DCW On-Line: Stanford Review

| |

Blue Devils stay on top at final major West Coast show

July 5, 2008 – Palo Alto, CA . . . A nearly perfect evening in Northern California was the setting for the DCI West Championships. Stanford Stadium is a tremendous, state-of-the-art facility to view a drum corps show. This is the second year a major DCI event has been held in this stadium and special thanks are in order to Kit Rodgers (former Blue Devils board member and Stanford alumnus) for assistance in securing this facility.

The Blue Devils are not resting on their laurels as 2007 DCI World Champions. Their “Constantly Risking Absurdity” production certainly lives up to its name. The show seems like a bit of a circus from start to finish — pretty much controlled chaos. It seems to never stop (it even starts before the “official” start of the show, with guard members balancing large poles), involves plenty of risk (running brass players — though one trumpet player slipped when trying to stop, but got back up immediately) and is a bit absurd (bass drummers spinning their drums).

Another risky element involves members of the guard hoisting the tenor drums while the drummers are playing them. The white plumes on the corps were questionable at the beginning of the season, but they do work (especially during some choreographed head movements by the horn line).

The guard, clad in bright orange pants and pink and fuchsia tops, is incredible. They use the large poles to define areas on the field as well as the body of an acrobat toward the end of the show. There were also several moments where the guard ensemble was definitely ‘on’. Add all of these neat and effective visual displays to outstanding brass and percussion performances and the 2008 edition of the Blue Devils will certainly be vying for another title in Bloomington.

Blue Devils – Concord, CA
DCW On-Line Photo by Francesca Demello

Coming out from the Midwest for an early-season tour, Phantom Regiment’s production of “Spartacus” has wowed audiences everywhere. Although all facets of the corps are strong, the brass line is particularly so. This is demonstrated during both a fanfare with the trumpets in the opener and the beautiful mellophone solo in the middle of the show.

The guard does a wonderful job of telling the story of Spartacus, a slave who becomes a leader in a revolt against the Roman Empire. Gladiator fights bring about the yell “Live or Die?!” from the drum major. Later in the show, there is also another dramatic incident that drew a gasp from the audience.

Not to be overlooked, the drum line is very strong and won the percussion caption this evening. The entire show is quickly gaining praise from both fans and judges alike, and perhaps will become the definitive version of “Spartacus”.

Santa Clara Vanguard’s “3hree” (Mind, Body, and Soul) is destined to become a classic. The Chairman Dances starts the show, as the guard, dressed in brown business suits, dances in a jig style. The corps executes Peter Weber’s excellent drill with classic Santa Clara grace, which brought some standing ovations from the crowd at the end of the second musical selection, The Man In The Bath. This selection ends in two intersecting triangles (one of them inverted), forming a Star of David.

The guard removes their business jackets during Talvin Singh’s Eclipse. Members of the pit (in groups of 3) perform hand claps during Eric Whitactre’s Cloudburst. This seemed to be the weakest part of the show, but this segment was relatively new. Once the corps gets in under their feet and fingers, this will be a show fans will talk about for years.

Moving away from Broadway and Vegas Strip literature from the past few years, Pacific Crest takes an interesting step with their “Primality: the Rituals of Passion” show. Tribal drums open as the corps moves gracefully through the big, open drill. Very demanding trumpet licks are performed during Village Attack.

The guard, clad in purple and orange, had an outstanding performance this evening. During the drum break, there is some tricky sticking by both the snare and tenor lines — watch for this. The corps is scoring well and may vie for a top-12 spot by season’s end.

The Academy takes us to Europe with their “Vienna Nights” production. The large drum line (10 snares, six tenors) drives the entire performance. The bold brass line opens the show with a very powerful statement. In fact, the brass arrangements are quite demanding, especially for the trumpet players who have several moments of tough tonguing in the show.

The drill has several moments of cross-through maneuvers which dazzled the audience. The guard performed particularly well, especially during the beginning of Notturno, Finale Alla Turka. Although the corps is not scoring as well as they may have hoped this season so far, this is a wonderful show and will be enjoyed by all audiences.

Exploring the sounds of “The River”, the Sacramento Mandarins opened the night’s World Class competition. Following a strong brass opening in Wind River, the corps really has fun with Frank Ticheli’s Cajun Folk Songs, featuring square dancing and excellent small brass ensemble work.

During the closer of Inferno, there is a musical hint of the theme from the movie “Jaws”. All-in-all, an excellent performance that was a crowd favorite.

Blue Devils B have a very entertaining program this season. John Meehan and John Mackey’s original compositions comprise their “Flight” program, which takes the audience from Taxi and Take Off, through some Turbulence and to Final Approach and Landing. The show starts with a guard member portraying a groundsperson guiding an airplane with flashlights. Following a call and response between trumpet and baritone, the corps forms an airplane just before the first big brass hit.

The brass line is quite strong. Of particular note is the mellophone section during Through the Night and the trumpet section demonstrating their dexterity during several sixteenth-note runs. This show is very enjoyable and will be in the hunt for the Open Class championship.

Sporting new uniforms (forest green tops with blank pants), Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets’ “Perspectives” is a serious show in a similar vein of their ‘A’ corps brethren. The corps has a very nice low brass sound which opens the show. The drum line seems to be the strength of the corps and got a good response from the audience during their drum break.

Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets – Santa Clara, CA
DCW On-Line Photo by Francesca Demello

There seemed to be an moment during the closer where the arrangers had a “Vanguard” yell moment planned, but it is perhaps too early in the season for many fans to be aware of that. The show ends powerfully, with the cymbal line holding their cymbals in the Vanguard ‘V’.

Don’t be fooled by the small brass line (seven members). Mystikal from Long Beach demonstrated that individual performance is important. Their “Progression” show starts with a nice mellophone solo. The 18-member guard is very strong throughout the entire show. The production ended abruptly and didn’t seem to be complete at this performance. Once finished, this show will be a good experience for the members.

Always fun to watch, Blue Devils C performs music from “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Wiz” in a show called “Woz”. There is a walk down the yellow brick road during the opener of Ease on Down the Road and We’re off to See the Wizard.

These kids (some have to be below 10 years old) have a blast performing The highlight of the performance was their rendition of If I Only Had A Brain. The show ends with A Brand New Day, capped by the famous Blue Devils tag from the late 1970s and early 1980s. This show is a lot of fun and shouldn’t be missed.

Opening the evening’s competition was the only all-age corps for the evening, the San Francisco Renegades. Starting with a screaming sop solo, the smaller-than-usual corps powered through Prologue to Evil and Metamorphosis, both Key Poulan originals. John La Barbara’s Space Shuttle (made famous by the Buddy Rich band) has a mellophone soloist that is top-rate.

The Renegades’ raw brass sound becomes much more relaxed in Dust in the Wind. The closing production tunes, Predatoria and Ave Maria, seemed a little off, as some members were seen getting to sets late and running into other members. Once they get a few more performances under their belt, the Renegades should do well during their DCA season.

Publisher’s Note:
This article is presented by Drum Corps World in cooperation with Drum Corps Planet. The material is exclusive to Drum Corps Planet under the "DCW On-Line" masthead as a regular feature. To see more quality reports like this one, subscribe today — www.drumcorpsworld.com or call toll free 1-800-554-9630 between 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM Central time, seven days a week.

The Madison, WI-based Drum Corps World has been published continously since October 1971 — 37 years of service! The tabloid newspaper is mailed monthly and contains articles on competitions and concerts, worldwide event calendars, scores, photography, features, regular columns and advertising from the companies that support the publication and the activity. Our staff of 75 writers and 12 photographers have extensive experience and many have been with us for 10 years or more. In addition, you will also find historic material in the store including: 136 historic CDs originally recorded between 1950 and 1980, vintage DVD content, videotapes, record albums, history books, back issues of DCW and feature articles from past issues posted on the front page twice each week.

Visit www.drumcorpsworld.com. For more information, call toll free 1-800-554-9630.

Posted by on Saturday, July 12th, 2008. Filed under DCW On-Line.