Alex Dingman, Justin Lewis, Erica Lander and Daniel Hucks make up the Graveyard Shift. They bring drums to every game. (Photos by Jayden Simmons)
Every week at women’s soccer games at USC, there’s a group that marches to the beat of their own drum – literally.
At the far side of Stone Stadium, in front of the Whaley Street Cemetery, there’s a group that calls itself the Graveyard Shift. Their job: to make as much noise as possible.
The Graveyard Shift started in 2015 when two coworkers at a local Zaxby’s, Alex Dingman and Justin Lewis, found they shared a love for Gamecock soccer.
“We were just normal spectators in the stands that first year, and the way our schedules worked, we were off for more of the women’s games than the men’s games,” Dingman said. “By the end of that first season, we were more familiar with that team.”
The following season, the NCAA loosened stadium noisemaker limits, and Carolina gave out vuvuzelas horns at one of the games.
Thus began a new era.
“We picked up this piece of rebar and just started banging it on a trash can, just for extra noise,” Dingman said.
Lewis had an unused drum set in his apartment at the time and decided to create a new tradition.
“I never lived anywhere where I could play (drums),” Lewis said. “I was like, ‘Realistically, I’m never going to set this up so let’s use it for the game.’”
The duo began playing at every game, gaining the attention of fans and the team itself.
“That year, the coaching staff was really nice and reached out to us,” Dingman said. “They were like, ‘Thank you for coming to the game’ and threw us a couple of T-shirts and stuff. It was just like, wow, they really like what we’re doing.”
Since that beginning, they’ve had a couple of new faces join them, including Daniel Hucks, a 70-year-old fan.
“Alex and Justin, they were over here, and they flipped over the trash cans and used them as drums,” Hucks said. “So I went over and said, ‘Can I join?’ And they just accepted me.”
The three-man group said it can be hard at times, especially early in the season, in hot Columbia Augusts.
“It’s very hot,” Erica Lander, the fourth and newest member said. “We’re on the side where the sun beams down, and it’s the last place to stop getting it. And you’re drumming for 90 minutes. It’s hard.”
Thursday night, the Gamecocks women’s soccer team ended the season as SEC East Champions for the fourth time since the Graveyard Shift began. The group thinks the atmosphere it helps create definitely helps boost the team.
“We thought we would just be those annoying people just making noise that no one likes,” Dingman said. “We noticed in the years since then the attendance for games has gone up and gone up and gone up.”
The Graveyard Shift also hosts pregame tailgates in front of the Carolina Soccer Center with parents of the players. That larger group has its own set of traditions, including playing their version of USC’s “2001” theme song and giving the players football-style individual introductions.
“It’s definitely a family,” Lander said. “I really love being here.”
The team loves them, too. Dingman said they are provided a schedule months in advance so they can plan which days to take off and show up in full force for the games.
“What started as just us having fun has just become like a real motivator for players,” Dingman said of the way the noise intimidates other teams. “This is a fortress – it’s hard (for them) to win here.”
Stone Stadium is the home of Gamecock soccer. With the Graveyard Shift creating a loud environment, it’s very hard for opposing teams to play there.
The Graveyard Shift is more than just a fan base. They host tailgates with parents of the players before every home game.
This is one of the drums used by the Graveyard Shift every game. They play based on the tempo of the game, playing faster the closer the Gamecocks get to scoring.
Parents and fans line up outside of the Carolina Soccer Center to greet the players before the game.