If you’re not feeling the energy when the Spirit of the Southland takes the field, then you’re not ready for football.
It’s as simple as that, because Southeastern Louisiana University’s marching band’s pregame mission is to get the Hammond crowd ready to cheer on the Lions.
But first, the band, like the team, has to get ready for the season. This year, the band’s 100 members met Aug. 12-16 to brush up on marching technique and fight songs and learn the pregame and first halftime shows.
The band performed its first halftime show at the Lions’ home opener last Thursday, meaning the Spirit of the Southland’s next Strawberry Stadium appearance won’t be until Oct. 5.
“There are a lot of away games between now and then,” says Paul Mechou, associate director of bands and director of athletic bands. “We won’t be going to any away games this year, because we have six home games.”
And when Southeastern takes on the University of Incarnate Word Cardinals that first Saturday in October, about 400 high schoolers will join the university band.
“That will be band day,” Frechou says. “We invite high school band students from East Baton Rouge Parish, New Orleans, the West Bank, Tangipahoa Parish, Livingston Parish and Bogalusa to join us. We average about 400 high school students each year, and we have a T-shirt made up for them with the game’s theme. This year’s theme will be a tribute to the Village People.”
That takes place at halftime.
The band traditionally leads the football team on the Lion’s Walk to the stadium, before making its own official march into the stadium named for Hammond’s best-known crop.
That’s when the energy level starts rising. The band runs onto the field and spells out “LIONS,” then brings in the cheerleaders for the “Green and Gold” fight song.
Next comes the pregame show’s jazz section, beginning with a “Closer Walker,” then “House of the Rising Sun” and finally a call and response with the crowd with “Little Liza Jane.”
The Southeastern Lionettes dance team performs during this portion of the show.
“They’re under the auspices of the athletic department, but we work closely with them on almost everything,” Frechou says.
Finally, the band will spell out USA while playing “America the Beautiful” and unfurling a 20-yard American flag. Next comes the national anthem.
Leading the band on the field are drum majors Jonathan Lyons and Sharie Mahler. The band also fields a color guard choreographed by Jonathan Davis.
But the energy doesn’t stop there. The band will observe another football tradition when the Lions take on Sam Houston State University on Nov. 16.
“We always invite a guest artist to perform a concert with the band during the season,” Frechou says. “We’ve had artists like Charmaine Neville and Rockin’ Dopsie perform with us. This year, we’ll have the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. They’re a brass band, and we’ve been trying to get them for a long time.”
The band will rehearse with the Nightcrawlers on game day, then put on the show at halftime.
And it keeps the energy stirred in Strawberry Stadium.