Six HBCU bands perform in Honda Battle of the Bands


Denise Ringo, Senior Staff Reporter/Writer

With the sun shining bright and the temperature in the low 60s, thousands of people packed into The ASU Stadium on Alabama State University’s campus to observe the 18th Honda Battle of the Bands (HBOB) Invitational Showcase, the nation’s premiere showcase for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) marching bands and dance teams.
The event took place on Feb. 18, at noon. This was the first time in the history of the Honda Battle of the Bands (HBOB) that the performance took place at an HBCU..
Six HBCU marching bands from up and down the east coast and across the South displayed their musical talents on a national platform. The marching bands that performed were Savannah State University, Texas Southern University, Virginia State University, Langston University, Morgan State University and Alabama State University. To those who could not attend in person, the event was also live-streamed.
In the past, the battles were held in Atlanta, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the showcase had to be put on hold for three years. However, in Sept. 2022, it was announced that the HBOB would return, and be hosted by Alabama State University.
This year’s HBOB theme, “Driving the Legacy,” celebrated the culture and heritage of HBCUs, honoring HBCU traditions and the important role these institutions play in providing higher education and opportunities for advancement to the Black community.
The event was hosted by comedians Rickey Smiley and Loni Love. Smiley, an Alabama State University alumnus, is widely known for being the host of the nationally syndicated “Rickey Smiley Morning Show.” Love, a Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University alumna, was one of the co-hosts of the syndicated daytime talk show “The Real,” which aired its final season last year.
Not only did all of the bands receive an all-expense paid trip to Montgomery, Alabama, but each university received a $50,000 grant from Honda to further develop their music programs. Honda also supported nonprofit organizations within the host city of Montgomery through $100,000 in local grants and $20,000 to two non profit organizations that partnered with Honda on a new mural installed on the Alabama State University’s campus.
Each band prepared a mashup of songs well known to Black culture, and their bands marched in various formations that were visually stunning.
The Morgan State University Magnificent Marching Machine, making the university’s debut at the HBOB, was the first to perform. Their first few numbers were led with the “Foxy Dancers,” dressed in shiny orange leotards, dancing in front of the band. The band members themselves performed choreography that seamlessly melded with the dancers upfront.
Marking their 11th time at the HBOB, the Virginia State University Trojan Explosion performed with their colors of red, white and blue illuminating the football field. At the beginning of their set, a majorette dressed in a silver outfit pranced across the field, skilled in baton twirling, while the marching band blared their instruments behind her. The band marched into various formations. They started in the form of a flower, and by the end marched into multiple straight lines to display all of their talent. The Trojan Explosion performed “Square Biz” by Teena Marie, “Somebody Loves You Baby” and “If Only You Knew” by Patti Labelle, “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross, “Muwop” by Latto ft. Gucci Mane, “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell Williams and “City of Gods” by Fivio Foreign ft. Ye and Alicia Keys.
The Savannah State University Powerhouse of the South, who had performed at the HBOB three times before, performed songs such as “Mo Money Mo Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G. ft. Ma$e and Puff Daddy, “The One” by Tamar Braxtonfifth and “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans.
The Texas Southern University Ocean of Soul surprised the audience with their opening march onto the field, as their dancers, the Motion of The Ocean, resembled Broadway Rockettes with their high kicks and single lined formation. This appearance marked their fifth performance at the HBOB, which was apparent as the Ocean of Soul began moving in visually stunning formations, almost appearing to move on currents as they marched back and forth past each other. During the band’s performance of “Say So” by Doja Cat, they got into the formation of a wave. Near the end of their performance the band physically formed a “#1”, stunning the crowd with their precise movements and receiving a long ovation.
For the halftime show, Alabama State University alumnus and Grammy award-winning rapper 2 Chainz performed his hits such as “No Problem” and “I’m Different.” The crowd enthusiastically sang and danced to his songs.
After the halftime show, the Langston University Marching Pride, performing for the fifth time at the HBOB, displayed formations that became a spectacle. The band members moved past each other to create visuals such as a giant X. However, a unique feature that the Marching Pride added was the drumline as they took the center of the field and wowed everyone with their abilities and precision. At the conclusion of their performance, the band formed the word “Pride”.
Last but not least to perform was the Alabama State University Mighty Marching Hornets, performing for the eighth time at HBOB. They began their show by getting in the formation of a shield as they played “In The Stone” by Earth, Wind & Fire. As the band moved into visually pleasing formations before settling into parallel straight lines, they played “Love” by Keyshia Cole. Other songs played by the band during their performance were “Gimme More” by Britney Spears, “Knights by Knight” by Cameo and “Freaky Girl” by Gucci Mane.
After the last performance, the crowd left satisfied and the bands left proud of the wonderful performances witnessed by the audience.
“It was a fun experience, honestly,” Senior Mariyah Hathaway Wheeler said. “It was good to see all the HBCUs come together and put on their best performance and friendly competition. The food was great.”
“It was very entertaining,” junior Jakari Jackson said. “It was nice to see the different bands perform.”
Jackson attended the event with her friend, freshman James Abrams.
“I enjoyed the atmosphere and the liveliness. I enjoyed seeing my people do the best they can,” Abrams said.
Both Jackson’s and Abrams’ favorite band to perform was Alabama State University, showing a great amount of school spirit. However, according to Abrams, Texas Southern was a distant second.
Alabama State University Director of Bands James B. Oliver was very pleased with the event.
“It was really exciting to have it here on the campus,” he said. “I must say they did a great job at setting up the ASU stadium for the Honda Battle of the Bands. It was just awesome.”