DCW On-Line: Middleton WI Review

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Large crowd gets evening of entertainment at Madison Scouts’ “Drums On Parade”

June 28, 2008 – Middleton, WI . . . The Scouts seemed to have been “adopted” by the Madison suburb of Middleton, as they staged another very successful event at Breitenbach Stadium. Perhaps because of the rainout the evening before in Naperville, IL, fans nearly filled the venue that seats roughly 1,500. It was a perfect night for a show and the Phantom Regiment easily lead the list of seven DCI competitors.

“The Red Violin” provides the theme of the Rockford corps’ 2009 show, but it presents a variety of other classical music and is another very strong vehicle that should keep the Regiment near or at the top of the DCI line-up by the end of this season. Sporting 16 contras (not the only corps this year), the huge, lush and quite full sound that everyone has become accustomed to from this group was again one of the highlights of their entertaining program.

While the new uniforms are quite similar to the one they’ve used the last few seasons, the silver trim rather than black is a subtle look that is effective. The guard dressed at the beginning in dark blue does tend to make the overall corps look smaller, but their contribution to the theme is substantial. The story isn’t as well-defined as it likely will be later in the season, but is nevertheless entertaining.

Blue Stars have an extra box truck to transport all the tables (about three dozen) that represent the “Factory” in their new show. Some have a simulated sewing machine atop the draped platforms and this is where the corps begins and ends their program. Using musical charts tied to the time period of World War II, it’s not always obvious what they are telling as part of the story, but the quality of the corps makes up for any questions about it so far in the season.

I’m puzzled by the significance of the clothes lines across the backfield as guard members set up the props, then don’t seem to make use of the staging yet. Perhaps that will become more evident later in July. There’s a change in costume to represent the end of the war during the second half. All elements of the corps show a marked improvement in talent and design after the corps’ leap into finals last August in Bloomington.

Colts, Dubuque, IA
Photo by Harry Heidelmark
Courtesy of Drum Corps World

The Colts have another very crowd-pleasing set of music and visuals this season. “Fathoms” portrays the nautical theme through selections from “Victory at Sea” to open and close the musical program and the Dubuque corps’ yearly ballad – this time the beautiful and expressive “Ebbtide” – is consistently the highlight.

The other piece of the puzzle that always stands out is the beauty and design of the flags. This year is no exception and the huge guard (I counted 36) adds greatly to their presentation of the theme. Hopefully this corps will edge their way into finals once again with a show that deserves the recognition.

Spirit’s rock show is quite different for this Southern corps. They’ve accumulated a set of tunes from the 1970s group Kansas that seems to be connecting with many in the audiences I’ve seen shows with so far this season. The ballad of “Dust in the Wind” is, to me, the highlight, evolving from a solo to a full ensemble that is quite effective.

Sometimes the bass guitar and electronic string bass is presented with too much volume and seeing those instruments in the pit is somewhat disconcerting for the more traditional members of the audience. It remains to be seen if the addition of synthesizers and keyboards will be universally accepted by the wide age range of fans.

Their color guard is energetic and colorful, while the percussion section is probably their strongest segment. This is another corps that frequently is on the bubble between being in or out of DCI Finals. The next month will prove whether or not this new style will be successful for the Alabama group.

The host Madison Scouts came out with new red sashes to make the dark green jackets stand out rather than blend into the turf color and the bright red velvet cloaks on the guard (36 members, the largest unit the corps has ever fielded) added tremendously to the storyline showcasing a Mexican superhero theme.

The corps is very close to maximum size (147) and quite obviously has a higher level of talent and maturity in all sections. Execution of the fast-paced drill velocity and the abundance of notes in the arrangements is currently the challenge. I understand they’re spending four days in Nebraska cleaning the show and tweaking the last portion of the show, so by mid-July at Denver’s “Drums Along the Rockies.”

What a nice corps Pioneer has this year. They’re once again presenting an Irish theme and arranger Donnie Allen has done a particularly good job of giving the horn line (40) an enjoyable musical book. According to Director/Founder Roman Blenski, the total membership is 94 for the third or fourth year in a row. This is a corps that fills up once school is out and this year’s roster is more mature.

I have a lot of admiration for the Milwaukee corps. They have survived lots of challenges and always bounce back. The strength of this year’s version of Pioneer may be poised to move out of the final spot in DCI’s World Class. Their scores are better during the early part of the season, so a move up may be in the cards.

The lone Open Class unit was Colt Cadets. The show theme is about a “nightmare” and includes a young guard member, in pajamas, using a “bed” (really a small trampoline) as a prop, along with an overside teddy bear. This seems to be a step up for the Colts’ training corps and they consistently are entertaining, this year not just “cute.” It’s inspiring to see the traveling and strength of this group, appearing in more than a dozen Midwest competitions and a few further away from home.

The Racine Kilties made a rare DCI appearance this evening, producing a strong performance that opened the show.  It was a busy day for the corps since they headed to Oregon, WI, just south of Madison, for a second evening appearance at a marching band show.  The color guard is larger (18) this year and contributed a great deal to the visual program.

The corps’ percussion section, at least the battery, was smaller than anticipated, with only three snares.  However, the overall show was quite enjoyable and the membership was prepared for this competition.  They’ll be hosting their own show on August 15 in Racine and making a trip to Minnesota the following weekend as they prepare to make another run at earning a finals spot during DCA weekend in Rochester, NY, come Labor Day weekend.

A pre-show tailgate party was added to the schedule this year and included performances by two local bands (Hot Cross Bones and the Jeff Peronto Orchestra) that have drum corps-related members, some of whom marched with the Scouts. The full membership of the Madison corps provided a memorable ending to the event by gathering to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” joined by many alumni in attendance.

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Posted by on Tuesday, July 7th, 2009. Filed under DCW On-Line.