Before, I begin, let me say that this drum corps season has not really impressed me with any drum corps I've seen over the past weeks. My expectations were relatively low coming to this show. Here's, however, what stood out to me from the night. A number of real surprises.
Carolina Crown. Glad they made the uni change by adding the gray cover to the white and the cape over that. They are, in my opinion, holding onto a 12th place spot.
The show, however, is not that well conceived. It reminded me of the first year SCV did Phantom of the Opera. It didn't really tell the story. And, the show just seemed second rate. Then, the following year. BAM. What a show. Perfect in every way. I hope CC does the same. How can you put Jekyll and Hyde on the field and not play, This is the Moment? This was not the moment I had hoped for. A good show, just not really hard hitting.
Crossmen. Two words: terrific guard. Solid, tough, fluid. I just wish the corps proper were up to the same speed. The new unis are quite smart on the corps. Guard unis are different. The unis did, however, remind me of the year that Blue Knights played Star Trek and the corps proper had the tunic type back capes. I actually like the unis; don't get me wrong.
The corps marching is overall very sloppy and elementary at times. Playing is okay-- not really strong, nor mature. A number of odd sounds continued coming out of horns throughout the show.
The final number is a repeat of several years back. Really like the tune. That piece was the most memorable tune of the night. I had to shut my eyes during it because of the visions I had when they played it years back. Then, the drill and marching were excellent. The drill and marching tonigt--dull and sloppy.
Cadets of Bergen County. Stunning from a drill format, especially in the beginning. The taxis props have been added. They do provide a visual punch, however campy.
What I don't get are the guard unis. The men look like machine shop or foundry workers from Akron, Ohio; the women look like the Amish from the fields of Millersburg, Ohio. Definitely not what I would have put on the field for a show about the Big Apple... How about at least, sheik black? This was truly the worst guard idea I've seen. They looked like a 13th place corps with a talented guard and a really out of touch designer or a financially strapped budget. It's the kind of moment that makes you say say, "hope the corps get a top 12 spot and gets some money to come back next year with some new guard unis." Sorry guys. My vote for the worst dressed guard of the night - and for that matter, the Century! I just don't get it.
After the opening, there were some horrid marching moments - for the Cadets - going on in the parts of the middle and end. This is the second time I've seen the corps this year. Improved, but not a championship show, I'm afraid.
Based on this review, you're likely thinking that I am the archenemy. Actually, I am a die-hard Cadets fan. I do drum corps today because of them and have since 1986. However, in my older age, I've learned to view things much more objectively. I call them as I see them.
The Cadets' guard is strong. Not the best Cadets' guard I've seen. Both Crossmen's and Cadets' guards seemed the same to me. Silent opening. Big flagwork. Lots of unison stuff. Nice, just not real innovative.
After Cadets ended, I said to myself, I'm glad I came. This year is not an "oh my God" year, but it's a good drum corps year. I guess I was hoping for the last Drum Corps season of the 20th Century to be... well, something more. Well conceived and executed shows with innovation to boot.
(I do worry, in times like these, that maybe we've reached the pinnacle for drum corps. What is next? And, who will get us there?)
By the by, if you've not seen SVC, do so. I love their show. It's what I thought drum corps would be this season.
Blue Devils. Now on to the final words for my review. This show was truly an oh, my God 11 minute show. I was expecting an okay show.
First, I'm not a BD fan. Second, the season has been a bit mediocre. This corps, however, proved me wrong. They looked fresh, sounded fresh, and were fresh in terms of the conceptualization though execution. The music was interesting, extremely well played. The horns had some of the most beautiful sounds ever played on a field. The sops were brilliant. The horn line played as one machine. I especially loved the opener.
The color guard was an incredible compliment to the show both visually, drill-wise, and execution. The corps, appeared at times, because of their excellent marching, to float across the field. The corps was mesmerizing.
It was fun to watch the couple next to me. Their first DC show. They about "peed" (sorry for the language, it just fits so well here) their pants. They couldn't believe their eyes and ears. I agreed, even after 26 years. This was THE show.
A few areas for cleaning, and the title is theirs - or SCV's. All in all, it was what I was waiting for. A great way to end this season.
Thanks to Mark Ballard for directly emailing this review!
Cincinnati Glory: This was my third time seeing them this year and each time the progress has been evident. They performed much better both visually and musically last night as compared to Cincinnati last week. I especially like the middle part of the show( Ballad et al.). When the hornline plays while standing still, they are very capable of good sound. The guard work throughout the show was very solid. I just wish that Glory would recognize their limitations at this point. Maybe then they would be able to reach the crowd more effectively. I just do not think that a 12 person hornline should be trying music that relies a lot on dissonant chords. Quite frankly, it is just difficult to tell when the dissonance is intended and when they are just out of tune. Overall good job. Scored appropriately: 57.3.
Mandarins: I love this show. The music is difficult yet accessible. The horn line plays it very well although they did seem to run out of steam a bit at the end. The drums seemed solid, although I am not a drum guy. But, the visual program is what I like so much about this show. Finally a corps that knows how to effectively utilize field props! I love the four platforms that are moved throughout the show. They serve the corps well as staging/design elements as well as adding a theatrical element as during the "On the Waterfront" section, they resemble a dock. And the colorguard are constantly working on and around the platforms. And what a guard! Very strong. All in all, I thought that their performance was scored a little low tonight at 66.7. I had them closer to 70 and closer to Troopers. I will be VERY shocked if they do not walk away from Madison with Div. III championship #7. Top 21? Possibly. Great Job Mandarins.
Troopers: I want so badly for the Troopers to regain the glorious past that earned them the nickname "America's Corps" because a class act like the Trooper organization deserves to reclaim its rightful place among the elite of DCI. And I am very happy to report that the Troopers are on their way! I have to admit, after seeing this show in Cincinnati, I had my doubts. But boy, what a difference a week makes! The marching is so much better. The horns are playing the difficult passages with far more control and articulation. Although not all soloists were at their best tonight. And the drum line seems to be very strong as well. I really like the sound of their snares -- very musical. Perhaps the biggest difference between last week and this was the performance of the guard. I have to admit that the guard's program is definitely cheesy with a capital "C." That being said, last night the actual equipment work done by the guard was solid. Even the dance segments didn't annoy me the way it did last week. The show still has some problems, but I like to see the improvement. The crowd really liked them. Indeed, there was some grousing when Troopers were announced behind Pioneer. Semifinals? Probably not. Next Year? With only five age outs, watch out. Scored accurately at a 70.6.
Pioneer: I haven't seen them since June. And the fears that I had that they were in for a down year have been allayed. I like the sound of the hornline so much more this year as compared to last year. Yeah the numbers are down, but I think that they effectively show that a smaller quantity doesn't have to mean a sacrifice of quality. They are very tight. They do however suffer from a lack of volume at some of their impact points, but overall, good quality. My favorite part of their show was the ballad. They play the bittersweet ballad The Girl That Got Away very effectively. Strong drumline and probably the best Pioneer guard I can remember. Well done. Scored a bit high tonight with a 73.9. Semifinals? They are definitely in the mix. Right now I would say yes.
Carolina Crown: I really like this show. I think that this show was designed to showcase the guard because the music seems like it was written to be background music to the guard's work. I honestly can not remember anything about the drill from the corps because the design kept me focused on the guard. For some that might be a problem, but when you've got a great guard, use them. I like the new gray cape things the guard start the show with. The horns really did not have a great night tonight. There were some definite phasing and intonation problems, but nothing too severe. I love the ballad. It really blends the visual and musical elements wonderfully! The drums played well and are solid. All in all, this was a crowd favorite tonight. Scored accurately tonight at 84.4. This should be a finals show, but with Bluecoats, Colts and BAC right there as well, someone is not going to be happy. I predict a tie for twelfth place at semifinals so everyone is happy (Except perhaps PBS).
Crossmen: My first viewing of them. Jury is still out on the new corps unis. I do like the look of the guard, but I think the corps unis are just too dark. They fit this show pretty well, but what are they going to do in the future? Lighten 'em up. Now, this show is very nice. I enjoyed it immensely, especially the closer. However, I felt like I was alone in liking it so much. The crowd, generally, only really reacted to the beginning silent guard work and the drum feature during the closer. I appreciate the fact that this music is all about control, but I really think they need to open it up a couple of notches if they are going to get to the crowd the way they need to. The guard had an outstanding night! The only guard of the night without a drop. And boy do they do equipment work! Great job, although the crowd around me were a little disappointed with them beating Crown. I think they were accurately scored tonight at 85.6. They should be in the 8-10 range at finals.
Cadets of Bergen County: I have to admit that I am a Cadet fan ever since the Appalachian Spring show of 1987, my first experience with DCI. Now that you understand my bias: This show cooked tonight! WOW. When I saw this last week in Cincinnati, it really did not do a whole lot for me. But what a difference a week makes! The marching is much steadier and cleaner (although there are still some problems with the closing sets). The performances by the brass and percussion sections were also quite strong tonight. The crowd ate up the meat grinder and the spiral moves! I know everyone is critical of the Cadets for overusing these moves, but when they are on, it is just one big GE orgasm! The opener for the Cadets garnered a full standing O. The only midshow standing O of the night. The ballad worked really well. Also, the tenor feature led to another partial standing O. The only problem with this show is the ending just doesn't build to an awesome moment that we all come to expect from a corps like the Cadets. But, that's all right because none of the big boys has that ending so they are not losing any ground to anyone in this regard. The ending is nice, but it just does not pack quite the same punch as the rest of the show. Indeed, I don't know if it can. Oh, by the way, the Cadets guard were hands down, rifles up, the best guard here tonight. One side comment, please do not send a guard out with the corps during retreat to practice! It is absolutely absurd! It didn't happen in Cincinnati, why here? Please DON'T! Tonight, scored a bit low at 92.4. Definitely the crowd favorite. The general consensus around me was that the Cadets should have won (to my astonishment since Centerville is usually all over the Devils). Oh well, maybe I was just seated in the section with taste?
Blue Devils: This is not my favorite corps, but I will try to be fair. This show stinks! I seriously do not know what everyone is all excited about regarding this show. The structure of the show is pretty much just a hodgepodge of music that as individual segments work well, but as a unit, just does not work. The opener was performed much better by Phantom in '93. I am a firm believer that if a corps is going to perform music done extremely well by another corps in the past, it better be damn good! Just as Phantom found out last year with Pines of Rome, I think the Devils will ultimately find out this year. Now, the Adios Los Ninos Tango section is a different story. I love their treatment of this classic piece of music. And the retreating wedge back into the corner of the field was outstanding. However, the crowd didn't even applaud it? Instead, all of the little high school trumpet jocks were waiting to go crazy for the squealing sopranos. Yes they can play loud and high, but ultimately, It just does nothing musically. The closer is absolutely so disjointed from the rest of the program (to the extent that any of it was jointed in the first place) that it really felt like they looked at their watches and just quit what they were doing and said "Start the closer!" Now, the Brass is very strong, but not as awesome as we have seen in the past. I actually heard some obvious intonation and phasing problems -- very unDevil-like, especially this late in the season. Percussion is serviceable. The guard is strong, but I preferred the Cadets as well as the Crossmen because I actually like to see a guard use equipment rather than dance. The dance/equipment work during the ballad was the highlight. The rest was unmemorable. Scored appropriately tonight, although I had them behind the Cadets tonight, at 93.4.
Parting Shots: I was afraid the Cadets and Vanguard would be battling for second place after reading some of the reviews. However, I now firmly believe that the Devils will find themselves in 3rd or even 4th (where they should have been last year). The Cadets are coming on, but I think it is going to be Vanguard's year. I am comfortable in saying this now that I have seen all of the major players this year except Madison. Time will tell. Thank you for indulging my length review.
All of this is of course MHO.Next stop Madison.
Thanks to Tony Lovensheimer for directly emailing this review!
CyberWebMistress Caryn Roberts