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 Post subject: Drums Along the Rockies (Denver) Review
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 9:50 am 
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Overall Impressions:
1. Background = I have been a fan of drum corps since 1993. I have been to all but two Drums Along the Rockies since then and I have seen most of the finals since 1988 on TV (2004 live in Denver). I was active in my HS marching band, but never marched in a corps. Last night, I sat on the Club Level (2nd tier of the standium) between the 30 and the 35.

2. Venue = This is a fantastic stadium for drum corps. The acoustics are great. The stands are open and steep, so there are a lot of great seats. The announcer was much improved from past years and was very professional. The weather was great. Parking, which is usually fine, was terrible. They did not have enough parking lots opened which backed traffic up onto the interstate. We showed up 40 minutes early and barely made it to our seats in time for the first corps. We missed all the “pre-show” entertainment.

3. Corps = I was surprised by the consistent high quality of all the corps. Across the board, I felt this was one of the best, if not the best, year that I have seen. All of the corps had a confident and balanced sound. Even though some corps had some visual dirt, they were all pretty clean. The main difference from first to twelfth was difficulty and execution. After last night, I can really see why the scores are so close this year. A fantastic effort from all of the performers.

4. Soapbox = (I try and keep this short and not mention it again. Skip ahead to the reviews if you want.) While a vast majority of the fans were great (supportive, polite, etc.), there were some surprisingly rude fans. I think we can all agree that we will not all agree with the judges placement. However, I was surprised how many peopled boo-ed and yelled slurs at the judges when the placements were announced. As a fan, if you disagree that much with the judges, please don’t yell it basically at the corps and their parents/supporters. Be more proactive and take positive action to improve the activity you shelled out cash to support. Also, please remember that at heart this activity is a group of young people putting their all on the field to entertain you. If are getting that worked up over the judging, just ignore them and show your favorite corps that you thought they were the best. Cheer louder for them, buy souvenirs, find a parent or someone with the group and rave about their performance, or even write the corps a letter. These kids put so much positive effort into entertaining us. Let’s give them some positive support back.

OK, don’t worry I am stowing my soapbox now. Now on to the review,

Reviews:
1. Troopers – “Awakening” – 73.575 –Placement = 11th(Actual)/10th(My Guess)/9th(My Favorites)

Wow. The Troopers are back. I think that this was the best Troopers show I have ever seen. They had a full, balanced sound. Their on field warm up gave me goose bumps and got a big reaction from the crowd. The show is a quality production. The visual package is a little simple and still has a little dirt, but they do have some great moves that wowed the crowd. They got a big reaction from the crowd.

2. Mandarins – “Dragon Dance” – 73.150 – Placement = 12th(A); 12th(G); 12th(F)

If this is the lowest corps of the night, we’ve had a good night. They had a strong sound and a clean visual package. Their new uniforms are sharp, but I thought the guard uniforms clashed a little. I thought this was a fine program that was well executed. However, I just could not get into it. I didn’t like it, I didn’t dislike it. It was just kind of there fore me.

3. Cascades – “Three” – 75.550 – Placement = 10th(A); 9th(G); 8th(F)

Another corps with a good, solid sound. It was a visually complex show that was well executed. This was a hard program to sell to the crowd. It was a little abstract, but they did a good job getting it across.

4. Pacific Crest – “What Happens in Vegas” – 76.250 – 9th(A); 11th(G); 11th(F)

This is a show that could have so easily come across as Vegas Cheesy, but it came across Vegas Cool. Kudos to the corps for making that happen. They had some neat drill moves (cards shuffling, rolling the dice at the craps table, and the roulette wheel) that fit with the theme. This was the first corps that I felt chose volume over tone quality. This was especially true for the soloist. I think that the solos would have been more effective if they would have pulled back just a little. Musically, this show seemed to have two volumes (“Loud” and “Just Percussion”.) Clean show, but not my favorite.

5. Crossmen – “Metamorphosis” – 78.500 - 8th(A); 7th(G); 7th(F)

The first noticeable step up of the evening. I have never heard an entire crowd gasp during a show and the Crossmen got it twice. Once was during the on field “warm up” with the capes. It is a great effect. The entire corps is in the middle of the field draped in capes. They do some drill moves using the capes (gasp moments) and then reveal Bones. All this before the announcer asks if they are ready. The other moment has the drum line holding up a guard soloist in a red outfit when suddenly (gasp) she is in a blue outfit. The rest of the guard is along the back line and they do the same thing (red to blue). It was pulled off so seamlessly that we could not figure out how it was done. The overall show is solid with great visual and music package. It was clearly the best of the night so far.

6. The Academy – “The Chase” – 80.425 - 7th(A); 8th(G); 10th(F)

I was really excited to see this corps. I had seen them before as Division II/III and loved them. I was a little disappointed. They were another corps that seemed to sacrifice tone quality for volume. The opener and the closer really fit together and had a love triangle story played out in the guard. The jazz tune and the ballad in the middle did not fit with the opener/closer and the story was just dropped. I felt that the middle two tunes were just there to show they could play those styles. I also felt that the middle two tunes were their strongest musically. I just felt it didn’t quite work. The woman in front of me, however, felt it was one of the night’s two best shows for a “show concept that was open and clearly readable to the audience. (The other being Bluecoats.) A complete story throughout.” I guess that shows how subjective arm-chair judging this activity can be. I thought the Crossmen might edge them out.

INTERMISSION

7. Glassmen – “Gitano” – 81.400 - 6th(A); 6th(G); 6th(F)

Came back from intermission to the Glassmen already on the field. Their pit was creating some rhythmic ambience and their guard was right in character. This atmosphere carried right through the announcer and into the start of the show. They had a fantastic initial build up that didn’t quite pay off. The initial hit after the build up needs a tiny bit more to make it pop. This show was clearly cleaner, crisper, and more difficult than the corps before intermission. This was also the strongest so far of carrying the theme of their show throughout. A great show and a great performance.

8. Santa Clara Vanguard – “!” (The announcer actually said “Exclamation Point”) – 88.425 - 4th(A); 4th(G); 2nd(F)

Wow! This show made me tired just watching. This is a fantastic show with a incredibly tough musical book and the typical SCV rapid fire drill. This show grabs you from the start and never lets go. Their sound quality was phenomenal and controlled. The “Eureka!” moment is great. An giant exclamation point appears out of nowhere in the drill, there is a beat of silence, and then the crowd yelled “Eureka!”. I think that main thing holding this show back right now is some visual dirt. There were several crooked lines, etc., that could be easily cleaned. Let’s hope that they can get it cleaned by finals so the fans can get their socks knocked off. Great job!

9. Blue Knights – “Dark Dances” – 86.000 - 5th(A); 5th(G); 5th(F)

I was concerned for the Blue Knights to have to follow Vanguard. They have really improved over the years and held their own tonight. The opening is fantastic. The Contras (“Tubas”) start the show off in a line mid-field with the corps spread out behind them. As each section enters musically they pass through the Contra line and the opening chord ends with the entire corps in front of the Contras. They had a rich, dark, even sound. This is a much more varied and textured show than last year. It is still dark, but it is more than just dark and loud. I’d say the weakness for me was the visual package. There were large portions of the show (a lot of times when the music book was more demanding) where the corps was not marching. They relied a lot on their signature body movement, which I think can loose some viewers. The show also seemed to sag a little in the middle. All-in-all, it was a great performance.

10. Carolina Crown – “Triple Crown” – 89.250 – 3rd(A); 3rd(G); 1st(F)

This was clearly the crowd favorite and with good reason. This show is a complete package. It was the best of the night for keeping their theme throughout the show. This applied even to the guards’ hair. The male guard all had mohawks that looked like manes and the girls all had long pony tails. They had fantastic sound and a visually challenging (and clean!) package. The show was entirely engaging and had the crowd the entire time. I heard several people raving about the show, corps, and performance. Fantastic!!

11. Bluecoats – “Criminal” – 89.750 – 2nd(A); 2nd(G); 3rd(F)

This is a strong show that many in the audience felt should have won. It is an entertaining and complex show. It didn’t quite grab me on first viewing. I think that there is just so much going on (with props, story, etc.) that it is easy to miss the parts that make it difficult. There is a whole story that runs through the show about a girl that steals a silver brief case from the drum major. I was a little surprised that the story was never quite resolved. Maybe they are saving that for finals. The overall show is solid with the some neat visual moments. At one point the horns pull red cables out of the drum line drums and create field of “lasers” that the criminal guard members have to sneak through. At one point the guard is doing their rifle and saber work with one hand because they are carrying silver briefcases in the other. The sabers even hold the brief cases in front of the their faces so they can’t see what they are doing. This must be extremely difficult, but could be easily missed by the casual viewer if you are busy watching all the other stuff around the field. I think that this is a difficult show that might grow on me with repeat viewings.

12. The Cadets – “This I Believe” – 91.675 – 1st(A); 1st(G); 4th(F)

I was torn by this show last night. If you look at each individual piece, this was a phenomenal performance. As a total package, it did not work for me. The vocals broke the flow of the show and seemed a little too much “hey look over at our drum line. OK, now look at our trumpets, OK, now you should look at our guard”. Musically, these folks can play at an incredible level. Visually, these folks can really march and the drill is crazy. (The only exception, was when they said “Hey, look at the basics block” and then did a basics block across the field with crooked lines. If you are going to have a voice point out that you are doing a basics block, you have to do it perfect.) The biggest weakness (which I can’t believe for The Cadets) is the guard. Several drops and even a trip and fall. They did have these cool flags that had another flag hidden in the pole. The guard could then pull that flag out and the other flag would pull up and *poof* you have a totally different flag. A few members did this so seamlessly that you couldn’t quite tell how they got a totally different flag. This was clearly the most controversial show of the night and really had people talking. I think that the reason that people don’t love it, but it still scores high is the vocals. They really don’t impact any judging area besides general effect (and the corps is exceptionally strong these other judging areas). As for general affect, my understanding is that the judges view general effect as creating a complete package that carries a theme throughout. No matter if love or hate the vocals, you have to admit that this show does that. Basically, I felt that this is a phenomenal corps obscured behind the vocals. Regardless, The Cadets have a program that is well executed and is certainly getting people to talk about it.

Thanks for sticking it out thought this long review. This was a great night of drum corps and, based on the performances I saw, an especially great year for drum corps. Thanks to all the corps for an entertaining night.


Last edited by Mark on Sun Jul 29, 2007 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Drums Along the Rockies (Denver) Review - Very Long
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 10:00 am 
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Mark wrote:
5. Crossmen – “Metamorphosis” – 78.500 - 8th(A); 7th(G); 7th(F)

The first noticeable step up of the evening. I have never heard an entire crowd gasp during a show and the Crossmen got it twice. Once was during the on field “warm up” with the capes. It is a great effect. The entire corps is in the middle of the field draped in capes. They do some drill moves using the capes (gasp moments) and then reveal Bones. All this before the announcer asks if they are ready. The other moment has the drum line holding up a guard soloist in a red outfit when suddenly (gasp) she is in a blue outfit. The rest of the guard is along the back line and they do the same thing (red to blue). It was pulled off so seamlessly that we could not figure out how it was done. The overall show is solid with great visual and music package. It was clearly the best of the night so far.



My wife actually thought they had some magic fabric that changed colors.

Very cool effect. . .and thanks for the review.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 8:20 pm 
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nice review.

The Cadets' show seems to me to be a show that ideally would be something that would entice a first-time viewer into the world of drum corps. (What with all of the "hard work/basic blocks/'putting it together'" voiceover talk.)

So here's my question: Why? Why use the medium of a drum corps competition where the greater majority of spectators already know of and appreciate drum corps to do this type of show? I think a "blast!"/Brass Theatre type of venue would be a much better venue for this type of show - a place where there's the opportunity to create a crossover audience.

I don't hate them for doing their show - it's great. But the ulterior motive seems to me to be trying to give the spectator an inside view into why kids join drum corps. Helluva recruitment tool, though!

Also, nice comment on Blue Knights. They need more drill than movement (not that I'm vehemently opposed to movement within marching - I love it, in fact) - Lord knows these kids can march the heck out of the music, if only someone would write the steps for them!


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 8:24 pm 
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Chadams wrote:
nice review.

The Cadets' show seems to me to be a show that ideally would be something that would entice a first-time viewer into the world of drum corps. (What with all of the "hard work/basic blocks/'putting it together'" voiceover talk.)

So here's my question: Why? Why use the medium of a drum corps competition where the greater majority of spectators already know of and appreciate drum corps to do this type of show? I think a "blast!"/Brass Theatre type of venue would be a much better venue for this type of show - a place where there's the opportunity to create a crossover audience.

I don't hate them for doing their show - it's great. But the ulterior motive seems to me to be trying to give the spectator an inside view into why kids join drum corps. Helluva recruitment tool, though!

Also, nice comment on Blue Knights. They need more drill than movement (not that I'm vehemently opposed to movement within marching - I love it, in fact) - Lord knows these kids can march the heck out of the music, if only someone would write the steps for them!



I think it might be a false assumption that most people who go to shows are drum corps vets or those in the know of the activity. I would think the opposite.

As far as BK, I think the choreography and coordination of their body movement (which I love) is as difficult or more than most of the drill corps are doing today. I absolutely love the kind fo shows BK has been putting out the past couple of years. Very sophisticated stuff!

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 5:08 pm 
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Just to clarify. I thought that the BK show had a great visual package. It is just that if I had to identify a weak spot, that was it. Also, the dancing/standing/etc. was the only real negative comment I overheard in the stands.

I have loved the totally unique visual look that BK has been putting on the field the last several years. With the body movement, unique marching style (which I have yet to fully figure out), and the great hand painted flags, they really stand apart from the other corps.

Chadams wrote:
Also, nice comment on Blue Knights. They need more drill than movement (not that I'm vehemently opposed to movement within marching - I love it, in fact) - Lord knows these kids can march the heck out of the music, if only someone would write the steps for them!


Absolutelty. When they are marching, they are "marching the heck" out of it. I would love for them to have an increadible drill package throughout along with their body movement.

TXMystreaux wrote:
As far as BK, I think the choreography and coordination of their body movement (which I love) is as difficult or more than most of the drill corps are doing today. I absolutely love the kind fo shows BK has been putting out the past couple of years. Very sophisticated stuff!


Also, absolutely. Body movement is especially difficult while playing and mainting a smooth sound. For example, when the BK kneel while playing with out any change in the sound.

I agree that they have been putting on sophisticated, unique shows. I hope that continue to step it up in the years to come.

Mark


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 9:25 am 
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Mark wrote:
Just to clarify. I thought that the BK show had a great visual package. It is just that if I had to identify a weak spot, that was it. Also, the dancing/standing/etc. was the only real negative comment I overheard in the stands.


My negative on an otherwise wonderful BK show is that having the guard in colors similar to the brass causes them to get lost when they do not have a flag in their hands, at least that's how I saw it at Giant's Stadium. Some of the guard dance work was not as featured as it might have been with a slight contrasting color to their costuming.

I love the flags, BTW...very unique.

Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Drums Along the Rockies (Denver) Review
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 9:15 pm 
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Mark wrote:

4. Soapbox = (I try and keep this short and not mention it again. Skip ahead to the reviews if you want.) While a vast majority of the fans were great (supportive, polite, etc.), there were some surprisingly rude fans. I think we can all agree that we will not all agree with the judges placement. However, I was surprised how many peopled boo-ed and yelled slurs at the judges when the placements were announced. As a fan, if you disagree that much with the judges, please don’t yell it basically at the corps and their parents/supporters. Be more proactive and take positive action to improve the activity you shelled out cash to support. Also, please remember that at heart this activity is a group of young people putting their all on the field to entertain you. If are getting that worked up over the judging, just ignore them and show your favorite corps that you thought they were the best. Cheer louder for them, buy souvenirs, find a parent or someone with the group and rave about their performance, or even write the corps a letter. These kids put so much positive effort into entertaining us. Let’s give them some positive support back.

OK, don’t worry I am stowing my soapbox now. Now on to the review,



Touche! I'm sure with all they go through, the judges are pretty immune to the audience responses anyway, but the members on that field are VERY aware of them. Don't ruin it for those kids who have worked so hard for so long to put on a great show for the audience. I'd say if they had to pick whether their top reason for wanting to put on a good show was for the SCORE, or for the audience's entertainment value and their positive reactions, they'd go with the audience. I personally know kids in one of the lower ranked corps, and they are having the time of their lives this summer! Let's all help to model what we want THEM to demonstrate, which is good sportsmanship!

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 6:59 am 
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Thank you for a wonderfully descriptive review. I really appreciated it. I've seen all the shows. You did a great job and got my blood boiling again. Bravo.


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