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July 24, 1999, Houston, TX - DCI - exSIGHTment of SOUND

Well it's about 2PM Central time on Sunday and am now sitting down to write a review of last night's show, "The ExSightment of Sound" in Houston, Texas. Overall I think it was a good show with several excellent performances. My two friends and I had pretty good seats on the Lower Level of the Rice University stadium and parking situation was also excellent -- plenty of free parking for all. This is my 5th consecutive year coming to the Houston show and I'm never disappointed at the level of performances. Rice is a truly excellent stadium for drum corps, IMHO.

Yesterday was a typical hot and humid South Texas summer day, though it did appear to be cooling off around 7PM or so as very large bank of overhead clouds seemed to shut out the blazing hot sun. Actually I thought this year was the 'coolest' of all the shows I've seen here in Texas in the past 5 years or so.

The audience seemed to be somewhat smaller from past years but perhaps that's just because of my own perception. Not sure of the exact attendance figures. Didn't see a lot of the usual bandos from the area high schools.

So here goes my 'review' of the corps performances in order of appearance:

National Anthem: Bayou City Blues, Houston, Texas: --- more to come later about them.

Tarheel Sun - Cary, NC. I'd never really seen Sun before and wasn't really sure of how long the corps had been in existence. The program said the corps was founded in 1995 and moved into Division I after 3 years of completion. Overall, I really like the performance as they played the opener of Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me by Elton John. This was an appropriate piece of music to fit in with the bright yellow sun theme the corps uses in both their name and uniforms, which are bright, bright yellow tops with a golden, shiny (appliqué?) sun figure on the center of the uniform. Black pants for the horns and drums. (Cannot remember the guard uniforms.) The battery and pit I thought were the strongest parts of the corps as was the marching. I counted 5 snares and 15 (!) pit. Of course this is just my opinion, but I think some of those pit spots could have been used in the main battery. Why does a corps need 15 pit? Horns seems to be out of phasing just a bit a spots. They also performed Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. I can't seem to help from comparing any performance to Madison's rendition in the late 70's, and so I felt Sun's version was okay, but it wasn't really exciting. I think the arrangements weren't really effective. Nice overall though.

Pioneer - Milwaukee, WI. I've seen Pioneer a few times over the years and they seem to be up and coming, if not really really soon. Coming onto the field I noticed their new uniforms. Reminded me of 27th Lancers and Madison. I guess it was the Aussie style hats and spats. I really liked the drum solo which featured great pit work (the xylophonist was excellent). And too great tympani work. As I try to review all parts of the corps, I just felt the guard work was confusing. It just didn't make sense to me, especially the rifle work. Guard seems off at times. Though they were smaller in numbers to Spirit and I think Tarheel Sun, I think they did a great job with the band music repertoire featuring Greensleeves.

Magic of Orlando - Orlando, FL. Magic looks different this year. They aren't wearing the heavy-looking dark jackets they've worn in the past. Now the horn and drums have this jacket-less tuxedo look to them which is nice looking. Featuring brightly designed vests with a bow tie, it really compliments their Mardi Gras style of performance. Tonight's music was The Music of Chuck Mangione, which they performed quite well, especially the horns. I thought their horn line was in the top 5 tonight. Drum line was small tonight as I counted 5 snares and 2 tenors. Not sure if they're adding more tenors or if there are temporary holes but I think this year's could be the smallest battery of a top twelve corps. The entire drum line was pretty good, but the size is somewhat of a concern. Where's the rest of the drum line? Okay, here comes the part about the guard. I've read some other reviews of Magic this year and find their guard uniforms to be unattractive, not at all like their uni's in the past. This year's coed guard is wearing tight-fitting gray spandex body outfits with these splashes of color in odd places, like one arms or one leg. You could see *every* panty and bra line! Each member has a different styled outfit (such as one with a 'ripped' shirt look, one with a ripped dress look, etc.) and overall it just doesn't look good. Even though the guard is very good, the guard uniforms just don't seem to fit it. Just my opinion.

Spirit of Atlanta - Atlanta, GA. What has happened to Spirit? I just can't put my finger on it but this year's program isn't as strong as in years past as indicative by tonight's performance. They corps is (I think) a full 128 but bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. This corps has some work to do in the next few weeks if they want to make finals. I really really liked Jump Jive an' Wail by Louis Prima (redone by Brian Setzer Orchestra). The horns were very loud, perhaps loudest of the night, but not very clean or strong. There was some obvious phasing problems involved and it showed. And the guard: What is up with that spare, Gap-clothing look? Each guard member had a different 'uniform' on which consisted of a khaki-colored bottom (shorts, long-skirt, or short skirt) and a burgandy-colored top (long sleeve blouse, T-shirt, or halter-top). Then also a few of the girls had these dark colored,velvet-looking dresses. Overall look was inconsistent, confusing and unprepared. (Are new guard uni's in order in the next few weeks???) I've been watching Spirit for the last twenty years or so and this year's guard doesn't seem to be as good looking as in the mid '80s when they were on fire. (I know this might sound kind of shallow but again this is just an observation.) The guard work needs a lot of work too. I wish Spirit luck on the way to Madison. After seeing Pioneer,I put them (Pioneer) ahead of Spirit. (Pioneer ended up ahead of Sprit as it turns out.)

Bluecoats - Canton, OH. Didn't remember a whole lot about the Bluecoats. Nice marching and horn line. (I apologize to anyone who may feel offended by my short comments about Blue.)

INTERMISSION -- a short 15 minutes and on time!!!

Crossmen - Wilmington, DE. What a change from years past! New uniforms have replaced the white pants and shoes of the past. Now everyone's going to the darker colored pants and shoes including Crossmen. Both the tops and bottoms are very dark colored - the tops are black and a dark turquoise blue color. Anyone can correct me on that. They look very different from years past, but oh who. What a very entertaining show with a wonderful drum solo. Very clean drums I thought. Guard was very good with HIGH rifle tosses. Good horn line. An interesting arrangement of the music repertoire which was entitled Changing Perspectives: A Silver Celebration.

Phantom Regiment - Rockford/Loves Park, IL. I'd been noticing Phantom was scoring not as high this year as in previous years and that Blue Knights, Crossmen and Glassmen had been scoring higher. Really neat was the drum major (who commands with great presence I thought) who, as he begins to start conducting the show, slowly places his had behind his neck and dramatically pulls out his conducting baton from the top half of his uniform, kind of like a magic trick. Horns were pretty clean as was the drum line. Very nice music consisting of the Tchaikovsky (sp). Huge big sound with clean marching I thought. Funny, the announcer kept mentioning that you should 'Be Afraid of the Dark', I suppose alluding to the dark ominous sound and presence Phantom usually presents. Not this year. The music is less heavy as in years past and it's nice to hear it. Great looking guard and nice guard work.

Blue Knights - Denver, CO. This year they remind me somewhat of the Troopers. Gone are the white pants and shoes of the past, replaced with dark blue/gray and black shoes. The music they presented seemed familiar from the years past. I thought they weren't as strong as in years past but again that's just my opinion. Very strong drums and good marching work.

Cavaliers - Rosemont, IL. The final competing corps of the evening, the Cavaliers, were the strongest in all categories. Horns line sounded very clean, especially the lower brass as they played various excerpts from classical compositions in their 1999 Repertoire, Classical Innovations. I didn't know what to expect from this title as far as certain classical melodies or compositions but I surely wasn't disappointed. Cavies come onto the field quite focused and very polished-looking. The off-the-line segment has the corps spread out in three distinct blocks from the 15 yard line to the opposite goal zone as they eventually begin to play strains of Ode to Joy by Beethoven. The marching and entire corps ensemble is very strong this year and it showed in their first place showing tonight. The corps is constantly moving and running at over 150 bpm it seems. During the Ode to Joy segment during some long sustained notes, the entire horn line is running backwards, sideways and forwards to form a German cross, which the crowd loudly applauded. The drill is, as in years past, quite interesting. Again they play and march extremely well this year as they always have done.

There were a few open holes in the horn line, but the contra section seemed quite full and powerful (I counted 11 contras.) The guard is of course extremely talented and very much an athletic and cohesive unit in their flat, light yellowish sleeveless tops and black pants. Simply speaking Cavies guard clearly outperformed all others tonight. Very clean flag work (love those rainbow-colored flags) and lots of running and spinning in all directions. Rifles of course were clean albeit with one or two drops. Drums are very good also. There's this one part of the show where the battery is marching quickly up on the 50 yard line and then some quiet 'dut dut dut dut's' could be heard. This is annoying to many to hear this, but then the tenors (and the entire drum line I think) loudly and intentionally mimic this by loudly and verbally 'DUT DUTing" to/for the horn line. Funny! This show is definitely Top 5 this year. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing Cavies again at Madison in a few weeks.

Bayou City Blues - Houston, TX. As Texas' only senior corps, they have improved greatly over the past few years. WOW! They are twice as big as last year it seems and actually performed with a coed colorguard. And they marched a full show with real drill. The show consisted of two Spanish-themed pieces and another piece, a drum solo and then ended with Happy Trails to You. What was really interesting to hear was the soprano athletics presented during the second Spanish song in which 4 or 5 sopranos each solo these impossible high notes in the far upper registers. One guy was hitting these incredible notes; the others tried and though they hit some and missed others, the crowd absolutely just loved them. Looking forward to hearing and seeing more of BCB in the future.

Olympic-Style Retreat: Crossmen played a really cool funky cadence to march the other corps onto the field.

Thanks to Roger French on r.a.m.d this review!

Editorial notes:

sCORPSboard | 1999 Scores & Reviews

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