Thinking of joining Argonotes?Here is a whole lot of information intended to answer any question you might have about whether this is the band for you - info about the band, the rehearsals, the game day routine, our philosophy of music, and more. If this seems like fun to you, we'd love to have you come out! (See the contact information below.)
- Who's in this band anyway?
- Is this the band for me?
- What do I need?
- What do you play?
- Where and when do you play?
- Where don't you play?
- Do you go on the road, ever?
- Who pays for all this?
Who's in this band anyway?
Lots of different people of all ages and abilities - high school and university students, teachers, professors, retired folks, computer geeks, civil servants, people with regular jobs, people with no jobs, great musicians, average musicians, musicians of limited ability but unlimited enthusiasm. The one thing they have in common is that they enjoy Toronto Argonauts football and, we hope, are determined to learn to play all this Argonotes music correctly.
(Some members had never actually seen a football game before joining the band, so don't let that stop you.)
Most of our members live in the GTA, of course, but a few travel from Waterloo, Kingston, or other far-flung areas for the games and the rehearsals. We're all volunteers. Nobody's getting paid, in fact it winds up costing you some money to be in the band. (Parking near the Skydome on game day? Ugh. Feel free to carpool!)
Our members play flutes (or piccolos, even better), clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, horns, trombones, baritones, tubas, and percussion. That's what we have music for, although if you play something else and want in badly enough, we might be able to work something out.
We usually get 30 to 40 people out for each game. We'd like more.
Is this the band for me?
Watch the band appearing on TFO's Volt. Yes, it's in French. Don't worry. We think you can figure it out. u
Then take a look at this video of the band on TVO to get an idea of how we approach things. (That was filmed several years ago. We look much sharper now with our new jerseys, and the Argo crowds have tripled since then.) Listen to the band's big appearance on CBC Radio's Definitely Not the Opera. (Recorded as we were headed to the Grey Cup in Ottawa in 2004.) Check out some of the photos, quotes and sounds on this web site.
Then ask yourself -
- Does that look like fun?
- Have you got a sense of humour?
- Are you prepared to come to most of the games and the rehearsals?
- Do you promise not to freak out if the band is playing something you've never seen before?
- Do you agree with our musical motto, which is Faster + Louder = Better?
This is a fun band. We try to play the music right, but we don't take it too seriously. Plus, we get 30,000 people out to our concerts. Not many other bands can say that.
Plus, you get to cheer on the most majestic team in all of professional sport.
What do I need?
In no particular order, you need
- A sense of humour;
- A band instrument (the band owns a couple of drums, but that's it, and they're spoken for);
- Some vague idea of how to play the band instrument;
- A lyre. One of those clip things to hold a music book to your instrument. They cost $5-$10 each, and can be found at many music stores. A good place to buy one is at one of the local Long & McQuade stores. You really need one of these. You can't hold your music book in your spare hand. You don't have a spare hand. You're not dragging a music stand around the stadium either.
- A music book;
- A stylish Argonotes jersey (we'll lend you one for now; eventually you need to buy it);
- A stylish Argonotes hat, except we've run out of them at the moment;
- Free admission for yourself to the home games;
- Possibly, two tickets for friends to the home games. It depends on the demand. We get a certain allotment of tickets for each game, usually enough for 2 for each person who shows up. Usually at the end of each game, we hand out the guest tickets for the next game.
And finally, we don't expect every member to come to every game - although that would be great, and many members do come to everything. However we DO expect you to let us know whether or not you are coming to each and every event. (We have a mailing list to let you know what's going on, and a private members web site where you can let us know your status for each event.)
What do you play?
We have quite the eclectic collection of songs in the book. Of course we play various Argo fight songs after the team scores, but we also have a ton of other music. Much of it is of the classic rock and roll genre reflecting the sort of middle aged demographic of many band members. Some of it makes you wonder "Why the heck are they playing that?" Sometimes we have forgotten why ourselves.
Once every decade or so we might even get to play "O Canada" at the game. (This has happened, let's see, twice in the 12 year history of the band.) Our long term goal is to play a song with the dance team. We keep hoping this might actually happen but they are not returning our emails.
We expect you to memorize a couple of the songs, but it shouldn't be hard; you'll be playing Argos Rule the CFL about thirty times a game anyway so it shouldn't take long.
Where and when do you play?
We play at all Argonauts home games at BMO Field, during the CFL season which runs from June through November. There is usually one home game every two weeks, usually on Friday or Saturday. Check out this year's schedule.
RehearsalsAre infrequent and usually occur at the beginning of the season when we try out new music.
Before the GameWe play for 90 minutes or so before kickoff, outside the stadium, up and down Front Street, at the local tailgate parties, in and out of various bars, or at whatever sort of Streetfest thing is going on at the stadium. We usually meet up at either the parking lot at Front & Simcoe, or the tailgate parking lot just east of the south convention centre, and begin performing for our adoring public, provided we can find them.
At the GameShortly before kickoff, we head inside and look for somewhere to sit. We do not currently have assigned seats, but we know the nooks and crannies of Skydome pretty well by now. We'll try to sneak some songs in during the game whenever there's a lull, wandering around inside the stadium so as many folks as possible can hear us, wandering away from them before they get too annoyed. We play Argos Rule the CFL and/or Go Toronto Argos Go Go Go after the team scores.
You know what? It's pretty noisy inside Skydome already. We are not a 300-piece humongous marching band. Not yet anyway. So we have to move around and act and think fast if anyone's going to hear us. Keep your book ready. And get used to the fact that sometimes we start to play, and have to stop because the PA announcer comes on or the dance team is about to perform, or some random music is playing over the speakers. But we do what we can.
After the GameWe always play an enthusiastic and energetic post-game set of 20 minutes or so for the crowd at Gate 2 as they leave. Many band members will tell you this is their favourite part of the whole game day routine. We usually retire to our traditional post-game establishment, Joe Badali's Restaurant, to reminisce about the glorious victory.
For InstanceFor a typical Friday night game with a 7:30 PM kickoff, we might do this: (Note! Not all games start at 7:30! this is why you need to be on the mailing list!)
- 6:00 - Meet at Front & Simcoe. Play a few songs in the parking lot for the passers-by
- 6:15 - Start heading for the dome, along Front Street. Often we will invade some downtown restaurants - East Side Marios, Lone Star, Joe Badali's, etc - and play a song or two on the inside. We'll also try to see if the CBC is setting up outside their building for a live weather report, and hang around hoping they'll show us (which, believe it or not, has happened.)
- 6:30 - Play a brief set on the steps at Front & John St.
- 6:45 - Arrive at Gate 5 at the south side of Skydome. Play a set there.
- 7:00 - Go and amuse our friends at the Steam Whistle Brewery at the roundhouse with a song or two.
- 7:15 - A few more songs near the stadium
- 7:30 - Head inside. Listen respectfully to anthem singer. Wonder why they never ask us. We can play it faster than that.
- During the Game - Sit in our spot in the north end zone seats watching the game, playing at the appointed time and when the Argos score. We don't play at halftime so we can enjoy the typically spectacular (cough) halftime show. In the 4th quarter we may wind up playing inside Windows Restaurant or Sightlines.
- End of Game - Head out to Gate 2 for the traditional post-game rally, which, we hope, will include the Victory Song and not the Sad Lamentation of Loss song.
- 10:15 or so - We're all done.
- Shortly Thereafter - Return to Front & Simcoe; retrieve cases, put instruments away, and convene at Joe Badali's restaurant for a refreshing beverage.
For Saturday afternoon games, we try something similar except we'll start out at the Official Pregame Tailgate Party, which is in a parking lot just east of the convention centre.
What if it rains? The game must go on. The Skydome has a roof after all. Obviously we modify the pregame routine so we're not standing out there getting drenched, and we know a few spots in the Skydome area where we can play outside under a roof without getting soaked, but we'll usually just go in to the stadium a little earlier than normal.
Where don't you play?
Among the things we don't do are
- parades (With the obvious exception of Grey Cup parades (Hamilton, 1996; Montreal, 2001; Ottawa, 2004), and especially Toronto Argonaut Grey Cup Victory parades (Toronto, 1996; Toronto, 1997; Toronto, 2004, Toronto, 2012.)
- the Kiwanis Festival
- Argo games in Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, much as we'd like to. Some day.
Do you go on the road, ever?
Well, we try to do one road trip a year to see the Argos crush another team 48-0. In the past we've done day trips to games in Ottawa and Montreal - renting a bus, down and back the same day. More often though we go to a game in Hamilton, often the Labour Day Classic. The fans of Hamilton love the band, which they express in a variety of interesting and odd ways.
Every few years we try to go to the Grey Cup game, if it's in Eastern Canada. We'll make a multi-day trip out of it. We had great success in Hamilton in 1996, Montreal in 2001, Ottawa in 2004 and Montreal in 2008. Those were some of the greatest Argonotes events ever.
In 2010 we finally managed to get the band - well, part of it - onto an airplane, for the Touchdown Atlantic Argos game in Moncton, New Brunswick.
Who pays for all this?
The band is our hobby. We don't expect other people to pay for our hobby. We chip in where we can. Most people pay $50/year although this is optional for those who can't swing it. You are also expected to pay for your band jersey. The good news is, we don't make you do fundraising by running bingos or selling chocolate bars (but we do sell Argonotes lapel pins once in a while to our legion of fans.)
To the surprise of many, the band receives no outside funding, although we look longingly at the wads of cash that the Trillium Foundation lobs around to other bands.
The Argos help us out with free tickets for which we are very grateful!
Hey, we're always looking for new people. Contact the Musical Dictator, Steve Hayman, at steve at argonotes.com