DCW On-Line: Normal Review

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Crown leads Regiment, Cavaliers at first DCI showdown at BOA event

June 26, 2009 – Normal, IL . . . Crown surprised everyone tonight by upsetting the defending DCI Champion Phantom Regiment and Midwest leader to date The Cavaliers. It was no surprise to me, though, for I feel they gave an emotional performance that will only grow in the coming weeks.

The concept of “The Grass is Always Greener” comes from show designer Keith Potter, with whom I was able to chat with after the show, along with Adam Sage, the corps’ color guard caption head. They, along with drill writer Leon May, have put together a feast for the eyes. Adam is so creative with his color palette, Leon does an excellent job with the drill and Keith has the eye for the big picture.

The horn players are being asked to perform much by lying, sitting or kneeling on the ground, almost as much as marching. This reminded me of Star of Indiana in the early- ‘90s. The movement of the horn line equals the movement of the guard. The brass is so crisp and clear, even with all the movement they are doing. The total package is there and I’m sure they will not rest on their laurels and be up to the challenge that is before them . . . at least top three in finals.

The Cavaliers had just tied the Holy Name Cadets in Toledo, OH, the night before and came in a mere four-tenths behind Crown tonight. I can see the two of them battling back and forth all season. Even though the two shows are completely different, it’s amazing how similar they are in creativity.

Michael Gaines has once again performed the task of making the music heard in his drill. When you are watching the movement of the horn line or the guard, you can hear the tones and nuances through the drill. That is what makes this show so special. They are nor the loudest nor the fastest, but they demand your attention every time they enter the field.

The haunting sounds of the ballad and the blowing into pop bottles beginning the last movement shows off the creativity of this group and why, from year to year, they are at the top of their game. I see this show at the top or at least pushing for that position all season. As I stated in earlier reviews in Drum Corps World, I don’t think there is a guard out there that is being asked to do what they do and they are achieving it at a high level already. I think the best is yet to come.

The Phantom Regiment was a scant 0.8 behind The Cavaliers, but they outscored them in the music caption. Once again, Phantom’s sound is so encompassing. The precise playing is only bested by the outstanding percussion. The blend of the two is so dramatic and gives the audience the sound and drama for which they came.
“The Red Violin” is starting to take shape since I last saw it in Stillwater, MN, just the week before. I stated then in DCW that the story was not well-developed yet. The violin is being pursued by several characters throughout the show, with it ending up in the hands of the principal dancer. The visual scores are lacking at this point of the season and I feel that most of it occurs when the corps is being asked to run in the drill. This is an exciting part of the show several times, but is not being executed at the present.

Like last year, once this gets cleaned, their competitors had better look out. Once again, the package is there. Let’s see if they can pull out a late-season upset two years in a row. It’s possible!

Blue Stars, La Crosse, WI

Photo courtesy of Drum Corps World

The Blue Stars is one of my favorite shows to watch this season. It’s amazing how much a corps can change in just one week. In Stillwater, the guard was still in one unitards and the factory tables were just plain tables. This week, the guard now changes when the soldiers go off to war and the women change into ‘40s-style dresses. The factory now has material covering the tables and hiding the underneath side. This adds to the clean look of the factory.

From time to time you get the hint that the guard is spinning cloth from the factory and then the pieces of cloth become flags. In the back of the field there are clothes lines on which several pieces of cloth are being hung out to dry. The in and out of the factory by the guard and the horn line is visually pleasing and the horn line is playing some beautiful, melodic phrases that match the drill they are marching. Last season they broke the top 10 and they are headed in the same direction again this year.

Boston is performing a show titled “The Corps of Temptation.” The tempting theme is presented throughout, not just in the exciting music, but also in the acting out of the temptress in the middle of the show. The guard is sultry and provocative in trying to get the large red apple from the girl. It changes hands form time to time, but at one point, she takes a bite from the apple. The guard then comes up with a flag that has a huge bite from an apple imprinted on the flag.

Sound effects from the pit are a great addition to this show. The horn line is loud and sometimes too brassy. If they tone it down a bit, you might hear the clarity of the notes a bit better. The percussion is strong and the drill is one of the best from them in the last few years. Each year people speculate who might be knocked from the top 12 to let someone new in, but I firmly believe the Boston Crusaders are there to stay.

“The Journey of One” is being presented by the Glassmen. Beginning with Joseph Curiale’s “The Multiples of One,” the corps takes you on a journey depicting the different aspects of “one.” They begin with a single snare and a single guard member moving to the middle of the field when the horn line belts out the first huge note to get your attention.

I first heard this opening tune, “The Multiples of One,” this past fall when Center Grove High School from Greenwood, IN, performed it at Bands of America Grand Nationals. I thought then that some drum corps should pick this up and go with it. It’s a great number.

Glassmen have new uniforms this year that are stylish and slimming, and the guards’ outfit is my favorite of the summer. If possible, check out some web pages for pictures if you don’t get a chance to see them live. Each section of this show is exciting. The corps moves well, plays well and the guard has the most personality I’ve seen in them in years . . . and they spin well, too. The confidence each “one” possesses makes the show very enjoyable to watch.

This has to be my favorite Colts show in a few years. The production is called “Fathoms” and has the nautical feel from tune to tune. The guard’s sailor-looking outfit completes the theme and the music is performed well. There is a nice flow in the drill, even though they had some spacing issues tonight. Second week of tour — can expect that.

There is a good symphonic sound coming from the horn line this year. The storm sequence is so dramatic, with the eye-of-the-storm flags rounding out the theme. Music, drill, guard . . . could this be top 12 for them again? This show has a good chance if it develops well and continues to grow.

Spirit, Jacksonville, AL
Photo courtesy of Drum Corps World

Spirit is doing a fantastic job in getting the audience “warmed up” in their warm-up on the field. They come out with the audio directions of “everyone in their places” to “OK percussion solos, go over your parts.” You actually feel like you are back stage getting ready for a concert.

The show, “Live in Concert,” is Spirit’s retention of some classic tunes that get the audience clapping their hands and bobbing their heads. The drill forms are not hitting at this point in the season, but the sound they produce and the clarity of their music overcompensate for the marching problems. Once they are both in sync, this show will be striving for the top 12 as well.

One favorite part of the show for me is the ballad, “Blowing in the Wind,” when the steel drum player in the pit performs his solo. That sound is just mesmerizing and adds such beauty to the piece.

Tonight was the end of an exciting week for over 1,500 students attending the leadership camp of Bands of America. I spoke with Johnny Whalin, formerly from Indiana, now living in Texas. He was working with the Guard Track. He said that the growth these students show over the course of a few days is tremendous. BOA offers tracks in several areas, such as marching band, concert band and drum majors, just to name a few. They get first-hand experience the last couple of days from one of the drum corps attending the show. This year the corps was Carolina Crown.

The Marching Track got a chance at the end of the evening, before the scores were announced, to perform part of Crown’s show with them on the field. This had to be a memorable event for all the band students.

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

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Posted by on Wednesday, July 1st, 2009. Filed under DCW On-Line.