Psy vs. Sci-Fi: Ohio’s Battle of the Marching Bands Goes Online

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 23 2012 6:00 PM

Psy vs. Sci-Fi: Ohio’s Battle of the Marching Bands Goes Online

FT-marchingband
The “Best Damn Band in the Land” paid homage to sci-fi during a recent halftime show at Ohio State

We all know that Ohio is one of the most hotly contested battleground states: Real Clear Politics shows President Obama with a razor-thin 1.9-point lead in the state that has voted with the winner in every election but one since 1944. But that race is a yawner compared with the ongoing battle for supremacy taking place in the football stadiums of my home state’s two namesake universities. And while I can’t resist pointing out that Ohio State and Ohio University are both undefeated this season, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the bands. And everyone on YouTube gets a say in this death match.

Rachael Larimore Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore is a Slate senior editor.

The OU Marching 110 (the “Most Exciting Band in the Land”) went crazy viral last year when it performed LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”  Boosted by those 8.6 million views (and counting), the Marching 110 went “Gangnam Style” on Sept. 22. The video didn’t go quite as viral, but it did reach Korean pop star Psy himself, who said that it was his favorite version.

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An hour north, the “Best Damn Band in the Land” has taken notice.  But instead of opting for loud, catchy pop songs, TBDBITL emphasizes amazing, fluid choreography. (You’ve seen Script Ohio, right? It’s up there with apple pie and baseball.) And on several occasions this year, the band has celebrated science and technology, fitting for a state that gave the world the Wright brothers, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Thomas Edison.

On Sept. 15, the band did a “Space” theme, and former astronaut and Ohio Sen. Glenn dotted the “I” in Script Ohio.

Three weeks later, while the football team was playing Nebraska, the band paid tribute to video games, choreographing Pac-Man, Mario Bros, Tetris, and others. (No, I didn’t guess them all, and I’m even a child of the ‘80s.)

But it might have set a new standard with its “End of the World” halftime show on Saturday (and yes, Buckeye fans were worried it was the end of the world one quarter later, when Braxton Miller got hauled off in an ambulance). There’s a dancing alien! And a Delorean! And a bunch of guys wearing Michigan colors get beat up at the end.

So who’s ahead in this particular battle? When it comes to bands, I’m a swing voter. I probably had a Buckeyes rattle in my crib. At age 9, I sat in Ohio Stadium and felt the whole place sway when the band played “Hang on Sloopy” while the Buckeyes rolled to a 72-9 victory over some hapless foe. (I think I also got a contact high …) But OU is my alma mater. The band made many a Saturday afternoon less miserable.

Let’s break it down. The Most Exciting Band in the Land is a little punchier, a little more emphatic musically.  They pick the right songs.  And they’ve got the YouTube thing figured out.

On the other hand, the Best Damn Band in the Land wins on style. Did you see the dancing alien?

There’s still a few weeks left in the campaign, but in the homestretch, I’d have to say the Buckeyes hold the lead.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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