Fans can never be quite sure of what they’ll hear from students during a Purdue men’s basketball game, but they can always be sure they will hear the Boiler Brass band.
The Boiler Brass band is the official pep band for Purdue men’s basketball. It is comprised of 85 students from within the band department. After going through the audition process, the members only have three rehearsals to make sure they have learned roughly 80 pieces of music they then play before, during and after the games.
While most groups would all wear the same color or matching T-shirts, members of Boiler Brass wear only the socks as their uniform.
“The band is given embroidered socks every year with a different design with the Purdue and Boiler Brass logo on them,” said Matthew Conaway, the director of Boiler Brass band.
Members of the band are also members of the Paint Crew and participate in all the cheers. They also have their own ways of celebrating. Some of the sections have developed their own unique high fives to celebrate a 3-pointer for the Boilers.
“Just being a part of the game environment itself is the biggest (tradition),” said band member Jeremy Pike, a senior in the College of Engineering.
As the 2019-20 basketball season started up, students and fans noticed a song missing from the band’s immense setlist: “Hail Fire.”
The song used to be a staple of Mackey Arena and — similar to the kickoff cheer during football — ended with the “IU sucks” chant from the student section.
The song was originally composed for the pep bands in the ‘80s.
“For years it was just something the band did, it was loud and there was this really nice fanfare that the trumpets and horns played,” Conaway said.
Slowly, the band developed a dance to go along with the song and for years it continued to be a tradition unique to the band.
About 12 or 13 years ago, students added the “IU sucks” chant to the end of “Hail Fire” to replace other songs the band had been asked to stop playing. Those songs had an “IU sucks” chant added onto them as well.
Before one of the final games in the 2018-19 season, head coach Matt Painter announced to the Paint Crew that “Hail Fire” would be officially retired.
The final nail in the coffin for “Hail Fire” came during the Purdue vs. IU basketball game in Bloomington last February, when junior center Matt Haarms received an abundance of abuse from Hoosier fans.
“(It was) unlike anything I’ve probably ever heard in the Big Ten,” Conaway said.
This abuse led some departments at Purdue to begin asking themselves how they can expect to be treated well on the road if they don’t provide that type of environment in Mackey themselves.
The final decision came from the Board of Trustees and the athletic and band departments. To keep Mackey clean for all Boilermakers, it was time for “Hail Fire” to be officially retired. This included all the songs from previous seasons that incorporated the “IU sucks” chant.
“Honestly, most of us had been expecting it,” Pike said.
“Hail Fire” used to be a cheer during football games as well, until it was pulled for the same reason.
Despite being thought of as a fan favorite, Conoway said not many students have voiced their support for the song to the band.
“I’ve heard a couple of comments after every game, but it’s not been loud. It’s not been 3,000 people saying, ‘Where’s ‘Hail Fire’?’” Conaway said.