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 Post subject: Phantom Phan's HAYWARD, CA -- REVIEW
PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 7:54 pm 
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What a night! This was by far the best drum corps show I've seen in person outside of DCI Finals. EIGHT Division I corps competing at Cal State University Hayward, sitting atop a big hill in the east bay with a phenomenal view. The day started off a little warm but was simply perfect by the time the sun went down.

The announcer, I noted with great delight, was the immortal Brandt Crocker! :D Outstanding hearing his voice again.

Review in order of performance (mostly), with general commentary at the end...

SENIOR:
RENEGADES

59 brass, 27 percussion, 33 guard, 4 color guard, 2 drum majors = 125 total
This group is much bigger than the last time I saw them. More people = more volume, surely not to the disappointment of those looking forward to the loudest show on Earth. The bigger, louder drumline (7s/4q/5b/3c/8p) did a good job holding their own against the sonic thunder that is the Evil Brassline. Cool moment in show: several horns on the front sideline holding up MEGAPHONES to their bells! As if they needed more volume! :lol: It produced a really neat sound, though. The corps had several nice soloists, but a bit of a problem with their ensemble sounds (particularly blending) and had some very choppy attacks. But the Renegades are just fun. The drum major got a lot of catcalls (since she's wearing a skintight latex number a la "Trinity" from "The Matrix).

DIVISION III - Exhibition:
BLUE DEVILS "C"

29 brass, 19 percussion (4s/3q/4b/8p), 17 guard, 1 drum major = 66 Total
There's really not much to review here. If you haven't seen this group of kids (some as young as 5-6 years old) you're missing out. The brass was mostly trumpets, and it still seemed like the instruments were bigger than some of the performers. :lol: I must give a ton of credit to the Blue Devils family and the staff of this corps for creating a show that is enjoyable and not written beyond the abilities of the very green performers.

DIVISION II:
FEVER

30 brass, 24 percussion (4s/2q/5b/3c/10p), 14 guard, 2 drum majors = 70 Total
I was amazed that this is a first year corp. They're certainly going after it right off the bat! The program is very ambitious, both musically and visually, and written at a similar level to other top lower division corps. They did a pretty good job visually, but had a few musical issues (brass had balancing problems, the battery was very dirty). Still, quite a debut for a first year corps! I wouldn't be surprised to see them competing in the D2/3 Finals in a few years. But I hope they get new uniforms, first (their uniforms -- red, pink, and grey -- are not pretty).
BLUE DEVILS "B"
24 brass, 26 percussion (6s/3q/5b/3c/9p), 20 guard, 2 drum majors = 72 Total
The Blue Devils' minor league system seems to be a little thin in the brass area, but the percussion in guard are just fine. This group had a strong battery and quality guard, but the brass was a little underpowered and definitely the weakest link.
VANGUARD CADETS
38 brass, 30 percussion (8s/5q/5b/2c/10p), 21 guard, 1 drum major = 90 Total
Much like the lower Blue Devils' corps, Vanguard's feeder group is powered by very strong guard and percussion sections. Holy moly! The drum line is Division I sized and would be towards the top of the field at Division II Finals. I also noted this group as having a very strong visual book for a Division II corps.

DIVISION I:
PACIFIC CREST

56 brass, 32 percussion (8s/5q/5b/5c/9p), 28 guard, 2 drum majors = 118 Total
All the complaints I've heard over the years about the Glassmen immediately sprung to mind while watching this show. The Estancia opener is slow to develop and lacking in Musical G.E.; by the time the corps heats up I'm sure many in the audience were thinking "get on with it!" The musical book is all over the place, seemingly with no rhyme or reason, from Ginastera's "Estancia" to a big, jazzy number ("Allegria"?). The brass and visual books are strongly written, and the brass is sound. The corps produced a big and solid brass sound, and the percussion was good enough sounding to me. The visual execution has some problems: lots of phasing issues and a very dirty and imprecise overall visual ensemble (missed lines, spots, etc.). The guard had a lot of nice moments, and is one of the corps' biggest strengths. If the opener gets some rewrites and they do a ton and a half of cleaning they can start thinking about maybe getting a Saturday night performance. But, as it sits right now, this show doesn't have much of a shot at making Finals. Strong points: Visual concept, Guard, Brass. Weak points: Visual Ensemble, Musical Effect.
TROOPERS
47 brass, 28 percussion (8s/4q/5b/11p), 20 guard, 2 drum majors = 97 Total
The Troops' show starts out very strong, with some terrific visual execution and a big brass hit that belies their size. Throughout the show the Visual design is very nice, and I would like to see this show later in the year (ie, cleaner). The brass was solid from start to finish, but the percussion wasn't. A very inconsistant drum book, the Troopers battery was either thundering out a million and a half notes a minute or not playing at all. It seemed like there was no in-between. The guard was flat out TERRIBLE, sorry. This was especially obvious coming after the strong Pacific Crest guard unit. Strong points: Visual, Brass. Weak points: Percussion, Guard.
MANDARINS
40 brass, 24 percussion (6s/3q/5b/10p), 25 guard, 2 drum majors = 91 Total
Wow, wow, WOW! This was the first show of the night to pull me out of my seat. All the books, visual and musical, are incredibly challenging. The brass book is insane: I've heard Top 6 caliber corps play less challenging stuff. The guard is phenomenal (I had the Mandarins' guard 3rd, after BD and PR, and ahead of SCV). Most of the show was terrifically clean, especially visually. The closer, "Bacchanale," had a bit of musical dirt in it. Okay, a fair amount. The 40 brass put out a great sound, but (and here is the Mandarins' biggest stumbling block) they are only 40 brass. Every corps after them simply swamped them in terms of sound. If this group had 30-40 more kids, they would be in the Top 12. GUARANTEED. The Mandarins' main hope is to clean the bejesus out of this show and hope that their clean execution and effect can get them into Finals (after all, that's what BAC did in 1999). This is easily the best Mandarins group ever, and at the rate they're climbing through the ranks Sacramento might have a DCI Finalist once again within the next few years. They should be considered a definite Finalist contender this year, though, and I expect they will surprise a corps or two and finish in the Top 15. This show got the first standing ovation of the night. Strong points: Visual, Effect, Guard, Brass execution, Percussion. Weak points: Size (Volume).
SEATTLE CASCADES
61 brass, 27 percussion (7s/3q/5b/12p), 35 guard, 2 drum majors = 125 Total
The Cascades come out with a very strong first musical hit, and indeed, music is the strength of this show. Honestly, I didn't think they were nearly as good as the Mandarins visually. The Cascades drill is much easier. The curse of the Glassmen strikes again: this show simply didn't grab me at all, at any point. The execution was terrific, but I have to wonder if this show has enough oomph to push into the Top 12 again. My best guess: no, it doesn't, and the Cascades' season will end on Friday night in Orlando. Strong points: Brass, Percussion. Weak points: Visual difficulty, Effect.
BLUE KNIGHTS
58 brass, 30 percussion (8s/5q/5b/12p), 25 guard, 2 drum majors = 115 Total
This show really disappointed me. I don't think it's nearly as good as the 2002 show. It's already very clean, and I don't think this show has a whole lot of room to grow: the ceiling is very low. This corps also gets the "park 'n' blow" award for the evening: they were either moving around at 90 MPH or not moving at all, and there was a lot of posing, crouching, kneeling, sitting, lying down and playing. The music had some nice moments, but was, in the end, completely forgettable and didn't stick in my head (the dreaded "Glassmen's Disease" strikes again). The brass has a very nice sound and is quite clean already, but the total package is quite lacking. I can easily see this show getting passed up by other corps, and would be very surprised if it made Finals as it's written right now. Expect a late season fade from BK unless some changes are made. Strong points: Brass. Weak points: Visual difficulty, Effect.
PHANTOM REGIMENT
68 brass, 29 percussion (9s/5q/5b/10p), 36 guard, 2 drum majors = 135 Total
:shock: :bow: :shock: :bow: :shock: :bow: :shock: :bow: :shock: :bow:
Whoa. Best Phantom since 1996, easily (yeah, '96, not '97). Best Phantom GUARD since the early 90s, easily. This show absolutely FLOORED me. The brass and guard were both Top 3 quality, and this show had more Musical GE than all the previous shows combined. I don't think the Visual book is a weak point either. Unless I missed a memo, Visuals are not all about SPEED (Cascades and Blue Knights, please take note). Phantom had one of the nicest Visual shows of the night, a very EFFECTIVE visual show that goes terrifically with the music. The uniforms (corps and guard) are oh-so-nice. Phantom was also the ONLY corps the entire night that still SOUNDED together when the corps was physically spread out across the field. Top 4? This show could easily be Top 3, and I would like to declare them a dark horse for the DCI Title in August. I consider the 3.75 point gap between Phantom and the Devils to be ultimate proof that judges prefe style over substance. Easily the best musical book of the night, the crowd response was enormous. Strong points: Brass, Guard, Musical Effect, Visual Effect.
BLUE DEVILS
63 brass, 27 percussion (9s/4q/5b/9p), 40 guard, 2 drum majors = 132 Total
Another year, another Top 3 show for BD. The "Blue" Machine has easily been the most consistant corps of the last 10 years, and this show is more of the same. But... this show seemed old, even with the first viewing: musically, it's all stuff we've seen before. The Blue Devils have a little show off section (both individual and ensemble) much like the Cadets in 2000; the strains of "West Side Story" are interspersed throughout the closer; and the cymbal rack is brought back in the exact same way. Speaking of the closer, the brass got REALLY winded the last 15-30 seconds of the show and lost a TON of power. The guard is doing more equipment work and less dancing... but still plenty (too much, IMO) of dancing. A side note: the Blue Devils guard had more drops than Phantom's guard did, and Phantom's entire guard was on equipment for virtually the whole show. Musically, I didn't like the choppy arranging. Wayne Downey may be a genius, but it seems like it's been 15 years since I've heard the Devils play something longer than a 16-bar phrase. I listened to the 1991, 1992, and 1993 Devils on my way to work today, and they sound completely different than the Devils of today. But, few corps are even capable of executing at the Blue Devils level, so there's no reason to expect them to fade out of the Top 3 any time soon. Strong points: Brass, Percussion, Guard, Visual Ensemble, Musical Ensemble, Effect.
SANTA CLARA VANGUARD
60 brass, 31 percussion (8s/4q/5b/5c/9p), 39 guard, 2 drum majors = 132 Total
Oh boy. This is one of those shows that could finish 4th or it could finish 8th. I just don't what's going to happen. There's a lot of great ideas here, but the execution is severely lacking (way behing BD and PR at this point in the season) and the show has some concept problems. The opener takes far too long to develop: the answering calls from one side of the field to the other was done by Phantom, too, and much better. It was Vanguard's color guard, not the Blue Devils', that was guilty of too much dancing and not enough equipment work. I noticed a dozen or so girls in the second movement just marching around, no equipment or routine, so I can only assume the guard routine is incomplete(?). There was a stretch of 4+ minutes in the show where I didn't see a single flags, only weapons or flailing limbs. When the guard did have weapons, they were dropping them left and right. I noticed about four drops COMBINED in Phantom's and the Blue Devils' shows; SCV surpassed that in about a minute. Visually the show is very dirty. That said, it's not a BAD show, it just has some very glaring flaws right now. But to be honest, I don't think this show is capable of either Phantom or the Devils. The third movement (Anima Mundi) is loads of fun, but the second movement (One Man Show) is simply awful. Quite possibly my least favorite show section of the entire night, I didn't like the music, the design, or the execution. By August it might be fine, but as of right now this show is lagging behind the upper echelon. Badly. Strong points: Percussion, Brass, Visual Effect. Weak points: Guard, Visual execution, Musical ensemble.

General Commentary
-- Did I miss the memo that said "all Visual programs must be flying around the field at all times?" Speed was OVERdone, in my opinion. Phantom's visual book had it's fast moments, but it was a breath of fresh air: it was well designed and MADE SENSE, it wasn't just a bunch of running from 30 to 30.
-- Seemed like there was a lot of rehashing going on: Pacific Crest utilizes these metal cube-frames, kinda reminded me of the Cavaliers' "planet" in 1995; Pacific Crest and Mandarins both were doing old Phantom numbers; Blue Devils tossing in a bit of West Side Story, and doing a show-off section like the Cadets.
-- When Phantom's score was announced ahead of SCV, a group of die-hard SCV fans and/or alums (a very SMALL group, like 10-20) booed loudly. Classless. I don't think there was a person in that stadium (including the majority of the Vanguard supporters) that honestly believed SCV's show was better than Phantom's on Saturday night. It's just not clean enough yet.
-- Vanguard's show got off to a bit of a rough start, too: one of the horn players collided with the percussion judge.

JUDGES SAID (Actual Scores):
81.85 Blue Devils
78.10 Phantom Regiment
77.00 Santa Clara Vanguard
72.95 Blue Knights
70.50 Seattle Cascades
69.35 Mandarins
67.00 Pacific Crest
59.30 Troopers

PHANTOM SAID (My scoring):
81.00 Blue Devils
80.00 Phantom Regiment
77.50 Santa Clara Vanguard
70.50 Seattle Cascades (nailed it!)
70.00 Blue Knights
69.50 Mandarins
65.50 Pacific Crest
60.50 Troopers

Phantom Phan's Captions:
Musical Effect - Phantom Regiment
Visual Effect - Blue Devils
TOTAL EFFECT - Phantom Regiment
Visual Performance - Blue Devils
Visual Ensemble - Blue Devils
Color Guard - Phantom Regiment
TOTAL VISUAL - Blue Devils
High Brass - Phantom Regiment
High Percussion - Blue Devils
Musical Ensemble - Phantom Regiment
TOTAL MUSIC - Phantom Regiment

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 8:03 pm 
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Thank you for the review. :cheers:


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 8:11 pm 
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Awesome review! I'm glad to see another in the corner of thinking that visual effect can be achieved through cohesive design, not sheer difficulty.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 8:16 pm 
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Thanks, Phan!!!! I see your captions. Has anyone seen the official DCI recaps? They are not on their scores page. Where/how did someone say that Phantom finished ahead of both BD and SCV in percussion? Or was that just dreaming?

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 8:26 pm 
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Thank YOU. :)

Phantom was the announced winner of the Percussion caption over the loudspeakers (heard faintly on my way to the car, since I didn't stay for the caption awards) at the show. I still have not seen the recaps, either.

Chuck King was the percussion judge, and if I recall correctly he's always really hard on BD, so it wouldn't surprise me if Phantom ended on top in that caption.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 8:31 pm 
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Phantom Phan wrote:
Chuck King was the percussion judge, and if I recall correctly he's always really hard on BD, so it wouldn't surprise me if Phantom ended on top in that caption.

In other words, it could very well change tonight in Pleasant Hill? I wish I didn't have to stay up so late to get these west coast scores!!!

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 8:48 pm 
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Jazzman wrote:
Phantom Phan wrote:
Chuck King was the percussion judge, and if I recall correctly he's always really hard on BD, so it wouldn't surprise me if Phantom ended on top in that caption.

In other words, it could very well change tonight in Pleasant Hill? I wish I didn't have to stay up so late to get these west coast scores!!!


All I'm hoping for Pleasant Hill is that Phantom is appropriately closer to BD and further ahead of SCV. ;)

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 9:35 pm 
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Thanks a ton for the great review Phan! so many people go to those shows I wish more would post as well thought out reviews as yours.

is it just me or are reviews especialy few lately compared to a couple years ago?

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 Post subject: Re: Phantom Phan's HAYWARD, CA -- REVIEW
PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 11:34 pm 
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Quote:
SANTA CLARA VANGUARD
60 brass, 31 percussion (8s/4q/5b/5c/9p), 39 guard, 2 drum majors = 132 Total
Oh boy. This is one of those shows that could finish 4th or it could finish 8th. I just don't what's going to happen. There's a lot of great ideas here, but the execution is severely lacking (way behing BD and PR at this point in the season) and the show has some concept problems. The opener takes far too long to develop: the answering calls from one side of the field to the other was done by Phantom, too, and much better. It was Vanguard's color guard, not the Blue Devils', that was guilty of too much dancing and not enough equipment work. I noticed a dozen or so girls in the second movement just marching around, no equipment or routine, so I can only assume the guard routine is incomplete(?). There was a stretch of 4+ minutes in the show where I didn't see a single flags, only weapons or flailing limbs. When the guard did have weapons, they were dropping them left and right. I noticed about four drops COMBINED in Phantom's and the Blue Devils' shows; SCV surpassed that in about a minute. Visually the show is very dirty. That said, it's not a BAD show, it just has some very glaring flaws right now. But to be honest, I don't think this show is capable of either Phantom or the Devils. The third movement (Anima Mundi) is loads of fun, but the second movement (One Man Show) is simply awful. Quite possibly my least favorite show section of the entire night, I didn't like the music, the design, or the execution. By August it might be fine, but as of right now this show is lagging behind the upper echelon. Badly. Strong points: Percussion, Brass, Visual Effect. Weak points: Guard, Visual execution, Musical ensemble.



I wouldn't say finishing 8th, it's definately a top 5 show. When clean will be top 3. I wouldn't say way behind BD and Phantom. Keep in mind the difficult. The execution is dirty, but again they are doing one of the hardest shows this year. The guard book isn't done yet. I wouldn't call the second movment awful, I've heard a lot worse. It's one of my favorite parts of the show. I had no problem with the execution. I also wouldn't say lagging behind badly behind the upper echelon. They are behind but not badly. Only a couple of points behind Phantom.

It seems to me like a lot of people are counting out Vanguard. They are trying to push the envelopes in many areas. Not sticking to comfort zones.[/quote]

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 Post subject: Re: Phantom Phan's HAYWARD, CA -- REVIEW
PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2003 12:32 am 
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MrVStaff wrote:
I wouldn't say finishing 8th, it's definately a top 5 show. When clean will be top 3. I wouldn't say way behind BD and Phantom. Keep in mind the difficult. The execution is dirty, but again they are doing one of the hardest shows this year. The guard book isn't done yet. I wouldn't call the second movment awful, I've heard a lot worse. It's one of my favorite parts of the show. I had no problem with the execution. I also wouldn't say lagging behind badly behind the upper echelon. They are behind but not badly. Only a couple of points behind Phantom.

It seems to me like a lot of people are counting out Vanguard. They are trying to push the envelopes in many areas. Not sticking to comfort zones.
[/quote]

When clean, yes, this will be an outstanding show. However, I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those shows that just runs out of time. You know the old refrain: "If the season were two weeks longer..." I just see SO MUCH cleaning that needs to be done (compared to Phantom and the Devils), I wonder if they'll have the time to get it all.

And the corps above them are distancing themselves. The Blue Devils were ahead of SCV by only 4.05 on Friday... then 4.85 on Saturday... then 5.10 on Sunday. Phantom was ahead of SCV by 1.10 on Saturday, then doubled it overnight (2.25 on Sunday) and I expect that gap to slowly grow, too.

The season is still fairly young, but already I feel Vanguard's task is a daunting one. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

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 Post subject: Re: Phantom Phan's HAYWARD, CA -- REVIEW
PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2003 1:30 am 
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It will be interesting what SCV can do over the next four days until they go against each other in Riverside.




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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2003 6:01 am 
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Very good review, but I sensed disappointment. Much of the show was a downer for you. I don't mean that as criticism-- just an observation. It sounds like Phantom Regiment's show, both in design and performance, made the whole thing worthwhile for you, but you were kind of let down by many of the other Division I corps there. Maybe it's just that they weren't as good as you might have been led to believe by winter hype. Some of the corps which, based on the hype, were seen as being in the thick of competition for top 12 this year, now seem less likely so, if what you say holds, and Blue Devils and SCV may have come up a little short of their potential for you near the top as well.

I know, it's early, and you haven't seen the east coast or other midwestern corps, but... whaddya think?

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2003 6:11 am 
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Phantom Phan, just wondering if you saw the recap that is finally up on DCI.org?? Only caption that PR won was percussion. Are you surprised?

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 Post subject: Re: Phantom Phan's HAYWARD, CA -- REVIEW
PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2003 8:01 am 
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Phantom Phan wrote:
MrVStaff wrote:
I wouldn't say finishing 8th, it's definately a top 5 show. When clean will be top 3. I wouldn't say way behind BD and Phantom. Keep in mind the difficult. The execution is dirty, but again they are doing one of the hardest shows this year. The guard book isn't done yet. I wouldn't call the second movment awful, I've heard a lot worse. It's one of my favorite parts of the show. I had no problem with the execution. I also wouldn't say lagging behind badly behind the upper echelon. They are behind but not badly. Only a couple of points behind Phantom.

It seems to me like a lot of people are counting out Vanguard. They are trying to push the envelopes in many areas. Not sticking to comfort zones.


Well, it's natural that less difficult shows clean at a faster pace, initially. Then, come August, the more difficult shows soar. It's going to take more time for SCV to pull everything together than it will for Phantom and BD. I think we will see this with Vanguard this year, as in years past. Don't forget - Glassmen beat them out west in 2000 also.

While this was a nice review, I think the bias was EXTREMELY evident. All glowing accounts of Phantom and lots of negativity surrounding everyone else, especially Vanguard. Every corps has some weakness, especially at this stage of the season, and you failed to find a single weakness in Phantom, while finding pleaty of weaknesses in everyone else. That's a big indicator of bias (which we all have).

You are right that a great visual design does not require marching at extreme speeds (BAC 2000), but if Phantom's design is anything like last year (far from cohesive), then that is going to be a very big problem - especially when SCV gets cleaner.

I think it's very evident that Phantom is on the right track. At this stage, I would say they have a real good shot at top 4 and probably are a lock for top 5, but with SCV being this close with a MUCH dirty show, I don't think Phantom's out of the clear yet. You're right that Phantom does have a championship caliber guard and brassline, but they need a good drill to go with it. Will that be a problem? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Just wanted to point out the evident bias in this review. Like I said, bias is normal....but I think drumcorps fans need to try to do reviews from an unbiased point of view. Reviews are a little less meaningless when one corps receives endless praise, while all the others receive mounds of criticism.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2003 8:08 am 
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My sentiments exactly.

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