DCW On-Line: Ewing NJ Review

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Things were looking hot in New Jersey at YEA/Surf DCI event

June 29, 2010 — Ewing, NJ . . . The weather in the Northeast had been absolutely scalding the past few days, with high humidity and temperatures up to 98 degrees. I had been at the show in Arlington, VA, just before this one, but the weather here in New Jersey was much worse. We were all thankful that by the time this show started, a weather front rolled through, making for a very nice evening.

The College of New Jersey Stadium is new to the drum corps venue line-up. This was a Youth Education in the Arts/Jersey Surf sponsored show which was packed wall-to-wall. Other than the crowded placement of the t-shirt sales area, it was definitely a venue to be used again.

Not unexpectedly, Carolina Crown took the top spot tonight. Throughout the winter months, the South Carolina corpw has been mentioned as the heir-apparent to win DCI this year. They are very good and have a superb show, but it doesn’t feel as creative as recent shows of the past. The brass really cranks, the drill spreads end zone to end zone, but the percussion was not quite as noticeable as in the second-place Bluecoats’ show.

I’m a fan of the horse race show, so I feel that if they win this year it will be on how clean they can make it. The crowd was definitely impressed, but tonight they were not quite the crowd-pleaser they have been in recent history.

The Bluecoats provided some of the best wow moments of the night. I saw them from up in the stands at Arlington and down on the track in Ewing. They absolutely impress the crowd with their power, humor and show concept. Whoever is doing the pit this year deserves a best-writing award to go with a very creative show. I love the electronic sounds and the devilish notes of the brass solo played through the microphone.

This is the best Bluecoats show I have seen since the 1970s, including their classic “Criminal” production. The brass just knocks you down, the drum line is very hot and the guard constantly adds to the excitement. Some very big, sustained brass notes throughout prove they have the horses to really bring the brass book alive.

And speaking of horses . . . several viewers have said that the hair styles and uniform color on the guard reminded them of Crown’s horse race show from several years ago.

Although I am not usually a fan of body moves, theirs sort of remind me of the Michael Jackson “Thriller” video. The corps is extremely aggressive throughout and I am frankly surprised that they took second.

The third spot was reserved for the Phantom Regiment. They enter from the bottom left corner with the guard spread out in a big sweeping form to the opposite upper corner. Many of the drill moves literally waterfall from place to place and then they add body movement like putting the horns down and pointing skyward off to the distance.

The male rifle line is a big highlight, with several “yikes” moments. They have lots of traditional block spins by the horns in the second segment. In the third movement, drums really push the envelope. The guard uses all rifles at one point and later all sabers.

The crowd in the stands tended to be dead quiet while the member dressed in red played the beautiful solos that started and ended the show. On second viewing, this show is written for championships, where the latter half should be getting the crowd up on their feet. That will apparently have to wait for DCI. I believe I heard some violin synthesizer in this show as well.

The fourth-place Boston Crusaders start their show from the top lefthand corner. Six trumpets play toward a big gold chair on the 35 with a Crusaders logo, while the drum line marches on in procession style. One exciting drill move in the horns is when they lope sideways in big steps while playing. I felt like I was seeing/hearing The Cadets when they really got into things.

The musician’s red uniforms are absolutely vibrant. The guard does some superb work, but their darker uniforms lack lighter colors, which means they at times become invisible in lower light situations. A nice touch is the horn company front and where the rifles are thrown over the top from the back to front.

The chair plays an important part, starting with dueling snares, then other parts of the corps end up playing solos standing on it. There are some nice effects, with spreads that go from five to five near the end. They produce a really big sound several times in the show holding those whole notes.

What’s the big chair all about? With every section trying to climb up on it, drum corps photographer Chris Maher said simply it’s because every one wants to be the King. And as Mel Brooks said in his “History of the World” movie, “It’s good to be the King!”

Spirit, once again calling Atlanta home, is well on their way to building a new icon. Most noticeable are the giant black moveable panels that they use to make the size of the field much smaller. This results in a constant big-corps sound due not to spreading out as much as they might without the panels.

At the Arlington show, you would see performers through the panels moving things around which was very distracting. That was less noticeable tonight. The guard makes effective use of large golden hammers, which they pound against small ladders, to the banging sounds from the pit throughout.

The show is fast-paced and they utilize tight blocks of horns to rotate over and over inside the 30s. New uniforms are very attractive, but the stylized Delta on the chest is hard to distinguish at first glance. Personal choice, but I miss the southern themes and music in their former shows.

Drum Corps World photo by David Rice

The Crossmen’s 2010 production, “Full Circle,” was summed up by an alumnus very simply as being all about the pit and all about the rifle line. Many fans are comparing the 2010 Aaron Guidry musical book to those Metheny tunes written by Chuck Naffier between 2000-2003. Aaron writes more for the marching band idiom as opposed to Chuck’s drum corps style. The complaint from many is that the Metheny guitar melodies have all ended up in the pit rather than being carried by the horns during the show. This could be because of the inexperience of the young brass line, but the show lacks the same number of impacts that the other corps hit you with throughout their shows.

Brass Caption Head Aaron Goldberg told me, “The show is written to be more spread out than say Spirit’s show. There is strength in numbers and the other shows can produce more volume in tight blocks than we are able to attain due to that spread. Also, this is a very young corps, due to last year’s large exodus of players to other corps. There are those who were the disappointed with the horn charts. Impact points that drum corps depend on in key places were missing from that show.

“For instance, this year we have only three big impacts compared to some of the corps that have up to 12. We are going to be spending more time working on adding more power minutes. Up to this point we have been technicians, we now need to turn it around to be musicians first. Our closer is the most under-produced part of the show and we will be working hard to turn that around in the next few weeks. We are actively looking for more tubas and are down about four from what we were hoping to march.”

The Crossmen guard is definitely much improved over last year’s, but seems overshadowed by the all-male rifle line who appear to be the stars for the most of the show. Sabers, who double as flags, are featured later. There are no capes on the musicians this year, but the guard uniforms (and flags) are white with big blue. Those uniforms have a big open circle on the back for ventilation and are hot pants-style. A much different look from their vampire wear of last season.

Local favorite Jersey Surf co-sponsored the show tonight and took the featured spot at the end since Cadets were out in the Midwest this evening. They hit their first year as a World Class corps a little smaller than usual. I spoke with old friend Bob Jacobs who told me a their corps is largely inexperienced and, like the Crossmen, they have lost a number of the old-timers to other corps.

He told me that while most of the corps were moving out of spring training, they were just moving in due to having 23 kids still in local high schools. They are only marching 50 horns, down from 65, due to losing 16 to the Cadets, five to Phantom and three to Blue Devils. Bob told me he got a frantic call from his staff at the Arlington, VA, show a few nights before. They were about to go on and they could not find the tenor line. All were rookies and when they did not get the word to get dressed they were still hanging out on the bus.

The show is based around various arrangements of “America the Beautiful.” Their red guard uniforms with yellow piping has my vote for best looking of the evening. The show has solid horn sounds with several good soloists. Look for the big church organ sound and the Southern-style groove section. I wish they could expand that part since the crowd and the kids really seem to get into it.

Despite their being a little younger and smaller this year, this will be one of their best years by the time they get to Indy.

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 10th, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.