Context: The Trojan Marching Band carries a level of prestige with it that entices many to follow it, meaning that the band’s appearances at USC’s sporting events are imperative. Informant CN states that the band hasn’t missed a football game in 32 years (more than 400 games!), and that creates an expectation for the band to appear. The band travels to away games primarily on a group of buses (this includes bus trips to Arizona, Cal Berkeley, Colorado, and Washington State, as well as a biennial flying trip to Notre Dame), and that leaves several hours of down time. CN described to me some of the traditions that band members use to occupy their time on the bus.
- Name Jokes and Open Mic: For reference, the bathroom on the bus is known as “the Head,” which will serve as the basis for many traditions. For example, band members have an open mic where members go up to the front of the bus and use the PA system to tell a joke. They begin by tapping the microphone and saying “Is this thing on?” to which the rest of the bus responds “No!”. They then say “Once upon a time my name was [band name]!” and the bus asks “Why?” (See Trojan Marching Band: Band Names). The member will then make a “Name Joke”, which are most puns involving the band member’s name and very often be inappropriate. The member will then say their main joke, which could be a roast of another member or a general joke they came up with. If the roast or joke hits particularly hard, the band members will chant “Holy Shit” as the joke-teller returns to their seat. If the roast or joke is deemed bad by the bus, they will instead chant “Head! Head! Head!” and the joke-teller must go to the back of the bus and sit on the toilet for a while. CN says that this is all in good fun, but that it’s still never a good feeling to be sent to the Head.
- Rules: There are rules for the bus that every band member must know and that someone will recite at the start of every trip. They are exactly as follows:
- “Rule #1: Nobody, but nobody, including nobody, shits in the Head.”
- “Rule #2: You can get off the bus, you can get on the bus, but you can’t get off on the bus.”
- “Rule #3: Please refer to Rule #1.”
- “Rule #4: Fuck ___”
The first and third rules simply state the common sense rule that pooping in the bathroom is not a good idea, as it will stink up the entire bus. The second is another common sense rule to not do anything sexual on the bus. The fourth and final rule is a reference to ___, who CN says was a rude band member whose legacy reflected that. Normally, their name would be said, but for the purposes of privacy it has been anonymized.
Thoughts: The Open Mic time seems like a good chance for freshmen to break into the band’s sense of humor and thus further initiate into the group (See Trojan Marching Band: Band Names; Band Camp Traditions). CN said that freshmen are commonly asked to make jokes during Open Mic, and this can help them through the liminal transition into the group. The rules seem like a joke, but they’re all common sense and the necessity of every member to know the rules makes it a somewhat unifying experience.