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August 5, 1999, E. Rutherford, NJ - DCI Music in Motion

We witnessed a great night of Drum Corps at Giants Stadium yesterday. The weather was perfect: warm and not too humid with a gentle breeze. We were in the upper tier, 5th row up between the 50 and 45 on side 2. It was a great position for appreciating the visuals but not so good for musical GE, since the middle tier tends to trap a lot of the sound. However, I was taking my girlfriend to her first ever DC show and figured it would be easier to sell her on the visuals, which most people can understand, rather than the music which given it's complexity these days isn't immediately accessible.

The corps performances were as follows:

Southwind opened the show proper and we thoroughly enjoyed their offering. The music was controlled and melodic with some great moments in the drill. The execution wasn't as clean as corps further up and the demand wasn't as high. However, the final score doesn't reflect how enjoyable this show is to watch. In addition, this was the first proper DC show my girlfriend had ever seen. After the opening statement, she turned to me, eyes wide with excitement and said, "Wow! That was excellent!" So a big thanks to Southwind for turning my lady into an DC fan in 60 seconds or so.

The Colts have always been one of the corps I remember fondly and this would be the first time I'd seen them live since Montreal '82. I was very disappointed. The opener failed to draw me in; they engaged me somewhere in the middle and then lost me towards the end. The ending itself comes out of nowhere and leaves one wondering whether the shows over. More demand and better execution than Southwind but the show design failed to grip me. The only real highlight for me was the sweet sounding brass -- they do play with a great deal of control.

Blue Knights
I didn't know much about this corps when I saw them for the first time last year and they intrigued me big time then. This year they intrigued me even more. IMHO, they had one of the best balanced shows of the night. During some shows, I find the dynamics are slightly off for my tastes: sometimes it's too fast and furious or two slow and seductive for too long. Blue Knights never seem to make that mistake. Their show takes one's mind on a journey and doesn't let it get off until they're finished. It's brilliant stuff. It was so well integrated that there's nothing that stands out -- it all seems perfect. This show was one of our favourites of the night. The music was well played and achieved a great balance between melody and rhythm, so much so that I'll be checking out their website for a CD compilation shortly. I'll also be checking out reviews to see if there's anybody that doesn't like this show. I can't believe that anybody will have a bad word to say about it. Way to go Knights!

One of my favourite, favourite shows of recent times is Xmen '97. I've seen their 98 and now 99 shows live and neither have managed to recreate that kind of magic for me. When I read the pre-season YEA! bumph on what they were up to this year I was really looking forward to it. But, like last year, whilst this show has it moments it didn't draw me in and hold me. The opener, with bars of silent drill, was cool but didn't work for me as an opening statement. Still, having said all that, it's a nice show to watch. The percussion is very good and the snare feature was one of my favourite highlights. Drill wise, they pull off a couple of cool moves... at one point they cross two ellipses and play follow my leader at great speed within each ellipse, drawing much deserved gasps of appreciation from the crowd. There was also a nice two step forwards, one step back kinda shuffle as the brass march across field, that looked very neat and tied in nicely with the music.

Blimey, talk about surprises. I'd read all the reviews of this show and for the most part had come away with the impression it wasn't too exciting. Clearly something's changed! The intensity was seriously HIGH. The guard was as awesome as ever, with great equipment work and convincing dance. They contributed big time to the overall impact of the show. The drill contained some of my favourite moves of the night. The best being a diamond block of brass that forms centre field. Groups of four people rotate within this block, starting at the nearest tip and rippling up through the block. It looks very cool indeed. The brass were excellent and all though much of the music was of the syncopated, note-crammed, complex variety that helps a corps into the top 6 it was still very enjoyable to listen to. Percussion were pretty darned tight too. I also think Cavs have one of the best uniforms for visual impact -- it seems to highlight every move they pull.

Santa Clara Vanguard
This was my most anticipated show of the evening, courtesy of the reviews I'd read stating that they had the total DC package this year. Those reviews weren't wrong, although we still preferred Cadets for overall mind-numbing intensity. The opening was my favourite of the evening. It develops beautifully and is seriously intriguing as they gradually bring the whole corps into play before issuing their wake up call to the audience. It also served to highlight another SCV sound... the snares! They're getting an awesome sound out of their snares this year. Not too dry, not too wet: crisp and biting with a hint of moisture. It floats beautifully beneath every thing they play and cuts through when required. Awesome. And thats only the snare sound! Visually they were a treat. I think Cadets had the better forms but as ever, SCV had the best use of body movements within each section. Some of the movements within the brass section are wonderfully artistic and caused me to marvel at the beauty.

Cadets of Bergen County
I can't get on with listening to the Cadets on CD and struggle watching them on tape, but whenever I watch them live I spend the whole show with jaw on ground and head shaking numbly. They are INTENSE. In prior reviews, people pondered whether this show was up to the usual intensity. Judging by last night's performance it is and they're peaking just when they need to. They opened in a similar manner to Crossmen (which I found a little worrying... please Xmen don't become a Cadets clone), with silent bars of drill interspersed with tight, loud chords. It worked better than the Xmen's opener but wasn't on a par with the beauty and flow of SCV. However, after that they went from strength to strength. I thought the use of the NY cabs was going to be a little bit corny but I underestimated the creative genius of the people that design these shows. The way they introduced and used that equipment was great -- it really added to the visual impact at that point of the show.

Er... that's it for the reviews. I think the scores pretty much reflected the quality of the shows. It's going to be tight between SCV and Cadets come finals. For us, in terms of pure entertainment, our top three were: Cadets, Cavs and Blue Knights.

A big thank you to all Corps that took part last night -- we came away inspired and in awe of everything you did. This is a truly wonderful art form and the effort you put into entertaining us is very much appreciated. Thanks.

If anybody wants to comment on the above or tell me I'm talking out of my backside, you can email me on

Thanks to Phil Diggle for directly emailing this review!

Editorial notes:

August 5, 1999, E. Rutherford, NJ - DCI Music in Motion

This is my first time as a reviewer. It was a beautiful night for drum corps--the weather was perfect!! Let me start with a few general comments. Giants Stadium is a great venue, however, sitting in the Mezzanine does cause some problems with sound, but not enough to keep you from enjoying each show. The drills look spectacular from up there. YEA does a very good job with this show, but I, and the people around me paid a hefty price for our seats only to have people climbing in and out of their seats during corps' performances. Do better next year, please.

The Hawthorne Muchachos alumni corps started the evening with a spirited exhibition. It was great listening to the "oldies" -- I don't mean the performers! I did learn later that they have members in their seventies who were part of the original Muchachos.

The first competing corps was Southwind. I was really impressed, especially with the very first musical statement. Things got a little sloppier as the show progressed, but for their youth, they are on the right track. The yellow uniforms look great.

The Colts have obviously had a rough time of it so far this year. The show was too dark for my tastes, and I felt bad for the soprano who had the mishap on the fifty-yard line during one of their fast sections. It's going to be hard for this show to make finals this year.

I have read reviews of the Crossmen comparing them to CBC several times and I don't see it. They have an identity of their own and the staging of their guard is great -- the maturity level of marching and playing isn't with the "Big Boys" yet, but overall, it was very entertaining.

The Blue Knights have come a long way this year. A very tasty show. They march well and have a great drill to go with memorable music. Are their pants purple, or am I going color blind? The flags are once again tie-dyed and spectacular. Keep up the good work, BK.

I was sitting surrounded by CBC fans, and they and I were blown away by the Cavaliers. A guy down from me kept saying, "It's ALIVE, It's ALIVE." The horns do not yet have the volume of SCV or CBC, but the drill, the marching, the emotional range, the musicality of the guard's performance, the excitement of the total package were the best of the evening. I spoke to a member of their horn line after the show, and he said "We'll be LOUD by next week, don't worry." If that happens, they are a dark horse to win in Madison for sure.

The Cadets of Bergen County were the home town favorites. I saw them over the fourth of July at their first home show and they have made many, many changes since then. I heard that a lot of rewriting has gone on in the last two weeks, and the marching showed it (they won Visual, go figure?). I noticed at Clifton that their color guard is not as integrated into their show as in the past. While they are all on flags they are ALWAYS outside the corps proper. Also, while they handle their equipment probably better than anyone, they also are WITHOUT their equipment longer than anyone. The taxi section is nice, but those pieces look SO HEAVY and the buildup is just too long. As for the horns, "Stand and Blow to Win The Show." They really move when they move, but they stand still A LOT.

Santa Clara Vanguard has really done a great job revitalizing their program in the last three years. I enjoyed the show, especially the "zip pull" drill move (both times). Their horn line seems to be putting their horns down on the field a lot to do body work, but it works for them. And can they play LOUD. They "Park and Play" quite a bit, but they have movement from the other non-playing sections to camouflage it well. Their marching performance was excellent. Nice job, SCV.

Thanks again to YEA for a well put-together show. Just keep the entrance tunnels closed during corps' performances next year, okay?

Thanks to Bob Greeson for directly emailing this review!

Editorial notes:

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