Well, I'm 2/3 of the way through my mini-tour. Went to Racine Friday and Madison Saturday. Old Mike, how did we miss each other?
Frankly, of the two shows, I enjoyed Racine more. At least early in the going at Madison, they were was a pretty strong swirling wind that really played havoc with the sound. Weather conditions in Racine were calm with a bit of humidity - much better to pick up the horn lines. Plus, Racine is old home night for me. Lots of old Kilties in the house - the 40th anniversary of the 1968 VFW championship was being celebrated - it was great to see some old friends again. At any rate, here are my random impressions of the corps I saw over the past two days.
Kilties - The BEST Kiltie corps I've seen in the senior era. Nice, full sound out of the horn line. The Kilts are playing music by Michael Praetorius. Intersting - it sounds Scottish, yet we know it isn't. Work on the drums and the guard, especially the snares in their solo feature - lots of popcorn there. The Kilts manage to pull off some comedy in their second number(alway tough to do), in which a very petite baritone drops her horn, picks up some a marching glockenspiel, and does a duet with a contra. Great stuff! My other favorite moment is the last number, which features a long, slowwwwww crescendo. Very effective, particularly in Racine. Rather than simply get louder, I got the sense the corps got FULLER without getting strident. This could be the year they break back into DCA finals, particularly if the drum line cleans up.
MBI - Always pleasing, even this year when their horn line is a little small. Their calling card continues to be a good guard and a very strong drum line.
Pioneer - Some things never change. No, I don't mean the Irish music, I mean Pioneer's drums overpowering the horn line.
Madison Scouts - Earlier this year I posted that I thought this year's product is way better than last year, and I still hold to that. When I saw last year's Scouts in Racine, all I could think was that the show needed to go into a blender or a meat grinder; maybe the resulting sausage would have been better than what was being presented to me. That's not the case this year. Yes, a new ending is on the way (remember when the Cavies has ending#1 and ending#2 a couple of years back?). But this show is pretty good "as is." Lots of potential for growth. It needs to be performed better. Like some of you on this board, I got the sense that impact points were being missed. For the record, I like the uni. Will they make the finals? Don't know, don't think so. They have to grow at a rapid rate and hope the corps in front of them max out their shoes and stall. But, they are better than last year. By the way, drums is what set them behing Troop in Madison.
Troopers - Nicely conceived show. They continue to progress. When you think that this was a corps that went inactive for a season, what they have achieved in such a short time is remarkable. Another effective use of comedy in their second number. The sunburst and Ghost Riders got the folks on their feet in both Racine and Madison. Remembering those great guards of yore, it is a little troubling to see their guard so young and so small, but it will come. I'm not sure the growth potential is there with this show, but the Troopers are definitely back.
Spirit and Blue Knights - I swear, each of these shows was 30 minutes long. B-O-R-I-N-G. Two things stick out in my memory, both about BK. First, colors of their flags and their unison work was a highlight. On the not so good side, their contras play a very low note kind out of nowhere in the opener. Heard in the crowd was an exclamation like the person next to them was having some GI issues. Kind of broke up the stupor that was settling in.
Crossmen - I liked 'em. The new unis really show up well on the field. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I liked the weaving of The Planets with What a Wonderful World. Makes sense in an offbeat way.
Blue Stars - The Real Deal. Really got my attention in Racine. I'm not a fan of "cute" in guard work. But what they do fits them theme. Very clever, effective, and CUTE. Horn line really is full and loud. They really project well into the stands, both in Racine and Madison. Fully developed melodies in the second number in particular are a refreshing change from some of the choppy effects in many other corps' arrangements. Got goose bumps both nights in the back side portion of the Organ Symphony. However, I was disappointed when then turned around for the repeat of the theme. Don't know if it was bad attacks or what, but I found myself disappointed after the very well done backside stuff. Maybe that fullness I want will come with more time and conditioning. Hope so; if it's not going to be Madison, I'd love to see LaCrosse back in finals.
Glassmen - I have to confess nothing of what the corps played sticks in my memory. What I do remember is being impressed by the body control in their guard.
Boston - Craiga, you're right; the Boston Crusaders DRUM CORPS is back (or is that BAC??)! Very solid throughout. From what I was told, they have a ton of rookies in this corps (only 17 or so returnees in the horn line? Really?), so if they can hang on to them, look out! In Racine particularly, the predictable murmur arose as the fifths of That Bugle Call were heard in the backside portion of the closer. Then the turn to the crowd and that smidge of the "push" from Conquest. They loved it in Racine.
Crown - I may be in the minority, but I'm not so sure I like the idea of doing a show based on closers. It runs the risk of being a little too clever. But there's no debating that horn sound. Wow! The crowd went bananas for them.
Bloo - Had this thought: this is what Fight Club would have been if the Cavies didn't use original music. I liked 'em, but I am suspicious that this could be one of those shows that maxes out a little too early.
Cavies - What can I say when a show starts off with a beheading in the first minute or so? Seriously, the Cavies are solid across all captions as far as I'm concerned. Maybe it needs another viewing, but I don't come away with the feeling of anything memorable. It's very, very good, but I've seen this before.
Cadets - What can I say when the show starts off with a reference to breast cancer in the first minute or so? I guess I'll start by saying this is a very, very good corps. Talent oozes from all sections. The staff made a good choice by placing the narrators behind screens, so seeing them doesn't become the focus. I guess I disagree with the premise that finding happiness can be as easy as snapping one's fingers. They spent the majority of the show establishing that it isn't a snap to find true happiness. Their point was that finding true inner happiness isn't a matter of depending on another person, or money, or status. True inner happiness is more a matter of stripping away the things of this world to find simplicity. Call me crazy, but the message might be more effectively delivered with a bit of Simple Gifts rather than a snap of the fingers. That being said, I'm with those who state they'd wish the corps would come out with a program sans narration. To me, it takes my focus off a corps full of very talented people.
Before I close, I want to put in a general plug for writing a check to your favorite corps. Whatever your corps can afford will be appreciated. We all know that fuel prices and food have dramatically increased. I had a chance to talk with a DCI board member in Madison and he mentioned the possibility of multiple corps going bankrupt at the end of this season. Here is a statistic to ponder: $10 per mile. That's the approximate cost it took last season to move the Madison Scouts down the road, and they travelled about 15,000 miles last season. And they are by no means the exception. So, if you want to help, don't be shy. Just about every corps has a fuel fund jar at their souvie table. Your change will be greatly appreciated!