One of the things LSU fans love about the Golden Band from Tigerland is how much remains the same. The pregame ritual? That’s sacred — every note, every slow step, the drum major’s signal to blast those “Hold That Tiger" notes then segue into the rapid fire "Touchdown for LSU.”
Of late, the man making that signal remains unchanged, too.
Daniel Wendt is back for his third year as drum major. Wendt, a graduate student in finance from Denham Springs, said he is only the second three-year drum major in Tiger Band history; Rob Dowie had that position from 2007-09.
A saxophone player his first three years, Wendt had to audition for the drum major role at the end of each of the past three spring semesters. In addition to demonstrating the pregame routine, auditions include conducting, teaching band fundamentals and peer feedback.
“This is my last hurrah,” Wendt said. “You’re allowed to be in the band a total of six years.”
He’ll use it to lead a band that, once the pregame is over, will offer plenty of new things to see and hear from the stands during the game and the halftime shows.
The performances will include a theme offering a salute to Louisiana music in the Sept. 9 home opener against Chattanooga. Last year, the salute was a tribute to New Orleans swing music. This year, funk and zydeco will be featured.
Can't see the video below? Click here.
The second show, for the Sept. 23 Syracuse game, will be called “Fight Night” and will be based loosely on music from the movie “Rocky,” said Dennis Llinas, Tiger Band director. LSU alumnus Bill Conti wrote the score for “Rocky,” and this show will pay homage to him and include a Jumbotron broadcast of the costumed Mike the Tiger mascot re-enacting training scenes from the film.
On Sept. 30 against Troy, halftime will feature a show based on the music from cartoons, including some popular classical music to the jingles of "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons" and "Family Guy."
The Tigers' only October home game is Oct. 14 against Auburn, and the band's show will be titled "Nightmare in Death Valley." Based on classical music, like "Toccata and Fugue," "Night on Bald Mountain" and horror movie theme music including "Psycho," "The X Files" and "Saw," the Tiger Band will bring an early Halloween.
The Nov. 11 Arkansas game will be a Veterans Day salute to all of the armed forces and a tribute to the early days of the Tiger Band with traditional drill.
The regular season finale Nov. 25 against Texas A&M will be a "Star Wars" show in advance of the December film release. The show will incorporate a video featuring Mike the Tiger completing his own storyline.
In addition to new tunes, band members will have a slightly different look. When the band marches into Houston’s NRG Stadium on Sept. 2 for the season opener against Brigham Young, Llinas said its 300 members will sport new uniforms.
The band changes its uniforms about every 10 years, he said, and this uniform will keep much of its iconic look, but with some tweaks.
The jacket, he said, rides a little higher and comes to a point in the front, which makes everyone look taller. The purple pants color has been added to the jacket sides and underneath the sleeves for a slimmer look.
“These things are just to make the band look a little fresher, a little more crisp from far away,” Llinas said.
For the band members, however, it will be more about feeling good than looking good. The old jacket was seven layers thick and heavy. The new version is a lighter material and two layers thick. A thick, plastic collar has been replaced by fabric.
Can't see the video below? Click here.
Over the years, the college football season has started earlier and earlier. As late as the 1980s, games began the second or even third Saturday in September. Now, Labor Day weekend is the norm, which has resulted in August season openers four of the past 10 years.
“Every time we have a hot game — and we live in Louisiana, so we might have one or two hot games a season — we would have 20 kids in the infirmary in the middle of the game from just sitting in the stands because of the heat and the jacket retaining that heat,” Llinas said.
It’s hard to play the halftime show from the infirmary.