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July 24, 1999, Toledo, OH - DCI Midwestern

July 24, 1999, Toledo, OH - DCI Midwestern

[Disclaimer: I tend to express strong opinions both positive and negative. If you can't handle this, quit reading now.]

Troopers - I don't know if this was just an off night for them or if they always play this flat and listless, but it was a damn shame because the music is written well with some very nice musical moments. Another thing that bugged me was how amazingly easy the guard routine was. I have virtually no guard experience or talent and I bet I could learn this show in half a day. That said, though, I still had them a point over Les Etoiles.

Les Etoiles - I've never really cared much for this corps design-wise To me they have always been kind of a one trick pony and this year (with the scaffoldings) is no different. They do have some nice moments visually playing with the scaffoldings and there is less white noise in the hornline than with Troopers, but I still thought they were scored a bit too high.

Kiwanis Kavaliers - Since their amazing 1996 program (the West Side Story show) this corps has been one of my "pet corps", but I think it's time to let them go. Their show isn't bad, it's just not good either. They do have some decent moments both in the guard and the hornline, but overall it is quite forgettable.

Southwind - Wow! Wow wow wow! This corps is simply amazing! They grab your throat with the first strains of American Salute and just don't let go. The biggest impression they made on me was visually... the drill design was only surpassed by 2 other corps at the show (the top spots, natch). The drill is just incredible... excellent use of layering, multiple points of focus, contrary motion... heck, I haven't seen anything like it from a non-top 3 drum corps since Carolina Crown in 1995! Does anyone know who writes this drill? Of course, the writing is nothing without performance and these kids just march their feet off... they play damn well, too. They deserved every point of the 73.8 they received and I fully expect not only to see them in Semifinals this year, but in Finals in the next year or two. They used to fight tooth and nail with Carolina Crown, and by gum it's gonna happen again!

Boston Crusaders - They are very good. They do have a shot at Top 12. They were the cleanest corps at the show... that's their problem. BAC does have a very nice show that they perform the hell out of, but it's also one of the least demanding shows I have seen from a corps of this calibre. Besides that, they now seem to subscribe to the Glassmen philosophy of color guard design... impact at all costs, spare no fluorescent! Ick. I know legions of die hard BAC fans disagree with me, but I don't think this will be the program to bring them to their first DCI Finals.

Carolina Crown - After reading about their show on RAMD and seeing their recent scores, I just expected more. They do have a good color guard and do some really neat tricks at times with their half black/half white jumpsuits, but the rest of the corps doesn't really excite me. While they do have moments of brilliance, both musically and visually, they just seem to be lacking something. Maybe I would like the show better if they borrowed the old Sky Ryders shtick and put some characters out on the field to tell the story. Is that too cheesy for the 90s?

Colts - I had them a point above Crown but was completely flabbergasted when the judges revealed they shared my opinion. The Colts show this year is just marvelous. I have been taken aback the past several years by the full, clean sound of their horns and this year is no exception. Also, this year the corps seems to be exploring drill that actually improves the crisp, bright look of their uniforms (one of my favorites in current DCI... why is White so out of vogue now?) and they handle it very well. Against Crown, they had At the June Toledo show I was aggravated they did not defeat Phantom Regiment, but if they continue improving at this rate they may have their shot yet.

Glassmen - I'm not a Glassmen fan. Very rarely have been. While I do realize and appreciate the high performance level these kids have achieved both musically and visually, I do not appreciate the show design at all. First off, the music, while effective and well-performed, is quite forgettable. The biggest problem I have with them though is their visual design. I don't mean marching... they march very well and the drill is effective, though not at a top 4 level. You all know what I mean... all that damn gold lame and fluorescent. I have never seen such an armful of ugly than those girls carrying those flags off the field. Score-wise, I'd knock em back a good 2-3 points. Having seen Madison's show (who currently seems to be the 6th-10th front-runner), I don't think they need to watch their backs too much, but for those of you waiting for them to pass the Cavaliers... don't hold your breath.

Cadets of Bergen County - Excellent show... exhilirating. They have some very good writing and perform it much better than I was led to believe. The color guard, of course, was head and shoulders above everyone else here, but marching was also very good. And the brass line... what's the problem? Achilles' heel? I don't think so. There were a couple parts of the show I still don't understand (the routine-less guard members in the opener?), but overall it is a very solid package. They did seem to slide a bit though tonight during the closer. The show was very energetic right through the ballad, then it all of a sudden got real pensive... then they get to this really frantic segment at the end and it's fine again. New drill? That's my guess at least. While I had them above Glassmen and below SCV, the margins seemed pretty off. I'd say they're 1-1.5 behind SCV, but a good 2-5 above Gmen.

Santa Clara Vanguard - Best corps of the night bar none. SCV just continues to put out the most breathtaking corps on the field and blowing me away. I don't think I blinked once from their off-the-line (very nice and subtle, by the way... a nice departure from everyone else just trying to blow your ears off in their first 10 seconds) until the first appearance of the "folding block" (my vote for coolest drill move of the year). The only problem I really saw was a bit of a hiccup with momentum while cueing in Blue Shades, but it was much better in the standstill. The color guard, while definitely not at the level of Cadets, are not the liability some here would have you believe. Some odd routine in the ballad aside (what's with all the goose-stepping?), they are very capable. Besides, while Cadets guard takes your attention off their marching, SCV's marching takes your attention off their guard.


Thanks to John Weldy on r.a.m.d this review!

Editorial notes:

July 24, 1999, Toledo, OH - DCI

Let me preface this by exposing my biases: 1. Thirty years and 75 pounds ago I marched with the Glassmen. 2. I always did bugle (played, taught, wrote some, etc.) 3. My total exposure to drum corps thus far this season and ALL of last season was RAMD (And yes, I know how pathetic that is.)

In view of the above (and other personality quirks that others consider faults) I classify myself as a "casual fan", but one who still has a pretty good ear. I intend to talk about the various things I liked about tonight's show. You could infer that if I don't mention someone or some section, that I didn't like it. You COULD infer that, but you'd be wrong! The complexity of today's book (bugles, drum, guard, and drill) is at such a high level that even with PERFECT seating, no distractions from rude crowd, no bad weather, and NO mosquitoes, I still didn't see or hear HALF of what the kids attempted out there, and I'm pretty ignorant about drumming and guard work. (I DO reserve the right, however to mention when some particular bit caught even MY attention.

I got to the Glass Bowl at 12:00 Noon to buy a ticket for the contest, and the Glassmen were there having a rehearsal. It was BEASTLY hot in the shaded seats, so it HAD to be 100 plus degrees on the Astroturf, and there was no breeze whatsoever. I watched the rehearsal for awhile, and satisfied myself that my old corps sure recruits a WAAAY more experienced and accomplished musician than we were able to do 30 years ago. Also, the staff numbered as many as any section we marched back then (and seemed to ALL be thoroughly occupied with an endless list of details.) The portion of the rehearsal I watched was devoted to cleaning drill and wouldn't normally hold my attention for too long. I was struck, however, by the tremendous level of concentration and attention that the instructor demanded... and GOT. This display of work ethic was repeated at 4 other rehearsals of other corps I saw today. C;early at this level, these kids do not snooze through rehearsals... ANY OF THEM.

Finally, I'll address some things I really liked about the show:

Troopers - - I was expecting little due to the comments I'd read on RAMD... but the books (all of them) seemed fairly well written for the personnel, and the quality of their performance was high. Interestingly, crowd response was highest for an old fashioned "starting line" company front from goal line to fifty before the drum major saluted, that set the old timers in the crowd up to like them. The history and tradition alone of this corps is enough to bring a lump to your throat at the thought of how close we came to losing them (reportedly). I suspect you will see a great resurgence in Casper in years to come.

Les Etoiles - - My first time seeing this corps. I was apprehensive at first by their small numbers, but the horn line played with fairly good balance and intonation a show of original music. I always admire the guts it takes (in my opinion) for a programmer to choose original music. They sounded pretty good to me, even though I was fighting back my fears that the elaborate scaffolding that was erected on the field for the pit players and their instruments was going to collapse and drop the marimbas. Again, a gutty thing to do. Here's hoping they can rebuild their numbers and have the necessary bodies to do justice to a very nice book well taught.

Kiwanis Kavaliers - - Again, a new corps to me. RAMD had prepared me that their numbers of players were down from last year, but I didn't think know that all the losses seemingly were all sopranos and mellophones... In looking at them on the "starting line" I feared that the contras and baritones would thoroughly dominate the sound and render the upper register mute, but they did an excellent job of controlling themselves, and balance was pretty good.

Southwind (I checked the spelling on the souvie wagon) was next, and I'd never seen them either. When they entered the stadium, they reminded me of Blue Rock in the yellow tops. Opening the show with American Salute was gutty... but they pulled it off nicely... saw the Baby Boomers (they're the fat guys with gray hair or no hair) in the crowd smiling in recognition of the old War Horse. Is Lexington, KY the next center of the Drum Corps world? Stay tuned, you'll be hearing a bunch more from Southwind.

Boston Area Crusaders - - WOW, the horn book sounded really hard. Extremely ambitious. I'm going to love seeing them again and again in years to come to see if they can continue to improve at this rate. Even though the hornline has so much articulation exposure (mostly due to their drill book), they ROCK those symphonic dances.

Aside - - at intermission, I chatted briefly with a man and his daughter from Toledo who were seeing Drum Corps for the first time. Apparently the man's Father-in-law is a volunteer travelling with SCV and invited them to the show. A ten corps show can be a little too much of a good thing for a first timer, and it showed on their faces. I assured them that the rest of the corps (Colts, Crown, Cadets, GMen and SCV) would be well worth "sitting through". I looked for them as I left, mostly to see if they agreed with me, but couldn't find them in the crowd.

Colts - - What a nice SOUND they produce. Not one cracked note or bad attack or release in the Brass. Apparently, Colt Brass staff ignore how tolerant we Drum Corps fans can be of bad intonation. 'cause those cats play IN TUNE, way more than anyone else.

Crown - - First time seeing this corps too, and people all around me had Crown souvie shirts saying it's their TENTH year (groan, I GOTTA get out a little more). I liked their guard. That I even notice a guard is a miracle, let alone remember one as contributing in the GE captions, (Don't waste your breath flaming me, I know it's my loss that I'm pretty much oblivious to guards.) Also, need to give show designers kudo's for having the nerve to select "Jeckyl and Hyde". I was totally unfamiliar with the show, but the line sold the book really well.

Cadets - - All captions of this corps work as a unit, which is another way of saying, "Great show design". CBC sort of acts like this music works really well for them as is. Having dabbled myself in arranging (we arrangers prefer the term to "lifting" or "stealing"), I know there ain't no such thing as a piece written for another venue (Broadway, the Symphony Hall, the movies, ballet, whatever) that works this well "AS IS." One has to "fold, spindle, and mutilate" pretty thoroughly to get something out the other end of the process which works at all, let alone the way they do it. GREAT GUARD (great book, great execution) I didn't have to remind myself to keep scanning the field to keep from missing something that I should see. The SHOW DESIGN drags your eyes where the designer wants them to be.

Glassmen - - Didn't think I would like the Kodaly. Many on RAMD have opined that it takes more than one viewing of GMen to really get into the music. My time at the rehearsal field today was apparently enough exposure to the Kodaly, because I loved it. I also think the GMen battery is superb.

Vanguard - - See Cadets above - - then double it. This corps plays me like a cheap fiddle! I get visions of the design staff focusing in on me (and my ilk) when they invent this stuff. OH I feel so used and manipulated!!!! (scold me, spank me, make me write bad checks... ) THAT's Entertainment. I particularly noticed that the book for the pit especially in the Barber stuff) really strengthens the horn book. Great writing!!!!

Well, I apologize for the length of this - - it was a great show!!!!

Thanks to on RAMD for this review!

Editorial notes:

sCORPSboard | 1999 Scores & Reviews

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