From the city which spawned grunge music and the sounds of Quincy Jones to Jimi Hendrix, comes the Drew Carey Experience, a.k.a. the Sounders FC marching band. Only, this ain’t no ordinary marching band.
One of the new Major League Soccer club’s owners, Carey conceived the idea of a band which would rock the house in more ways than one.
“Soccer is well known around the world for its chanting, and we think this band can not only play music during the games, but coming right out of the music they can help lead chants and cheers and actually tie the whole thing together,” says Keith Rousu, the band’s interim director.
Already scores of people have signed up for the June 1 auditions at Qwest Field, but Rousu and Kevin Griffin, the Sounders FC Fan Development Director, say there’s always room for more.
Following the audition, 50 players will be chosen for the band, which will include full sections of brass and percussion. All members will be paid an hourly rate, receive promotional gear and play at all home games.
“We’re trying to get avid soccer fans in this band, people who understand sport and specifically soccer, who want to have fun,” says Griffin. “When all is said and done, they should look like fans having the time of their life, only they just happen to have instruments in their hands.”
For those who envisioned high-stepping musicians marching in lock-step and performing synchronized kaleidoscopes, perish the thought.
Rousu believes the Sounders FC band will be groundbreaking, and he should know. In preparing for his master’s thesis and serving as director of the Seahawks’ Blue Thunder drum line for the past five years, he’s done his homework.
“We are creating something completely different from all the other band organizations supporting professional sports, Rousu says. “This is the world’s game, and we can make the event all the more worldly and memorable.
“We’ll be playing different styles of music, whether it’s Latin, funk, calypso, reggae, big band or pop tunes. There’s always going to be favorite songs that people will want to hear, and we’ll put our own unique twist on it, make it the Sounders’ own version.”
Let’s Get Nutty
Now, what to wear. No spats and epaulets, no white gloves with headdress.
“We’ll try to be the model soccer fan,” Rousu says. “We’ll dress up, we’ll wear scarves and get a little nutty. We want to separate ourselves and be known as a band member, but we’ll allow some creativity with attire.”
Wherever they go, the Sounders FC band will bring instant atmosphere. Griffin says the plan is for the band to march outside the stadium prior to the games and then lead fans inside.
“We really want to engage our fans and our community,” says Griffin. “For those fans seated around the band, we’ll have extra instruments like maracas, tambourines and cowbells. They can make noise throughout the game and get involved with our songs.
“We hope that starts a wave and has a ripple effect throughout the stadium,” adds Griffin. “We want a great, raucous crowd that understands our game presentation and gets behind the team, giving them energy to win lots of games.”
It’s that message which resonates with Rousu. Whether as a member of the University of Washington drum line or Blue Thunder, whether as a cheer leader for the Huskies or the Sonics, his focus has been to whip the crowd into a frenzy and thereby push the team to a higher level.
“I’m an advocate of fan involvement, and anything that makes them part of a game, a part of the experience, bring it,” says Rousu. Bring your own instruments, be it samba drum or plastic horn. Those car keys can work in a pinch. And bring your voice.
“The voices will be just as prominent as the music, if not more so,” Rousu says. “This is a chance for the fans to identify with their team and we’re not going to stand in the way.
“We want fans to organically create the Seattle environment. We may play a song for a couple minutes, and then the voices take over for everything else.”
Eventually, and hopefully soon, the crowd and band will become one, one solid wall of sound such as those heard over the airwaves at matches from Europe to South America. Someday, people may wonder whether the Sounders were named for a body of water or the sheer volume of noise their supporters create.
“Perhaps in the beginning the band may help drive the crowd until the fans see what’s expected of them,” says Rousu. “People in Seattle are passionate, and pretty soon they will start telling the band what to do. That will be the ultimate goal, to have the crowd in charge of what’s going on.”
And that goes for everything, even if it means more cowbells. Play on.