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 Post subject: Great Show at Glassbowl, Toledo OH, June 25 Review
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 11:16 pm 
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Fans who waited out an hour long lightning delay saw a great show in a fantastic venue in Toledo, OH. Not a bad seat in the house at the Glass Bowl, an expansive yet intimate venue with about 12,000 concert side seats. The venue is very much a smaller version of Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN. I'm already looking forward to DCI's return trip August 3rd.

The show began at 8:40 pm with the return of Capital Regiment to open class competition. I am amazed at what this young corps is accomplishing after a two year hiatus from the activity. Their 2009 show "The Storm" features top grade musical arrangements and a competent drill design with appropriate staging. The strength of the corps is the low brass which makes a very mature balanced sound. They have about half as many contras as some corps but all of those kids must be playing well. The corps drum line is doing well with a book that is playable and musically interesting. What a great job the corps creative staff has done giving the kids a show they can perform while still pushing them to achieve. They have no obvious weaknesses, but they don't have enough high brass heroes. I'm not sure what Capitol Regiment's destiny is for 2009, but their talent level fits right in with a DCI semi-final showing. I'm an instant fan.

Next in the line up were the Crossmen, from San Antonio, TX, with their show “Forbidden.” The corps is definitely a bit behind the curve getting their show completed, as they played this show without guard uniforms (black shorts and tee shirts). The drill and the guard routine are definitely fresh and not performed with confidence yet. The corps looks very big in their black capes, and they really cover the field. Sometimes you can't see the field between the corps members capes which has a crowding affect. Their musical book includes Barber's “Medea: Meditation and Dance of Vengeance,” which is of course familiar to fans who can remember back to 1993, or who may have seen Blast. The horn arrangements aren't bad, and the arranger does a good job not totally lifting the book from Star '93. The drum solo near the end of the show is poorly staged and not an effective arrangement. This show is a good example of the general design malady that sacrifices percussion execution for the sake of performing an overly aggressive drill. The staff would do well to look at the Crossmen drum solo from '92, where the drum line stood in a line and played. Now that everyone plays their drum solos marching with inter-meshing drill, the novelty has worn off. In fact, that style of drum solo is now very conventional, and since drum lines do sacrifice some amount of clarity to drill performance (especially in this show), one wonders when designers are going to go back to standing and playing a drum solo.
This being said, its definitely too early to write off Crossmen '09. We'll see how much they can become a finals caliber corps in the coming weeks, but with so many other corps debuting impressive performances, its going to take a herculean effort and some re-writes for this corps to make finals. Even if making finals is impossible this year, with some work they can still deliver a show worthy of the Crossmen moniker.

Next, the Colts performed their impressive show “Fathoms.” From the opening horn blast the big balanced sound of this corps is on display. The show features a wavy drill theme and a warm color scheme that I found very effective and original. With the silver horns and red uniforms, I love the look and sound of this year's Colts production. I was listening for some Debussy style “La Mer” thing, but what the Colts had in mind was far more energetic and jazzy. The middle ballad features a soprano solo with exquisite tone. It reminded me that the hardest thing about playing the horn is getting a professional tone, and that professional horn players have to spend many hours practicing their tone. If a soloist can just play one note beautifully, that beats all the high end squealing and note bending in the world. In previous years I have felt as if the Colts guard was holding them back on the GE sheets. I did not get that sense from this show. The burnt orange flags for the closer really work with the overall color scheme, and make a very pleasing visual effect. Although the drum execution fades toward the end of the show because of the fresh book, the Colts have the beginning of a solid drum line. The challenge for the Colts snare line is to even out their playing angles and stick heights. In the middle of the line they have 3 players playing very aggressive angles (holding their hands above the drum and playing down into the head), while the young players on the ends must play more relaxed angles to prevent crushing the diddles. The thing is, the young kids get perceptibly stronger every day, and if they get pushed to match the playing angles and stick heights of the middle snares, they could achieve something pretty special. In summation, the opener is great, the middle ballad is wonderful. The execution problems are all toward the end of the show. In my mind, the Colts are a shoo-in for finals this year. They've got the most talent on the field I've ever seen them have, and a show that should be crushing the Glassmen on the GE sheets. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks for the judges to catch on.

The final corps to take the field before the intermission was the Boston Crusaders performing “The Core of Temptation,” featuring music familiar to Bachinale. This very entertaining and well designed show is perhaps the sexiest show in DCI history. The horns, drums, and drill are all world class, but the most interesting aspect of the show is the color guard, who are oh so sexy. One of the things that Drum Corps features is beautiful young people. I think it is very appropriate and stylish to feature some sensuality, and in this particular show it fits very well with the musical selections and show theme. The guard members themselves are adorned in breast crossing white mid riffs with impossibly tight hip hugging white stretch pants which are very revealing even from the top of the stadium. These sexy pants are so eye popping that perhaps (for the sake of uniformity) the guard girls (who shall be referred to as “the vestal virgins”) should stuff their crotches to match the impressive bulges of the male guard members (no pun intended) who are very sexy in their own right. Either that or the men should tuck their junk back smoothy style. A little gender bending never hurt anyone! All kidding aside, in a show based on a Greek festival, where the vestal virgins are surely supposed to represent (in their virginal white) the actual sequestered vestal virgins from Greek ritual, perhaps it would enhance the sensuality of the show for the girls to begin the show with a flowing white shawl or scarf which would remind the audience more fully of the vestal virgins' authentic dress. Then this accessory could be safely discarded at the symbolic biting of the apple. The point is, if you want to undress, first you have to dress. Finally, I think the show is great, top 5 is not out of the question for this show that fans are sure to remember for years to come. At the end of the show I was a little confused as to whether I should stand and applaud or tuck a buck!

After a brief intermission the Change Our Holy Name Cadets took the field with their 2009 version of “West Side Story,” which represents a return to glory for history's most decorated Drum and Bugle Corps. Where last year's show disappointed and confused some fans, this years show sizzles with emotion, energy, and volume. A very stylized pit percussion book reminds listeners of the show's Berstein roots-- and oh yeah, the horns and drums are back too, with a very aggressive drill that is already pretty tight and very effective. The guard is terrific, they have one saber/rifle toss that is breathtaking—they are really pulling out the whole bag of tricks with this year's show. The drum writing at the end of the show is great-- the last lick could become famous or even iconic—something that fans learn to identify as particularly Cadets. I cannot properly describe the feeling in the stands when the show ended. It was as if the albatross of last year's show, and the cloud of doubt surrounding this year's show were both purged away with this performance. To say that the Cadets were the crowd favorite would be an understatement. As a certain long time staff member of the Cadets watched the show from near my seat, he seemed to almost choke up as he realized how well designed and arranged the show is. His response acknowledged that this year's Cadets show is really working toward something very special and memorable come finals night.

After the Cadets the Cavaliers took the field with their 2009 production “The Great Divide.” This very compelling and unique show features the most beef-cake buff color guard in drum corps history. The show has an outdoor theme and the guard is attired in mountain climbing harnesses of all things. The guard execution and the drill-- the color scheme—the overall visual presentation is astounding. The flag work in the closer wowed me—it really really works. It seems that this year's horn book has more notes packed into it than I can ever remember the Cavies playing. The clarity of the high brass is very effective in certain phrases. They have one park and bark section that when its clean it may win them the brass caption. My problem with this year's show is the drums. I think the writing is quite good actually and the execution is certainly top 5 caliber, but there are a few aspects that need to be addressed. First, the sound of the drums in the upper battery is too dry and muffled, to the point that the drum line loses back field presence. The difference is especially perceptible in the tenor drums—there is no “ring” to the drum—as if the drums were muted with a plastic ring or napkins taped to the bottom of the heads. The snares are also very very dry, which is fine for their solo, but for the rest of the show there is not enough snare sound to push the ensemble. They also play w/ several different implements—metal sticks and rubber mallets—the impact of which is lost on me. The Cavies show seems to be calculated to get the best numbers from the judges in the visual and GE captions—and with the super demanding horn book, they have a show designed to achieve an elite score. If they are going to win this year, they need to re-evaluate the drum book as well as the drum sound.

Taking the field last in their home show, the Glassmen did not disappoint with “The Jouney of One,” featuring the work of minimalist composer Steve Reich among others. The show is somewhat intellectual, which is to say that it is not instantly accessible. I feel like they are beating the Colts with a very musical and balanced horn line, and with a drum line that is out executing the Colts for the time being. I think its a show with limited GE appeal—or perhaps I just don't get it after one viewing which is possible. I admire what the drum line does—it plays a pretty conservative book with a drill that maximizes accuracy and is careful that every phrase projects cleanly to the box. Other corps could take a lesson on how a musical show should be staged from the Glassmen (although in the opener the drum line is all over the field, but they don't play anything exposed until they get together). The guard is a weakness at this time. The same magenta flag that looks great in the Boston Crusaders show doesn't work with this show's color scheme—they need to change that flag to gun metal gray. I don't hate the guard uniforms, I think the colors work but the style and cut do not. Whenever a color guard wears something that is not entirely flattering, it usually is because the guard really is fat—its not just an optical illusion. I hate to seem shallow about this but when so many color guards are so obviously physically fit, it does have an impact on the score sheets. To be honest the guards execution was noticeably poorer than the Cadets and Cavies who they unfortunately had to follow. I always admire the Glassmen drum line because I think they have a chance to play a clean show—this year they are not quite there yet—but the drum line looks uniform stylistically.

Finally, I'd have to say that this show was a fantastic opening to what should be a very intriguing year in Drum Corps—it should be a shoot out at the top with many corps featuring their best shows in many years. I attended finals last year and I have to say that I really didn't like the top 6 shows. I understood Santa Clara's show from a musical perspective but the top 6 were not creatively better than the last 6. This year I feel like everyone has a really good show. There are certainly going to be some good shows left out of finals night. Everyone is practically racing to clean their drum books which is normal, but from a fans perspective, I am once again excited about the direction of drum and bugle corps. I like the many changes rule changes that have taken place—its going to be fun.


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 Post subject: Re: Great Show at Glassbowl, Toledo OH, June 25
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 11:00 am 
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Thanks much for your thoughtful impressions. I can't wait till RYSA4 weighs in with his percussion thoughts. Between the two of you, it should be quite a seminar!

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