I almost named this one “I’ll be late for that…” but five hours later (lol) and after much procrastination the final Jackson State Sonic Boom of the South interview is finally here. I have to say it was cool interviewing the three individuals and I thank them for the time they put in and the insight they’ve given. After touching on some of The Boom’s history in the first interview and then the rivalry with Southern in the second interview I figured I’d get to some of my favorite in game things that The Boom does. There are different facets that The Boom cover during a football game. There’s opening when they march in, the songs that they play during the game, of course there’s the halftime performance, and finally the 5th Quarter.
For the most part I’ll be focusing on when The Boom is at home in Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, MS. I don’t remember the first time that I watched them march in but I know it was after I started driving. My dad used to be my primary ride to JSU games and that meant parking by the Farmer’s Market or somewhere along Woodrow Wilson and walking a long way. So a long walk plus the fact that we were usually running late meant that The Boom would already be sitting in the stands by the time we made it in. Anyway back to the band marching in. As soon as you hear “Get Ready”, the crowd gets hype and the band marches on in. The band normally arrives while both teams are still warming up and they march in behind the visiting teams bench before making their way to “The U” and up “The Ramp”. “The Ramp” is an event in itself and I’ll touch on it later.
After reaching the stands, the band usually warms up before playing the national anthem. I don’t fully understand why the national anthem is played before a sporting event. Strangely I always enjoy when The Boom plays “The Stars and Stripes Forever”. I can’t explain it. More recently the “Zero Quarter” has become more common. This is the time before the football game starts and both bands are entertaining the fans while we wait. This normally takes place before the national anthem.
Next are the songs that The Boom plays during the course of the game. There have been too many songs/fan fares to remember for me to say that a particular one is my favorite. I’ve always enjoyed when they start the game with “We Came to Play”, then sometimes along the way they’ll throw “Big Ballin” into the mix, and as the game moves along you’ll get sections of each band challenging the other and so on. But the biggest in the stands tradition that most JSU fans enjoy is when it’s time for The Boom to play Doug E Fresh’s “The Show”. You really have to be there to fully understand it. Over the years The Boom has added little twists to the song. But in the end it’s still great and it’s usually followed by “JSU rocks the house”. The crowd is usually rocking at this point. Sometimes a fan will blow an air horn or vuvuzela and mimic parts of “The Show” once the band is finished playing.
My next focus is on the halftime show. This breaks down into two parts. There is the field show when the band performs on the field and then there is “The Ramp” which I mentioned earlier. JSU has done some excellent field shows over the years. A couple that come to mind are the Halloween halftime shows which have featured them breaking into the full Michael Jackson dance scene from Thriller and the homecoming shows when the alumni band members would join them on the field. The field shows start off with the “Tiger Run On”. The fast paced movement was created by former band director Harold J. Haughton, Sr during the 1970s.* (I joked with today’s interviewee that amazingly I’ve only seen one band member fall during the “Tiger Run On”. ) The Boom then goes into choreographed movements and songs while the “Prancing J-Settes” and the drum majors known as the “J-5” dance too. In the past, JSU had twirlers that would also do choreographed movements during the field show. Then when it’s time for them to put on a “show”, The Boom breaks into some present or past hit songs and dances. We’ve really been spoiled over the years with their excellent halftime shows.
At this point, the field show would’ve been enough but now it is time for the band to march back into the stands. This is where “The Ramp” comes into play again. Now they could just take it easy and stroll on back to their seats but nope. The J-Settes lead the way heading back up to the stands not just walking but strutting while throwing in some high stepping, leg kicks, and other movements as they make their way through. They’re by the J-5, who also doesn’t take it easy. They high step, slide, glide, and groove their ways back to the seats. The rest of the band then makes their way up “The Ramp”. As usual everything is a “show”. Depending on the section of the band that’s passing through you may get a choreographed dance, some “stank faces”, or some other form of entertainment. There is one other part to “The Ramp” and it’s when the fans start hitting band members with shakers/pom poms. For the most part these swings aren’t too hard but sometimes a fan will go overboard and catch a mean look from a band member or two. A few years ago, the J-5 caught a few fans by surprise and pulled pom poms out of their back pockets and turned the tables on the fans sitting on the first row. Like I said it’s always a show.
The last facet of the game day experience with The Boom is the 5th Quarter. After the football game has ended – and school alma mater songs have been played – both bands dip into their “catalogues” of old school jams, slow songs, or classic hits to see who’s the best. At this current stage of living I’m proudly a member of #washedlife and I don’t stick around for the 5th Quarter. But I’ve seen some good ones. While clean up crews are working, plenty of fans stick around until one of the bands finally gets up and leaves or the stadium director shuts off a few lights. But there’s one more tidbit. After the 5th Quarter is done, JSU walks down to the field and marches out! Yes, marches out to “Get Ready” before loading the buses. The show never ends. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you may get to see the percussion section kick a choreographed musical line formation/dance before finally packing it up for the day/night.
Once again I want to touch on the purpose of me doing these interviews. I just wanted to get some insight on The Boom and share that along with some personal memories. The words I saw used a lot in the interviews were “tradition” and “pride”. I think those two words are the reasons why we the fans get such great performances from The Boom. I didn’t get to interview any of the J-Settes (which I wanted to) but maybe I’ll put something together for them down the road.
*Information on The Tiger Run was found via en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_State_University
The final interview was with Brandon G. from Jackson, MS. His love of music and early memories of JSU’s marching band made his choice easy. While in The Boom he played Alto Sax and during his interview he an interesting tidbit on journeying through the crowd at events.
What is your earliest or first memory of the Sonic Boom Of The South?
Having grown up in Jackson I have a ton of memories of The Boom, but my earliest memory of the Boom was the 1993 Capital City Classic with my dad and for some reason Get Ready was extra loud in Memorial that day the atmosphere was filled with music and black and mild smoke. At halftime the stadium was still packed as people waited to see the Boom destroy that other school’s band (lol). It was a great day and one of my fondest memories for sure.
Were you always interested in music? If so, where did it come from?
I was always a fan of music, I just developed it really, my parents always loved listening to music so maybe from being around them all the time.
Can you take me through what it was like deciding to join The Boom?
It was an easy decision. If I wasn’t going to play in The Boom I wasn’t going to play in any other band, I knew this in 1995 when I heard them play Scream by Michael and Janet Jackson during the halftime show.
Can you give some insight on what your first band camp with The Boom was like?
My first week of band camp was CRAZY, mainly because we had a performance to do that very next week in Charlotte, NC, so being freshman and us not knowing anything AT ALL it was a lot for us to learn in very little time, before the upperclassmen came back. Almost every day our schedule started at 8am and ended at 4am.
What instrument did you play?
After classes and the fall semester started…what was it like balancing the band, your studies, social life, etc.?
School would always come first for me, so most nights I either stayed up grinding late at night or finished most of my homework or projects during my downtime between classes. Social life during the fall was basically non-existent. I knew a bunch of people in my classes and in the dorms so that was mostly my social life, but during the spring it was all live. This got much easier every year as you matriculate through school, you figure out the band/school/life balance more and more.
Practice? Yeah we gotta talk about practice…what were they like and WHY were ya’ll keeping the entire campus and West Jackson woke all night? Lol
Yo practices were sometimes long and proved to be pointless sometimes, I mean we learned hundreds of songs only to actually play about 55% of them. Marching thru campus and Cranking up outside the Girls dorm in Alexander was always fun tho especially at 1 am. The other thing that was fun was the amount of jokes and other shenanigans that went on during practice this often helped dealing with those long practices.
That’s a bunch of SONGS to remember. How did you memorize/learn them?
Practice practice practice, we ran thru songs like it was nothing. We ran thru songs slow then at tempo break into sectionals, run thru them some more play them with the lights off in the band hall after you play a song 10 times muscle memory is second nature.
The first time you marched into “The Vet” what was that like? And how did you manage to stay calm? And what was the typical game day like for you?
The very first time marching into Memorial with The Boom man I was extra nervous. You know people are looking for you (especially if you’re a hometown kid) you focusing on not messing up flashes marching on the wrong foot, because you would get caught on tape, but after that first time it just gets easier. A typical game day was always cool. Get to the band room at a set time sit in there, make jokes, watch some freshman do skits, then hear a speech from Doc and load the buses where majority of the jokes and skits continued. Get to the stadium line up to march in and from that moment on PARTY!!!! You were there to put on a SHOW especially marching in the stands where people are hitting you with pom-poms in excitement and girls sometimes grabbing your booty. It was really like one big party.
I know you all weren’t allowed to hit anyone coming up the ramp but if you could’ve gotten a free swing…would you?
A free swing hell yeah especially with the people who hit you in the face with a Pom Pom hard as hell.
Not to make light of anyone messing up but I did see someone fall once during the “Tiger Run On”. Lol What was the key for you during the “Tiger Run On”?
Man sooo many ppl fell during Tiger Run On, it’s tough especially for the ones who have to make that quick turn, but the key to it is to make sure you keep count of your steps.
If you have one, what was your favorite game/event that you marched in?
Homecoming 2004 (Freshman year) that was the first game I got out of the Spirit Squad and on to the field show. And we did a 90s old school theme field show.
The last time that you marched with The Boom and what it was like?
SWAC Championship 2007, but Capital City Classic 2007 was the last time in Memorial and it was bittersweet memory, as a senior you get to go down to the field and embrace those of you who lasted ALL 4 YEARS from Freshman Band Camp onto that very moment as the band plays “Happy Feelings” by Frankie Beverly and Maze, it’s a moment of accomplishment, but also the moment you realize the ride is over and its someone else’s turn to bring joy to the fans that fill Memorial every Saturday during the fall.
What’s the most common misunderstanding that gets associated with The Boom?
The Most common misunderstanding is that people think we are Band Heads all the time. Don’t get me wrong some people are, the type that will perform a whole game and then want to watch the video of our performance when we got off the bus, but most of us love band at the moment we are in it, and are normal outside of that. We do have our moments too tho ( I sometimes check out band YouTube clips while I’m bored at work to get hype for the upcoming season)
What is it like now seeing The Boom when you attend events?
Man it is always a joyous occasion to hear The Boom Crank Up and mostly because I know some of my closest friends are right there with me. I also sometimes get jealous cause they finally got the wind suits we never got, but that’s about it. I’m a proud Boom Alum and more so a Proud Alum of Jackson State University.
Any words of encouragement or advice for young musicians?
My advice keep doing what you’re doing, practice and make sure you make the best of your God given talent and if you’re good enough it will help you pay your way through school (like me). If The Boom is for you rep it to the fullest, and make sure you remember why you went to college in the first place, TO GET AN EDUCATION. The Boom has created and destroyed some great people, but as long as you keep your priorities in order you’ll do great in life. Keep this order at ALL TIMES God, Family, and Jackson State University close to your heart.