Hear the sound of the pouring rain
Comin’ down like an Armageddon flame
A shame, the ones who died without a name
I’ve never been one to stay current with the music scene. When I was in college, I only became familiar with popular songs of the day when I went to the bars with my roommates and friends. Joe’s, Brothers, Firehaus, White Ho(rse), Murphy’s, Legends. Even then, I didn’t buy whole albums. I had to be obsessed with a song in order to cherry-pick it.
I believe I heard “Holiday” for the first time at an Illini pep rally, sometime in 2006. I was immediately seduced by its brash guitar lead-in, my blood sent pumping with the beat. It was unsurprising that it was popular with our Marching Illini that year.
“Holiday” became my anthem. Apparently it was old news to my friends, as it had come out the year prior as a single, right after “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” as part of their American Idiot album. But any time I heard it, either on my iPod on shuffle (because once I heard it, I immediately had to buy it) or whenever the Marching Illini performed it, my mood immediately skyrocketed. There are very few songs that make happiness so infectious, and for me, this is one of them.
Memorial Stadium was literally across the street from Snyder, my dorm building. It was one of six older dormitories, aptly nicknamed “the Six Pack”, and was connected by a network of tunnels. These were Godsends whenever the weather turned nasty, which was often, given the moodiness of the Midwest’s climate. I had outside rooms on the fourth floor for both my freshman and sophomore years, which provided views of the street rather than the courtyard. The upside of this was having a view not limited to other people’s windows. (Who wanted a view of the legendary Goat Man in his tighty-whities?) The downside was the fact that the marching band practiced in the evenings, which meant nothing less than black-out curtains could diminish those bright-as-daylight stadium lights. Of course, dorms don’t typically furnish those.
Nor do they furnish ear-plugs.
On Saturday mornings, nobody in the Six Pack bothered to set their alarms, not out of a desire to sleep in, but because it was pointless: the Marching Illini always charted a course for Memorial Stadium through the Six Pack, practicing the day’s songs. Typically they only played fight songs in the mornings, tunes that were always obnoxious to away teams, but proved even more so for home team students trying to sleep off whatever they did the night before. Trumpets, trombones and snare drums playing anything at six in the morning on a Saturday was automatically of the devil. A few seconds after the blare of brass jolted you awake like a pair of defibrillators to the ears, you could hear the muffled whines, curses and insults from the bedrooms around you. The most common request was “Shut UP!”, but, with an extra two words in between.
Halfway through the football season, the appeal I planned to make was quite the opposite.
“They’re not gonna see it,” my best friend Sam said one Friday night before a home game. I was sprawled out on the floor of my dorm room, with a giant sheet of bright yellow craft paper and my favorite weapons of choice: black Sharpies. “Maybe if you had a window on the courtyard – ”
“They’ll see it,” I said, cutting her off. The plan was to tape the giant sign to the inside of my window. The hope was the Marching Illini would look up to the fourth floor. Ours was the last dorm they walked through on their morning march to Memorial Stadium. After playing in our courtyard, they’d walk across the street for pre-game festivities. They didn’t really have a reason to look behind and up at the door as they left. But I was determined.
On the sheet I wrote as large as I could, going over the letters several times to make them bold. Wake us up today – please play “Holiday”! When it was finished, I used copious amounts of my artist’s tape to secure it to the window, then closed the curtains. Going to bed that night felt like Christmas Eve.
The next morning I awoke to the sound of the Marching Illini in the Snyder courtyard. Soon, they’d be walking through the breezeway beneath my room on their way to the stadium. I leapt from the bed, grabbed my digital camera, and pulled the curtains back ever so slightly on my side. The morning sun illuminated my sign, making it glow.
The first of the Marching Illini trickled through the breezeway as they finished playing, their blue and orange uniforms almost neon against the drab brown grass. I turned my camera on and started recording.
The band was almost entirely through, chatting amongst themselves. One of them happened to turn around. I waved at them like a maniac, albeit silently, because somehow or another, my roommate was still asleep.
He saw me, and pointed at my sign. The glass was thin, single-paned (I have pictures of icicles forming on the inside of our room in the winter months) so I was able to hear his next words.
“Hey, you guys wanna play “Holiday”?”
More members of the band looked up, until they all were facing my window. Their horns went up, and they began to play. (I may or may not have had to fight back a tear or two.)
In a matter of seconds, I heard running footsteps out in the hall, and my door burst open. It was Sam, with the biggest grin on her face. We stood there together at the window, as the Marching Illini serenaded us that cool fall morning.
Whenever “Holiday” comes up on shuffle, I play it several times before allowing myself to move on to the next song. It will always get me pumped, but a special place in my heart is reserved for the brass and snare-drums of a marching band’s rendition.
I beg to dream and differ from their hollow lies
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives