August 4 & 5 Featured Review: Allentown, PA 

Cavies, Cadets Cop Titles as DCI East Bids Allentown Adieu

by Mike Ferlazzo, sCORPSboard Correspondent

The Cavaliers and Cadets were crowned DCI Eastern champions on Friday and Saturday night respectively and positioned themselves, along with the Blue Devils, as the favorites in this week's DCI Championships at the University of Maryland.

But while those corps took to the forefront in the title race, Allentown and J. Birney Crum Stadium may have been the biggest winners as the city and legendary drums corps stadium magnificently hosted its 24th consecutive and possibly last DCI East event and was appropriately rewarded with ideal weather and big crowds both nights. J. Birney Crum Stadium is finally receiving much-needed renovations next year and will be unable to host the event next summer, or possibly again since the renovation could leave its future as a premier drum corps venue in doubt. I attended my 22nd-consecutive DCI East Championship in that wonderful relic this weekend and I'm sure I wasn't the only fan in attendance who reminisced about the wonderful memories I had witnessed there over the years. I witnessed my first live junior corps show there with the 1978 DCI East Championships, and was hooked for life.

This year's edition was spectacular with each show having its own distinct flavor. The Cavaliers bested the 11-corps field and nipped defending DCI co-champion and rival Blue Devils by a tenth (93.75 to 93.65) in Friday's show, which offered more abstract yet enjoyable music. The Cadets may not have played their best show, but still managed to hold off the surging Santa Clara Vanguard (93.80 to 92.35) in Saturday's Allentown finale -- which fittingly had more "fan friendly" shows with potentially eight of the 12 DCI finalists this season.


The Cavaliers  93.75


It's not what you play but how you play it. While few fans were familiar with the music of The Cavaliers' Niagara Falls program, the corps does a magnificent job of selling the concept -- much like Santa Clara did last season while winning a share of the title. The visual program is once again stunning and hands down the best of the season -- replete with its trademark fast-paced, ever changing symmetrical shapes which had the crowd on its feet throughout. But the most appropriate moment of the show might have been one of the slower ones in the second movement as the brass blows air through its horns, simulating the sounds of the falls, while forming an undulating, wave-like block on one side, with the guard slowly spinning bluish silks at the end of the form on the other side. The Cavaliers swept percussion, brass and color guard -- with the percussion appearing like it might be headed for high honors in Maryland with fourth-tenths lead over the Devils and easily one of the cleanest on the field. All the notes, visuals and execution that you've grown to expect from the Cavies are there from the section (9S-5T-5B-9P), which was a show in itself during the encore concert. Of note in the concert, while it was an awesome sound with the corps playing so close to the stands, more than one fan was struck by how hard this music was to appreciate without the stunning visuals. Fortunately, the "fan friendly" Cavies delighted the remaining crowd with one they were sure to recognize as they played Somewhere Over the Rainbow to close the performance.

Blue Devils  93.65


The Blue Devils may have a different name for their shows each year, with this one's being Methods of Madness, but they continue to have the same trademark Blue Devil texture -- no matter what horns they use. The creative staff knows the formula that has worked before -- uncanny execution, big brassy sounds, thunderous unison drums (8S-4T-5B-9P), a fabulous color guard and just enough drill with a lot of boxes to please the judging panel. Hey, if it's not broke, don't fix it -- and the Devils have certainly not been broke as they have marched their way to four of the last six DCI titles. They have all the elements to make it five in seven years, although their performance levels may not quite be up to past standards -- possibly lagging from their three-week trip to Europe. That's bad news for the rest since the Devils were within a tenth of the Cavaliers and only .15 off the Cadets' score from Saturday night with one week of practice left. This year's show is dark as expected, featuring music from Alfred Hitchcock films, and the opening fast-paced backfield side-to-side moves with the corps turning 360's just to tease the audience might be the most memorable moment. The incredibly fast runs on the keyboards in the middle of production also stand out.

Blue Knights  89.55


The Blue Knights look a little Blue Devilish in their new royal blue uniforms with black pants and shoes, and apparently they're playing that way too as the Knights finished third on this night and appear poised for their first top six finish in their history next week. The Colors of Brass and Percussion show featuring music by Peter Graham is not real approachable, but much like the Cavies the corps sells it with its visual program and flair. New Hall of Fame inductee Ralph Hardimon has another winner in his percussion section (7S-4T-5B-9P), which finished third on this night and was just two-tenths off the Devils. Hardimon's Blue Knight percussion lines are now approaching some of the levels of greatness he had in his earlier lines at Santa Clara. The guard is beautiful once again in every sense -- featuring gorgeous girls and the best color of the night, and possibly the weekend, in those wonderful hand-painted silks.

Glassmen  89.30


The main question the staff of the Glassmen must be asking is "who schedules the order at these events anyway?" The Glassmen had the unenviable position of being sandwiched between the Cavaliers and Blue Devils -- something which also happened to the corps in Indianapolis. The corps did its best with its Concerto in F program, which was easily the most recognizable music among the top four corps on this night. But after the incredible lightening fast show by the Cavaliers left the crowd drained, the Glassmen could do little to win the crowd on this night with a much slower paced production. It was actually sad, since if properly seeded on this night, the Glassmen might have been a fan favorite with the Gershwin drum corps favorite. Glass percussion has joined the DCI upper-echelon in recent years and this summer's edition is right there again -- trailing the Blue Knights by just two-tenths and the Devils by four despite being smaller (6S-4T-5B-4C-8P) than past versions. The guard uniforms are lovely with the corps trademark triangle cutout around the navel, and the girls all wearing wigs to create a uniform appearance. Take heed Glassmen, while I couldn't remember much about the actual show -- possibly still being in Cavalier hangover myself -- your music was the only selections I caught myself humming out of the stadium on the first night.

Colts  82.20


The Colts are trying to be "the comeback kids" in their bid to remain in the top 12, but they may be running out of time as their fifth-place finish Friday came with a score of 82.20 which was nearly three points from the rest of the finals' contenders Saturday. What's more, improving Southwind was right on their heels with an 82.15 Saturday. The Colts new red and white uniforms with dark military accents are a cleaner look than their old mainstays, and their Steven Melillo music in Wait of the World fits with their darker appearance. Unfortunately, it might be a little too abstract for the fans and judges alike, although the Colts' drill might be the most ambitious this corps has tried yet. It cost them on this night, as they lost at least one brass player at a direction change who went down at the pivot. Brass apparently holds the key to the Colts' fate as they were a rather distant sixth on this night with a 14.4 (out of 20) -- losing by half a point to Spirit of Atlanta and beating Pioneer's 36-person horn line by just two-tenths. The corps as a whole seems to be proficient in each section, but none really stands out and may be good enough to pull the corps into finals. Colts had been surging in recent weeks, but they'll need a major spark next week in order to make the Saturday show in Maryland.

Spirit of Atlanta  78.35


Spirit of Atlanta has gone through a lot of well-documented turmoil this season and appears to have weathered the storm quite well. Its Atlanta: Spirit of the New South show has grown in terms of maturity and performance. You can actually now hear some of the old Spirit sounds coming from the brass, no doubt from the guidance of the corps' legendary brass instructor Freddy Martin, who is now corps director. Unfortunately for Spirit, it is destined for 15th in Maryland -- no more, no less. There's just no where for Atlanta to go after finishing sixth in Friday's show with a 78.35. Spirit just isn't good or big enough to catch either Southwind or the Colts, but has a similar size and strength edge on Pioneer -- with almost a three-point lead on this night. Both the color guard and percussion (7S-4T-5B-4C-9P) sections seem to hold the key to that superiority over Pioneer, with each of them scoring a definitive 1.1 advantage Friday. The percussion feature, particularly the back-sticking licks in the snare line, is a highlight in the show, although the new Dynasty drums are tuned far too wet for my taste. Spirit should take a lesson from the Blue Devils, who get a much crisper sound from their Dynasty equipment.

Pioneer  75.40



Despite losing to Spirit, Pioneer won the fans in the first half of Friday's show with their presentation of Brigadoon. Pioneer knows its smaller than most of its competition in Division I, but the corps doesn't seem to care. The show starts fast, is well-written for the size of the corps, and has some familiar and well-played music which fits the corps' Irish image. It learned last year that the "name of the game" is quality and not quantity, for the most part, and appears destined to improve upon its 17th-place finish from last year -- unless there's a Division II corps which can beat them. But just like Spirit, Pioneer's position appears to be set as it seems to be a lock for 16th in Maryland. While not as big as last year, Mickey Hartzog's percussion section (6S-4T-5B-4C-9P) continues to be a highlight for me. It's got groove and an identity which will serve the corps well if it can bolster its overall size.

Troopers  71.95 


"America's corps" also appears to be back after several years of struggles as the Troopers have now put true Division I-sized corps on the field in each of the past two years and are making strides with their performance -- steps which might just get them back into semifinals this year, although they face the most serious threat from Division II's best. The Troopers finished eighth Friday (71.95) and make their own case for being America's corps this year, playing a show which is true Americana. The fans love the Battle of Baltimore which eventually produces the Troopers' version of the national anthem. The drill moves more than past years and is replete with a more subtle Sunburst. All sections are improved from a year ago, with the guard definitely appearing more contemporary than past years. Take a closer look at some of the performers in this corps -- there are some real youth in the Trooper ranks. What an accomplishment it would be for Casper to make it back into semis! If the staff can keep some of these green troops together for future years, the Troopers could once again turn into a Division I fighting machine.

Kiwanis Kavaliers  69.90


Give Kiwanis Kavaliers some credit. Easily the smallest Division I corps on the field, Canada's only Div. I corps is doing justice to its Miss Saigon production. If the Kavaliers doubled the size of their hornline, they probably would be semifinals' bound in Maryland. As it is, the 25 brass on the field (one apparently coming in soon) is just too small to sell this show, which has some nice moments -- like the opening guard move with the chopper blades to similar helicopter sounds coming from the pit. If nothing else, Kiwanis has blown past Tarheel Sun -- 69.90 to 66.40 on this night. Despite the lead, the full percussion section (7S-3T-5B-10P) still appears to be underutilized and fell to Tarheel in the competition.

Tarheel Sun  66.40


The staff of Tarheel Sun just doesn't seem to know where to take its 2000 production titled SWWEET. Since seeing them in Philadelphia July 8, the corps has aborted its uniform change (thankfully) -- switching from its black, gray and blue Star Trek: The Next Generation uniforms back to its beautiful yellow jackets, now sporting a red Madison-like sash. But while the uniforms are improved, the show sadly is not. In fact, I felt it was better in my first viewing from all sections. There are still far too many individual errors at this time of the season and the corps really isn't selling music the crowd could appreciate with Channel One Suite and Suite for Jazz Band. The battery also lost one player at each position since my first viewing (going from 6S-4T-6B-9P to 5S-3T-5B-9P), possibly to fill it holes in the drill. Who knows? Try as it might, it appears as if Tarheel's season will end Thursday at College Park.

Beatrix  62.20


Beatrix put Dutch drum corps on display as it opened Friday's show with a pleasing presentation of Yentl. There are some nice moments in this show, although the performers appear far to inexperienced (at least by our standards) to score with this show. Marching fundamentals lag throughout the show, and so does endurance through the ambitious book. Still, it's nice to see the true "international" aspect to Drum Corps International. The crowd gave them a nice welcome too.


The Cadets  93.80 


I had just gotten [done] telling everyone I knew that The Cadets would win the show Saturday and probably next Saturday at finals too. Their performers and show are just too good not to win it all, and the Cadet staff knows how to get them to the winner's circle. Unfortunately, the only thing that could stop the Cadets is -- well, the Cadets. They nearly did that Saturday as they clearly didn't have their "A game" for their performance of We Are the Future, although it was still good enough to beat the Vanguard solidly. Projection was lacking the pop it had when I witnessed the Cadets in Philadelphia, lines were ragged and the crispness in general was not up to their standards. Still, this show has it all -- including the players to take it to the top. If I were a betting man, I'd still make the Cadets the favorites, but Saturday's effort probably tightened things up a little more than they had been. The percussion (10S-4T-5B-10P) feature, particularly the tom and snare breaks, followed by the brass lick featuring the performers fingering their neighbors' horn, is still a fan favorite and the highlight of this show. Even the championship encore seemed to lack energy, right down to the drum majors barely acknowledging the crowd before abruptly leading the corps away.

Santa Clara Vanguard  92.35


If there is a "dark horse," it is the Santa Clara Vanguard -- a corps which knows how to play that role very well. Truth be known, the Vanguard probably had the crowd on the edge of its seat as much as anyone Saturday with its The Age of Reverence show featuring music by Samuel Barber, Bela Bartok and David Gillingham. It must be good if the crowd is once again drawn into rather distant music -- and it is. The guard, in my estimation, is much improved from a year ago with a lot more equipment work and much less modern dance and shaping. The corps as a whole still does some of the most innovative body shaping on the field, starting with its opening set which features a full diagonal on either side of a circle of guard in the middle. That form reappears with the diagonal in reverse while the keyboards gradually fade away to end the show. The Vanguard continue to give judges and fans a like something fresh and innovative. And surprise, the percussion section (7S-4T-5B-4C-8P), which had been down by comparison to last year's edition, beat the Cadets to take high honors by three tenths Saturday. The Vanguard won't wow anyone with their number of notes this year, but they are once again impeccably musical.

Boston Crusaders  89.25


While they won't be among the contenders for the top spot in Maryland, the Boston Crusaders may still have the best all around show of the year with Red -- depicting the different shades of the color through music. Every part of this show is so well done with a fast-paced drill which is easy to read, to the vocal beauty and then gorgeous sounds of Passion (my goosebump moment of the year) to the fury of Fire. The Crusaders have it all, including the performers, to bring the house down with this show -- and they do with multiple standing ovations. Last year, the Crusaders made DCI's elite top 12 for the first time in their storied history. This year, particularly after their third-place finish Saturday night (89.25), I think it's going to be hard to keep them out of the top six. It would be great to see them open the live broadcast on PBS Saturday night, although that might be a reach with both the Blue Knights and Glassmen having a say in that matter. Like the Vanguard last year, the Crusaders use a trademark drill move twice in the show with huge straight ranks marching towards each other, meeting at the 50, and them expanding into a big wedge. On a personal note, it is so good to hear the Crusader battery (7S-3T-5B-14P) playing on Premier drums this year instead of the Ludwigs they had been using for a long time. They truly project better.

Phantom Regiment  88.55


What's all the fuss about Phantom Regiment's new uniforms? I heard people talking about "how ugly" they were and when I saw them, I liked them. The colors tan, white and red aren't so hideous and create a much needed brighter look for this corps then the all black appearance since the early 90s. I can think of a lot of other color schemes which were worse on the field. Need I remind fans of history that Phantom was in white a lot sooner then it went to all black -- which was a controversial change back them, particularly with the purple accents that first year. Uniforms aside, this corps can really play -- as evidenced by their brass beating the Vanguard for second (18.3) and the Cadets for second in percussion (18.5; 7S-4T-4B-8P) as the corps finished fourth overall (88.55). Unfortunately, while the music in the Masters of Mystique program is stellar, the visual program is lagging -- with the color guard finishing a distance fifth on the night (.7 down to the fourth-place Crossmen) and the corps also fifth in visuals (.5 down to the Crossmen). If the Regiment could find a magical solution to the visual problem which ails it, it too could get in the hunt for fifth through eighth. Unfortunately, magic in DCI is limited to the Vanguard and a corps from Orlando.

Crossmen  86.80


With The Crossmen, fans and judges alike know what they're going to get and the corps delivers -- with a jazz show of old favorites which really sells in At the Crossroads. But while it appears like the same old X-men, complete with "Bones" who stayed around for the whole show Saturday, these are very different Crossmen. Unlike the classic corps of the late 80s and early 90s which built the shows around the percussion, these shows are built around the talented guard and impressive brass section -- with the percussion (7S-3T-5B-4C-10P) lending appropriate support. The guard finished fourth (18.2) while the brass beat Boston for fifth (17.5 to 17.3) as the corps finished fifth at 86.80. The percussion has come along way from a slow start this season, but was still a distant eighth on this night (16.4), just beating Southwind by two-tenths. While the X-men may finish no higher than ninth next week, sit back and enjoy the music. It doesn't matter how many times they play Birdland, it still rocks.

Bluecoats  85.60


The Bluecoats appear to have shored up their bid at making it back to DCI finals after a year's absence -- particularly with their upset of the Madison Scouts (85.60 to 85.25) for seventh Saturday. The 'Coats appear solid if not outstanding in all areas this season during their Threshold show -- beating the Crossmen in both brass (17.7) and percussion (17.1), and the Scouts in both color guard (16.5) and brass. The large percussion (8S-4T-5B-7C-10P) appears to be particularly improved from some of the past editions now under the leadership of DCA best percussion guru Dan DeLong. While the jazzy music is not real familiar to the crowd, they seem to be buying it nonetheless because it offers that old Bluecoats brassy sound which was gone a year ago. It appeared just a week ago as if the Colts were gaining on the 'Coats in that bid for one of the last spots in finals next Saturday, but based on Allentown it would appear as if Canton is solidly back in. While the corps hits you with its big sound in the Introduction-Overture, and really displays life in The Witch, the highlight of the show has to be the big impact in Air Antique with the brass and drums blasting in the front and the guard spinning pretty pink swing flags in a block behind and to the right.

Madison Scouts  85.25


Of course, it has almost become tradition for the fans to "boo" whatever score the "crowd favorite" Madison Scouts receive, but this year I have to agree that their scores seem exceptionally low for their The Cossack Brotherhood show which seems to put so many demands on the marchers and musician. While the color guard is not one of the corps' best, it certainly didn't seem to merit a last-place finish (16.3) among the Division I corps Saturday -- losing to is sister corps Southwind by a tenth for that honor. What may have seriously hurt the guard's score, and the corps for that matter in its surprising eighth-place finish, was the perplexing positioning putting the Scouts on last -- with the judge's standards being raised before by consecutive performances of the championship contenders Vanguard and Cadets. Granted, if any non-contender corps can accept the challenge of following the Vanguard and Cadets, not to mention another crowd favorite in Boston, it's the Scouts -- in fact they seem to relish it. And they didn't disappoint, bringing the crowd to its feet with its show of Russian favorites with one of their more fast-paced drills ever -- moving furiously from side-to-side throughout. Maybe the judges would like to see the staff at the critique and know they cared about the corps' score. But if they cared about the score, maybe they wouldn't be that entertaining -- and that would be the true loss for drum corps.

Southwind  82.15


Don't look now Scouts, but you may have created a monster in Southwind -- which is in just its second season since being reborn with the help of Madison and is now a serious finals' contender after placing ninth Saturday with a score which was just .05 below the Colts (82.15). Like the Bluecoats, Southwind appears to be solid in all areas this season -- although like the Scouts, the visual program seems to be holding them back as evidenced by their dead last placement among Division I units in visuals (24.40). Madison was the only corps close, just .55 up in the caption. Still, Southwind got the crowds' attention as the first corps Saturday with a full brassy sound during its ambitious 2000 program. With a solid four-point lead on the next level of corps, Southwind could control its own destiny during quarterfinals and semifinals in Maryland as it will set the standard for the judges among the finals' contenders. While the program featuring Intermezzo and March from First Suite in E Flat, Legends of the Fall, and Les Preludes/Totentanz is more demanding then last year's reincarnation special, it probably still isn't demanding enough to overtake the Colts or Carolina Crown. But just like you'd expect from a Madison-influenced corps, Southwind seems more concerned with delighting the crowd anyway -- and it does that very well.

Taipei Yuehfu  64.70


The Taiwanese Taipei Yuehfu opened Saturday's show and surprised the crowd with its mature sound while playing some Russian favorites -- beginning with Festive Overture. The program, while slower than the other 10 competing corps on the night, was entertaining nonetheless and projected a good ensemble sound. The percussion (6S-3T-4B-8P) appeared to be the weakest link in the corps as it placed last during the show (12.6), although it was the guard which was dominated by the Japanese Pride of Soka by a whopping 1.3-point spread. Still, the 64.7 final score was enough for 10th and makes Taipei Yuehfu an interesting addition to DCI's Division II lineup next week.

Pride of Soka  63.95


In truth, Pride of Soka would have beaten their Far Eastern rivals had it not been for a two-point penalty which was the result of one of the most bizarre things I had ever seen at a drum corps show. As the corps made its way onto the field of competition, it appeared to have no battery (5S-3T-5B-5C-9P). Knowing that several smaller corps have gone without marching percussion in past years, it simply appeared as if the corps had grounded its percussion. But after some frantic discussions between judges and the corps' staff, it appeared as if something was terribly wrong. That's when it was announced that the corps seemed to be missing its drummers, and it wasn't sure where they were. Talk about a failure to communicate -- or possibly a language barrier. After about five minutes, the line found its way to the stadium and hustled on to join the rest of its corps to the sarcastic applause of the crowd. While even the corps members laughed at the unbelievable scene, it wasn't a laughing matter when the two-point penalty kept the corps from being in the basement (63.95) with its show titled Joy. The show moves incredibly fast at times -- maybe too fast as the brass particularly lost some of its energy and clarity as the program progressed. Still, Pride of Soka offers a contemporary American program which could be a surprise at Division II Championships -- provided it doesn't lose its drumline again.

See you at Byrd Stadium for quarterfinals.



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