"Alright! OMB forever!” - Drunk guy at pregame tailgate
"Yeah – it feels that way. - Me
When I joined my high school’s marching band as a freshman, it had about 120 members – a good size for a high school band in a rainy state like Oregon. My first year was our first with a new director, our halftime show was terrible, and drama abounded. Next year, thanks to people fleeing the dysfunctional, sinking ship, our numbers had dropped to about 70, and the exodus continued for the rest of my time there.
I was a rare breed who got hooked early on – in the offseason I would aggressively anticipate the upcoming season, spending hours on YouTube analyzing the performances of other bands and speculating about our chances in the coming year’s competitions with the same fervor sports fans take to March Madness or the Super Bowl. My love life could have charitably been called ‘unremarkable.’
That's me on the right. I think in this picture I'm wondering what it's like to kiss a girl.
As I watched more and more of my friends depart the Sprague Olympian Marching Band, fed up with the inherent Suck of being in a marching band, I turned my nose up at them with scorn. Pussies. I thought. The thrill of performance more than makes up for the rehearsals, or the exhaustion, or the incompetent student leadership!
What I know now, after eight years of marching band, is that membership in one requires a certain amount of gas – some sort of inner drive allowing one to remain enthusiastic and excited about marching band in spite of all the things this activity does to beat up, downgrade, and dissuade you from enjoying it. Everybody coming into it has a different amount in the tank. Some people run out early and leave the organization after a year or two. Others stick with it through high school until they have to pull over.
As it turns out, I had enough for about seven years and two days, which is why I feel like I spent virtually all of this very long, grueling season pushing my car uphill and wishing I’d taken the bus.
PART 4: OMB FOREVER
The Oregon Marching Band rehearses for three hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Storm systems in Oregon have gotten accustomed to this schedule, and so they save up all their rain for between 3:20 and 6:00 on those days.
Rain is pouring out of the sky like in Jurassic Park, it’s cold as hell, soccer balls from the adjacent athletic field keep flying over the fence and hitting us, we’re tired and mostly sick, and The Band Director is hounding us to keep focused and work because, rain or shine, we’ve got to perform in three days.
Squat thrusts: A major part of our performances.
For my first three years at Oregon I didn’t like this by any means, but I just viewed it as a fact of life. I don’t like being lactose intolerant either, but it’s not like I have any choice. You have to deal with the shit to be the shit, as they say, and while I’m certainly not the shit just yet, my plan was to become the shit eventually after dealing with enough shit to qualify me for the position.
It was only this year, driving to rehearsal on a frigid and rainy Wednesday, feeling like a convict being led to the gallows, that I realized I didn’t have to be doing this. I think the revelation came when I looked out the window and saw other people – that great majority of people who aren’t in marching band – going into houses and apartment buildings, shutting the doors, and getting away from the elements.
Before, it was the thrill of performing that had energized me, but now it was all different. I mean, yes, the fans enjoy our performances, but you could bring out Saddam Hussein wearing green and yellow and they’d probably go cheer for him too. At the very least, I had loved being able to get into the sold out games at Autzen Stadium, but after four years of going to every Oregon home game whether I wanted to or not, I'd come to think anything anywhere beat a couch and a television and a toilet that less than 30 people have crapped in in the last ten minutes.
I had run out of gas.
Me, out of gas and proving that it's possible to be creepy in your sleep.
After the end of my first high school marching band season, I was mortified that this activity I loved so much would come to an abrupt halt in only seven years. Offices do not have intramural marching bands, nor can you join one at the YMCA. Now, though, at the end of my marching band career, a moment I had expected to be tearful and bittersweet, I’m walking on air.
I don’t regret for a second any of the time I spent in the marching band. I’ve made some of the best friends of my life in this organization and picked up some of the best stories and blog fodder from it. If not for the Oregon Marching Band, I would not have experienced Taco Tuesday, the movie Wedding Crashers, the song ‘Gonna Get Through This’, motor coaches, or baseball caps being flung at motor coaches in quite the same way.
Some experiences I might have been better off without...
I never would have had the opportunity to chase a five foot tall inflatable penis around a San Diego hotel, pour Absolut into my fountain drink at Taco Bell in the bathroom while waiting for my Crunchwrap Supreme, board the Los Angeles Metro with an open container, or perform at a Rose Bowl and a National Championship in two consecutive years. And, of course, The Funeral Party, which, if not more prestigious than the Rose Bowl and National Championship, was certainly more enjoyable for everyone involved.
It’s strange to spend a decade doing something and then so abruptly stop with so little sentimentality. Who knows – maybe it hasn’t hit me yet. Maybe at the end of this summer I’ll drive past a high school and hear the warbling of brass, the flatulent rumble of a drumline, the Psycho style screech of a metronome, and I’ll break down in tears, either due to loss or PTSD.
Or maybe I’ll go on about my day a little happier, knowing that no matter what happens to me that day, if it starts raining I can go inside, whereas those poor bastards on the field are at the whim of the elements.
The trumpet section at its finest - Spiderbret, Boss Waffle, Poopy Bano, Joo, Jack MFBDPS Brazil, Longhair Trevor, Slambar, Captain Spickard, Super Dave, Regular Dave, Smashmorshman, Bremerson, Tako, multiple Jive Turkeys, Jefe the Mexican Drinking Machine, and Angry Kyle.
It’s been a good run.
Truman Capps looks forward to no more band related updates, and I’m sure you do too.