Everything you need to know about the University of Iowa Beer Band
‘It’s less about alcohol than it is about school spirit and getting fans rowdy’
Everyone knows about Beer Band, the music organization not affiliated with the University of Iowa, but that completely dedicates itself to it.
"It started way back in the 1970's as just a kind of 'pep band' that was unaffiliated with the university, like it is today. But then, the bars thought maybe it would be fun to give out beer during it and it evolved into what it is now," Devin Anderson, a trumpet player for two years in the Beer Band, says.
"It's all about getting people pumped up for the Hawkeyes' home games."
Every Friday evening before home football games, the Beer Band, made up of both Iowa City citizens and University of Iowa students, gets decked out in Hawkeye gear and heads downtown to get everyone ready for the game the next day.
Beer Band isn't a club, even though they have their own t-shirts. Anyone who owns their own instrument and can play along is welcome to show up and join this organization. There are people from ages eighteen to eighty in the group.
"It's less about alcohol than it is about school spirit and getting fans rowdy," Anderson says.
Hawkeyes love to show their team spirit, and this is one way that fans of all ages can come together and express their support for their team.
"Beer Band is just a big group of friends who want to have a good time and entertain a lot of people. There isn't really any care about how well you play or anything like that. It's more about having fun than it is about playing good music," says Josh Kacena, a fourth year Beer Band trumpet.
Beer Bands starts its performances off with "Mars", followed by "On Iowa". Then they play the Iowa Fight Song with different lyrics, followed by "The Victory Polka." Beer Band has a whole book full of anti-fight songs for the other teams, which are crude but funny and fitting for hyping up Hakweye fans.
Beer Band also plays a mix of popular songs, like "Sweet Caroline," picked by the conductors. It's tradition that the conductors are seniors at the University of Iowa, and after they graduate, they pick juniors to take over their positions for the following year.
You'll never catch the Beer Band carrying around sheet music, so you have to have a good ear for music if you want to play with them.
"No one really cares if you don't get the music one hundred percent. Most of the songs are pretty straightforward and if you find one correct note, chances are you can figure out the next one," Max Halverson, a first year trumpet in the Beer Band says, "But the chants and dances are always the easiest to pick up on."
People often stop outside of the bars to listen to the Beer Band play and dance along with them. It didn't matter if they're walking or driving, the Beer Band will always grab a Hawkeye fan's attention.
A night for the Beer Band starts off at Sonny's Tap, and from there they travel to Gabe's, Studio 13, Mickey's Irish Pub, Sports Column, Brothers Bar and Grill, Pints, Airliner and end the night at Summit. The pattern is the same each Friday night before a home game, and the only thing that changes is how long they stay at each bar. Since the Beer Band always works up the crowd, some bars like them to stay longer, while others only want them there for a little bit.
Back in 2015, the Beer Band was temporarily suspended due to the vulgar lyrics to the tunes of other school's fight songs. Spectators complained that the lyrics were vulgar, sexually explicit, violent and degrading. These songs were sung in the Pedestrian Mall, and they captured people's attention, but in the wrong way.
Complaints were sent to the University of Iowa, even though Beer Band is not affiliated with the university, all because many marching band members also participate in Beer Band. University of Iowa band officials sent out apologies for the language and stopped the Beer Band until they figured out how to change the lyrics to get a better message across.
But even a temporary suspension couldn't keep the Beer Band away. Nothing could stop them from going out on Friday nights and getting the fans pumped for the game the next day, and the Beer Band came back in 2016.
Whether you play an instrument, want to chant and dance along or just want to watch some good entertainment, the Beer Band always encourages everyone to come out to support them and show their love for the Hawkeyes.