Today is the day.
The sunlight bounces off brass and silver, blinding those standing along Victory Hill.
These fans have been waiting for this moment since the LSU Tigers closed out their 2012 season.
They know the 2013 football season is official once the LSU Tiger Marching Band makes its practice march to Tiger Stadium.
Of course, the crowd will be much bigger next Saturday, when LSU takes on the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the home opener. So big, in fact, barricades will be in place, creating an atmosphere more akin to Mardi Gras than a band’s march to the stadium.
But this isn’t just any band. It’s the Golden Band from Tigerland. So it’s not unusual for fans to show up the Saturday before the beginning of classes, iPads in hand recording the band’s every step.
They’re ready to hear the drums, ready to hear that first note of the “Tiger Rag” chorus that makes up the band’s “Pregame” fanfare.
“The band’s ready for this, too,” says Roy King, whose official title is director of athletic bands, but whom everyone recognizes as director of the Tiger Band, which is no simple task.
Coordinating preseason band camp, alone, is quite a task, what with welcoming incoming freshmen the first week, mixing them with returning upperclassmen in the second, then whittling the number down to 325 a couple of days before that practice run to the stadium.
All positions are up for grabs, meaning not every returning member is guaranteed a spot.
“We made the cuts a day early this year,” King says. “We cut some freshmen, and we had to cut some returning members, which is always heartbreaking.”
That enabled King, associate director of bands director Dennis Llinas and graduate assistants Christopher Drew Dickey, Danielle Emerich, Kelvin Jones and William Novak to teach the first halftime show during camp.
Normally, the first show doesn’t come together until the first week of classes.
“I think the Tiger Band made history this year, when we learned the show early” King says. “And Les Miles came and spoke to the band last night. He told them how much the band means to the football team and how it’s not the same when the band isn’t there.”
The band maintains a good relationship with the athletic department as a whole.
“We’ve received such great support from the athletic department. We usually practice in the field house during preseason, but because it’s undergoing renovations, the athletic department opened up the Assembly Center to us and allowed us extra time in the indoor practice facility,” King says. “That means so much.”
So the band is ready. More than ready.
Instrument sections huddle in separate groups before lining up in parade formation, each observing a tradition that culminates in loud cheers.
Standing in the midst of it all is new drum major Taylor Herpin. And he will be doing that oh-so-familiar toss of the silver baton high into the air for several flips.
“I worked with the drum major before me,” says Herpin. “And I practiced during the summer.”
Herpin, of Lafayette, beat out eight others for the job to lead the 325-member Golden Band from Tigerland down Victory Hill.
The game is on.