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 Post subject: 2009 July 16 and 17 Houston DCI Show drumline reviews
PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2009 10:09 pm 
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So today was pretty cool. It started out in the afternoon at an alumni/friends of cadets small gathering at the cadets houston practice site, highlighted by some time listening to George talk about a somewhat dizzying array of topics and answering questions. Its nice of him to take the time actually. We all then attended ensemble rehearsal for awhile and although I left early to meet our very own LA Mystreaux for dinner, the rest of the gang got to eat with the corps. The Cadets gave out little goody bags to the attendees, also a decent gesture.

Anyhow, I'll keep it brief; There were nine corps tonite: Crown, Phantom, Cadets, Blue Stars, Glassmen, Spirit , Boston, pacific crest, and mandarins, and crossmen. Ok well thats 10.

Lets cut to the chase - the three cool drumlines for this show were Spirit, Boston, and Cadets, with an honorable mention to the snareline of the Phantom Regiment. Here's how I'd rank the lines tonight, which will likely have no resemblance to judge scoring whatsoever I might add;

1. Boston -- has arrived. Their drum line and pit books are challenging and reasonably creative. The snare line execution tonight represented the best balance of technical difficulty and clean execution. I really enjoyed the percussive performance of this corps tonight, and they probably won't get the score, but the field drum writing is up there with the big boys this year and their execution, frankly, is better.

2. The Cadets won pit tonight. Nothing short of extraordinarily musical, excellent double mallet technique and great effects. My only comment is that the amplification of their bass tones was too loud for the corps as a whole, despite George signaling for an adjustment at the beginning of the show. Really its amazing how a bunch of young kids( 15 of them) can actually get it as far as musicality and make it happen. The ride cymbal the drum set player was well played and has a truly excellent sound and feel to it, which is hard to find frankly. The field drum stuff is quite challenging largely due to the marching drill. In ensemble practice, the staff was doing a great job of identifying and fixing. I was amazed at how fast the cadets were fixing and cleaning things in rehearsal. The snare line has three major point in the show that tend to lead to breakdowns in technical performance. The second half of the opener came apart three times for the snareline. There is no relation in the way these parts were written. The second area thats less of a problem is the second half of " Cool" or "Kewl" or whatever they call it, when the field drums are in the backfield and the pit is tearin it up up front. The last area thats tricky is in the early parts of the last third of the show when the field drums face backfield. The cement wall behind them ( or in front of them) in this stadium makes it hard, but the style of writing, long crescendo decrescendo buss and open rolls is not a match for this lines strengths. If these three areas are fixed this percussion section of the corps could become really great quickly. I get the sense they are feelin some heat. Anyway, the key is for them to absolutely lock the marching into the playing and vice versa in these areas of the show, moreso thsn most years. The drill is tough.

3. Spirit- I smiled the whole way through. I could watch this performance many times and never get board. I think they had the most fun. The field drums threw out some real slop but heck, does it matter? Musicially they rock. The dude playin drumset is the real deal, btw; hes got a pro future if he wants it. The latin and accessory percussion to his right and the steel drum guy to his left were great as well. And the parts written between the three and the rest of the pit are highly avant garde for drum corps and entirely impressive. I likied the aggressive style of writing of the field drums. If you are into percussion as far as listening and watching tis would be the line out of this bunch tonight. The corps isnt going to set the colorguard or drill writing world on fire however.

4. Phantom- a tough call. Somethings not right with the corps this year. The snare book is rudimentally tough and they did very well. But they had some rough spots too. I didnt feel much excitement from the corps this year. Also, their drill seems really crowded towards the center of the field.

5. Crown- Well I was prepared to be impressed, but not much has changed here actually. They did a very smart thing with the opener; they used it as a drum warm up of sorts as they open the show and it sounds great. They fell down on the sixteenth note triplets near the end but amazingly recovered going into the triplet rolls they did here. They had a few rough spots but they were fairly clean. There just isn't much going on with the field drumms in this show. They had a stretch of no field drums at all downtime and played it safe. They did better this year with dynamics I do note, as far as the highs and lows. I have heard many folks on this board comment on how impressed they are with the corps this year. My comment is that the emperor has no clothes. The show is maxed and has no where to go. The Cadets won tonight overall and I see that gap increasing. The only variable here is the differential effect of domed venues on the corps. Hopefully Lucas Oil will be kinder than the Alamodome for all.

6. Blue Stars - The snare line just missed stuff right and left. I liked the percussion with the sewing machine opening deal, both pit and field. Pretty cool. They seem more aggressive as a field line than last year and some of the writing is Tom Aungst fell to be sure; they did pretty well overall. The female mallet player second from our right had exceptionally good double mallet roll techniques, which I feel is very hard to pull off. Its sort of a combination of movements in two planes at the same time with both hands. Good stuff. They have a point in the show where a single snare drummer stands out and plays a riff, followed by an electronic japan is attacking pearl harbor deal followed by a whole drum line entrance that attaches to the end of the snare drummers riff. Highly exposed and they missed it.

7. Glassmen - cool show. cool effects. mediocre performance. nice exposure for drums right at the beginning with opportunity to make a statement. but fairly sloppy snares. In the pit, they had an excessive number of well performed simultaneous sixteenth note runs with the mallet percussionists. This may have been done to make up for NO PLAYERS USING DOUBLE MALLET technique. Even the Mandarins had this in their bag of tricks. Not a good sign.

8. The last three drumlines are in a different class than the first 7. The Crossmen are in real trouble. The corps is going backwards and probably needs a total outlook revamp. I am not sure what to say except we have a lot of resources in Texas at all levels and it doesn't have to be this way with decent leadership and some money. There isn't much in this show that I would want to see again. I wish the kids a great and fun rest of the summer. Holy Identity crisis Batman!

The mandarins had fun. They had a sort of lackadasial approach to playing their snare drums and it cost them. When they hot their feature however, they just sprung to life as a line; it was kinda like " Woa where did that come from?" I enjoyed what they did frankly. I think they are having fun and that's good to see. Pacific Crest didn't do it for me overall. Lots of cleaning to do.

Anyway, thats it and I enjoyed meeting another member of the sound machine in person.

Next up: Tomorrow night!


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 Post subject: Re: 2009 July 16 and 17 Houston DCI Show drumline reviews
PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:02 pm 
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Here is my review for drumlines I saw tonight in Houston, in my order of preference, which will have no relation to judges placement most likely;

1. Cavaliers - they have the best drumline. They played the cleanest and their pit was quite good overall. The reason why I have them ahead of the other corps is that they play very long musical phrases, which is much more difficult to do than going for the "Kodak Moment" approach. They had a very nice combination of subtleness and balls out drumming, and they covered the range well, with only occasional inconsistencies relative to the other drumlines. I thought the guard was good.

2. SCV- Once again, they have a very interesting use of writing style for the snares, which is this crescendo decrescendo rolls within the various rudiment patterns that has an abstract quality to it that magically fits and supports the music. The line isn't as good as the 2004 version but I thought they were very good tonight. Check out the snares when they move between double stroke, triple stroke, three on two and moving accented single stroke patterns its quite seamless and very challenging to do. Appalachian spring lends itself to really excellent percussive orchestration, and SCV did very well. The pit was very very good I thought, although the level of challenge and demand for them was not quite as high as bluecoats, BD, and Cavies. Overall though, they were very musical, and just a little cleaner than the next two.

3. BD and Bluecoats ( tie). I like the blue coats line for their writing and more lengthy field drum passages but they had some dirt going on throughout the show too. The Blue devils were smart. The show "pseudo-starts" with what is essentially a tap concentration exercise which also serves as a warmup. then they have a very downbeat but solid riff as they move around the chairs. Thats a good way to start a show becuase it is safe, focuses and warms the line, and builds into a "take notice of the line" feel. Good idea. The overall problem I had with them, and problem is a relative term, is that the snares featured themselevs, as did the line, with relatively short passages, which were impressive--but then they would stop and go away. That's really not what a championship line should be doing. Many four bar awesome featurettes but not much in the way of continuous multi-measure playing. Stay awhile and show us your good! They used the various percussion section voices in an integrated way however, by having say, a tenor finish a snare phrase. Good effect and concentration, but overdone as a near dominant way of writing in the show. Blue coats snare writing was slightly tougher, and as mentioned...longer phrases. All of the above corps featured their tenor lines more frequently than all of last nights corps. Blue devils are a little cleaner than BC, but these lines are close.

4. Blue Knights - the corps is technically solid as usual. they did the whole shivering cold wintering show thing. interesting show, good execution on drums and percussion too. The field drum writing doesn't seem as complex as the above four. Some color guard members may not be fit enough to pull off some of the dance moves in a graceful manner. ( sorry but noticeable)

5. Madison - I liked their pit and the use of the single tom drums - their mallet players played well. The snare drum book was very physical at times, and I thought too physical for this line, or at least some of the members. They would just smack the heck out of their drums at times and hen had trouble playing the softer passages cleanly that would follow.

6.Colts- I thought their hornline sounded pretty good. Their pit players seem to have fun too. The field rums had some nice technical writing to perform, mostly in 4/4 time, but with a fair amount of easy misses on rim shots, sixteenth note patterns and isolated taps. The corps has the makings of the big time and I wonder if they will get there some year in the future.

7. Troopers-always love to see these guys- straight 4/4 marching and playing for the most part. Nothing fancy. They lost drums but this is a good line really to play on for someone new to drum corps.

I didn't make it early enough to see the other corps.


Overall I think Cavies have the best drumline this year in DCI and I think Spirit and Boston are the surprise eye-openers. See ya for finals!


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