driver, a bus driver, mhuhm…’ That gets um explicit. Um, people go up on the mic and, uh, tell jokes. [They introduce themselves by saying:] ‘Once upon a time, my name is’ and like your name, or like your name name cause you got like name names and like names. Um, [people respond:] ‘Why?’ and you say something funny, or not funny, depending. And then, like normally, they’ll boo you or ‘head, head, head, head’ which means go to the toilet.”
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.
The informant was asked about band folklore, and what they do on bus trips. As trips can be hours long, groups such as the band usually have unique ways of passing the time. The Spirit of Troy is no exception.
The first custom the informant mentions is that if you are on a bus and go under a tunnel, then for the duration of that tunnel you yell, at the top of your lungs. This helps make trips more interesting, as you can be having a conversation with someone sitting next to you, then both of you start yelling. This also serves to wake up anyone who dares try to sleep on a band bus. The act of yelling is also a very important part of band culture. During practices and any band events and gatherings, there are ample opportunities to yell. This all adds to training for game days, where band members are expected to operate at full spirit for 12 hours at a time—shouting cheers, orders, and cadencing all to keep spirit and hype up. The yelling in the tunnels is just yet another way of continuing this.
The informant also mentions a song the band sings if the bus driver slams on his brakes noticeably hard. She starts singing the first few bars before mumbling off and claiming that it’s too explicit. The band has been trying to work on its image in recent years, cutting down on curse words and inappropriate behavior that goes on hidden from the public eye, in fear that these should become public. As a result, many band traditions have had to be trimmed down and made presentable to anyone who might hear them. This song is one other. It once used to trail off into curse words and sexual images, but no longer. Though no G-rated version of this song has been created as of yet, something will likely replace it soon.
The purpose it serves is no different. On long bus trips, it is customary for whatever group happens to be traveling to sing songs together. Some favorites include “99 bottles of beer on the wall” or “This is the song that never ends,” all of which are written to take a long time to finish singing and to fight off the boredom for those extra few minutes. This band song has the added entertainment value that everyone must be paying attention to the bus driver’s driving in order to know when to start, and also the ability to make fun of the bus driver if he brakes too quickly. There are supposedly many verses to this song, allowing time to pass more quickly.
Then there is the tradition of “On the Mic.” The buses the band takes always have a microphone hooked up, to allow leadership to make announcements without having to shout over 50 rowdy college students. This mic becomes available to the band’s use during the trips for entertainment. The most important thing to remember when going on the mic is to introduce yourself properly, following the pre-ordained script. As someone walks up to take the mic, the band shouts “Who are you?” That person is expected to respond with “Once upon a time my name is [insert band name here].”
This brings up the topic of band names. Every person in the band is given their own band name, often referred to as their “real name” while the other name they have is “the name on your birth certificate” so as to avoid confusion. The name is often based on some trait, and it often ties back to a popular reference. They are often only a few words long, but can be entire verses of a song. Everyone is given a name as a freshman in band, almost always before their first band trip, so they are able to participate in this tradition. You are not a member of the band unless you have a band name.
The bus members respond to the person on the mic with “Why?” The person then goes on to tell a funny reason why that’s their band name. They are then expected to either make an announcement if they are leadership, or tell a joke. If the joke is judged bad, which it almost always is, then the bus shouts “Head, head, head!” or they should be ashamed and go hide in the toilet. Everyone is expected to go up on the mic, at the very least once a year. This ensures that all bus trips will have ample entertainment and jokes to laugh at, or at least aggressively boo.