Confessions of a Band Groupie

On a crisp autumn evening, one non-musical college student becomes seduced by the sweet sounds of his marching band.

It was the fall of 1993, and I–a short, scrawny, yet hungry freshman, clad in flannel–caught my first whiff of the seductive scent of the marching band. On a cool autumn afternoon in Evanston, I was watching the usually unimpressive Northwestern University Wildcats shock the overconfident Boston College Eagles on the aged, lime green, artificial turf of our own Dyche Stadium. The suburban Chicago air hung heavy that day with the aroma of the local home fireplaces juxtaposed with the popcorn and hotdogs of our stadium. Visual stimuli abounded, with the flicker of purple pom-poms against the whitewashed gray concrete and aluminum hulk of our stadium.  Standing through the entire game, as was customary for students, I watched the ever-spirited Northwestern University Marching Band celebrate excessively, at about the same time that the NCAA ruled that our football players might be penalized for doing so. And they were, so we–the adoring fans–tried to pick up the slack for them. At our collective head in this endeavor was the marching band.

During pregame, the first half and halftime, the band glided, blew, and percussed. The band whipped us into such a frenzy behind our team, none of us could have helped but be seduced by their sweet power of persuasion. Our minds aligned, like iron filings in a magnetic field, and our bodies bopped to the natural rhythm that rolled off their air on metalicized wood and their wooden sticks on tense membranes. Our hearts began to be paced by the beats of the drums; we de-evolved to enter a fight-or-flight frenzy with the clarion tones of the “Salsation Cadence,” and to beat our chests along with the familiar sounds of “Tarzan Boy” during the game. 

Somewhere in the sheer naturalistic madness of the whole thing, I noticed that my heart’s pacemaker had switched from the quadruple drum to something a bit more sublime. It was a woman. More precisely, she would be my first college crush. She was amazing. She sported silky, straight, brown hair and gentle facial features, with a sweet, inviting smile. Her emerald eyes could barely distract from her full, youthful lips. And her chest … they were evident even through her androgenizing band uniform, which had the mighty “N” in front and a gratuitous, somewhat confusing cape in back.

The first time I encountered her outside the stadium was something I would always remember. If I had found her appealing in her band costume, I found her completely irresistible out of it. I discovered her, out in the open, on south campus some two weeks after I had seen her at the game. Back in my stark dorm room, I thought about her. I talked about her with buddies and sought the advice of my roommate, who was a devoted ladies’ man. Inexperienced with women, it took me weeks thereafter to get up the courage to approach her.

That year, I got hooked on the adrenaline of the herd, the rhythms that synchronized the primal mob. I also discovered the thrill of hunting a mate on a college campus, even as the chants of “Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl,” which filled the air during our victory over BC, faded away as our Wildcats got killed by Big Ten doormats of the day: Minnesota and Illinois. My enthusiasm for the band and my favorite feminine piece of it were undaunted. That began my tumultuous love affair with my marching band, and I had unwittingly become a band groupie.

About the Author:
Henry U was a science major who went on to a career in medicine and is now in his 30’s. He has never played a musical instrument and is envious of those who can play, especially those who can play and march at the same time. In his spare time, Henry still listens to “Wildcat Band Fire Up” and likes to relive the glory days.

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