To celebrate Juneteenth, the wife bought us some tickets to Austin's second annual Alvin Peterson Battle of the Bands and Drumline competition this past weekend. I had no idea what a "battle of the bands drumline competition" meant, but this being Austin, the so-called "live music capitol of the world," I figured it would be another one of those imitation R&B/jazz/soul music-type festivals that's usually held on sixth street, downtown. It wasn't. As we pulled into the parking lot of this eastside Athletic stadium, the first thing I took notice of was the large number of "us" in the parking lot. Us, referring to black folk. Plenty of synthetic hair weaves, over-sized basketball shirts and skimpy booty shorts. Now, I love my peepz, but I'm a small town Iowa boy. I'm not used to any event with alot of "us" in attendance. So, at first I'm feeling a bit squeamish. I mean, with all due respect, in my past experience, a large number of "us" gathered in an outdoor venue, with temperatures above 90-degrees resulted in one of three things: a church revival, a fight, or a shooting. Sometimes all of the above. And I was in the mood for none of the above. But I did my best to approach this evening with an open mind. Once I discovered the BBQ turkey legs, Pizza Hut pizza and hot dogs, I loosened up. Turned out to be a very nice evening.
This experience, a new one for me, was off the chain. If you've seen the movie Drumline, it was very similar, just on a smaller stage. The energy was high and the percussion got my son up out of his seat marching in line, bumping his butt in rhythm, annoying everyone within a 10-foot radius of where we sat.
These large bands made up of low-pitched tubas and high octave trumpets pierced the air above our heads with familiar R&B old-school tunes, new-school hip-hop as well as traditional classics. The drumlines played in sync while juggling drumsticks, call-and-response chanting and performing breakdance style moves.
I don't know the history behind drumline competitions, but this style of marching band music and drumline was surly born, or at least modified by the African American community. The style of music, the dance steps, the acrobatic showmanship gave clue to that.
All the bands gave excellent performances. They travelled from schools as far away as Memphis, Tennessee and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This was the Austin All-Star's first time competing. They made an outstanding performance, and were probably one of the best in terms of performing technically difficult routines.
The problem, in my opinion, was that in this one example, diversity didn't help them. As I said before, this "style" of marching is obviously born in the African American community. The Austin team had probably less than six African Americans on the team. Although they performed at a high level, they were missing one key ingredient to compete against drumlines out of Baton Rouge and Memphis, predominantly African American lines. They lacked soul. What do I mean by soul? Am I being racist? No, and it's not anything I can describe with words. You'd just have to hear it to know what I mean. I don't know, maybe their coach needs to have a talk with Eminem, find out how he got his soul on. Once they address that issue, their team will soar. Hope they get it together.
Unrelated thought for the day: All this talk of virtues, humanitarian causes and God, coming from the same person who exposed a boob to millions of children during the 2004 superbowl.