USC's "Mighty Sound of the Southeast" marching band will be performing popular '90s tunes from artists including Third Eye Blind and Smash Mouth during Saturday's football game against the Georgia Bulldogs.
The '90s throwback theme was originally scheduled for the Georgia game in 2016, but due to Hurricane Matthew, the show was postponed and revamped for the 2018 game. The game begins at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“It’s funny that we’ve brought a lot of it back two years later," said Cormac Cannon, the director of the Carolina band. "And it just happens to be that it’s the Georgia game again. So let’s hope for no hurricane.”
Cannon works with assistant directors Tonya Mitchell and Jack Eaddy, as well as the 360-member band and a full staff to create the themed shows students see during halftime on game days.
The show opens with the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" and closes with Ricky Martin's hit "Livin' La Vida Loca." The marching band will also perform Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life" and Smash Mouth's "Walking on the Sun."
“I would imagine that everyone knows these songs and they can take them back to a time in their lives where they’re riding in the car and heard ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca or at a school dance and heard 'I Want It That Way,’" Mitchell said.
The process of creating a massive, themed show like this is complex. It began with a show planning committee consisting of band members. The organization was created in 2016 and picks themes and songs for shows and submits them to the staff for approval.
After the theme and songs are approved by the staff, the chosen songs must be rewritten for the band to be able to play them.
“Take a Backstreet Boys song, someone has to take that song and modify it to be able to be played by a marching band," Cannon said. “All of the music that we play is written exclusively for the Carolina Band by our own staff.”
J.D. Shaw, a School of Music horn professor and arranger for the world champion Santa Clara Vanguard drum and bugle corps, wrote the music for Saturday's '90s show.
Another vital part of the show that must be created is the drill, or the choreography that the band performs on the field. Mitchell wrote the drill for this performance, and the band has gone completely paperless to learn the moves with an app called Ultimate Drill Book. Using the app saves a lot of time for band members. With their smart phones, they can easily see how many steps they need to take, the size of those steps and even an animation to see how they should be moving from one space to another.
After everything is written, the entire band comes together so the students can learn the music and the drill through four, 90-minute rehearsals.
“We do a different half time show every single home game, no matter what. If we have one week to prep it, two weeks to prep it," said Mitchell, "So we’ll be learning this show in one week. We’ll start rehearsing the drill on Tuesday and we’ll debut the show on Saturday.”
With a new show each home game, the students are used to learning quickly.
“We couldn’t put this all together without the support and the energy of all the members of the band there," fourth-year music education student Alex Easterday said. "They get there and they’re ready to work.”
Easterday is in his fourth year with the marching band and his second year as one of three drum majors. He explained how being in band gave him an instantaneous family upon arrival at USC.
“If you’re ever having a bad day, you go to band and that’s your time to not think about what’s going on," Easterday said. "So it’s a really good support group to be in.”
He also said being in a leadership role as drum major and performing in front of 80,000 people every week helped him find his voice. He hopes to apply that to his future in music education.
Allison Crandall, the trumpet section leader and a fourth-year human resources management and marketing student, is in a leadership position like Easterday. Trumpet section lead has been her dream position since freshman year. Crandall described how fulfilling her goal comes with the responsibility to hold up the values of the USC marching band.
Both band members and directors alike hope the student section and all attendees will participate during the halftime show and sing along.
“So I think the ‘90s show ... connects to people who are of a lot of different ages, where it’s music that you know, it’s music that I know from growing up, when I’m 20 years older than the students in the band and people who are older than me, probably know it," Cannon said. "And even if they don’t know it, the songs are catchy and interesting.”
The band has planned the choreography so that the band faces the front sideline and the back, so everyone in the stadium can receive the full impact of the show.
“It could be very intimidating," Mitchell said. "But I think it’s extremely humbling to be at a university this size and to get to show a product that’s extremely meaningful, that takes a lot of preparation, every single day, to 85,000 of their best friends.”