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July 9 - Denver - Drums Along the Rockies - Scores & Review

Posted: Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:21 am
by Mark
1) 88.850 = Blue Devils
2) 87.800 = Cavaliers
3) 85.500 = Santa Clara Vanguard
4) 84.000 = Bluecoats
5) 80.900 = Blue Knights
6) 76.200 = Troopers
7) 75.950 = Colts
8) 74.550 = Madison Scouts
9) 71.700 = Mandarins
10) 66.750 = Cascades

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/DVD (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 stadium) around the 30 yard line. I attended with my parents, who have both been to numerous DATR and the 2004 World Championships.

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 years past. He just stuck to the key details and did not try and fill every second with his personal opinions. It was sprinkling raid during the pre-show, but cleared into a beautiful night for the performances.

3. Pre-Show = The pre-show corps (High Country Brass of Denver) was pretty weak. It made me think that if this was someone’s first drum corps show, they would not have the best first impression. They were described by the announcer as an “age-out” corps, so maybe they have minimal practice time. There was a brief concert and then the national anthem by the Rocky Mountain Brassworks, a local concert group patterned after British brass bands. They were very good, but it was hard to hear them on the upper deck. There was also a high school drum line "drum off", which was fun to watch.

4. Finals = This year looks to be quite a race at the top. Based on last nights performances after intermission, and other discussion in this group, the top 7 corps are all fantastic and neck-in-neck this year. There is no clear front runner at this point in the season. How exciting!

Now on to the review,

1. Cascades – “Beyond the Forrest” – 66.750 – Placement 10th (Actual) / 10th (My Guess) / 8th (My Favorites)

This corps had a good, solid sound, but their musical performance was a little muddy. If they can clean it up, they should jump up in placement. The show is strong enough to be able to grow, with some work. At the end of last night I could not remember any of their show :oops: , so it was clearly not the most memorable of the night. Once I looked up the show title, it came back to me. They had some great moments with the theme from “Pan’s Labaryth”. They also did a great job creating a very eerie atmosphere in their ballad. The guard did some interesting work with neon yellow tree branches.

2. Mandarins – “Absolute” - 71.700 – Placement = 9th (A) / 9th (G) / 9th (F)

The Mandarins have a solid sound and a very exposed musical program this year. The biggest weakness for me was that the show did not seem to have a flow to it. It was more like a series of small pieces that were not connected. During one piece the color guard brought out air mattresses as props. The air mattresses didn’t seem to add much to the show; they were just difficult for the guard to maneuver. It didn’t seem worth the effort for the little effect it created. Overall, it was a solid performance; just not one of my favorites.

3. Troopers – “Western Side Story” - 76.200 – Placement = 6th (A) / 7th (G) / 7th (F)

What a great show! :D I had read the predictions that they were finals caliber this year, but wasn’t sure if it was just wishful thinking. After watching their show I though they could be serious contenders for finals. Unfortunately, after the Colts performance I am not as sure. The Troopers show is much cleaner at this point and I’m worried they do not have as much room to improve as their close competors.

The Troopers show is West Side Story, sort of. They were able to pull West Side Story into their own style, which was impressive. The guard members are all dressed as Indians and they play that against the corps military style uniforms for the story. The arrangement of the music is unique and there are pieces of the “Dances With Wolves” score woven in at key points. Their drill was also quite unique. It was very entertaining and a great performance. I’ll be rooting for them to keep improving and hope they can stay in the hunt for finals.

4. Colts – “Fathom” - 75.950 – Placement = 7th (A) / 6th (G) / 6th (F)

There were several times in this show where I found myself saying “Holy Smokes!”. :shock: What a great show and a great performance. They have a fantastic opening fanfare that blows your socks off. They successfully carried the water/ocean theme throughout the show. Their show seemed much more complex and challenging than the previous corps. They have a lot of dirt still and have a lot of room to improve the show. They were by far my favorite corps of the first half of tonight's performances.

5. Madison Scouts – “El Relámpago” - 74.550 – Placement = 8th (A) / 8th (G) / 10th (F)

I just did not get this show. :? It was a solid performance, but not quite up to what I have come to expect from Madison the last few years. The color guard probably confused me the most. They came out in tattered monk robes and did a fantastic job of creating a very creepy/eerie feel during warm up and up to the first hit. After that they took off the robes and were in odd spandex-type costumes. I could not tell if they were supposed to be superheroes (when they were stage fighting) or Mexican WWF wrestlers (when they would flex and kiss their biceps). My mom asked if this was the music to Batman (based on the guard). At one point one of the guard “died" (I could not tell if he was a key part of a story or just one of the group). Some other guard members formed a litter from their rifles, carried the “dead” guy 5-10 yards, set him down, and walked away. He then jumped up, did a few back flips, and then the show went on. At the end of the show I felt like I had just been told a story in foreign language. I could tell they were trying to tell me something, I just could not tell what it was. (If anyone knows, please clue me in.) As for the corps performance, it was solid, but I could just not get into it. Last year at DATR, I didn’t get into the Scouts show, but really liked it on the DVD for finals. Hopefully, they will be able to tweak this show in the next few weeks to really add some punch (and clarity).

(The caliber of performance was noticeable improved after the break.)

6. Santa Clara Vanguard – “Ballet for Martha” - 85.500 – Placement = 3rd (A) / 2nd (G) / 1st (F)

Spectacular! :shock: :shock: Without a doubt, this was one of the most incredible drum corps experiences I have ever had. From the on field warm up, to the final note, Vanguard’s sound is pure, balanced, and lush. My mom compared them to a pipe organ. The guy next to me said “I could have cried though that entire performance.” :cry: They perform Appalachian Springs. I think it is very challenging pieces because everyone knows it and it can come across as simple on first listen. This show relies heavily on the emotional performance of the corps. Their drill was appropriate understated (perfect fit for the music) in some areas and typical Santa Clara in others. The guards dancing was beautiful spot on. There is also some great body movement by members of the horn line. The crowd was quite for much of the performance, but I think it was because no one wanted to cheer for fear of covering up any of the music. When they started the big push near the end (I’m sure anyone who has seen/heard an Appalachian Springs show will know the spot I mean. Most performances hit a company front here.) the crowd really started cheering. The push ended in a company front with a lush chord that went on forever. The crowd went wild the entire time. Their entire show could be easily be described as "sumpuous" and "beautiful". After the performance, the crowd was buzzing with excitement. For the rest of the night, I couldn’t help but compare each core to this performance. I think this will become one of my all time favorites. When they were announced them in 3rd there was an audible gasp from the crown. I didn’t expect them to take 1st, but I thought they would be closer in score and maybe jump to 2nd. They still have quite a bit of cleaning to do, but I can’t wait to see what they can do with this show come finals. It should be incredible!

7. Bluecoats – “Imagine” - 84.000 – Placement = 4th (A) / 4th (G) / 5th (F)

The Bluecoats had the unenviable task of following SCV’s performance, but they brought it. After the lush sounds from SCV, the first hit from the Bluecoats was a little jarring, but once the show got going, their edgier sound fit perfectly. They had a lot of fantastic drill moves and a solid show. They also did a full corps uniform change by the end of the show. I have never seen that before. The corps starts in their current dark blue uniforms, with the guard all in light blue with what looked like clouds on their shirts. By the final drill move, all the horn and drum line members had all lost their jackets and helmets and were in similar light-blue-with-clouds tops. It was quite effective. Very entertaining show. I felt sorry for some of the people around me who could not figure out why everyone was “Boooing!” (they were “Blue-ing”). I heard one lady say “Huh, I thought they were pretty good. Why are people booing?”. :lol:

8. Cavaliers – “The Great Divide” - 87.800 – Placement = 2nd (A) / 3rd (G) / 3rd (F)

As always, the Cavaliers have a great visual show and were able to carry their theme throughout. The guard members are all decked out in climbing gear (complete with harness and ropes). I don’t recall the music, but the Cavies had a great sound and solid performance. They did a lot of guard work with ropes to simulate climbing and even tied off to some of the horn line. It made it look like the guard were pulling and changing the drill. There was one park-and-bark musical section where the horns get in a tight block, some kneeling and some standing, and one of the guard members climbed up the block as they played. The music peaked (sorry, no pun intended) right when the climber reached the “summit” and threw his arms up in triumph. The crowd ate it up. There were also some great amplified voice effects (that’s right, I said “great” and “amplified voice” in the same sentence) where they simulate a climber’s call echoing off the mountains. (My favorite was “Is anyone there?”….....”NO No no (no)” (echoed).) :lol: A very fun and challenging show. Because of their high caliber performances in the past, I expected a little more, but they might get it there by finals week.

9. Blue Devils – “1930” - 88.850 – Placement = 1st (A) / 1st (G) / 4th (F)

As you would expect, the Blue Devils had a solid and challenging performance. They use white folding chairs extensively throughout the show: within the drill, horn and drums sitting or standing on them, guard dance on them, etc. It was very unique and added another level of complexity to the show. There were a few spots where I thought someone could get really hurt because a chair was bumped out of formation or the field was uneven. They should have all of those types of issues worked out by the end of the season. I can’t image how difficult it must be to do breakneck drill moves through a field of folding chairs. It was a challenging and fun show, but did not wow me as much as I expected it to. It may be another Blue Devils show that takes a few viewings to fully get into. I have no doubt they are in the running for the championship, it just wasn’t my favorite show from this talented corps.

10. Blue Knights – “Shiver: A Winter in Colorado” - 80.900 – Placement = 5th (A) / 5th (G) / 2nd (F)

I was really worried about the home town corps coming on last after a slew of terrific performances. I had nothing to worry about. This show was my biggest surprise of the evening. They look very sharp this year and they have a crisp, entertaining show. The guard looks classy in all white skiing attire and uses a lot of all white flags. When they do add color, it is understated. It really fit the snow theme. The body movement in the corps seemed more integrated into the show than in the last few years. This is a tough show and the corps performed it really well and with great energy. One of my favorite moments was when the horns are all back field and start moving forward tipping their white plumes back and forth. There was a break in the music and some folks in the audience yelled “AVALANCHE!”. The horn line then formed a ball and kind of rolled across the field before breaking into a scatter form. I’m sure it was unintentional, but there were two field judges that had to run out of the way of the rolling “snow ball”. If they can keep cleaning and keep the energy up, they are a lock for finals night.

Overall: Very solid performances across the board. If everyone keeps working hard, finals week should be chock full of fantastic drum corps. If you know anyone in any of these corps, please pass on our thanks for a great night and some wonderful performances. :cool2:

Re: July 9 - Denver - Drums Along the Rockies - Scores & Review

Posted: Sun Jul 12, 2009 5:13 pm
by rysa4
Good review. Thanks. I agree that the venue is really great for drum corps as well.

Re: July 9 - Denver - Drums Along the Rockies - Scores & Review

Posted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:09 am
by chadwick
Great Review...Thanks!!!

Modernism, avant guard in blue devils show

Posted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:50 pm
by Luvah
Thanks for the review:

1 observation, 1993 when Star did Barber and Bartok, some vocal fans said "Barber and Bartok on a football field? come on--this avant guard music in drum corps? that's not what drum corps is supposed to be about!" In 2009 the Blue Devils do Copeland's Piano Variations-- the signal most avant guard piece that Copeland ever wrote,-- and no one has a problem with it. Its probably the most avant guard piece that's ever been attempted in drum corps. I haven't seen BD yet--the piano variations is probably a pit feature w/ battery--but it is not their entire show certainly.

I think the 1930 theme is pretty cool: I'm kind of a culture buff and I'm constantly compelled back to the literature and music that came out between the wars in Germany and the US especially-- Jazz and Swing were booming in the US--Artie Shaw's music combines European influences and instruments into American Jazz-- and think of all the American modern composers who are household names--never before had we seen such a rich variety and creativity in Music, and we probably won't again. In Germany they were carrying on the tradition of German romance-- doing very well in literature, music, and philosophy-- many of the German moderns are still accessible and relevant to 21st century America-- Herman Hesse, Gotfreid Benn, Katie Koolrich-- and I haven't even mentioned France, England or Russia. International Modernism is nearly inexhaustible. I think that's what music education is about, an introduction to culture really. Maybe some kids will hear the BD show and start listening backwards, to when American popular music didn't suck.


Re: July 9 - Denver - Drums Along the Rockies - Scores & Review

Posted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:19 pm
by mckdan
I was also at the DATR show in Denver, July 13, 2009. I am an old-time drumcorps fan, so please don't be upset if I use old terms like contras and sops instead of tubas and trumpets. It just doesn't feel right to use the "new" terms.

First off, there were the Cascades. I congratulate this corps for coming back from Drum Corps death. There are too many corps that just seem to fade away, never to be heard from again. (Kilties, 27th Lancers, Muchachos, Kingsmen etc.) They had a nice sound from the horns, but, it was obvious that they had not yet merged their style with the smaller corps they merged with. A few more years of seasoning and they could be back to semis.

Next, the Mandarins. A nice brass sound, but, not really very memorable. Maybe they should try to find a niche for their "aura" or image. It just seemed very generic.

I believe that the next three corps, Troopers, Colts and Scouts, will be slugging it out for the last spot in finals.

The Troopers will be in finals if they can continue cleaning their show and add some more "wow" moments. The soprano lick in OK corral showed that they can do it and they should add 2-3 more of these impact spots. The color guard is amazingly better than the last two years and is rapidly becoming a major strength. The show already has an amazing amount of extremely exposed music and rapid drill. This is really a corps on the rise!

The Colts will be in finals if the Troopers don't clean more and if they can clean the muddy parts in their drill and music. Their show is very traditional drum corps and extremely entertaining. But, they don't have the difficulty level of Troop or the possible excitement of the Scouts.

The Scouts will be in finals if they can continue to clean their show, and, if they gather together all of the guard uniforms and burn them. The person who came up with this concept should be forced to create clothing lines for Borat and Bruno! The laughter and derision I heard in the stands was almost sickening. Please, Madison, be Madison and not Bridgemen! Have your color guard awe the crowd, not amuse. This corps is so much better than this! These uniforms detract from your show, not add!

After the intermission, the quality of performance advanced quickly. Vanguard was excellent, with every section just beaming class and polish. I truely believe that this corps could push into the final three and maybe pull a Phantom.

The Bluecoats were brasher than Vanguard, but, also classy and excellent in all sections. I do not think that their show design will bring them into the final 6, but, they might surprise.

What can I say, the Cavies are as good as promised. They can do so many intricate drills playing intricate music that I was just lost in wonder. There was always something going on and the GE highlights were constant. This is another corps that could end up top at finals.

Bluuuuueeeee Devils. This is another show that show how absurd these guys can be.. Just like Cavies they have incredible moment after moment, but, they just make it look so damn easy! How this corps doesn't win it all every year I just do not know! I just did not see or hear a single weak spot in their show. I haven't seen Crown or the Cadets, but, I just don't see how they could lose. But.....

The last corps performing were the Blue Knights. They continue to be extremely musical and drill proficient. I am a fan of their excellence, but, I think that they really do not have a memorable persona. Until their name can be given to a certain style of music or intricate marching or insane combinations of above, they will always hover around 8th to 9th.

One last note to Troop, Madison and the Colts. Please consider spending more time on the basic styles of your marching. Throughout all of these corps I noticed that not all of the members marched in the same style. When you watch Vanguard or the Cadets, the marching is always exactly the same from member to member.

Re: July 9 - Denver - Drums Along the Rockies - Scores & Review

Posted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 6:36 am
by chadwick
Thanks for your review and welcome to SoundMachine!

Re: July 9 - Denver - Drums Along the Rockies - Scores & Review

Posted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 7:01 pm
by mckdan
I have to say that Troopers were not quite as clean as I would have liked. They had an extremely exposed musical show and they marched a much more difficult show than the Colts or Madison. If they can continue to clean this show it may even be good enough to move to 11th in finals. It may be possible for them to pass up Glassmen or even Blue Knights. This would take an incredible amount of effort, but, it is the 30th anniversery of Trooper's shocking finals appearence in 1979. This corps has all of the tools to make this push, but, do they have the inner fortitude (guts) to do this?