Greetings, denizens of From the Rumble Seat. By the time you read this, I’ll be about 35,000 feet above Chattanooga, but, no matter, neither rain nor sleet nor finals can stop the internet from bringing this column to you Thursdays at 8:00 AM. Thanks to those finals though, it’s been tough to gameplan the history column, so I decided to hit the ground and cover a tradition that unfolds around 10:00 PM on a Monday night in front of Brittain two times a calendar year.
I can’t tell you when this started, I don’t know the answer. I can’t tell you exactly how it started, but I have a decent enough guess. I can’t explain why Georgia Tech has a baffling lack of recognition for this tradition, nor can I comprehend why any of its organizers have to backdoor-explain what the heck is happening to spread the word that this particular event exists. Save for the anonymity of Reddit, or the enthusiastic spread of of the news by word-of-mouth, almost no one directly acknowledges the actual existence of Midnight Bud.
For those who have never heard of this peculiar event, the name is a little misleading. Similar to Midnight Breakfast, it no longer takes place precisely at midnight. Why? A wise man I once knew told me a haiku that seems to fit this pretty well,
“Shreeeeeoooooooo goes the whistle,
Midtown hipsters get real mad.
Who cares? Class over,” (Anonymous).
The point is, no one can please everyone. The great tradition of the whistle, however, lives on, as does Midnight Bud. Just at 10:00 PM. Yours truly decided to check it out.
There are several important finals week traditions, ranging from nutritious like Midnight Breakfast, to superstitious like leaving pennies on Sideways’ grave, like finishing that last final before getting to walk across the stage and “Get Out” or, in the spring, when freshman can touch the Ramblin’ Reck for the first time. None, however, match the intensity, workout, or euphoric rush of Midnight Bud.
It all began in the Brittain Quad shortly after the clock struck ten. The clouds were low in the sky, as they had been all week. While it is ordinary, on an unusually cloudy day such as this, to be unable to see the top of the Bank of America Plaza from West Campus, the North Avenue Star was shrouded in clouds, emitting just an orange-y halo into the murk. The crowd slowly gathered, and onlookers filled windows, some gawking and questioning, others staring intently, already aware of what was about to happen. Your intrepid reporter was standing on a stone retaining wall, jockeying for position as the sousaphones began to belt their first few bars. After a rousing chorus of “To HELL With georgia,” the musicians darted under the veranda lining the western edge of the dining hall, jumping out of the back archway into the lawn between Towers and Glenn. The rest of the crowd followed them through the arches. The rest of the assembled musicians were already there, standing around multiple levels of terraced landscaping, forming an impressive wall of sound. Tech’s “Pregame Fanfare” was followed by “Up With the White and Gold” as well as “I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech,” and, true to its name, the Budweiser Song made an appearance as well. While some were bewildered, many filed out of their dormitories to investigate the commotion. Most followed the rest of the crowd as the band concluded their first, shorter set. The adrenaline hit when it came time to book it behind some cymbal players into the courtyard of the North Avenue Apartments.
Honesty time: halfway through my finals week, I craved hearing the familiar strains of “Mo Bamba,” despite it having, to quote band director Chris Moore, “not a lot of musical content.” The night delivered, with the necessary trilogy of “Fanfare,” “White and Gold,” and “Ramblin’ Wreck” giving way to “Put On,” “Mo Bamba,” “Time Warp,” and other stand tunes from football games.
A note on the mention of it being halfway through finals, because that’s not how it used to be: somewhere along the way, the finals schedule changed. Whereas there used to be dead week, followed by finals week, there is now a reading day, a few days of finals, a weekend, Monday finals, a half-reading day, and then the rest of finals.
The last two songs of the night were, appropriately, the Budwesier Song and the Horse. The most lasting moment of Midnight Bud is watching the lights of the apartments facing the courtyards flash on and off to the bobbing of the throng below. Watching everything in view bob and blink in sync with the song is both mesmerizing and engrossing. As is always, the night halfway through the Horse, and the musicians and crowd scattered into the night.
It’s really that one moment, as the lights, crowd, band, and music all become one, that brings home the point - the Georgia Institute of Technology is about more than a couple exams. It’s about more than any singular person. Tech transcends that. It’s about progress and service, no doubt, two lofty ideals indeed, but community as well. Midnight Bud is special because it is a wisp of that feeling felt at a football game or in the Thrillerdome - the sense of togetherness, of family, with people you probably don’t even know. That’s what sets American higher education apart - the sense of loyalty instilled through things like athletics, and the idiosyncratic traditions we know and cherish.
For a short while, on a damp, chilly night in Midtown Atlanta, there was nothing but the band and their music. But, eventually, that too faded. It was a short spell, half an hour, maybe, and back to the grind. For Georgia Tech is tasked with the keeping on the relentless path towards greater achievement. There are finals to take, discoveries to be made, and lives to change. But the ties that bind us, remarkable may they ever be, are rooted in something as simple as playing a beer commercial jingle from five decades prior under the dark nighttime skies of late autumn.
If you have any events or ideas you would like to see investigated, leave a comment below and I will be sure to look into adding it to the schedule, as the column is only planned out through this very column. What is old is new again, or at least liable to be featured in the future. Thank you for reading the latest edition of From the Rumble Seat’s Rearview Mirror.