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Game ends, but battle of the college bands keeps 30k in their seats at Soldier Field

Albany State (blue; Vs Kentucky State (green;  Battle Bands  Saturday evening after Chicago Football Classic Soldier Field.

Albany State (blue; Vs Kentucky State (green; in Battle of the Bands Saturday evening after the Chicago Football Classic at Soldier Field. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 1, 2012 9:52AM

The 15th annual Chicago Football Classic had just ended with a narrow win for Albany State’s Golden Rams over the Kentucky State Thorobreds. But most of the almost 30,000 college football fans at Soldier Field remained in their seats after the game Saturday.

What held their attention beyond the fourth quarter and brought them to their feet again was the “battle of the bands” representing the two historically black colleges.

“This is the reason people come to the game,” said Tim Rand, a Chicago businessman and co-founder of the Chicago Football Classic. “In the South, it’s a tradition for school marching bands to compete for bragging rights. They take this competition very seriously — as seriously as the [football] games.”

Many in the Soldier Field stands danced, clapped and cheered as the Albany State band and dancers in glittery gold outfits treated the crowd to renditions of songs by Chicago artists Lupe Fiasco, Chief Keef and Kanye West.

Then it was Kentucky State’s turn to perform a medley of tunes by New Edition, Boyz II Men, Bobby Brown and Bell Biv DeVoe, said Kalomo Bailey, director of the Mighty Marching Thorobreds.

At historically black colleges and universities, Bailey said, the band members “tend to be more of the rock stars on campus.” At other colleges, the bands do not feature as many flashy dance moves, he said.

Kentucky State drum major Dionte Brooks, a junior criminal justice major, sweated as profusely as a linebacker under the stands a few minutes after performing. He and his bandmates celebrated winning the battle against Albany State and snapped photos of their trophy.

“It’s an honor to be in a [National Football League] stadium and performing on their field,” Brooks said.

Greg Armstead, who plays marching baritone for Albany State, thought his band deserved to win, but he also said he thought band musicians merit as much respect as football stars.

“Being on the field, it’s electrifying,” said Armstead, a senior biology student. “All the attention is on you and you only get one chance to get it right. Some may say it’s just band, but we see this as a sport.”

Yet, unlike the Albany State football players — who flew to Chicago — the band faced a 17-hour bus ride back to Georgia right after the game.

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