How the Irish amplified the atmosphere in Notre Dame Stadium with lighting and music
SOUTH BEND — No one told the crowd inside Notre Dame Stadium to have their cell phone flashlights ready before Saturday night’s game against USC.
As the crowd waited for the Notre Dame football team to emerge from the stadium tunnel, the lights illuminating the playing field went dark and the latest edition of the team’s intro runout video started playing on the video board above the south end of the stadium.
With highlights from this season playing over a soundtrack provided by AC/DC, the stadium lighting started a flashing pattern to match the video. By the time Notre Dame’s team ran onto the field, thousands of fans in the stadium joined in the light show with their cell phone flashlights.
“When you go to a stadium now and the lights go out, it’s like ‘The Wave,’” said Nathan Bush, the live events producer for Fighting Irish Media behind the audio/visual controls of Notre Dame Stadium. “One or two people turn on their flashlights and then five or six people start doing it. All of a sudden, you have the full stadium. That was just organic from our fans doing it themselves.”
The new wrinkles to the pregame intro were just a warm-up for the bigger showcase between the third and fourth quarters. With Notre Dame leading USC 24-3 after three quarters, the Notre Dame band continued its tradition of playing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” As done previously, fans turned on their phone flashlights while performing the proper arm waving in unison.
Then all the stadium lights went out again, leaving a sea of flashlights in the dark. After a few seconds, Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” featuring Rihanna and Kid Cudi starting playing over the loud speakers. The ribbon video boards on the west and east sides of the stadium turned green and started pulsating before the field lights started flashing in patterns again.
The song then transitioned into a 1996 Old School Reunion Remix of DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat” with Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie. The lyrics invited everybody to jump — not to be confused with “Jump Around” by House of Pain — and included a part that allowed for some call and response from the crowd.
“I’ve always thought the third and fourth quarter needs to have some sort of cachet to it,” Bush said. “There are a lot of schools that do some cool things. We’re not going to try to copy anyone, because it’s Notre Dame. We want to be unique and our own self. We have the “1812 Overture,” which is cool and unique.
“I love the fact that the players are involved in this. To me, the environment is created by the players. They should have just as much say as I do.”
The DJ Kool song specifically was suggested to Bush from players on the team through director of football communications Katy Lonergan.
“As long as it’s coming from them and they’re OK with it, then it’s on me to execute it as cleanly and as crisp as possible and hope that the fans react to it,” Bush said. “If it doesn’t work, then we can go back to the drawing board.”
The final product required a lot of athletic department minds coming together to figure out what was possible and how to make it work. Various members of the Fighting Irish Media staff came up with and provided ideas. An audio/visual team of Adam Callender, Paco Bayer, Andrew Drake, Will Pedersen, Austin Robbins, Doc Borlik and August Kuehn made the lighting display come to life.
When Bush showed Ron Rowlus, Notre Dame’s associate athletic director overseeing football, what it looked like with a test run at 10 p.m. on Wednesday last week, Bush received the final approval he needed.
The Notre Dame players were informed by head coach Brian Kelly prior to the game that there would be new wrinkles to the game presentation, but not all the players knew what to expect.
“It was dope,” said safety DJ Brown. “It was really cool. It reminded me of Georgia when we played down there my sophomore year (2019). It was cool just to see that.”
Left guard Andrew Kristofic said he’d like to pretend that his focus remained solely on the game between the third and fourth quarters, but he soaked in the atmosphere. A camera caught running backs Kyren Williams and C’Bo Flemister and wide receiver Braden Lenzy dancing along with the music.
“It 100% impacted the energy of the stadium,” Kristofic said. “Obviously we’re feeding off of that. When that happened, it was like, ‘All right, fourth quarter. Let’s go put these guys away and finish this game off the right way.’”
Notre Dame Stadium has come a long way since Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” became the musical accompaniment for the Irish defense in 2011 against USC. The addition of a large video board and other audio and lighting improvements have allowed for many different options. The music choices from pregame to in-game have become much more modern in recent years.
Even the song used to inspire the crowd to make noise on third and fourth downs to support Notre Dame’s defense has evolved this season. With input from Notre Dame’s staff and players, Bush landed on using a Central Bass Boost song called “The Purge (Remix),” which uses the siren from “The Purge” movies that escalates into a house music beat. Before the siren sounds, a creepy voice offers a handful of rotating phrases like “Why do you seem so scared?” and “Don't be afraid.”
The new song debuted in the home opener against Toledo, but Bush wasn’t satisfied with how it sounded. After a little bit of tweaking, the song seemed to click against Purdue.
“It got a very loud pop the entire time,” Bush said. “It might have been a sack that Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa made and after it and the place went bananas. I was like, ‘All right. Now we’re starting to cook a little bit.’”
What does Bush have in mind for an encore Saturday night (7:30 EDT on NBC) when No. 11 Irish (6-1) host North Carolina (4-3)? He didn’t exactly tip his hand.
But Bush made it no secret that the goal is to amplify the atmosphere in Notre Dame Stadium, especially for night games. Calling last Saturday’s display the start of a new tradition might be taking the praise offered by fans and players a little too far.
Whatever it should be called, expect more of it to come.
“If it catches on with the fans, that’s great,” Bush said. “We also want to change it up and make it seem like there’s a different twist every night.
“The tradition is we’re going do something at night games to make it extra special, but you’re never really going to know what it is until it happens. We’re not going to hold ourselves to that.
“We want to be creative and impactful as much as possible. If things start to really stick, we can see what happens. It’s about creating a cool moment every time and making it cool for the fans.”
HOW TO WATCH NOTRE DAME VS. NORTH CAROLINA
Who: No. 11 Notre Dame (6-1) vs. North Carolina (4-3)
Kickoff: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EDT
Where: Notre Dame Stadium
Radio: WSBT (AM 960), WNSN-FM (101.5)
Line: Notre Dame by 3 1/2
Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.