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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

Temporary Band Entry Title by Sam M. '07

And we hope we passed the audition.

The MIT Marching Band, completely arbitrarily, decided to go out tonight and give a free midnight concert all over campus except for Building 10 and Killian Court.

No, really.

Our audience included the Stata Center, countless Biology graduate students in buildings 56 and 68, the campus police, both parallels of East Campus, and somebody in a chicken costume.

Most frequently used line of the evening: “If you or anybody you know is interested in joining, let us know at marching underscore band at mit dot edu!”

And so should you!

Story tomorrow. I’m spent.

Hokay, so….

Our journey began, as most good journeys do, at the Student Center, where we had to decide exactly where to give our free concert to celebrate the first of November. The Beatles had already done the whole concert-on-the-roof thing, and we were spontaneously struck with the idea that Killian Court might also not be so smart, so we decided that a good place to start might be the loud, echoey parking lot behind Building 13. So, we got into a 2 x 4 block and started our march to the “secret vocal cadence.” Unfortunately, since we were too lazy to wait another 35 seconds for the light to change at Mass Ave, we had to break formation momentarily and run across the street like hungry termites. We then reassumed formation and marched down the Infinite to the tune of S’weight, which was requested of us by the janitorial staff. Believe me, as an MIT student, you don’t want to get on the bad graces of the janitorial staff.

WATE is perhaps the only song that we are actually proficient at playing, and thus we do three separate versions of it. “Poo-wate” is played on instruments, “S’weight” is sung in four-part a capella harmony, and “Kuwait” is played on kazoos. Just plain “WATE” is the signal for some unholy combination of the three.

So, we stood in the parking lot and played “Mission Impossible,” which I had spent like 20 minutes lovingly arranging for the occasion. The band found it surprisingly playable, which was my goal. We moved about fifty feet, turned our backs on the Great Dome, and serenaded a lamppost with “Ghostbusters.” I wanted to stay and watch its flower growin’, but we had more important business to attend to.

A chorus of “Kuwait” later, we ended up at a proscenium in the Stata Center. And hey, that looks pretty echoey. So, we decided that the Course 7: Biology grad students still hanging out in Building 68 at 1 AM needed some entertainment, stood facing the proscenium, and played two songs that I don’t entirely recall. Ah, the acoustic was gorgeous, and we could have played there all night, but we had other business to attend to, so we unfortunately had to leave.

So this is where things start to get strange.

Well, we’re now at Building 66, which I’ve mentioned before, and this is like 35 steps away from East Campus, although you’d never really guess that by the number of EC residents who are late for the Course 10 classes held there. So, we decided that a brief concert for the residents of the dorm were in order. Hey, it was only like 12:45, the night is still pretty young for an MIT student, and like half the band lives at EC anyway. We marched through the courtyard with an expeditious renditions (tongue twister) of “Let’s Go Tech” and “Poo-wate,” then left in some confusion when we thought we saw the housemaster coming out.

Well, now we’re at the Great Sail. And, yeah, that weird black monstrosity may not be the most traditional piece of art in the world, but it actually looks like a really cool place to give a concert, and the EC residents might not find it quite so loud. When I’m grown up and the lead singer of a world-famous progressive rock band named “Tenzing,” I’m totally going to give a free concert here. Maybe during Fall Festival.

So, we got through “Indiana Jones” and one chorus of “Heart and Soul,” I believe, when the Campus Police came and we dispersed like gas molecules undergoing the Joule-Thomson expansion (that is, adiabatically). However, as police car went by, one of us heard the officer say, “Aww, come on, guys, we were just coming over to hear you play!”

Uh, he may have just been trying to gently suggest that we keep the noise down a little bit, but, hey, he did say that he wanted to hear a song, and the Campus Police are another group that you really don’t want to upset too much. So, when they passed by again, I asked, “Would you really like to hear us play, officer?” Somehow, he said yes, so we detained the car for another two minutes with another improvised rendition of “Heart and Soul.” Maybe they appreciated it, maybe not.

Then someone from the Crime Club came by. And, I mean, when you’re causing a noise disturbance at 1 AM and the police have just left, somebody from the Crime Club is also going to put you a little bit on edge. Luckily, he said that he actually really appreciated our “Mission Impossible,” and as an added bonus gave us kits to detect dangerous drugs in cocktails or determine somebody’s blood alcohol level from their saliva. Ken, our sousaphonist, was very happy, because as an ASA person he allocated money to the crime club, so he appreciated that the money was actually being put to good use by a student group.

Then Tim from Third East came down and inquired about our band. I would have pegged Tim as living in like, Macgregor just from looking at him, so I guess it shows that even after three years of being at MIT, I’m still not that good at reading people. Anyway, “Marching underscore Band at MIT dot edu!!” we cried, but Tim then revealed that he couldn’t really play any traditional instruments. The nine of us were ready to accept him on beatbox, but then he demonstrated his remarkable ability at vocal trumpet. So, Tim, if you still want to join, the next meeting should be this Saturday at one-ish.

Then the Mad Hatter came and wondered why we were out so late at night. Well, this is the kind of thing you expect when you give a concert on the night of Halloween. A bunch of his goth and drag-sporting compatriots yelled at us, but we retaliated with a rendition of “Charge.” This made them go away. Or maybe they were just really tired. It’s kind of inconsequential.

Anyway, it was getting around half past one, and we decided that it was time to bring our concert to a close. We marched stealthily down Memorial Drive… until a rollerblader (EDIT: Roller skiier) passed by and wondered aloud, “What, no ‘Tequila?'” Well, we hadn’t been able to deny such a request all night, so we broke out in a two-and-a-half part a capella version as we marched somewhat jauntily to Mass Ave.

And then comes the one moment that turned this whole experience instantly from just “Hmmm, that was an interesting night” to “This was like ‘Un Chien Andalou,’ except without slicing open the pig’s eyeball.”

We were passing Bex(xx)ley when someone in a chicken costume approached us. Okay, it’s Halloween, that’s not too weird. So, we jokingly said, “Ha, I wish one of us knew the Chicken Dance.” Oh, Mr. Chicken, you’ve brought a boom box. That plays only the Chicken Dance. How convenient. Oh, you want us to dance? I’m down with that. But it’s kind of hard for those of us wearing bass drums and sousaphones. Oh, you want us to play? We’re down with that too. Oops, you brought a recording that’s in F#. But, hey, we’ll try. Okay, thanks. Hugs all around, Mr. Chicken.

Then he went back across the street, presumably to his handlers, never to be seen again.

“The funny thing is, each of us thought that the other was the stranger person.” –somebody

We closed off our concert with two more tunes at 77 Mass Ave, then headed back over to the Student Center. On the ground level, we ran into a group of freshmen that was really a lot larger than you should run into on a Monday night at 2 AM during classes. But, we happily ignored that fact and gave them a stellar encore–a stellar “Poo-wate, Kuwait, Sweight” medley that no doubt left them in total awe of our performing abilities.

Well, didn’t it, Laura?

And then we got back to where we once belonged.

Ah, such a great night. I think it’s time for a bonus entry.

7 responses to “Temporary Band Entry Title”

  1. Kate says:

    MIT: where the true band *geeks* play. The instrument I play best is my voice but I’m honestly considering taking up another besides ukelele or cello, you know, one that can actually be played in a marching band. I told a friend of mine in our high school’s marching band how many people are in yours and he just gaped because we have about fifteen times that amount. It’s all good. Very much looking forward to the story tomorrow!

  2. zoogies says:

    If I get into MIT, I want to go to a marching band game sometime and watch you guys :D Or maybe even before, because marching band season’s almost over, isn’ it?

  3. Dave says:

    I’m in my high school marching band and I’ve applied to MIT, it has been my own personal opinion that the former made me more of a geek than the latter. You do both? Your geekness has awed me, I genuflect before you grin

  4. Jessie says:

    Heh. I heard you guys playing. We all did. I think some of us may have even spoken with you, though I didn’t.

  5. Liz says:

    They were roller skis, not roller blades.

  6. Laura says:

    It was indeed an impressive performance and we were thrilled to be your priveleged audience. =)

  7. Victoria says:

    If I go to MIT I will be sure to bring a copy of the Chicken Dance with me. It was issued by my school’s marching band. Transposing to F# at a moment’s notice? I bow in awe at your geekiness.