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The Sound Machine Archive Presents
2001 Drum Corps International
Show Reviews - As Posted on RAMD!

Page Five of Reviews

Listed are the dates and the show site, the reviews will be filled in, if and when they are available or submitted.  The following reviews are solely the opinion of the reviewers.  If you disagree with any comments, feel free to email the author, all reviews are signed with an email address.  If you want to add your review to this page, send any reviews, comments or questions to:
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Saturday July 7

Concord, CA (DCI Pacific)

What a great night for a show. Perfect weather no wind (the concord show is famous for being the windiest show in CA) and not 2, but 4 of the top 12. I just wish that Blue Devils would have their show at a venue better suited for drum corps. My seat was not ideal (outside the 25 yardline) and I was late of course, but here is my take on the 4 shows I did see.

Blue Knights (4th 77.5)- BK is once again fielding a strong corps, but for me their show was void of emotion. I want to like these guys, but something is just lacking in their show.

SCV (3rd 83.90)- I really enjoyed the opener, and they have made a lot of imrovements since I saw them in mid June. I wish the guard would do less dancing, and more work with equipment in their hands. Strong brass, and percussion, and right up their visually. They have some really nice moments, and still much room for improvement. I was not at the show in Stockton, but people were saying SCV was flat compared to the night before. I believe SCV will be top 3 at Finals. They just will not catch BD.

Cadets (2nd 84.80) - I was expecting to see the same old Cadet schtick. You know, running all over the field, showing the crowd that they can play and walk really really fast at the same time all the while creating formations that are supposedly difficult, but not very pretty to look at. I was wrong. They have gone to the other end of the spectrum. I don't really mind corps standing and playing as long as their is a point to it. I just don't get the point to this years Cadets show. They do have some nice sections musically, and their colorguard was excellent. The show just isn't one of my favorites.

BD (1st 86.35)- Blue Devils were on tonight. It was their home show and they did not disappoint. I just don't see a weakness. Their brass is excellent as ususal. They are great visually. They had the best guard of the night (Maybe a little too much dancing with the hats. Pick up some equipment!), and their percussion section rocks. They still have a lot of cleaning and layering to do, but I have to believe they are the corps to beat on Finals night. Remember, the only reason they did not contend last year was a weak percussion section, and they are much improved this year.

That is how I see it. What a difference is was having the Cadets and BK at the show. It was sold out early for the first time I can remember. More corps should come out west.


Well, it's almost 1am here and I'm slightly coherent but I thought I'd put some thoughts down in writing before bed. I had the privilege of seeing BD, SCV, Cadets, and BK both tonight and last night in Stockton. All four corps I felt improved from last night, which is wonderful. Here are some things that come to mind for each corps:

The symphonic BK is gone, which took me by surprise quite a bit. The cartoon-ish music doesn't do a lot for me, personally, but I know many will appreciate and enjoy the playfulness of BK's show this year. There are a few spots where I did indeed chuckle out loud (that was the design's intent... don't worry). For the most part, I didn't feel that any particular section stuck out as especially strong. Biggest challenge this year: the brassline. I don't know if they don't WANT these kids to open up or what, but their opening "hit" never opened up into the full sound that I'm sure these kids are capable of.

This show has indeed grown on me, but I still find it to be lacking in something--can't put my finger on it though. The rap thing at the end is also growing a little on me although I still question whether it's a good thing. Their color guard has improved considerably since their first show, and the overall theme of the show is coming across nicely. I don't know if these kids can keep up momentum throughout the season (I do wish them the best of luck), so SCV may just find themselves securely locked away in 4th place come nationals.

I really really really like this show... it's got power, demand, pizzazz... BUT it's got the longest show-killer in there called "Moondance." The most out-of-place number in their show is also the longest... it has 3 endings, and the piece doesn't really go anywhere emotionally. Sure the kids have a great time with it and perform the hell out of it (it's reminiscent of the anything-you-can-do section that closed their show last year), but it really brings the flow of the show to a screeching halt. Some highlights of the show: the split meter in "Young Person's Guide..." where both DMs are on the podium, one conducting in 3, the other in 6/8... very cool; the closing 45 seconds or so. It was so awesome to see Cadets out here, and I hope they return very soon as they promise in their announcer blurb. As a side note/question, what are those quasi-rifle things out there? Does using a tear-drop make what would have been rifle work more lyrical?

Cool show... it's a return in feel to their great jazz shows of the 80's. At this point they are cleaner than the other corps for sure. I'm curious to see how much they keep their lead... I don't particularly feel that their show design is SO superior to the other corps that they'll remain a great distance ahead. Once Cadets, Cavies, and SCV clean up what they have and clarify their programs, watch BD's lead decrease (and even possibly invert?). But I don't mean to take away from the great job these kids are doing. Weapons are doing quite well with their very high tosses. The hat stuff reminds me so much of Fosse--maybe that's just me. Brass and percussion are strong, of course, although I feel like the brass at times didn't balance as well as they did during the majority of the show.

This is a great season for drum corps and things will be quite interesting come August. Best of luck to all!


This review will only focus on the last four corps, since that is all I was able to see at this show (babysitter arrived late). These opinions are only mine, so please no flaming (especially the really annoying, self-righteous flamers who like to complain because I didn't review ALL the corps, only the last four). Thanks!

BLUE KNIGHTS - I am and will always be a BK fan, being a former student of Ralph Hardimon, but I just don't get their show this year. I can't put my finger on why I didn't enjoy it, but I guess it seemed like they were trying to be something they're not playing circus type music. I think the placement of their performance didn't help matters - they went on between Cadets and SCV. I did enjoy the performance overall, but it wasn't an especially exciting or emotional show for them this year.

CADETS - I went in with very low expectations of Cadets because I have read a lot of negative things about their show, but I LIKED THEM A LOT. Sure, the show makes no sense whatsoever musically speaking from piece to piece to piece (Britton to Van Morrison to Bizet???), but they perform the hell out of that show and it was GREAT! I especially loved Moondance, and that mello soloist at the end was just amazingly faboo! Wonderful choreography overall too.

SCV - I completely disagree with their placement this evening. They are AWESOME and what an improvement since Pacific Procession on June 16. They should have been well ahead of Cadets and not so far behind BD. Of those three corps, they have the best designed show overall, and I felt that their show had something that neither BD or Cadets had - moments of tension. I think they will place no lower than 3rd at finals, and that Cadets passing them (and by almost a point) was a major fluke. I did feel that their horn line was not up to snuff tonight though, but the guard really stood out. I'm a percussionist, and while I've never really cared about or noticed color guard much (especially Vanguard's color guard) I noticed and enjoyed their guard the most this evening. I think that if they can clean up, they will be a solid 2nd place, but I haven't seen Cavies so maybe it's not right of me to make such a statement.....but I'm makin' it, so there....nyaaahhh! ;oD

BD - Maybe there is something wrong with me because everyone out there seems to think that BD is the greatest thing since sliced bread this year, but after three viewings I can honestly say that their show does absolutely NOTHING for me. I find it very boring, and have felt that way each time I've viewed it this year. Don't get me wrong, I WANT to enjoy it, but when I see it, nothing happens. I will give them credit where credit is due - their drum line is monstrous (someone compared them to the 94 line, and I'd agree), and they are super clean overall musically and visually. However, as good and tight as their hornline is, they have no balance there. It's about 90% soprano, and 10% contra and nothing in between. My husband, who is a BD baritone alum, even told me that as a baritone player, the best place to go is always Phantom and never BD. I also feel that BD's guard, while excellent, is subpar to the BD color guards of the past 4-5 years. Maybe they had a mass ageout exodus last year, but I dunno. I don't like the work with the hats either, but that's just me. One VERY VERY VERY cool thing in their show is a particular drill move about 2/3 of the way in which I can only describe as a sort of waterfall effect as the entire corps moves from the 30 to the 30. Keep an eye peeled for that, it's a rockin' move.

That's my .02 - good luck to everyone on tour and at DCI!

Martha Garcia

Here are my short reviews of the shows last night in Concord, CA.

Venue: 1 word = horrible
- The weather was great if not perfect, parking was a breeze, the souvies were accessible. That's where it ended. IMHO, Stockton is 10x better then DVC (Diablo Valley College). The bleachers were so close together that there was absolutely no room for your legs. The reserved seats were on the 25, okay, but the stands don't go nearly high enough for anyone outside the 30 to get any sort of sound. The aisles are few and far between, meaning lots of getting up to let the late arrivers get to their seats in the middle. I don't ever plan on going back to see this show at this venue again.

Impulse: 1 word = !!!!!!
- I love this corps, if not just because of their history. The fact that they could give a rats ass about what the judges think and only care about the fans is golden. The front facing warm-up was a great way to start the evening. The purple drums look great, especially when attached to that Cadet-mocking drumline. And any corps that leaves to a cadence gets two thumbs up from me. Long live VK!

Seattle Cascades: 1 word = brassy
- They have a wonderful sound for such a small corps. The brass was very good and always together. I think the drumline is what's hurting this corps. Throughout the whole performance I was not drawn to the drumline once, mostly because they were way to soft. And the guard uniforms, what's up with that? The golden-yellowish color does not flatter the rest of the corps, but the big hit with the green flags was stunning. Drill needs work, but overall a great sound from this smaller corps.

Mandarins: 1 word = champion
- Okay, I'm a little biased here as I have several friends in the corps. The drill was near perfect, a few spacing problems. The balance between the drumline and brass is absolutely dynamically perfect. The guard seemed off with a few too many drops, but other than that this corps has championship written all over them. Still my pick for Div. 1 champ in 2006. I just hope they get bigger. Go Megan, Lucas, Brad, Andrea, Brian, Forrest, and that kickass bottom base player (Marcus).

Esperanza: 1 word = improved
- I don't think I've seen a second year corps with so much going for them. The guard was good as well as the drums. The brass was a little shaky with occasional individual notes sticking out. My only problem with these guys are the uniforms. Major blando. Next year throw in a little color, no more black & white. But this corps gets my vote for most improved.

SCV Cadets: 1 word = low
- These guys are my second favorite behind the Mandarins. But last night they were a little below average I thought. The drumline was on fire, and the contras were fantastic. It was too bad their runs were drowned out by the subpar higher brass. The drill needs a lot of cleaning as there were way too many spacing problems. I really expected more from the champs.

BDB: 1 word = surprising
- Whereas the Vanguard Cadets seem to be increasing in number, BDB seems to be getting smaller. What I liked about them was they used their sound very effectively for being quite possibly the smallest corps of the evening. The brass was fantastic, the drumline was dirty, the guard was average. What's with the no warm-up? All in all a good showing for them.

BDC: 1 word = amazing
- It's always great to see these little corpies play their hearts out. They got a long standing-o for their John Williams performance. It was wonderful. And they won Div.III because there was no other competition.

Renegades: 1 word = HOT!!!
- They were by far the most energetic corps of the evening. They blew their faces off. These guys seem to double in size every year. They got the longest standing-o of any group, and the 5 screamers made your ears bleed. Absolutely on fire!

The Cadets: 1 word = shocked
- First let me say the only reason I didn't like the Cadets was because they just weren't entertaining. After last years championship, I came full circle and looked forward to seeing them live for the first time. Second, let me say that I love this show. Why? Because it's entertaining. I agree that the music doesn't fit well together, but who cares, a lot of shows have music that doesn't "flow". The brass was great, especially the low end. The drill was incredible. 2 vs. 3 !?!?!?! Amazing. Now, let me say I hate drum sets being used in the pit. If you have a drum set then what the hell is the drumline for? Now, allow me to complement the Cadets on their use of the 5(?) sets with the drumline during the solo. That was the only way I could have liked the sets and they did it, so good for them. But, the drumline after the solo seemed to disappear. Where did they go? Their presence was very little. The only problems I saw were a few spacing blunders, but it's early so they can be fixed. Great show, Great to see ya, Please come back.

Blue Knights: 1 word = entertaining
- I like how this corps seems like they have so much fun out there. The guard uniforms were interesting, but they fit the show. The drum solo featuring the basses was great with a funky groove to it. The footwork, as always, is astonishing. The brass was a little soft, but overall effective. Why were the contras standing still during the drum feature? And what happened to Johnny Quest at the end of the show? I think that would be a powerful closer that would really get the crowd pumped. But still a great, entertaining show.

SCV: 1 word = class
- This corps amazes me with their use of the field and the use of full corps visuals. I think this show is lacking musically, but I like the bell intro through the announcements, very interesting. Great big first hit. Drums were great, brass was pretty good, maybe a little off. As for the chanting, I don't know. I had heard of it through other reviews and was on the fence. I don't much like chorus in drum corps, but then again BAC's use of it last year was very nice. SCV is no different. At first it sounds a little out of place, but then it starts to move with the djembe and pit coming in. I think it is very innovative and fits their show perfectly. I didn't see anybody that didn't like it. The drill was very effective. The cymbals were spectacular. I'd say this show still needs work, but will still contend come August.

BD: 1 word = perfection
- You can tell they are ready for August today, whether or not that hurts them will play out later. The guard was by far the best of the evening. The huge baseline, tom-tom solo is absolutely fantastic. They have great energy and seem at ease with everything the show presents. The brass was right on, and the drill was near perfection with minor spacing and line problems. I love the look of the new drums. Are they denim? They look like it. The best performed show of the night, but the non-BD crowd was still buzzing about the Cadets. But still the most perfectly done show. Big sound, great quality. Definitely the ones to beat. But why no Legend after the encore retreat?

Scores: 1 word = correct
- The scores were right with what I expected. Some were unhappy with SCV's 3rd, but I agree with the judges. I do think the Mandarins should have had a higher mark over the Cascades, but 2 points is good for now. Why weren't the captions announced? Just another thing wrong with Concord's stadium I guess.

Well, there's my reviews. Take them for what they're worth. I don't fancy myself a corps perfectionist, I'm just a fan who loves the noise. Great show. Thanks to the Cadets and BK for coming out. Hope to see them again soon.

~Nick "the Slick"

I went to Precision West last night with two friends from work; 5-year show veteran, Susie and newbie, Marianne. A 50-minute drive from San Jose brought us to Diablo Valley College where the show was held. We had some xtra time so we went in search of a Baskin Robbins without success (Ok, where is one hidden around that area?). Before heading for our seats we hit the souvie booths. I got a Cadets pin (for my "drum corps hat") and SCV's 2001 tour shirt. Very cool - looks like the artwork from the silent film "Metropolis" with a corps member inplace of the robot and a red "V" on the clock face. Our seats were on the 35 yard line and 7 rows from the top.

The following are my opinions of the corps (in order of appearance).

First up was Impulse (6 - 63.25) -
This corps keeps growing every year. They have more confidence than last year. Their "South Seas" show featured a large volcano backdrop, and "Wilson" the volleyball. The show didn't bowl me over but it didn't totally bore me either. I thought it could have grabbed the audience more if it had more focus. They seemed to be trying to hit every castaway/island joke target in the book and this made it seem scattered. Music was fun.

Seattle Cascades (2 - 77.0) -
I thought they had beaten the Mandarins. They show is very well performed and keeps your attention throughout. Very much improved over last year.

Mandarins (1 - 79.35) -
What can I say? Another outstanding show from them. Consistency is always present with The Mandarins. Very strong corps in all areas. Guard is precise and handles equipment with ease. I thought that they might have been edged-out by The Cascades but no. It will be tight between these two this year.

Esperanza (5 - 67.95) -
This show didn't do anything for me. I was pretty bored throughout. They are improved from last year but the music selections were, well, boring. Nothing really stands out about them.

SCV Cadets (3 - 75.75) -
I wanted to like this show but, again, was bored. It started out with potnetial and then just kind of drifted off. Aagin, I can't think of a lot to say about it. Nothing really stood out.

Blue Devil "B" (4 - 69.25) -
Maybe it's Philip Sparke's music (we heard three corps do it). Another corps that didn't grab me.

After a 40 minute intermission.....(why was it so long?)....we had two corps in exhibition.

Blue Devil "C" (40.4 - since when are exhibitons scored?) -
Cute. The three of us (all RNs) agreed that there was something sick about sticking a horn in a six-year-old's hand and watching him wander aimlessly around a football field. Maybe the parents are getting their revenge? Anyway, after all the griping the consensus was that it's good to get kids involved with music.

Renegades -
Thanks Renegades! Marianne felt that you should have won the event. Great show. Fun music. Very well played and executed. The first corps to get a standing "O". Nice to see senior corps in California.

Cadets (2 - 84.8) -
It was great to see the Cadets! They had the biggest smiles on their faces as they trooped the stands after their show. Before they started I pointed out Hopkins to Marianne and Susie (he looks bigger on TV ;) ). Clean, clean, clean show. Great guard, great musically. A bit lacking emotionally. We all agreed that it seemed rather clinical and sterile. The "L'Aresienne" closer works well. I predict a 4th place finish on finals night.

Blue Knights (4 - 77.5) -
BK is taking a lighter direction this year and it works for them. The middle of the show lags a bit but the opener and closer are strong and have subtle comedy to them. Not the all-out antics of VK and not the stoic seriousness of previous years - a nice balance of the two. Strong corps in all fields. I predict 6th at finals.

SCV (3 - 83.9) -
For the first time in my 10 years of going to PW I heard booing when a score was announced. The people around me (myself included) felt that SCV should have placed 2 or 1. VERY strong show. It connects with the audience and holds your attention. The chanting in "New Era Dance" works and is not too overdone. I liked every part of this show. Marianne was blown away. Once they dot all the "i's" and cross all the "ts" this will be truly awesome. I predict them coming away as 2001 champs.

Blue Devils (1 - 86.35) -
I had heard that they had gone back to the jazz of the 80s. I was looking forward to it. I wanted to like it. I didn't. Boring. Nothing reached out and grabbed me. It was clean, it was precise, it had no true emotion. Susie commented that it made no connection with the audience. Unless they put some emotion into it they will be passed by SCV soon. I predict 3rd at finals.

Well, that's it. Polite comments are always welcome.


Following up on the two great shows this weekend in Northern California.

Random notes....

-Stockton crowd needed a jump-start during some parts of the evening. It felt as though most were sitting on their hands until BD got on stage. Wasn't a bad crowd, just not much enthusiasm for the division II/III kids.

-BD is clean as hell, with more room to grow. But there show doesn't have any BIG impact moments. I was glad to hear the heavy jazz influence back (not like it had really left). But there show is not something I will be humming after the season ends next year. Maybe that was the point. They have major chops, and the drumline is cleaner that S*#T. Interesting to see what happens with them at Nats.

-A more knowledgeable drum corps announcer is needed (I hear Ryan Turner was available)! The blue Devils are not from Denver (nuff said).

-Don't let the scores fool you, SCV is NOT that far behind BD. Don't care what anyone says, it will be a two horse race in August. SCV has a lot more room to grow than BD does (don't we always say this about this at about this time every year?). I would say their drill is about one to two notches more difficult than BD. Their (SCV) horn book is wonderful, and the show is very unique. But the drums and the drill is still dirty as heck. The grove section in "New Era" is awesome! I too was a little taken back when I heard the mp3 and the chanting for the first time. I wasn't real excited about it, and frankly listening to the show I did not like it the first couple of times playing it in the car. BUT... seeing is believing. They have a show that can win if they clean it. The kids look like they really believe in the program, and can really sell it. Look for them to do some damage in August.

-Speaking of not being able to sell it, does anyone who has seen the Cadets show think that the kids are having a tough time selling their show? I am a firm believer that if you give the performers something they enjoy performing, it will show on the field. Well, as much of a Cadets fan as I am (and I am a pretty big Cadets fan!), I just don't see this show winning nationals. I see them as a fourth place corps this year. Hats off the Hoppy and his staff for trying something different, but sometimes things just don't work like you want them too. Mind you, there is a month left in the season, so anything can happen. And if anything were to happen, it would be with the Cadets. I am not a fan of Young Persons Guide, and as much as I love Moondance, I can see where the book still needs some changes. I agree with previous posters who say Moondance is way to long. It's like having steak without any spices. It needs a little something. Don't know what it is, but I am sure it will be there in Buffalo. Their performance improved greatly in Concord, but still not sure if they are beating SCV yet.

-Anyone else enjoy watching Hoppy work the judges and the crowd before the Stockton Show. He was always talking on his headset, always had about three people around him. During the Div II/III shows, he shook hands with just about all of the judges, and during the break, helped repaint the hashes that were incorrectly painted in the place on the field. There are some people that know how to work it, and he sure does. Give 'em hell Hoppy!

-Blue Knights: GREAT SHOW! Probably won't be enough to get them into the top 5 but will be more than enough to win many new fans this year. The show was fun, entertaining, and very drum corps! It has all of the elements that people have been asking for the past couple of years. Kind of reminded me of Dutch Boy's cartoon show in 1985(?). They did a really good job of mixing the modern movement and drill style of the past few years, with fun, upbeat music.

-B flat vs. G: I know, I know. We have all heard the arguments. Last year I was open to it, and after finals, did not think there was too much difference. But after hearing the shows this weekend, I really think there is damage being done. The b flats do not carrying as well as the G's, and there is a distinct volume difference. Hands down, don't are what anyone says. You could put Hoppy and Wayne D. in front of me and have them give me their best arguments. But you could not sell me on B flats. I see the benefits from an organizational and educational standpoint, but the sound is different. My wife, who has never played an instrument in her life, and has only been on the DC scene for a couple of years, can notice a HUGE difference. I think if BD was on G's this year, they might be closer to 90 right now. I stood and watched their victory show, expecting to get blown away, and was disappointed when the drums were louder than the horns. There is nothing we can do, except remember the days of G and the intense power those horns created. Ahh, the good ole days...

-Someone in Stockton needs to understand that when a northern California Corps wins their show, that not having victory concert is not an option. There was no concert, and no mention to the crowd that there would not be a concert. We would have been happy to see Impulse play again; just feed the fans that paid 15-25 bucks a pop. Or at least tell us what's going on.

-Stockton show was on TV in the area. Imagine my surprise when I turn on the hotel room TV at 8:00 a.m. the next morning to see the rebroadcast of the show!!

-A BIG BIG BIG thanks to the Cadets for coming out west! You made this a memorable season already! Words cannot express...

These are just opinions... flame away if you like


Love BD, but felt the show was a bit flat, even for this early in the season. Horns lacked a bit of its usual blood-thirsty volume and presence, and drill design needed more kick. BD's drums though - especially its tenor line - are very sick. And that means good, really good. Guard was also solid and I enjoyed the choreography.

SCV's drill rocked. Definitely the most appealing of the night - lots of tight, flowing formations and visual punch. Musically, liked SCV's handling of John Adams. Improvement on dynamics and conviction well take the show to the next level. Also need to clean some lapses between brass and percussion.

SCV's New Era chant took about 3 seconds to get used to, but by the end was definitely a hype. Word on the street is that SCVs drum line is currently bringing them down. Could improvement in battery be the missing link in its quest for Finals?

Cadets represented well in its 2001 West Coast debut. Still, not sure what the link is between "Young Persons Guide to Orchestra" and Van Morrison's "Moon Dance." Ludwig Van Morrison, perhaps?

Cadets' sops need to clean some runs in the first half of the show. Middle horns ripped, though, and the brass overall played well as an ensemble. Visually, thought Cadets' design was kind of a snoozer - too much park-and-play by their usual standards.

Didn't catch all of the earlier/smaller corps, but Mandarins and SCV Cadets were showing good quality and promise.

Standing ovation of the night goes to Renegades. Old-schoolers taught the young 'uns a thing or two about hitting the high notes - maybe not always in tune, but the crowd loved it anyway. Some good ol' balls-to-the-wall drum corps actually felt pretty darn good (have junior corps just become too prissy these days?) Overall, congrats to the Renegades for their jump in size and quality.

And overall a great night for NorCal drum corps fans. This season is shaping up to be a doozy.


Well, this review is a little late, after flying back home to Texas, but here are my thoughts on the Concord show.

Weather -- perfect. A nice change from the inferno that is Dallas, Texas

Venue -- parking was great. Stadium was horrible. Can't BD & DCI do better for the climatic NorCal show? Small stadium & worst of all -- the dreaded track in between the field & the stands.

Impulse -- Great to see someone carrying on the VK tradition. As this corps develops, I hope they also remember that VK had some great brass & drum lines. Until they were in their final years, VK always had a strong show complimented by great humor, not the other way around. That said, Impulse's show was nice, with some funny moments. Horn sound was rough and unbalanced at times, and the guard needs some work. Lot's of work is needed on music & marching fundamentals. Great to see them out there trying, though.

Seattle Cascades -- Wow! This is a corps on a mission. I hope their rise from III to II is followed by a rise to Division I soon. They are already starting to act & program like a Division I corps. While rough around the edges, I was impressed by their dark and focused brass sound. There are some great moments in the music book, with tension building in several places. Color guard will also be a strength as they clean up. Looks like Div. II may boil down to a 3 way battle between Seattle, Mandarins and Spartans. I wouldn't count Seattle out.

Mandarins -- Another Wow! A very nice, warm sound from their horn line, based on their size. I do wish they could find a few more members and add some more bottom and power to their sound, though. Drum Line was locked in tonight and the color guard is a division I caliber group. Very impressive. The biggest complaint I had was that their music book does not seem as focused or meaty as that of Seattle. Otherwise, there was only a distracting bad judgement call by a guard member to detract from the show. Midway through the show at the end of a climatic moment, one color guard member's top had come down & she was topless right in front on the 45 yard line. The guard ended that piece holding rifles above their heads with both hands and she just stood there, exposed to the crowd. I thought that maybe she hadn't realized what happened, but as soon as the guard began to move again, she immediately reached to pull her top back up, showing that she did know what happened. While it certainly shows her focus and heart (trying not to break), I think it would have been a lot more appropriate had she broke to pull her top up. Moreso I fault the staff for designing a guard top in which this could so easily happen. I've seen some guards with invisible (or clear) tiny plastic straps to go over the shoulders to ensure that just such a thing doesn't happen, and maybe they need to look into that. The bottom line is that these are kids out there and this girl was obviously embarrassed later as she trooped the stands with the corps.

Esparanza -- Is this really a 2nd year corps? They are wonderful. I would have scored them a little higher tonight, and above Blue Devils B. Musically, they are quite mature for a 2nd year corps -- especially with their horn line. Very, very nice horn line with a warm sound. Guard is definitely headed in the right direction as well. I think we will see some big things from this corps in the future if they have a solid financial backing behind them and can keep their staff together.

Blue Devils B -- Nothing really sticks out other than I found it interesting that stylistically, they are a complete departure from big brother. They seemed to be just like everyone else (a point I will get to shortly). Nice horn sound and some nice guard moments.

SCV Cadets -- my biggest disappointment of the night. They were ok, but seemed choppy and dissonant without much to enjoy musically at all. Definitely not up to last year's caliber.

Some thoughts on II/III. It's great to see so many new corps out here competing on the West Coast. The rest of the country needs to figure out what these guys are doing out here, with limited tours/rehearsals by some, etc... I sure wish Pacific Crest would have been here (although I think they may be Div. I now???).

MY BIG COMPLAINT -- Why the hell does everyone feel the need to play the same modern music? How much Phillip Sparke and Holsinger do we need? Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed a few shows by Div. 1 corps for each composer, but when almost every corps mentioned above is doing the same music (except Impulse of course), it is OVERKILL. I'm not an "old fogie by any means, and I love modern Drum Corps (I marched in the 90s), but we need all types of variety -- especially in the smaller corps. Some of what is being tried just doesn't sell in the smaller, younger corps. Are these repertoires really for the kids, or just band directors trying to impress band directors/judges?

On to the Div. 1 corps...

Blue Knights -- hmm. what to say? Huh. I don't know what to think of this show yet (maybe more viewings will help). I do love the sound the horn line puts out at times. The G bugles just have a power, darkness and edge that cant' be duplicated by the Bb's. Their show is just not engaging, however. So much seriousness and humor juxtaposed, you can't really figure out what you should feel from the show and mostly end up feeling nothing so far. The guard has basically a serious book with a few cutesy smiles, giggles and moves that look like they are put in more in response to criticism than belonging. Drum line is solid (as you would expect). I thought the drill was very lacking, however and they are unappealing visually. Did we need another corps in all dark blue and black? The drill is very closed in, with most action happening within the 35s and without much definition as a result. What happened to those great Blue Knight drills in the 90s with wonderful field coverage? With few exceptions, these guys are crammed into a small part of the field, with little drill exposure. That also affects the selling of the music book, I think, as it is too "safe" for the horn line. Hopefully, their show will evolve to better utilize comedy with their theme, but unless they really change drill, I don't think that complaint will be addressed.

Cadets -- I didn't' know what to think going in (after reading all about their show), and I'm not sure I do now either. Hopefully more viewings will help. The horn line is years ahead of where Cadets used to be (maybe the one corps I would argue that Bb's have helped as they always had a puny sound on Gs (but then why didn't anyone else???)). Visually I was extremely disappointed. For several years now (since maybe 97), I think their drills have become less and less demanding, and this one takes the cake. It' doesn't seem like Cadets, except for the uniform. What happened to velocity and whiplash drill? That always set them apart, and it's absent this year. Too slow and way too much park and bark and scatter drill. How disappointing coming from a visual pioneer like the Cadets. The same applies for the guard, which I found to be somewhat uninspired. Are they missing April that badly? Again, way to much individual work and not nearly enough ensemble work. They also seem to be losing their "equipment first" emphasis (which I always loved) and digressing into too much dance and movement for my taste. What do you always love about a cadets guard? "WOW" flag work, and it's way too absent in this show. I think the biggest thing that is being reaffirmed this year is that the Cadets of the 80s and 90s are no more. The "heart" that always characterized this corps and their best shows is not there. Cadets had a way of making your heart soar and to pull at your intellect at the same time at their best (Appalachian Spring, mid 80s shows, Les Mis, Bernstein in 90, the flight show in 92, "kings" in 93, the John Williams show in 95 and even the festival show in 97). Now they are very mechanical. When this show gets to Farandol, you have the chance to have some classic cadets -- frantic movement, joyous music & triumph -- and you just get an auto-pilot type ending. Has the joy and creativity left this creative staff? I hope not. I love the "vintage" Cadets -- and I want them back. As for this year, I don't' see them better than fourth, and if politics would ever allow it, I could see them falling to 5th if things fall right for Phantom or Boston.

SCV -- I definitely want to see this show again. Musically, I'm not sure there is enough meat in the show, but I love some of the ideas. I just want more music. Some classic SCV moments throughout, but I'm starting to year for SCV to play some beautiful music again. There horn line is suffering, in my opinion, from the change to Bb's. They still have a nice dark sound (all those Euphoniums help), but it doesn't have the brilliance and lushness that is Vanguard's trademark. The color guard is wonderful, and they deserve to be beating Cadets in guard, although I really wish they would put in more ensemble flag work I really loved the "New Era" bit and is it just me, or is there an allusion to the bottle dance at the end of it by the guard? SCV will go far with this show, but I do wonder if they have enough music to catch Cavies and BD.

BD -- Great show. This corps has really won me over the past 4 years. I loved the Tony & Juliet show, was wowed in 99 and really dug their "madness" show last year. I'm not sure I'll put this one up quite that high, but they are executing better than last year. It's great to see some vintage BD. The horn line is superb, but I still think they had more power and flash when they marched G bugles. The difference between their power & Renegades was interesting.... Nothing will blow you over like those G's! One thing to point out -- Wake up if you are still in the camp that thinks BD doesn't march enough, or has less demanding drill than the other "big boys." This drill is demanding, as they have been for a while. Definitely BD's toughest drill. They move a heck of a lot more than Cadets, and they do it faster. DID ANYONE EVER THINK THAT WOULD HAPPEN???

Lastly, how bout the RENEGADES? They were great! I was shocked by the size and quality of the hornline. They wail! It was old school drum corps at its finest and a stark reminder of the hair-raising power and intensity of the G bugles that we are leaving behind. A great show. All they are really missing seems to be a guard. I wish I could see these guys again.

Well, that's it until the "Texas Tour" in 2 weeks. Can't wait.

Harvey "Bud" Phelps

Hershey, PA (DCI Atlantic) going home again. Great crowd, great weather...beautiful HersheyPark in the background ( new arena looks like it will be nice) prices continue going up ( soccer teams raised prices) but beer you could take to your seat was nice. As always Fran Haring did a splendid job announcing, tons of old friends to be seen, and reception for my call to Tom Peashey w/scores was crystal clear(that tower looks so good on the kissing tower) Seats were on the 45, top row, side 1. Brigs, Xmen, Boston, Crown and Spirit all seen prior to tonight, everyone else a first read.

You all saw the scores, so here's the dirt.......

Brigs....if possible, louder than in Buffalo. Solid GE moments, but some side to side phasing issues musically and some soloists had a few note issues. Drumline had a good night, but some serious execution needs to be applied to the 15+ snare feature at the end. It's a great GE move, but it needs cleaned....w/judging going to the end now, if it doesn't get cleaner some judges could be left w/a bad taste in their mouth. For whoever said the guard unis are no. The unis fit the show concept well, and the work was done pretty well was ok, but not my forte so i cant comment to well. Marching was clean, but as i said before i am afraid all the park and barks will come back to haunt them in the end......just too many. Also, the show seemed to have more life, more velocity than in Buffalo...before seemed everything was at safe tempos, tonight i felt the tempos jump some. Score deserved.

Bucs........Honestly, I had em in 3rd. Brass line is so much better than last year's version...and tougher show. Seemed a bit mechanical at times...lacking some emotion...however, in time can be fixed. I loved the guard...Greg, you did a wonderful job...well staged, great work and i like the rope thing. Drumline doesnt play the amount of notes as the past few years, but they have their moments. Some serious snare ex issues, and a few rims in quad licks...basses did well (nice huerta Gordo). If anything can hurt them drumwise, its the lack of meat in the book, and blown attacks on easy parts. Marching was pretty good with some intersesting visual moments...if cleaned, it could be a very good thing for this corps.

Cabs.....First off, drumline is way ahead if the past few years. Some ex issues but all in all the best line since 97. Brass seemed to be flat and some endurance issues...tho Kurt can still hit the high notes. Loved the guards unis and the dance stuff in the ballad. Cabs always march well, and they seem to have a tougher book than usual...when ex scores meet up with design scores look out. Warmup of Argentina confused some, who thought it was part of the show, but well done...and the Rumps....ahhhhhh...straighten the pinwheel!!! All in all, a fan friendly show and also judge friendly once clean. Seemed flat tonight and judging by the results the judges agreed. Deletions in Spain rumored to be coming will help too.

Grennies....I was expecting more...i know its early, but, I dunno, i thought they'd be in better shape. Happy feet galore, especially one snare drummer. Serious snare execution moments. Boccelli isn't seemed very flat, and to be honest, trying to pull it off leads to a zillion BAC comparisons. One snare on an old rope drum seemed odd...not sure if more are coming. Hornline had phasing and stamina issues that can be corrected...missed the guard sorry. Drill looked ok form a design standpoint...nothing to make you go wow, but nothing to hurt them either., turn it on! The improvment since last week is incredible...more feeling, more power and cleaner. I don't know if they have what it takes to make a run for TV, or even hold off Boston, but I do know that its the best all around corps they have had since 93. Soloists were on fire, and the color guard is a show by themselves. Drumline is definitely cleaner,and the snare/quad breaks...complete w/cheering sections were nice...only...where's the basses? very fan friendly show, and i look forward to seeing it again.

Boston.......also a lot better in a week. Visually, it needs work. Some great drill moments are waiting to happen, its just a matter of when. The guard is incredible...the color contrasts from guard uni to corps uni is great, and the equipment work is superb! Drumline had some ex issues not noticed last week, but still better than the drum scores they have been getting. The backfield echo didnt work as well tonight...stadium isnt enclosed so that may have hindered it's effectiveness. Conquest hits well done and received, and the groove is more noticeable from the pit. Al in all, a lot of room to grow, and the way they go the last few weeks, game on.

Bluecoats......First viewing in uniform( saw 3 hours of rehearsal). Post show rumor was 4th in drums...if so, get that guy a hearing aid! The pit is a notefest, and a clean one at that! Show has so much more life than last year, and some really nice brass moments. Drumline has several exposed moments...some minor ex issues but nothing that made me cringe. The guard was well integrated and had some great color schemes......drill...more challenging than last year, and better marched as well. IMHO, score should have been higher.

Crown.........2nd viewing, still dont like it. The purple top/black pants thing is nice, and some nice color guard color schemes...but....i dunno. drumline played well but again over powered the brass. the wood effects are ok, as is the cymbal/metal moment, but overall the only industrial thing about the show to me is that i had to labor thru it. The construction in the back has now been nicknamed "the amish barn that collapsed". IMHO, should be behind Spirit.

Spirit...........flat tonight...didnt have the emotion from Philly. great role playing/character acting for the train moments. ( honey i'm home!). Brass has some licks that make you want to go wow, but they need to be cleaned...same with drums. guard didnt really stand out but i didnt look too hard. All in all,still the best they have been in years, and a Saturday night spot is not out of the question.

yankee rebels......sorry, got stuck in the food line...and couldnt get out to see ya.

Cabs alumni.........ahh, a double dose of Cabs. First off, Ponzo does lawn chairs. Good, old schhol cabs, songs we all know and love, timbales, you name it. Loved comoimg down front to play Flamenco before you marched off.

marines...duty called so i didnt catch you until, well done! Once again, you were first class all the way.

Great job 5star...rain held off til my cooler emptied!


The Hershey Spectacular was Spectacular!

Weather: Mild. Temperatures dipping into the 70s as it got later. Some rain sprinkles during Spirit's show, and incredibly, saw some people near us running for cover. Come on!

Crowd was full between the 20s and there were plenty of people outside the 20s as well.

I will only review the juniors. But may I just express in this space my undying appreciation for the US Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. Sound awesome, look great, never fail to impress me. To look into the stands during Sousa and see everyone - everyone - smiling and applauding is the perfect way to end a show.

SPIRIT: Well, I said last week that they had a chance to catch Crown. Not unless they plan to do some serious work on cleaning and defining this show. The best part of the show is the opener. The opening - sort of an ethereal "journey into the spirit world" thing that coalesces the corps - is really nice. It makes sense given their theme and sounds good too. I love the train sequence - something for me to hook into right off the bat. Although when the corps member says, "All aboard for Hershey," a lot of people miss it. Is there any way to make this clearer, or to telegraph it more? Maybe the whole corps saying "All Aboard?" The train music and drill allusions are great, but after the opener, the show kind of loses interest. They sound good on their B-flats. I keep hoping that B-flats are fine depending on how they're played. When I hear Xmen next year I'll know if I'm right or not.

CROWN: I liked this show a little better the second time around. They now have changed the stage with the big pieces of steel-looking stuff - taken it away from the front sideline and arc it to the right of the 50 to frame the corps. They also now use it in the closer - kind of a "Chess" or "Stormworks" idea. Guard carries it, then other guard jumps out in front and does a toss, and finally the guard throws them down and dances on them and the drums use it as a stage for their solos.

I just cannot understand the design of this show - or, more precisely, the lack of consistency in its design. Crown always teases me with some really nice ideas and then they clutter up the field something awful. Why are the equipment and the guard unis in the opener the same color? Are they trying to hide the work? You have to work so hard as an audience member to see the weapons. And why in the world is the guard staged right in front of the percussion while they do their solo? The judge has got a sabre toss right in front of him while he's trying to watch the snare feature. It makes no sense, and even less so because some of the stuff they do has so much potential...

Anyway, enough negativity - the brass have some tasty licks, especially in the opener, but they lose steam towards the end of the show. Volume (or the lack thereof) is an issue, but they can play pretty well musically and in tune - and they do. Volume may come. Keep working, folks! Percussion is throwing down. It is a nice, clean, loud, impressive drumline. They deserve their high scores, although in Ogdenburg they were behind Xmen for the first time for whatever reason. I haven't seen the recaps yet for Hershey. And something good about the guard - I really like the flags and the guard unis in the second number, and the work is just fine.

To be found in part 2: ruminations on brass instrumentation, show design, our media-saturated society, changes in shows, ballads, and lucky, lucky scheduling.

I left off with Carolina Crown, but I did want to say something about their tubas. They sounded really good. There may be something to Bb brass after all. More on that in a moment.

BLUECOATS: I had two recent alums of Bluecoats behind me. One of them proudly said as the 'Coats came onto the field - "Classiest uniforms in DCI." While they were biased, I'm sure, I think I might agree with them. The uniforms are instantly recognizable and always in style.

Since it was my first viewing, I don't remember a lot of the show. The brass section, playing G bugles, was not all that much louder than Spirit, on Bbs. I am hoping that Bbs, when they are played well and arranged well, can be just as full and loud as G bugles. If I were to take a side on the G/Bb debate, I would still say G. But seeing which way the wind is blowing, I may be trying to look on the bright side.

Visually I like what the Bluecoats are doing. At the beginning of their closer, they had some very nice ensemble visual stuff going on. The Latin stuff works for them, and they play it well. They didn't seem especially on tonight, but that may be for a reason. The alums behind me wondered aloud why they waited till the fifth day of a six-day DCM break to learn 21 sets of new drill. If that's true, it does seem kind of dumb. But maybe it took that long to realize a problem and write the new stuff.

I know you shouldn't pigeonhole corps into one style, but Bluecoats does such a great job with some of the "story" shows - I'm thinking '95's WWII show, '96's American Celebrations, '98's Four Seasons of Jazz. Some corps can't tell stories to save themselves. Bluecoats does such a good and classy job at this that I almost wish they'd do it all the time. This is their niche, and the fans love it when they do it.

BOSTON CRUSADERS: The DCI scheduling office must be enormously grateful for the fact that Crossmen and Boston have such a great touch-and-go rivalry going this summer. I'm sure it was a calculated risk to have them headline some DCI Atlantic shows all by themselves with Cadets on the West Coast. But the fact that they are both so close, and so good, is fueling interest and conversation. No one last night complained that the Cadets weren't there.

Of course, this must be small consolation to BAC as they haven't won a show yet. But this show can beat Crossmen, if Crossmen peak early and BAC keeps improving.

The modern music works well when set to the drill that BAC is doing. Some people are complaining that the Crusaders' drill is the same as last year. To those people, I want to ask: Last year BAC made Top 5. Would it have made more sense for the visual staff to throw out what worked and take an entirely new, untried approach?

You know, I almost wonder if the problem is not with the fans who watch the DCI DVD or video every day from Thanksgiving to Memorial Day. Are we oversaturating ourselves? Did anyone get all bothered, in the years before constant motion and videotape, when BD did the same ending to their show five years in a row? When corps had traditional songs that they did every single year?

That being said, this corps needs chops. At some points it seems as if a couple brass players are carrying the corps. It sounds thin; well played, but thin. The colorguard, as I mentioned in an earlier review, is very active. Their weapons, IMO, are stronger than Crossmen. But Crossmen does better flag work and their stages are better.

I don't think the section where the baritones and contras are playing rhythmic stuff backfield and the mellos and sopranos play legato to the front works really well. The effect is simply too jarring. I know they're going for the modern effect, but you want some kind of clarity to the music.

CROSSMEN: Crowd and judges' favorite. I am a Crossmen alum. When I am down on this corps, I am way down on them. But when I'm up, I'm way up. This is an up year. I remember more about them since I saw them in ensemble in Philly. Also, their show is extremely memorable.

Don't expect to hear "Wee Small Hours;" they evidently hosed it after all the programs were printed. Unless it's in there and I'm too slow to hear it, the show begins with "Harlem Nocturne."

Those who expect Harlem Nocturne to be a laid-back, park and blow updated version of BD '87, don't. This corps moves. They have upped the tempo since Philly and the ensemble takes the melody to the accompaniment of driving rhythm. Nice blue flags tell is it is the late night.

The Crossmen also did some work with the middle number. The drum solo is now completely changed. The brass hoot and holler all through the tenor and snare features. This helped the crowd get into it, but I couldn't help but wonder: Don't the upstairs judges actually want to hear them play?

This brings me to my first semi-complaint about the Xmen, and that is this: Why are their field drums so muffled? Is it arranging, tuning, or simply the performers? I know nothing about field percussion, so advise please.

My second semi-complaint is about the ballad. It's nice enough, they play it fine, but its sole purpose seems to be so I don't have to engage for two minutes. I agree with Michael New's post last week: if you don't want to put a ballad in, fine by me. Or at least make it a hummable tune.

"Firedance," however, merits no complaints. The chart is excitement from start to finish. Since last week, they cleaned up the stuff underneath the opening mellophone solo, cleaned up the pit feature (last night they played it right in the groove), cleaned up the soprano solo, and they must have upped the tempo. The sixteen-bar phrases are written clearly and lead perfectly one to another for a devastating cumulative effect. The soprano soli to the right of the 50 about 2/3 through the chart is HOT!!!!!! The breather I complained about in my Philly review last week seemed like catching my breath before the final push last night. In fact, my only complaint about Firedance is the very ending. Too polite. The guard is in this beautiful wedge-type formation spinning flags to the right of the 50 while the brass and perc. push forward in a diamond-shape formation. Lose your cool. Throw flags, throw hats. Throw caution to the wind! Let us know it's the end of the best Crossmen ever!

Well, I hope I wasn't too much of a homer, but I do enjoy that show, and that's the one I remember most. What may hold them back is comparatively low drill demand (although they do move their feet) and drums.

I did not see the retreat or the encore. Although I would have loved to see Crossmen play an encore.

Chip Frontz
Crossmen 1992

HERSHEY, Pa. – The Crossmen and the Syracuse Brigadiers both powered their big jazz sounds to victory in the junior and senior competitions respectively at The Hershey Spectacular by Five Star Brass, turning HersheyPark Stadium into a rocking Jazzfest – particularly during their alternating victory concerts following retreat.

But while the winners celebrated on this night, the plots thickened for the championship road ahead. Crossmen’s 76.90 was good enough for first place, but kept them just .75 ahead of the second-place Boston Crusaders – cutting their lead in half from the previous night in Ogdensburg, N.Y. Will the X-men have enough to hold off the Crusaders, who started the competition season nearly two weeks later than their rival and appeared much improved from a week ago in Clifton? Time will tell.

The much-improved Bluecoats were also expected to be in contention for the top spot, but may have been undervalued a bit in their venture back to DCI-Atlantic competition for a night – finishing a rather distant third at 74.35. That score was less than two points in front of surging Carolina Crown, which scored 72.40 and now appears to be putting all the raw materials together in their “Industry” show to manufacture a program with considerable scoring punch for the final month of the season. Crown has now broken free from its early season confrontations with fellow southerner Spirit, which appears like its “Ghost Train” back to the DCI finals may be stalled – at least based on the lack of growth shown from a week ago as it finished a distant fifth at 68.75.

On the senior side, Brigadiers flexed their high volume muscles for a comfortable two-plus point spread over their closest rivals from DCA Championships a year ago – scoring a 78.80. But the biggest story of the night in that contest was the Reading Buccaneer’s surprising the Hawthorne Caballeros for second – 76.45 to 76.20. The lone Canadian entry, the Kingston Grenadiers were also the smallest group of the night and showed promise, despite their expected fourth-place on this night at 67.30.

The large and appreciative Hershey crowd was also treated to exhibitions by the Yankee Rebel alumni corps, the Hawthorne Caballeros’ alumni, and the U.S. Marines’ Drum and Bugle Corps.

Since viewing of the senior competitors was not consistent, the review of their performances will be briefer and more general.

The Grenadiers are clearly a work in progress right now with their production “Fire,” which is supposed to ignite the fire of the mind, heart and soul of the crowd with some familiar songs like “Time to Say Goodbye” and “Malaga,” in addition to an opener from Cirque du Soleil. But with a beefed-up visual program that moves more than most senior corps’ and puts more physical demands on the performers, the corps is presently suffering in musical quality and performance – particularly in some ensemble phasing issues – making the “fire” seem more like a friendly campfire than a raging blaze. Cleanliness will indeed be next to Godliness for this corps – particularly since it will need to project better with just 36 brass and 14 in the color guard, in addition to a relatively full percussion section (7S-3T-5B-7PP). Individual errors are abundant and endurance is clearly an issue right now, but this show has considerable scoring potential once it begins to clean and the staff can tweak it for added impact. Since the senior corps season is just two weeks old, one might expect a smaller corps with an ambitious show to have a tougher time projecting early. But there’s still two months left to the senior season, plenty of the time for this corps to become comfortable enough with its show to begin projecting and make a run at improving on its eighth-place finish from last year.

Highlights include a fast-paced and expansive drill that includes a few Cavalier-like moves, some aggressive brass charts in both the opener and closer, big colorful flag work in both the opening fanfare and final climax, and two long percussion breaks – one to open the show and the intended “feature” in “Malaga,” which includes the popular jam session by the snares on the mounted toms, back from last year. The snare tom feature got the first big response from the crowd on the night – giving the corps a little energy through the second half of the chart. The ballad needs some real musical work at present to come close to the desired emotional response.

Since viewing of The Brigadiers took place from the side, it will be hard to cite detail in their show and performance on this night. But the corps appears full in all areas and “fills-up” the stadium with its big, bold brassy sound. It’s a big Wayne Downey jazz sound – probably the loudest of the night from any of the corps. The guard and the battery support the brass nicely and relatively tightly for this time of year. They both play a big part in a wild show climax, particularly the percussion – with the battery (9S-4T-5B) all switching to snare drums for an extended Blue Devil-like high drumming triplet sequence, with the pit providing the big low end accents on mounted “thunder” drums. The brass, of course, comes as close to the stands as it can get during this moment and just blasts. It brings the house down, and probably leaves ears ringing with the volume in the process. While the big drum finish is an effective idea, it appeared to be in need of some real cleaning – at least from the side.

Still, the defending DCA champs appear primed for another championship run – particularly since it comfortably beat its closest rivals from last year. In addition to the big finish, “McArthur Park” was a highlight – particularly the Maynard-like soprano solos. The only negative might be that the show appears to move pretty slowly, and may not offer a whole lot of visual demand. Whether its slow pace can “slow down” another Brigadiers’ title remains to be seen – particularly since Syracuse will play host to the DCA Championships.

The Hawthorne Caballeros have always been a Hershey favorite, but maybe not on this night. At least, there was little negative crowd reaction when it was announced that the Cabs had lost to Reading – possibly because it was in a Pennsylvania venue. The show, titled “Tribute,” is another Hawthorne standard – with Jimmy Russo on the box leading the corps through a Latin production full of a big brass sound and high octave soloists. Once again, the guard is big – although observers believe not as big as past years – and provides a lot of the necessary color and visual appeal from a program that is otherwise slow developing visually. After seeing this corps up close in the on-deck area, it appears like the unit may be more “senior” than some of its rivals, which may explain what appeared to be a lack of real visual demand – or clarity. While the percussion is reportedly much-improved from most recent editions, it still appears to be lacking in terms of accuracy and technique – at least at this stage. The battery’s marching and carriage are pretty poor, and the tuning of the Dynasty snares is an older, wetter sound than one expects in modern drum corps. The pit percussion plays pretty well, but the unit is still suffering some acute front to back phasing issues.

Still, this show has promise – particularly with two months to go until championships and much cleaning to do. And the crowd does love the truly unique Cabs’ brass sound, particularly through the familiar strains of Spain” – and of course, “España Cani.” It’s only appropriate that the trademark pinwheel and “rumps” put the official Hawthorne stamp on this production – although it, like the entire show, has much work ahead.

Reading’s “Portraits of Bernstein” has a very similar feel to last year’s “Planets” show – with the corps exploring a concept the junior Cavaliers played to victory a year ago, and this year’s unit playing selections made popular by the Cadets and Santa Clara Vanguard. Fans will recognize the familiar melodies of “On the Waterfront,” “Make Our Garden Grow” and “Candide” – even if the tempos on the first and last of those selections are significantly slower, at present, than the junior versions.

The corps proper’s appearance is just like last year’s too – with the sky blue jackets still having a royal blue accent and the black Aussie hats having the royal blue and white plumes placed vertically – ala SCV – in the hats. The black drums of a full battery (8S-4T-5B-4C) are also back, although the percussion is now all Premier instead of Stingray/Dynasty. In addition to the percussion supplier changing, so too has the sound of the unit – going from the intense driving perfection of the Dan DeLong/Kevin Murphy era, to a more subdued and supportive approach this year under Rich Hammond. The book is thin in comparison to the units that won three-straight DCA “high drum” trophies, although it displays good sound technique and performs it well.

Ensemble sound and visual demand and effect had to be the key to the Bucs’ victory over the Cabs – since there was a clear difference between the two. But while Reading may have the edge in ensemble, with an overall sound that is better than last year’s, this show is sadly lacking the Hawthorne drive and emotion – probably because visually it is much more demanding. Just like previously mentioned, the harder the visual demands put on the individual performers, the tougher it is to project and provide impact to a show – particularly in the first two weeks of the season. The Bucs have a show that should be in the hunt for the top spot Labor Day weekend if – and that’s a big if – they can come anywhere close to selling it the way Syracuse does.

Spirit (2DM-28CG-60B-24P) – now from Jacksonville State University – kicked off the junior portion of the show, and my viewing improved to near the press box around the 40. The JSU marching ensemble idea seemed to be working for this corps as it knocked off returning DCI finalist Carolina Crown as recent as a week ago in Clifton, N.J. But that may apparently be the highlight for Spirit if it doesn’t show any further development in this show than it did a week later – improving its score by just 1.35 over that span. Truthfully, that appeared to be appropriate for this corps, which still has a lot of individual error and projection issues – falling quickly from a possible finalist contender to a more likely 15th-place repeat. While college bands don’t have to show marked improvement from one week to the next since they’re not being judged by a critical eye, drum corps’ do – and Spirit’s not improving fast enough. The battery was missing a snare drummer from a week ago, and it appeared as if the brass was also shy a few bodies from that performance.

While the crowd enjoyed riding “The Ghost Train” – and all the train sounds that went with it – it didn’t experience spontaneous emotion like it had a week earlier. The ensemble sound seemed ragged and tired – possibly because this viewing was higher up and the corps was having a hard time reaching the box – particularly in the opener “The Ride.” The higher viewing also allowed a better read on some real ragged edges and interval problems in a lot of the forms. Maybe the corps spent more time with the ballad this week, because that was pretty and projected a bit better from a week ago – particularly the backfield segment against the full concrete bleachers. The guard still needs to improve its contribution, particularly in its dance routines. “The Motive Revolution” closer was still messy, with ragged ranks in a horn block, the guard having performance issues as they spin pretty yellow, gold and orange streaked flags, and the “Let It Be Me” company front suffering from major interval problems. The drum-to-drum work during the percussion feature was well-received, but overall “Spirit” seemed to be lacking just that tonight.

All the reviews on The Bluecoats (2DM-32CG-62B-31P) suggested that Canton would be making a climb up the DCI ladder at finals this year, and that certainly appears true in their 2001 show “Latin Sketches.” While last year’s corps re-established its presence by making finals again after a one-year absence, this year’s corps appears to be one year older, wiser, and more mature – with its current staff designing a program that accentuates that. This is the strongest program The Coats have put on the field in years, and they didn’t appear to receive credit for it tonight from the judging panel – possibly because this was the first viewing for the DCI-Atlantic panel, which has seen the other four competitors throughout first tour. That’s not to say that they deserved to win tonight, but the 1.50 and 2.05 spread from both Boston and The Crossmen respectively appeared to be too wide. Of course, it’s tough to get a score sometimes when judges view a show for the first time, particularly if they’ve seen all the other corps a lot – which was the case on this night. The area Canton did take the biggest hit Saturday was in color guard – losing badly among the top four with its closest rival being six-tenths away. That’s probably deserved since the Coats color guard blends in more and doesn’t have nearly the exposure of The Crossmen, Crusaders or Crown. Still, the lovely goldenrod velvet unis are appreciated.

The corps greets the crowd with a nice, tight, full ensemble sound in the standstill of “Candelabre Rumba,” while the guard spins striking silks that feature orange streaks against a red field. Once the chart kicks up the tempo, it features some nice moments where the lead melody is passed around the different brass voices at different positions in the drill, while the large marching percussion (8S-4T-5B-5C-9PP) provides the appropriate Latin feel with “dread locks” on the snares. Eventually, the corps all comes together into a box formation which uniformly moves from within – ala the Cavaliers’ “box of confusion” – with the guard interspersed and spinning sabers. The chart also features good soprano soloist work, an effective percussion break that is well-played but only modestly exposed, and a lush standstill segment. The chart ends with a nice tight, clean box and big statement while the guard spins pretty purple and pink silks interspersed in the box.

“Red Cape Tango” starts with the corps in a scatter drill before hearing a pretty backfield bari solo. During that moment, which includes pit support, the corps performs clever foot and head moves – with the head movement particularly being well received because of their wonderful white helmets with flowing horsetail plumes. Eventually, the solo is passed to a baritone facing front. The guard, meanwhile, unfurls three triangle “stages” – one in orange, one in purple and one in red. It tries to sell the “tango” mood with appropriate dancing. The corps eventually builds into a big full triangle standstill. Then the tempo picks up while the brass again uses the plumes of their helmets in a turnaround exchanged down the section. The percussion provides the feel with large finger cymbals on the toms and cymbals accompaniment. The chart moves along, with the corps eventually moving into a pod drill before expanding out to a big full impact. The group continues to project as a it moves forward from side one to two – displaying some exaggerated foot moves to sell the Latin flavor. The chart slowly evolves into a fast-paced ending, featuring the guard spinning rich red flags and the corps racing to its final note and a sudden stop – bringing the crowd to its feet and the familiar sounds of “blue” echoing throughout the group.

Watch out for Carolina Crown (2DM-34CG-60B-28P) and their “Industry” program come August. There is a lot going on – maybe too much at times – but the corps has made great strides from a week ago and has much growing room and scoring potential ahead. Unfortunately for them, this unusually strong year of finalist contenders may leave the corps no place to go but back to its 11th-place finish of a year ago. But then again, last night’s 72.40 puts the group in a pack with Colts, Madison and the Bluecoats – meaning it might finish as high as 10th, or as low as 13th and out of finals.

This show has already show great growth from a week ago, but needs more from the brass by August. Yes, it is a “Props Are Us” production with all the accessories to sell the wood, rubber and metal themes. But they are selling them – with Paul Rennick’s talented percussion (8S-4T-5B-11PP) providing the wooden and metal sounds during their breaks to start each of those numbers, and the guard using wood, rubber and metal props in each of those segments. The brass also continues to build its wooden structure to start “Concertino for Four Percussion,” but still has issues as members quickly race to pick up their horns and expand a block form before making their initial statement. The block is still very dirty and the first statement is still suffering impact, although the group recovers better once the movement slows and plays some nice runs throughout the brass that are clearer now than a week ago. The guard does nice work with 2x4s and natural wood finished rifles – with an exposed high rifle toss down front well received by the crowd. The opener has a much tighter unison sound this week at its climax.

Sadly, the guard’s use of the rolling tires during the pretty “main theme from “The Cider House Rules” did not play well with the crowd tonight – possibly because this is very “traditional” drum corps area with a crowd that had a number of older fans in attendance. It was actually greeted by laughter by some, while others appreciated the efforts to incorporate the rubber element. Truthfully, given the theme of the show, the staff is at a “Catch 22” right now with rubber. What does it use to sell the theme if it doesn’t use tires? You can tell that it feels like they are necessary evil since the guard only uses them briefly before trying to subtly roll them away while switching to prettier pastel silks. Aside from the awkward moments from the tires, the brass is projecting better in this number – but still has a month to make this a “goosebump moment” by Buffalo. It very well could be with a real pretty ballad.

“Motown Metal” is just a wild ride, starting with the metallic cymbal and pit break to start the chart. Meanwhile, the guard uses the sheet metal to allow the crowd to “see” the metal – much like it did the big lightening bolts in “Stormworks” when it first cracked the top 12. The guard also changes into its “metallic” look – with shimmering silver, orange and black costumes that are later complimented by matching silks in a wild spinning block on side two, while the corps proper brings the chart to a rousing finish on side one. The ensemble sound and projection were better tonight in this chart too, although it was also a low-humidity perfect night for drum corps. Of course, Buffalo generally has a cool gentle breeze from the lake – so suffocating humidity should not be a problem there either.

There’s no secret to the Crossmen (2DM-32CG-60B-30P) success this year – just a good, tight ensemble sound and look, playing familiar music with a stellar guard. The difference this year is the maturity level of the corps, which is so much higher than recent editions. That mature sound reaches both the crowd and the judges quite nicely thank you. The problem for the Crossmen might be what happens when some other nearby competitors – a.k.a. the Boston Crusaders and possibly some of the Midwestern middle pack – also starts to reach the same level of projection with visual programs that are much better constructed. The Crossmen’s visual program is well done and fits the show – possibly taking a page from the old Blue Devil jazz shows with a lot of blocks and solid staging. But other than rotating and moving boxes, some meshes, and the big band set-up of the brass in “Flyin’ Home,” there’s nothing real special about the X-men drill.

But who cares? This show is fun! The crowd – and apparently the judges – get into from the opening backfield strains of “Harlem Nocturne.” One nearby woman even began singing along loudly with the corps. While that didn’t make others around her real happy, it probably illustrates how the corps instantly connects with the crowd. And they stay with them throughout the opener, with the guard supporting so nicely – first with smart blue, pink, purple and gold silks, and then dark, royal and sky blue silks later in the chart. Support also comes in the form of a rock solid percussion engine (7S-4T-5B-4C-10PP) – the best in years from the “Bones” – although it was missing one of its pistons tonight, going from an eight-man snare line a week ago to a seven-man line tonight. Still, it sounds great with the “dread lock” part on the snares, to the cross visual and the Mark Thurston trademark accented lick at the end of the opener. Of course, Thurston’s not listed with the corps staff now, but his lick lives on through the 2001 Crossmen line, which also ends in field warm-up with it.

You can’t help tapping your feet along to “Flyin’ Home,” and marveling at the spinning saber, rifle and red flag work. The tune also features a “show stopper” in the percussion solo that features an “anything you can do, I can do better” segment between the snares and toms reminiscent of last year’s Cadet solo – minus the toms on the stands. Pay close attention to the visual hands and airborne sticks of the snare drummers during their features – the hands are truly quicker than the eye. It has to be one of the best percussion features of the year.

The great soprano soloist who plays throughout the show sets the mood beautifully to “Guaguanco” before the corps leads into the big explosion into “Fire Dance” – complete with the spinning “fire” in the flags. Everything works, from the snares laying down a clever feel while carrying their own high-hats, to a big screech solo, to spinning block of fire flags, to the big furious finish by the corps. You expect to see smoke coming off the unit by the end – and who knows, maybe there will be by season’s end. Incidentally, X-men did take high honors in color guard (14.80), brass (15.60) and percussion (14.80), along with visual performance (15.50) – meaning it was a complete and well-balanced victory.

But Crossmen shouldn’t celebrate too long because right behind them are the Boston Crusaders (2DM-38CG-64B-29P), who may have just made the celebrated move that fans have thought they needed. It is true that Boston had seemed stalled in its “Harmonium” program since debuting in competition a week-and-a-half ago. The facts are this – they debuted in Normal, Ill., at 73.25 and have been right around that score since – leaping to just 76.15 last night. That’s not a significant jump from last week, but fans need to remember that Boston trailed most of the Eastern regulars during first tour last year before catching fire in late July and peaking just right for finals. This show does have that potential again – particularly with greater visual design than the Crossmen – and it would appear like the staff and the corps are taking it slow, maybe because of last year’s experience. Now here’s the scary part, this corps is much stronger in all section than last year – so watch out.

As it is, the 50-yard like block expansion with the interspersed guard all on rifles to open the show still draws crowd response. The brass is starting to become fuller and tighter, although it still has a ways to go. The big unison brass hits with appropriate unison high drumming accents from the battery (8S-4T-5B-12PP) is well done and is getting positive reaction. It really does have a Blue Devils’ feel – in red! After that explosion, listen for the melody being passed around in the brass during a giant wedge. The guard supports with rifles and big florescent flags, which may still be a little too hot of a color for this piece. The move into the big horn block for the great “Conquest” tease is well done and gets the crowd real involved by the piece’s end.

The ballad was absolutely beautiful this week against the concrete back bleachers – as opposed to the lack of many bleachers last Saturday at Clifton. Although it didn’t appear to have the same emotional magic as last year’s “Time to Say Goodbye” initially, that may change by season’s end. The Latin sounds from the pit provides a wonderful mood, the body shaping by the brass gives the right texture on the field, and the wonderful staging – including one section of he brass staged in front and another in a block marching in double time around the backfield perimeter from side one to two. It is very well coordinated. The song draws to a beautifully melodic climax in a big arc, just like last year.

“The Music of Dana Wilson” closer gives viewers a wild ride through block expansion drill. No the music’s not real familiar – and not as approachable as last year – but it’s got good impact at the right moments, and moves well throughout. While the percussion still lags – finishing third behind both Crossmen and Crown with a 13.90 tonight – it’s working hard to change that. At rehearsal earlier in the day, the battery began marching and playing following stretching – and didn’t stop during the whole 1:15 we were there. The percussion feature in the closer is nice and fits, although it does lack some of the substance of other corps features.

There is still plenty of dirt in this show – like a near collision from brass members in the opener; obvious equipment drops by the guard; and curiously a snare drummer who lost his sticks during the show and had to play the last half of the closer, including the break, with dread locks – but this show has real scoring potential and it will be fun to watch its growth by season’s end.

The Hershey Spectacular did a much better job with retreat than a week ago in Clifton – with all the corps marching back onto the field to the cadence by a group of local high school All-Stars. After the announcement of the scores, and “America the Beautiful/Oh Canada” played by the junior units in mass, the Crossmen and Brigs stayed behind to share in victory concerts – with each taking turns at playing selections. They seemed to feed off of each other, with each striving to outperform the other. It was great and well-received by the crowd.

Five Star Brass is an old pro at drum corps shows, and it really showed last night with a first-class production in a wonderful stadium for the event. Congratulations to all!

Mike Ferlazzo

Why only thoughts on the guards? Well, my seat was lousy and there was no way to judge the music and be anywhere close to accurate.

Brigs - Whoever said the uniforms looked like hooker-wear was way off-base. Club-wear, yes, but not hooker-wear. It fit the theme. They were pretty clean for most of the show, yet I saw way more obvious breaks than I expected from Brigs. Some folks had a lot of trouble recovering and getting back into the show.

Cabs - The only part of the uniform that I liked was the yellow and red they wore towards the end. Could use more ensemble statements in the beginning. The ribbons on the sabers in the ballad bugged me because I suffered a serious '80s flashback when I saw them, and the color choices just don't work. But from that point on, the guard improved.

Bucs - Bias alert: I marched Bucs guard last summer. Greg has given them what has to be the hardest work in DCA that I've seen so far. Love the uniform, love the ropes, love the work. Is is clean? No, and some of the work looks like it'll be a challenge to clean, but watch out when they do clean it.

Carolina Crown - Don't like the opening uniform, I like the rest of them. I certainly hope the wood is treated, because I just imagined the splinters. I was very impressed with their work, particularly the multitude of flag rolls.

Boston - I'm not a fan of the uniform. This show is a toss-fest, and some parts of it would be really effective if it was clean. The weapons had a lot of trouble tossing together and catching together, a lot of height issues.

Crossmen - love it, love it, love it. The uniform works, the work is solid, and performance is definitely there.

I didn't see Grenadiers, Spirit or Bluecoats.


Sorry I don't have a review for the seniors, but I was too busy marching to see any of them. I didn't take notes, but here's what I remember...

Spirit- Love the new uni's guys. Okay, I just have one major criticism... TOO MANY COMPANY FRONTS! There were about 20 in this show. Other than that, it was decent. One of the better Spirit shows I've heard in awhile. I'm not a big fan of some of the "jazz" moments as Ghost Train is a relatively classical piece with a few non-traditional moments, but the characterization is wonderful and the concept is fully realized. A bit dirty, but there's still time to fix that. Keep it up!

Bluecoats- Extreme improvement over last season visually and horn-wise. The percussion is the same as any Dan Delong percussion line... KICK ASS. I really liked the music selection and being in senior corps, I'm not standing in line to hear another Latin show. Very cool ballad, my favorite of the night!

Crown- Wow! Great show! I know a lot of people don't like this one, but I loved it. One of the more difficult drill books by far, and an interesting one at that that tries to push the envelope as far as design. However, everyone has limits, and I think some of the players seemed a bit overwhelmed as far as the drill demand goes. More than a few frantic feet out there. Nice horn sound, much improved over last year. You have one of my favorite corps uniforms. Can't wait to see you at East, I'll be cheering for you!

Crossmen- I left for this one unfortunatly because I had friends I wanted to see in Crown, but from what I heard on the sidelines they are quite good. I had a sidefield view, and their feet weren't quite as clean as Boston but from what I heard, they seemed to have a much more powerful horn sound.

BAC- Well, it's Boston doing their "Boston Thing" A lot of repeat visuals from last year, more exciting music this year, IMO. At this point I had to go line up for retreat so I didn't see all of them. Weapon line dropped a bit, but the rest of the guard was relatively clean. Definite improvement over last year in terms of guard cleanliness.

Well, that's it. I'm sure I didn't make any startling revalations, just my two cents. See ya'll out there!!


Michigan City, IN (DCM)

A good show site, this is were I attended my first show back in '94. The weather turned out nice, looked like it might rain.

It was a good crowd, jam packed and sold out. Anyways here is what I thought:

Missed Edmonton, Racine, Bandettes and Erie(sorry)

Glory Cadets(7th 46.2) First time seeing them this year, they were doing a kind of wanna-be Cadets show, the ladders & gaurd confused me don't know what that was all about. DL was playing some tough notes, it was dirty but at least they're trying. Small Brass line and Colorgaurd a lot of holes, colorgaurd was the weak spot a lot of girls just wndering around. Anyways decent show.

Troopers(6th 56.35) They sounded good tonight, i like they're music this year reminds me of the '98 SCV show. They looked a lot better than the last time I saw them, less holes and the colorgaurd was actually doing some work tonight. It's a good show though, first Troopers show in a few years that doesn't involve Stars & Stripes, they play a little latin this year. Good show, have a lot of work to do I hope they can pull back in front of Capital.

Capital Regiment(5th 58.65) I was impressed again, big corps they put out some nice sound. DL was a little dirty but they were playing some difficult notes. They had a problem with horn angles though, it was especially noticable when they formed blocks and during the company front, gotta be fixed. Small colorgaurd compared to the rest of the corps, looked kind of odd. They are on the rise though, they beat Troopers tonight and thats a step in the right direction for them.

Pioneer(4th 59.25) They went on in between Phantom and Cavies, i felt bad they should have been on after Troopers. They also filled some of their holes but still looked small. They were wearing different pants tonight they were all black, the last show they were white(I think). The brass line sounded weak, had a lot of cracks. The DL didn't sound too bad, wasn't impressive but wasn't terrible. I didn't like the flags, they had 2 or 3 of the same flag desings just in different colors, didn't like that. I give them credit though, they marched a harder drill book than Phantom did IMO.

Phantom(3rd 79.0) They performed well tonight, I'm still not a big fan of the show though. The best section is definatly the color gaurd this year, I was impressed. The DL sounded really clean tonight, some good features. The brass line sounded good, they were loud! I heard a few cracks though and a couple of sopranos were out of tune, uuhhh. Now this is were I have a problem with the show......drill. Very easy drill book, especially compared to Gmen and Cavies, I think they did more dancing than they did marching and when they did march it was very slow paced and in-affective. It's a decent show, i'd be more impressed if they played some of those notes while they were moving.

Glassmen(2nd 79.05) They didn't have a very good show last night, lots of noticable ticks, mostly marching. I'm still amazed by the drill and the amount of running they do, they made Phantom's show look like a funeral procession. I expected them to be a bit cleaner, the gaurd also looked sloppy, some noticable drops in the weapons. The DL sounded tight, I thought they got shafted by the judges in the perc. recaps. The brass line sounded good, not as loud as Phantom but thats probably cause they were running while they were playing(literally). Anyways they had a bad performance last night IMO, Phantom had a good performance and they still beat Phantom.......that's how good the show is.

Cavies(1st 83.95) Very Dissapointed, it's an innovative show but just was not impressed. I've heard people tell me how clean this show is didn't look too clean to me. I saw a lot of timing issues in the Brass line(feet). The guard's weapon work looked great but the flag work looked sloppy. Of course i thought the best section was the DL, the tenors did a very cool feature with a stick in one hand and a cymbal in the other. The Snares had high-hats, that was kinda cool. The parts of the show i really enjoyed sounded identical to last years show, I guess that's one way to be clean the same music you did the year before. They deserved to win, but they weren't 4 pts. better than Gmen and Phantom, but they usually get over-scored at this show, it's basically a home show for them. Anyways not impressed, it's like last years show except they run around to the corners of the field. If i had to guess right now I'd say the Cavies will not be in the top 3 with this show, probably 4th.

It was an enjoyable show, no rain, no lightning......can't wait to see how everyone does in DeKalb.


I attended the Michigan City show and hauled my two sons along. We had seats at about the 25 yard line in row 17 - not too bad actually. We went to Cavaliers rehersal and I got to talk to some old marching buddies. Cavaliers had some extra time to practice since their last show and put in some new drill moves. I was told to expect some parts to be a little sloppy.

Ames field is a nice facility - much better since the renovation. All the seats on the front side were decent.

The contest - there were several small corps all of which had about 12 horn players with varying sized drum lines (Lake Erie Regiment, Bandettes, Edmonton Strutters, Marion Glory Cadets, Racine Scouts). They all had similar style shows and recieved similar scores. The Marion Glory Cadets had a larger drum line (5 snares, 5 bass, 2 multi-tenor) and thus won the battle of the small corps. There were a few good solists. I was left wondering why these corps had pit instruments and players when they definitely needed marching members!! Personally I think the pit is way over done these days.

The next group of corps (Capital Regiment, Troopers, and Pioneer) all had horn lines of about 40-50 players and full drum lines, pit players and color guard although the Cap Regiment guard was only about 10 people. I thought the Troopers would beat Cap Regiment but they were very sloppy with tons of dropped equipment and lost out to them. Pioneer was noticably better as their placing showed. Musically nothing really moved me however.

The last three (Glassmen, Phantom, and Cavaliers) were all more impressive. Glassmen had a nice drill which was very clean for this time of year and I was impressed by their drum line, but I'm no drum expert. I really enjoyed Phantom's Bartok arrangement and was quite impressed with their horn line. Festive Overture left me wanting more - the fanfare opening sounded too legato for my taste and their drum line seemed to disappear. As expected the Cavaliers marched a bit sloppy, but man do they move fast. I'm sure they will clean up their marching in the coming weeks.

I thought Phantom would place second but their score was nearly identical with Glassmen. Obviously there is still room for improvement for everyone before DCI.

Mighty St. Joes performed an exhibition of all West Side Story arrangements most of which were well performed. The drum line wasn't too good and their drill was strictly "old time". But they were a good crowd pleaser and the horn line was large (60) and played well.

All in all it was a great night for drum corps and everyone got their money's worth. My sons even enjoyed the show.


Someone requested a review of Michigan City. For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on the second half of the show. (I didn't see the first six corps perform). It was a hot, steamy night but the crowd was great and Michigan City does a terrific job of hosting. All in all an excellent show.

Troopers (56.35/6th)
It's been a while since I've seen a Troopers show and I thought this was stronger then most I've seen in recent years. It's a (nearly-all) Copland show, which works well for the corps. The brass, in particular, sounded rather strong which was refreshing. The guard used lots of rifles, which is always good in my book! I'm not sure if it isn't in the show or if I just missed it, but I sure didn't see a starburst. Maybe they don't do that anymore. Maybe I'm becoming an old fogy. Maybe we'll move on.

Capital Regiment (58.65/5th)
I didn't see Capital Regiment's show tonight, but I liked it in Jackson and Columbus.

Pioneer (59.25/4th)
Although I've seen Pioneer twice now, this is the first time I paid attention. For the most part I liked the show, but frankly, it was hard for me to be objective. They performed right after Glassmen and Phantom Regiment which, of course, made Pioneer sound weak and puny in comparison. I found myself playing "Who lost their plume?" rather than paying attention to the drill. (Answer: fifth snare from the left.)

Phantom Regiment (79.00/3rd)
As far as I'm concerned this show just gets better and better. Unfortunately, the execution does not seem to be keeping pace with the design improvements. The music is definitely the most engaging and exciting repertoire of the Midwest. Some of the improvements over the past three weeks include changing the flags at the end of the show--very nice! They added quite a few body movements and I generally felt half were terrific (such as the stuff with the three blocks during the second movement of the Bartok), and the other half seemed forced and silly (such as the stuff during the semi-circle in Festive). I continue to be amazed that Glassmen and Regiment are so close score-wise because I happen to believe this show is a lot richer. As noted earlier, the recaps indicate that Regiment won most of the music captions (as they should) but got hammered on GE Visual, which makes sense. Whether there is a full 1.1 points between them . . . .

Glassmen (79.05/2nd)
I'm afraid after three viewings my mind is pretty much made up on this show. It has structural music problems that I find disappointing. In my opinion there is a lack of musical flow, continuity, line (choose your favorite adjective) that makes this feel like a bunch musical 'moments' sewn together rather than a seamless show. Having said that, the visual program just gets better and better (although, most of the new body work didn't do much for me. The cocked heads were kind of cute a few years ago I thought they felt a bit old this time around.) The drill is really nice and the use of color in the guard is terrific. Marching seemed a bit sloppy tonight.

Cavaliers (83.95/1st)
Where to begin! I loved this show in Jackson and it just keeps delivering. There's so much going on--and nearly all of it is good stuff. In general, what I like about the Cavaliers is how well the program is integrated. Instead of the usual visual and musical cues that separate percussion, brass and color guard, the Cavies program feels like a much more holistic, ensemble production.

The first movement of the "Four Corners" program is much faster than I remember from the Jackson show (not because they changed anything but because I have a lousy memory). The music and the drill are terrifically exciting. Plus we open with one of two equipment tosses in the color guard.

And speaking of color guard, the Cavaliers do the best job of integrating (there's that word again!) dance and equipment usage that I've seen this season. The jazzy third section with the color guard dancing in the upper right corner makes sense because the music calls for dance, because it's an appropriate place to shake your booty. It's not forced into the middle of show screaming, "Now's the time when we dance!"

The program uses the entire field more effectively than just about anybody. My only concern about the program was actually the ending. Keeping true to their theme, the last section of the show focuses on the lower right corner of the field. Since our seats were on the 35 yard line--on the opposite end of the field--it seemed like we weren't able to get the full impact of the music or the drill. I'm not sure if this is a serious problem, or if it was just our seats. But for whatever reason the ending felt a bit flat compared to the intensity and excitement of the previous ten minutes.


Hi everyone. I just have a few comments to make on the top three corps:

Glassmen - Overall impression of the corps is LOUD. The horling can put out lots of volume, but their sound is a bit crass. Drumline sounds fine, not too many memorable moments. Drill is well-written and is being performed pretty well for this point in the season. I am not too fond of the music, although the flegelhorn soloist sounds really nice.

Phantom - Love this show. The music is well-arranged and very exciting. Phantom is really connecting with the audience this year, which is great. The musuic is still the strong-suit for the corps so far, but the drill is definitely coming along. MUCH better execution, and many subtle additions have been made since my last viewing of them in Jackson, MI a month ago. Can't wait to see this corps progress over the next month, and I hope too see them in the top six once again. This is shaping up to be one of my favorite PR shows of all time.

Cavaliers - Energetic show tonight, but had a few phasing problems. Some weird stuff happening between horns and drums in the park and blow section in the 3rd movement, and also towards the end of the 4th movement. That being said, the Cavies rocked the house tonight. They definitely had the crowd mesmerized from start to finish, and this show is really starting to rock. The Cavies have made a great deal of progress since Jackson, both in terms of cleanin the show, and also milking the big moments. The hornline sounds great and is really starting to put some serious sound out. Wow. Drums are strong, but need cleaning still. (As do all the horns and guard.) This is show is awesome, and, when clean, will be unreal.

-Jeff Spoonhower
Cavaliers FMM 1998

Mankato, MN (DCM)

This was a great night for a drum corps show. Warm weather that was not too humid, few bugs, and an awesome stadium. Mankato has to have the most intimate stadium for a show - good sized stands that are close to the field and have a very steep incline. As a result, the fans at the top of the stadium are still very close to the field. It is truly one of the best stadiums I have been too. The only complaint is that they do not use the stadium lights. Apparantely, they schedule the show to begin early enough so they don't have to use the lights, but it would have helped for the last couple of corps. On witht eh review of hte corps.

I agreed with the overall placement of the corps, but teh scores were a bit wacked. Chops, Inc. and Madison were the only two scores I thought were correct - the rest all seemed a bit high.

9. Chops, Inc. 36.25

This senior corps is only trying to entertain, and they do that quite well. They had the crowd in stitches half the show. Execution is weak, but hey - it was fun. I liked the opening section where they went through the corps history with the Also Sprach Zarathustra into mixed in, as well as the poking fun at the jr. corps the members used to march in. It was quite a fun show. They obviously don't care about the scores, so why should we?

8. Governaires 48.10

They seem a bit smaller this year, but maybe it was just my imagination. They have a nice reperitoire consisting of Celebration Suite (sounded an aweful lot like Cavies 83 arrangement), La Fiesta (sounded an aweful lot like 84 BD's arrangement), and Malaguena (sounded an aweful lot like 88 Madison's arrangement). The show was entertaining, the music was good, but the visual program was pretty weak. The lack of numbers really makes it difficult to do much. Nice show.

7. Americano's 53.4

The whole "Twisted in Time" theme is a bit pretentious, and some of the gimicks (like holding up little alarm clocks at the end of one piece) were a bit cheezy. They had a better show tonight than they did yesterday in LaCrosse. The wind really hurt their show in LaCrosse, but was not a factor tonight. The guard was actualy quite good tonight. The drum line is their strength. The horn line is a bit weak and the visual program needs a lot of work. Not a bad show for a Div III corps.

6. Blue Stars 55.6

Blue Stars had a very good show this evening. The hornline is surprisingly well balanced for their small size, but still has the occasional member sticking out of the ensemble. The drum line is once again quite good, but the tuning is once again a problem this year. Last years snare tuning was to low and wet - this year it's still a bit low and too dry. I don't know if it's the drums or the tuning, but the tenors are almost inaudible with minimal discernable difference in pitch between the drums. Overall, they have a well designed show. Once they clean it up and get a bit more confident with their performance, they should do well at championships. There is one section where the snare line dances with the guard. My suggestion - CUT IT. The crowd at both LaCrosse and Mankato were all laughing - it just looks silly. I think thye have a good chance of making Quarterfinals this year. They should have made it last year too, but were denided because of the ridiculous system of moving corps up each night that we currently have in place.

5. Capital Sound 59.25

Capital Sound has a very well designed show that the kids seem to really enjoy performing. The crowd enjoys it as well. I am glad to see a Div II/III corps perform music from the movie Prince of Egypt. I think it is well suited for a corps of that size and talent. This corps once again amazes me with their quality. The soloists were awesome, and the entire horn line has a great sound. If they continue to progress as they have so far and do not peak too early, they could make Quarterfinals as well.

4. Minnesota Brass, Inc. 59.85

This was my first viewing of Brass, and I enjoyed their show. The James Bond theme works well for the corps. As usual, the horn line is good with some excellent soloists, and the drum line and color guard are good. The only area that really needs some work is the visual design. The drill is just really pretty weak. It does not need to be more difficult - just more interesting in my opinion. My daughter had a blast watching them (especially looking for her band teacher). Nice show once again Brass.

3. Southwind 66.35

I was a bit disappointed with this years edition of SW. Their show was not as exciting or engaging as the past two years, and they are not marching nearly as well as the past two years. They have a good show with excellent arrangements, it's just that the musical selections don't reach out and grab you as well as they have the past two years. The horn line has a full and balanced sound, and they are begining to put out some volume. The drum line is good, as is the guard. The guard does a bit too much dancing for my taste - rather than just dance during the balad, why not use a flag??? It would be more effective visually. The drill is a bit of a problem this year. The layering is not good. Too often the forms have lines/arcs/etc. too close to one another, so they are not very readable (unless of course you are sitting very very high). The result - the drill often times looks like a garbled mess. Once the drill is cleaned, this should help, but readability will still be a problem unless you are sitting up high.

2. Colts 75.15

I liked this years edition. The horn line is much better than last year, and the drum line is solid. Their guard is good, but once again, there is too much dancing and not enough equipment work. The mideval theme of the show works well, and the musical selections fit quite nicely. I have read that their show is too easy. I do not necessarily agree that it is too easy, but it is an easier musical book than the books SW and MS are playing. The difficulty of the book seems to match the talent level of the kids quite well. As a result, I think the design staff did a good job. During the percussion section, a portion of the horn line picks up shields and battles with another portion of the hron line. While SOME of what they do fits well, they take it iver the edge with the theatrics. The result is that some of it looks just plain silly. they should really consider scaling back soem of the theatrics just a bit. Sometimes less is more, and this is a prime example of that in my opinion. They should have been 2 to 3 point behind Madison.

1. Madison Scouts 75.95

Madison has a terrific show this year. The horn line is very powerful, and the soloists are screaming. A significant improvmenet over last year. Their drum line is better than last year, but still are not on the same level as the horn line. Visual execution still needs some work, but the field visual is excellent. Madison and Blue Stars were the only two corps that had excellent field visual (i.e., consistency of marching style and technique). The guard is a little bit better than last year, but it is still hurting them. Again - too much dancing and not enough equipment work. Madison's arrangement of Ballet in Brass is excellent. They smoothed out a few of the choppy spots fromt eh 84/85 versions without changing too much in an attempt to be anything like the previous versions. Overall, they have a great package that entertains - typical Madison. Thank You Scouts!

Tim Kviz
Sky Ryders 85-88
Various Others 78-84

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