DCW On-Line: Jacksonville, AL Review

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Cadets outtalk SCV, Madison; Teal zings, CV tops MCL at JSU

July 27, 2008 — Jacksonville, AL . . . It was 91 degrees at 6:00 PM, but it only got hotter on the field at 6:40 PM when Alliance opened the show and sizzled and Spirit ended the party. Everyone was a winner, including The Cadets and the Atlanta CorpsVets.

Jacksonville State University’s marching band has a rich and entertaining history that includes two of my cousins marching there with pride. As the only university in the U.S. that has sponsored a drum corps, JSU is a popular show for the Dixie fan$.

“The Pursuit of Happiness” increased for me as I enjoyed The Cadets’ show more than before. Zeroing in on the music and visuals, I was flabbergasted by the braggadocio of the brass, the swagger of the guard and the piston percolating of the percussion. “Life and liberty . . .” opened with even more polish than at the Georgia Dome the day before.

I adore how Director George Hopkins and his staff allow, nay, encourage the musicians to test the edges in volume and range. One must listen, but the limits are pushed to the delight of ticket buyers and judges.

“Her search for happiness . . .” had lush ensemble passages. The high brass fanfare to the rear segued into a phenomenal ensemble performance. In “The Pursuit of Love”, the color guard earned a fraction of the 0.4 that topped Santa Clara’s guard. During the battery soli, the nearby drill involved the customary pass-throughs that cross one’s eyes in the viewing. A fave moment for moi came when the guard couples danced center stage and the screaming high brass solo even hung over. Yes, Virginia, he hung over with taste.

I always had to be one step ahead

In Bloomington, to catch all of the nuances of the purplish guard, to espy the complex drill, to zero in on the symbiosis of the front ensemble and drum line, one must stay alert. This was a highlight in their performance.

The high brass ripples faded sweetly, followed by a mesmerizing mello decrescendo. “I loved my work” had money, money, money on the guard’s mind with their green/white silk motif, which switched to yellow/burnt orange flag work. The dervish drill made the world go around. It takes sweat to make money and the drill never ceases until the company front clocked out superbly.

Santa Clara Vanguard has the beef this summer with lots of brass, balanced by 10 snares and six tenors. The guard gave The Cadets a run for the money and never looked back at anyone else tonight. Executive Director Jeff Fiedler holds the SCV tradition paramount.

Santa Clara’s pit made the art of clinging finger cymbals complex and appealing. One of my fond memories of 2008 will be that huge battery captivating my attention. “Bluuue” silks with a bit of purple flooded the parched turf. The “sssh” moment came when the horns played to the stage right, rear corner. The SCV guard cranked it up as they shed the chocolate brown suits and tossed away the ties for teal blue and let it all hang out. True to their name, this SCV show was pushing the limits of creativity.

The Madison Scouts aroused the crowd much as did Spirit and the CorpsVets, the local favorites. This crowd knew they’d be entertained. With hints of Latin, touches of artsy fartsy, dabs of classical, dollops of general effect and chunks of crowd-pleasers, the 2008 Scouts entered from our left and left us satiated.

Madison’s drum line feature enraptured me with the five bass drums, then the thrilling tenors and the precision of the nine snares. The guard flourished on the boundaries spinning white/black/yellow and arousing the crimson spirit of the audience. It was a War Eagle cry from the stands at that moment. I loved the picante hot company front! The mellos tossed the capes and ripped our ears off. Thanks, Jeff Spanos, executive director, staff and the board. May your travels always have happy housing.

Spirit – Jacksonville, AL
DCW On-Line Photo by Harry Heidelmark

Late on a balmy night in Dixie

How much better can it get than to put the firefly jar down on the front porch and sit back to enjoy Spirit in their home stadium, closing down the festivities before a home crowd. (A question mark would be inappropriate, foolish.) Spirit brought back memories of Freddy Martin, Jim Ott, Hunter Moss (well, Moss was here soloing with CV) and a cast of entertainers.

The Georgia warm-up, played backfield, roused the rebels in the stands. Sitting in the pressbox, the Spirit staff kept pounding the counter in delight and raised the garage door windows in the face of air-conditioning escaping, leaning out precariously and hollerin’ encouragement.

Spirit performed on the entire “Per-i-4-y” of the stadium recycled tire turf, initiating with a yellow flag motif on the edges of the county. Later, the busy neon green/darkish silks augmented the spiraling marching and maneuvering as the rollstepping musicians exploded out of a block, splitting to the outside and arcing in triumph. Another ballad lulled us sweetly before the sugar was stirred into the sweet tea for a spinning closer.

Greg Orwoll’s Colts shucked corncobs this year with the finest Colts theme in my memory, a difference of “Night and Day”. The uniforms blended with the red/black JSU field logos. I found myself mouthing in parlando, “The days of wines and . . .” “Mambo!” — Now this is a Colts show I cherish. Throw in Tito Puente, folks. The drill raced to checkered flags. I love the guard unis, black with a dash of yellow.

The Colts’ happy-go-lucky music cut off abruptly as night dusted and chimes portended. Tubas veiled the blackness as others snuck about in dark drill. The crowd appreciated the lone high saber toss and the flag shimmer of the lone cg gal. As a lady danced in a glittering black skirt, a hatless man wowed all with his high brass solo in the pit. Unusual for DCI but, oh, so memorable. Catch the high baton toss as he twirls it into the clouds while a couple dances the night away. Did I mention this summer has lots of company fronts? What a way to harvest a Colts winner.

Pacific Crest rounded out the World Class with “Primality, the Rituals of Passion”. The pit set the ambiance early-on. Donned in one of the finest guard unis of the summer, the cg doesn’t just sell the show, they capture you. After 13 rifles spin passionately, the high brass ensemble repeats an intricate run, followed by rapid drill. At the end of the piece, many kept staring at the frozen one-legged poses of the zombie guard.

Following a fantastic Pacific Crest tympani feature, two high brass solos rang out with resolve. Many responded to the battery soli, including the outstanding four basses and the flash of the five cymbalists. Six rifles sit and tease us before the mallets take over the mood with power and precision. Uniform in conformist mouthpieces, blended in both softness and loud, the PC mellophones played with confidence.

Teal Sound was the Open Class representative. With tilted snares and traditional grip, the battery was a pleasure to behold. The 12 mellos, stage left, stole the thunder momentarily. From a recent era when folks like John Hoekstra worked with Teal, the current staff that includes Brandon Clemons, tour director, has done wonders with this Florida corps that has grown in size and talent.

Teal has an entertaining front ensemble. Anna Pitman, who dashes about to strike the concert bass, gong, et cetera, is quite the show grabber, reminiscent of all-age corps like Empire and Brigs. After the chimes ballad, the baritones and mellophones to the left racked up numerous ensemble points. Wrap up this Teal company front and use it again next season!

DCA’s CV, MCL, Alliance wow fan$

The Atlanta CorpsVets brought the house down when they warmed up to the backside with Georgia, played directly to an appreciative Music City Legend. Almost like a home show to CV with their Spirit ties, the crowd was thrilled. Early-on, the battery soli, an anchor for CV this season, tallied points as the five snares were smoking, along with two tenors and five basses.

Andrew Brown astounded the audience with his minor mello solo in the show “Simple Gifts”. Later, the contras belt a dirge as the baris grate in purposeful dischord. Drum Major Marvin Fontaine leads ripping mellos before Vic Kulinski, Jr., takes over the podium. Fontaine’s daughter, soprano, and four other horns are featured in a luscious ensemble stage left.

CorpsVets – Atlanta, GA
DCW On-Line Photo by Moe Knox

The lovely mallet feature sets up Shenandoah, where Rob “RJ” Scott shows his stuff in another stupendous mello solo. So good is it that arranger Dave Henry brings Scott back for an encore in a huge feature. In DCA Dixie shows and in Rochester, NY, concentrate on the blendings of Simple Gifts and Shenandoah. Jerald Sheets, a fit John Zaragosa, sops, and the entire brass slide a company front that spins trios into the closer.

Music City Legend earned a much higher score in my notes. Drum Major Ashley Nilles (pronounced “Nillis” not “Niles”) laced and led her charges with a lot of spine and spunk. This jazzy, energetic show will reduce hot dog sales at any show as MCL entertains! Early in the production, a four-piece combo, including Dr. Willard, bari, and Joe Murphy, contra extraordinaire, snatched the crowd. The three snares will grow to four with Scott once the Cavies Alumni corps does their Bloomington gig. The battery feature was solid and they do a fine job of balancing with the horns.

MCL’s Joe Murphy does a tango solo that ends in a jaw-dropping, stratospheric trill on contra. One can’t miss the charisma and superlative zinger notes from the Jet Tone mouthpiece of Vinnie Ciesielski, a Nashville pro, on soprano. Ciesielski was a dynamo throughout the entire show, extending the limits, not overextending. Toast Vinnie with tequila. The pit stayed in a controlled tizzy throughout. After another Joe Murphy moment, one fan screamed “Woohoohoowoooo!” The fan$ got it.

Music City’s chimed ballad built into another glorious crescendo. Dr. Willard stepped forward yet again on bari. The contras marched in swing and the stupefying baritones sounded like a tight big band trombone section. The sops spun and tooted in harmony while the baris kept a rhythmic mantra. Want in your face? MCL toed the line in the pit to, unfortunately, time out and end a night to remember.

Alliance from Atlanta, the first of three DCAssociates all-age corps, began the evening with the battery while the horns peeled out of scattered pods toward center stage. Director Terry Reilly’s corps came prepared, including 24 h/18 battery, with six snares. The enthralling front ensemble feature segued into a tight baritone crescendo.

The always fantastic guard of Alliance set down half of their sabers to go onto flags. Alliance always likes to push the edges in creativity. Like last year, the young horn line is constantly challenged and does an admirable job of enduring. Not slacking in the closer, the music is complex. Ensemble brass points were racked up when musicians are tiring, which impressed me. Each brass section got a moment before the closing harmony. Alliance will be a contender the rest of the DCA summer.

Thanks to Chief Judge Steve Calhoun for a rich evening, DCI Coordinator Scott Litzenberg and, of course, to Carla and Mike Morris and the huge, hospitable Spirit show staff for a diary highlight event.

Everyone wins when one enters the annual DCI Dixie Trifecta: DCI Murfreesboro, TN, Friday; Atlanta Georgia Dome for the DCInternational Southeastern Championships, Saturday; and Spirit’s home show, Sunday. This scribe is now off to work band camp (“Hi, Mr. Cozy!”) where the kids who made it to this weekend’s DCI shows are still pumped.

You may discuss this review on the DCP Forums. We’d love to hear your feedback.

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Posted by on Sunday, August 3rd, 2008. Filed under DCW On-Line.