DCW On-Line: Bridgeport CT Review

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Hot Time in Bridgeport as DCI returns to Connecticut

July 5, 2010 – Bridgeport, CT . . . Steamy temps and even hotter music came to town as the Boston Crusaders hosted “Bridgeport Drums” at historic John F. Kennedy Stadium. It was the first time in almost a decade that the junior circuit had visited the ‘Port and the sweaty throng showed their appreciation as they were treated to a heapin’ helpin’ of music and motion.  Fresh off a tornado a few days before, Beepo recorded record temps that clung to the Central High turf well into the evening.

Let’s put it this way: it was so flippin’ hot, Moe Knox had shorts on!

The CT Tigers Honor Guard presented the colors in a touching moment; these differently abled kids stood proud to kick off the proceedings.

The show

It was great to see the Spartans back on the field.  Although they are not fielding the numbers they did in their salad days of D-II prominence, the navy-and-cream-clad Nashuans dished up a spritely Key Poulan/Robert Smith book in fiery fashion, as if the Park City needed more of a burn.

Splendid equipment work by a classy guard highlighted the Dante-inspired program. Even with only ten trumpets, the brass line was incendiary, with a high risk/reward factor.  Especially pleasing was the closer of La Giudecca, punctuated with some muy caliente low-horn dissonance.

The only DCI corps from the Nutmeg State followed with Macabre.  7th Regiment fittingly opened with Danse Macabre by Saint-Saëns, emulating the scordatura tuning of the original, tip-toeing deftly with two lips.  Sensitive brush work from snares spiced the Navarette piece (with a vocal intro!), leading into Ravel’s famous F-major quartet.

Now it was a volley of the dolls as guard members found well-stuffed dancing partners (corps corpses?) as they sashayed stunningly through the piece.  Then it was time to hit the throttle and do a quick u-ey into a Danny Elfman dismount from his Serenada Schizophrana, complete with a killer accelerando section.  By this time, corps was sweating a lake. Eerie? You bet. The best I have ever seen the New Londoners.

Yes, you can do this country proud musically without a Sousa march.  Jersey Surf kicked off the World Class segment with a well-sorted gavotte over the fruited plains and shining seas.  Off the gun was the anthem, with a 6/8 touch and too-cool, fake-out ending in the Key of Francis Scott.

America was dotted with tricky 16th-note trumpet runs and ended with a sweet dollop of  Latin love via perc and pit.  America the Beautiful in 12/8?  Not a problem, as the corps rode a rollicking wave into the Ray Charles version with verve and vivacity.

Later in the piece, the groove went South with a funky Dixieland feel (with pit pleasingly providing a clarinet-y touch).  Goose-bumps on that seventh-chord ending, too.  This writer’s first time seeing the Hang Tenners as a World Class outfit.  Which they are.

Spirit punched the clock with blood, sweat and veers via their industrial-strength Forging an Icon offering. Guard members wielded “sledges” and “workbenches” as SFX from the well-sorted pit gave us the sounds of the factory, including hissing steam, whirring machinery — everything short of a Cuisinart.

Drum Corps World photo by Pat Chagnon

The span of music was remarkable: it’s hard to go wrong with a Keith Emerson opener (which ended in a terrific block formation) with stops at Prokofiev, Herrmann and Daugherty.  Not be copycats, they also trotted out the Elfman schizo sortie which was Oingo-Boingo good — fast, frantic and fun.  Multiple backdrops made for a visually stunning picture, very artful and pleasing.

No one in the activity has interpreted Pat Metheny better than Crossmen, who came back in black to Beepo with a new spin on their fave composer.  If you’re looking for head-pounding 4/4 time, look elsewhere.  Dem Bones wove time signatures swimmingly, providing hints of years past without Xeroxing them.

A lusty, in-your-face pit delivered slammin’ tom work, “where’s one” hand-clapping and some scintillating keyboard runs.  Minuano evoked some fond memories of my earlier, Crum-mier days covering shows for DCW.  Full circle, indeed, with a nice stopover at Bensalem.

Yes, the best came last as the Boston Crusaders took the turf.  The opening itself is breathtaking, aurally and visually, as the kingdom comes in from the northeast corner in a moving warm-up.  Then there is a breath-long break — just enough time for an announcer to slip in the corps’ name.  Good luck, Brandt Crocker, I hope you hit your mark.

The entire show is regal, stately, majestic even.  Cool moment: the snare drum “duel at the throne.”  I stood with a grizzled BAC alum (probably from the El Capitan days) and probably forgot to breathe during the Rachmaninov.  Paganini sounded simply lustrous, featuring the brass in umpteen different dynamic levels, with tons of technique and seamless execution.

On an editorial note: it is a wonderful thing to see a cadre of designers take classical music and not just adapt it for the field, but make it sound like true drum corps.  Halfway through this show, I wanted to hear it again.

 Mad props go out to the hometown Connecticut Hurricanes, in exhibition, who not only wowed the steaming masses, but changed their start time to accommodate the late-arriving corps held up in traffic.  This year the gold rush climbs Jacob’s ladder in the Heaven Sent program.  Nifty opening quotes from Ode to Joy, a brief homily from Bernstein’s God Said and a finale of Rutter’s Gloria.  The top-shelf guard is as good as ever and Kevin Lynch has the battery battering like demons.
The numbers

One was the onliest number for the Cru crew, garnering a fistful of firsts, as did Spartans in Open Class.  Spirit and Crossmen swapped seconds and thirds, with Bones getting the nod in music and GE, but the Southern feet provided a bigger gap, enabling them to squeak out second by .15.
On the sidelines

Overall a well-done job by Crusader staff, led by Tom Spataro and Dave Simon, to orchestrate a show 150 miles from home.  Help came in from the Hurcs and Regiment, too.  Old friends on the adjudication team, Mickey Kelley, back in his home town, on visual.  Jeff Prosperie (with his lovely daughter Savannah) on drums, he’s now teaching the Hellcats at West Point. 

“Judge Judy” Ulchinsky was in the house, along with brass maven Paul Hinman.  I had Spirit and Xmen neck and neck – – so did the panel.  Contest coordinator Dave Surface worked like crazy, having to shuffle corps around due to their arrival from Bristol, RI, where many had marched in a parade that day.

This was my favorite BAC version since the ‘60s; I have never seen the corps better since I began at Drum Corps World in 1991.  Yes, I would gladly see a show of 13-22 “slotters” anytime, anywhere.  That’s how good the level of DCI talent is right now. DCI, please make Beeport a yearly stop on the tour!

See you, as always, on the sidelines.

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 28th, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.