The soundtrack to the madness


So March Madness officially kicked off yesterday and though I haven’t been following college hoops to the extent I normally do, it’s safe to say that production will be slowing down over the next two weeks.? Gotta watch those betting lines.? In that tradition, an overlooked component to the games played on the courts is the music being played off it.? Whether you’re one of the best hoops teams or one of the best college marching bands in the country, chances are these two weeks will be your time to shine.

It can seem that the pep bands are forever behind the times, playing from song lists borrowed from classic-rock radio stations and wedding-reception D.J.s.

But there is a method to their madness ? and to their Madness (?Our House?).

?We try to play songs that not only appeal to the blue-hairs in the crowd, but also to our students,? said Jim Hudson, director of athletic bands at Arizona State.

The brass-heavy 30-piece ensembles (the tournament allows no amplification ? meaning no electric guitars ? and only 30 band members for each team) are typically subsets of the university?s much larger marching band. And there are plenty of reasons why the song lists (most bands arrive ready to play 40 to 60 songs) can seem dated.

Mostly, it is because fans want it that way. Bands are looking to get toes tapping and chins wagging no matter the listener?s age.

There are other reasons. Rock anthems, with their catchy melodies and complex chord progressions, often lend themselves to arrangements better than other genres. Older songs have become part of each band?s familiar repertory and never leave. Copyright issues and costs can limit the possibilities for fresh tunes.

And, perhaps ? admit it, occasional pep-band listener ? the bands are sometimes too hip, playing songs so fresh that they are not recognized. Most fans pay little attention to a game?s background noise, only when a familiar tune catches the ear: Wait. No way. Is that Journey they?re playing?

?Well, we do have a lot of Journey,? the Cal student director Stephen Gamboa said.

Nothing better than a great marching band.? I often wish more professional sports teams would have marching bands of some sort instead of faked piped in music. ? The atmosphere the bands create during games truly elevates college sports into something special.

Also: There’s a great website, Fight Music, that has tons of music files to download and listen to of all your favorite college marching bands.? Most major schools, their fight songs and a bevy of others are all represented.? I suggest heading over there as your life will never be the same again.

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