DCW On-Line: Akron OH Review

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Bluecoats edge past Crown at Akron clash

July 9, 2010 — Akron, OH . . . The “Innovations in Brass” competition was revived in grand fashion at University of Akron’s InfoCision Stadium.  A stellar line-up of past DCI Champions and potentially future ones gave the approximately 2,500 in attendance a great evening of musical and visual entertainment.
The Innovations “brand name” has not been in existence for over a decade.  Once the “staple” corps competition hosted by the Bluecoats since 1972, this show has been on hiatus since 1997.  But tonight, “Innovations” stormed back in vivid blue as the host Bluecoats topped Carolina Crown for the first time in 2010, knocking Crown from the unbeaten ranks.  These two corps have been within one to two points of each other — with Crown on top each time — since the beginning of the season.

Spirit took the field under gray skies, however a few minutes into their iconic program clouds dissipated and audience members were enthralled with dissonant brass strains and a battery percussion line that dialed in the tempo focus quote admirably.  Very recognizable Prokofiev melodies and esoteric Danny Elfman chord structures are managed well by the brass and the guard design both compliments and contrasts in intriguing ways, which come off as close to genius-like at various moments.

With some polish to the visual book and some dynamic restructuring musically, Spirit stands to make strides the rest of their tour.

For all of you “old-school” aficionados — and even people newly exposed to the activity — no one can deny Madison Scouts’ goal is to please the crowd . . . period!  And it works!!  “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” no doubt is signature Scouts and this year they definitely don’t leave any “ink” dry the whole time they are on the field.

And just when you thought Madison couldn’t go any higher on the excitement meter, watch out. “Rhapsody in Blue” and its pulsating beats and lullaby-like phrasings move moods back and forth so gracefully as only this type of show can do.  Yes, the fleur-de-lis is there, as is some nifty footwork out of the entire corps. 

If the “demand” sub-caption was still a significant part of the score sheets, rest assured Boston Crusaders could contend for top honors.  Their “Kingdom Come” presentation takes a royal prize for variety and flair from a truly monarchy standpoint.  Anyone who thought Rachmaninoff scores and (former DCI judge) Jay Kennedy modern classical music couldn’t fit into the same show are mistaken.

Boston Crusaders
Drum Corps World photo by David Rice

BAC’s color guard is stretched to their limit and is focused and consistent.  Their brass and percussion ensembles handle tough conversational segments easily.  Keep an eye on Boston as July wears on.  Smart money says they are on their way up with the right “tweaks.”

The Phantom Regiment can rest assured that this season’s offering is top-tier caliber and let’s be honest, if you’ve seen them, you cannot deny there’s an outside chance Regiment can push into the top five again.  Yes, they will also contend for top percussion honors in Indy in a few weeks.  And yes, their visual offering not only compliments the musical menu, but it even makes it sizzle more in spots.

One young fan near my vantage point more or less used “Wow!” consistently every minute or two while Phantom pulled everyone “”Into the Light” (the title to their presentation this year).

How do The Cavaliers year after year come up with shows that flow so well it makes you wonder?  2010’s “Mad World” further exemplifies why the corps is a perennial contender at any given time, on any given day.  A weakness to this show?  There isn’t one.  The only thing missing is some true velocity in the middle portion in spots.

Even though almost no one in attendance tonight probably knows who Peter Graham is — Cavies are playing his “Harrison’s Dream” — I’ll bet there’s no doubt who Graham is now.  Thanks also for the different snare voicing during your presentation.

Crown will contend for the DCI title in 2010.  Yes, that’s a bold statement, but their show is totally bold, totally capable and totally top-shelf!  “Nimrod” lives up to its sea-bearing background with waves of visual prowess and tides of musical excellence.  Not really sure what CC will do to maximize their potential, but as the calendar gets closer to Indy week, it will be great to see what else can be done with an already complete package.

The Bluecoats will contend for the DCI title in 2010.  No, I am not carbon-copying the review for Crown, but merely stating reality.  Canton controls their own destiny and unless the “wheels” fall off, the “Mertopolis” program ends up taking ‘Coats to their highest placement ever during finals week.  To say that Bluecoats have established themselves among the “upper-elite” in terms of show design and musical artstry would be an understatement.

Also, it doesn’t really matter what DCI’s current roster of percussion judges mark on their score sheets.  Bluecoats and Phantom are the only ensembles out there that should even be considered for top drums. 

It needs to be said that tonight’s venue — InfoCision Stadium on the campus of the University of Akron  — should be seriously considered for a major DCI event.  This complex is a mere two years young and the acoustical setting mirrors what you would hear at Camp Randall in Madison or IU stadium in Bloomington.  Toss in a dedicated and great volunteer staff, and the cooperative spirit of the university, and all the pieces are in place.    What a place to resurrect “Innovations in Brass” and what a place to see drum corps history in the making.

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

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Posted by on Saturday, July 24th, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.