Hello again, and welcome back to another edition of View From The Sidelines!

Honda 2020 (aka HBCU BandNik) is in the books, and I gotta say that it was pretty cool seeing all the love that was exhibited from the ATL for HBCU bands, and HBCU band culture in general. Atlanta is the HBCU nexus of sorts so I wasn’t overly surprised, but it was great to see nonetheless. I’ve decided to do something a bit different than the normal post-Honda wrap-up that’s circulating through the innawebs this week. I’ve decided to do a dedicated film breakdown of all of the field performances that went down. The good, the bad, and the ugly will all be covered, and an overall victor will be determined VFTS style. Before I get started, let me just state that there wasn’t a single performance this year that fell into the “Fishsammachee” (Thanks Boss Lady) category. All bands came prepared to give the viewing audience a great showing, and that preparation was on full display from all of the bands collectively. That being said, there was definitely a distinct pecking order in terms of performance quality this year, so I’ll attempt to lay that out in detail in this series of entries. Let’s get started by breaking down the performance of the Benedict College Marching “Band Of Distinction”.

Evaluation Categories:

  1. Sound Quality
  2. Visual Uniformity
  3. Show Tempo
  4. Show Creativity
  5. General Overall Effect

Benedict’s come a LONG way in terms of visibility as a program. In fact, you could say that they’ve usurped The Marching 101 of SCSU as the best HBCU band program in the state of South Carolina and not get too much of an argument from many in bandhead circles. They were definitely the class of an increasingly competitive and growing SIAC showband scene this year. H.Wade Johnson and his staff have really got the ball rolling down there, so I was really intrigued to get an opportunity to see them perform under the Honda spotlight again.

PHASE 1: Show Introduction

One of the most important parts of an EFFECTIVE halftime show is its beginning. There’s a lot to be said about making a good first impression with an audience. It can mean the difference between a halftime show where the audience is fully invested and engaged in the story that’s to be told, or it can get said show off to a lackluster start that it may never be able to recover from. The BOD’s start to this show wasn’t bad, in spite of the challenges that domed stadiums often present to ensembles that perform in them. there was a bit of an issue with the announcer’s integration into the tempo of the show a little later on, but he did exactly what he was supposed to do within the framework of introducing a performing band to an audience in this instance; It was just enough involvement to narrate the performance to come, but not too much to outshine the product on the field being introduced. Normally, when you play an introductory fanfare (The sound quality for the “Wildflower” fanfare was great! Extremely balanced and the sound projected extremely well in the dome), you’re preparing the audience for the first part of the story that’s being told on the field. That could be a direct transition into the drill, or it could be a prelude to a mini-show element designed to get the audience even more invested in the show that’s about to be presented. It seemed like the latter approach was taken by the BOD, with mixed results. To the BOD’s credit, the tempo didn’t waver in light of this half-feature/semi dance break. Dead “areas” of inactivity within a show are like living death to an audience in terms of remaining invested in the story being told by the performance, and the BOD avoided that potential pitfall before transitioning into the drill, and the meat of the remaining show.

PHASE 2: Main Course

Field shows in today’s HBCU band landscape are a challenge in terms of keeping an audience that’s pretty knowledgable, engaged. The bottom line is that you’ve gotta do one of the following to really wow crowds that may or may NOT be savvy when it comes to what’s creative or not. You can perform a drill concept that’s pretty benign, but ELITE when it comes to visual execution and uniformity, or you can perform concepts that push the envelope of creativity and be ELITE in terms of visual execution and uniformity. The BOD’s traditional 8-to-5, squad-based drill offering was pretty traditional by showband standards. Field utilization stretched from 30-yard line to 30-yard line and the lines were relatively straight, but the detail-oriented visual uniformity that often goes with ELITE level executing bands wasn’t quite there yet. The BOD looked good executing the drill, but they could’ve looked GREAT executing it with a few tweaks to the marching style to promote squad-to-squad uniformity. If you’ve got one guy in the squad adhering to the band’s individual marching concept, EVERYBODY needs to strive to execute said concept the SAME WAY. Those slight differences in attention to detail make a BIG difference to an audience that’s viewing the ensemble as a whole. In traditional 8-to-5, Moffitt-style drills, it’s important that the sound concept of a band supports the periods of time where respective ranks of instrumentalists are facing away from the main audience body. The BOD’s sound concept (and quality) were top-notch in this regard. There was very little dropoff in terms of sound quality during the drill, and they sounded pretty dayumn good when every bell to bear was facing the audience.

That being said, it’s this part of the performance where the dreaded aforementioned “dead areas” that kill show momentum started to appear. The ballad and dance team features seemed to take the steam out of the performance for the audience. They weren’t badly executed at all; they just lacked the required energy to maintain the tempo generated in the first portion of the show. The interactive crowd portion of the ballad generated some well-needed energy, but the overall show never really recovered from that lull in momentum. Again, the sound quality from the ensemble was EXTREMELY balanced. This was one of the constants that stood out to me from the entire performance.

PHASE 3: Show Conclusion

Transitions, Transitions, Transitions…From an overall visual effects perspective, they can make or break a show. You can either look extremely polished and smooth in your show transitions, or you can look haphazard doing them. Scramble-style formation transitions carry an inherent risk for the latter if they’re not executed the right way. The scramble to dance formation that the BOD employed was an example of that kind of risk, as it made the overall visual effect of going to the dance routine portion of the show look a bit disjointed. After getting there, the show’s tempo predictably picked up again. The dance routine was pretty pedestrian but well executed. The audience was pretty engaged and the show would’ve ended with the crowd momentum intended IF it would’ve ended after the end of the first dance routine block. Instead, we kinda get the vibe from the audience that the show should’ve been over at this point, which took away any excitement the transition into the final dance routine/semi-sideline blowdown set was supposed to generate. Here’s an instance where show design could’ve been simplified a bit to maximize the overall effect of the show. It just felt like too much was being crammed into the product, and the crowd kinda sensed it too.

Overall, the BOD put on a pretty solid show for their return to the Honda BOTB stage. There are DEFINITELY some small, detail-oriented things the band can build on to really refine its on-field product, but the foundation for an extremely long rule in SIAC circles is pretty solid. It was definitely a Honda-calibre performance, but still not where it COULD be with a bit more refinement.

Scaled to 10:

  1. Sound Quality: 8.5/10
  2. Visual Uniformity: 7/10
  3. Show Tempo: 6/10
  4. Show Creativity: 6/10
  5. General Overall Effect: 8/10

Total Possible Points: 50
Total Points Accrued: 35.5

That’s it for this edition of VFTS! The next Honda BOTB film Breakdown will feature the Marching Force of Hampton University. Stay Tuned! 😉

Article courtesy of halftimeglory.com


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