DCW On-Line: Pasadena CA Review

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DCI at Americafest 2010

Fireworks, hotdogs, bar-b-que and the sounds of “Stars and Stripes Forever.”  Oh, and let’s not forget some of America’s best drum and bugle corps.  This years 84th Fourth of July celebration at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, brought out thousands to see five of drum corps’ finest.

Starting with a pre-show hype, the Blue Devils drum line was "free-stylin-it" for the fans who just walked in through the front gate.  While this was going on, tens of thousands waiting just to get in started a slight shoving match and screaming “Blue Devils we love you.”  Because of all of the excitement, many fans that were already inside and in their seats started pouring down to the street level with their kids to see the BD drum line totally work this crowd, which created even more chaos to the mix.

But at the same time, a Santa Clara Vanguard mini-horn line serenaded a huge crowd in the VIP room of the press box, which also included DCI Executive Director Dan Acheson and DCI Field Pass host, Dan Potter.  So, covering just the pre-show was an actual feat in itself, but finally the show started with Los Angeles television award-winning broadcast journalists Pat Harvey and Paul Moyer.

After going through the usual pomp and circumstance, the show continued with a video reading the names of California troops who have fallen in combat.  With several speeches read by California politicians, it was time for the show to begin.

First off, I would like to thank Pat Harvey and her first drum corps experience for the introduction and actually calling the corps “drum and bugle corps” instead of “bands.” That’s a big plus in my book.

First off the line was Pacific Crest from Diamond Bar, CA, and their show called “Maze.”  After seeing this show five consecutive times prior to today and loving it, I wondered if I would get the same feeling as before with tonight’s show.  Well, I did.  As a matter of fact, the corps looked much more relaxed and at ease, thus creating a magnificent blend of classical music and superb marching.

This show is absolutely beautiful and truly shows the progression and determination over the years to get to this corps to a point where they have established their own identity, style and respectability within the drum corps world (no pun intended . . . well, maybe a little).

The Santa Clara Vanguard has a show that gives you the feeling of being at the philharmonic, on Broadway and at the opera, all at the same time.  “Bartok” — that’s the title of this year’s show which is the last name of Hungarian composer and pianist Bela Victor Bartok, who was considered one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

The Vanguard’s show mesmerized this non-drum corps audience, including two guys I met earlier in the parking lot gazing at the SCV drum line.  They said they were rappers and had no idea what drum corps was, but were totally in love with the SCV drum line. They said, “these fools were off the chain” (they were great!).  While seeing the full corps show on the field, I saw them in the stands screaming like seasoned drum corps vets.  Later they were buying t-shirts at the SCV merchandise booth and wanted to know how old you have to be to join.  Unfortunately they were a couple of years too old, but either way you look at it, drum corps has gained two new fans!

The Blue Devils already set their agenda with this huge 4th of July crowd during their pre-show hype.  Now they were looking up to about 40,000 people in the stands.  They took the field and started their powerful, glass-shattering opening number, long enough to impress this mostly non-drum corps crowd and show them they mean business.

Blue Devils
Drum Corps World photo by Francesca DeMello

Now it was time to take them “through a glass darkly,” which happens to be the theme of this year’s show that got the crowd on their feet screaming and saying over and over, “those mirrors are too cool.”  Even with all of the beer, hotdogs and a few minutes of  “the wave,” which was actually louder than the corps, in the end it was a huge standing ovation for the Blue Devils and their highly crowd-pleasing show.

The Academy from Tempe, AZ, came out swinging with their show titled “Strangers in Paradise.”  The corps this year is a bit different that in the past.  Right off the bat they set the mood for what they’re about to hit you with, pure brute force.  This horn line of 2010 is the most aggressive and technically sound that I’ve heard in years from The Academy.

Their drill is fast and aggressive, making it seem like you need a couple of cans of Red Bull to even attempt to watch the show.  This corps looks great and sounds great as well. I can’t wait to see their progression to a hopeful DCI finalist.

The Mandarins also took their show, “To Dream of Far Away Lands” to the Pasadena Rose Bowl for the July 4th festivities.  With Los Angeles being one of the most diverse cities in America, all depictions of exotic, far away lands musically played by this corps were graciously welcomed by all.  Throughout the show, loud bursts of applause were heard by those familiar with music from their particular country which was anywhere from the Himalayas to Bollywood, China and everything in between.

This year’s corps, I have to say, is visually and musically stunning, and that includes the very authentic and beautiful costumes of the Mandarins’ color guard.  We wish them much success on their tour to DCI.

Since covering this event last year, and having objections to the overall rudeness of the audience to the drum corps, I have to say that even though they still did the wave for a couple minutes in the middle of a corps performance, this year’s crowd was much more attentive and respectable.

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

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Posted by on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.