2011 DCW On-Line: San Diego/Walnut/Riverside, California

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by Jim Claytor, Drum Corps World staff (drumcorpsworldjim [at] yahoo [dot] com)

July 1, 2, 3, 2001 – San Diego, Walnut and Riverside, CA — The Santa Clara Vanguard rolled into Southern California this weekend, pumped up and ready to climb that “Devils Staircase” to the top! Improving over a point since their Stockton show just a few days ago, the corps came in second to the Phantom Regiment a the first Pacific Crest-sponsored “Corps at the Crest” competition, yet placing second to the Blue Devils the next evening in Walnut CA, and third at the “Western Corps Connection” in Riverside the following day.

Still having that fast and furious show, the Vanguard is doing a little mid-season retooling to up their score and not looking back down those stairs. Being only about five points from that overall top position, I can’t wait to see the improvement over the next couple of weeks. Still being in awe with the musical capacity of the pit program, this show seems massively difficult from any angle you look at it — horns, drums and or color guard.

Much of this show seems to be based on endurance and seems to slow just a bit by the ending number, but that’s something that can be taken care of in just a few days. This performance is still as powerful as before and is still a must-see, especially from a high vantage point.

The Phantom Regiment and “Juliet” romanticized the crowd this weekend in their three Southern California city stops, resulting in a first-place win over the Santa Clara Vanguard at the “Corps at the Crest” show in San Diego, a second to the Blue Devils at the “Western Corps Connection” in Riverside and a third SCV at “Corps at the Crest” in Walnut. This production gets smoother and smoother each passing day, but being just a fraction away from this weekend’s top position in the area of GE, the Regiment is only about five points from capturing the top position nationwide.

After speaking with a few members post-Riverside show, they all had two words for me: “It’s on!” Dealing with the frustration of the ups and downs of a scoring roller coaster ride, they all agreed that now is usually the time when most corps are discussing and evaluating their performances, and making adjustments to mitigate any possible scoring downfalls.

Don’t get me wrong, Phantom’s show is absolutely beautiful and actually flows extremely smoothly from one musical selection to another. It’s still fairly early at this stage of the game, so come August, I think we are all in for a big surprise. This is a great show to bring that special someone to see, but I highly recommend it to everyone, because this is a musical masterpiece.
Pacific Crest put their best foot forward (pun intended . . . lol) and was very hyped this weekend about their new 2011 show, “Push, Pull, Twist and Turn.” Making sure to create the perfect impression that comes with the first hometown show of the year, these guys were slightly all ajitter, but had tons of energy like Red Bull was flowing through their veins. Even though their scores were up and down for the three-day Southern California shows, PC entertained the crowd like no other.

Having energy like I’ve never seen from this corps before, PC was obviously riding their short board in the Pacific Ocean and was rippin’ it up on 10-foot waves at the “wedge” (a Southern California surf spot). By the end of the first song, that energy exuding from the corps was pretty infectious and started to resonate throughout the stands. Their official hometown show in Walnut attracted from what I was told a record sell-out crowd, that actually formed long lines outside the stadium with fans waiting for over an hour to get in.

The crowd was in prime form to cheer them on. I would personally like to give credit to the corps’ staff, which in my book put together a corps this year that seems to be in a style and element that fits like a glove. Musically this season’s song choice is hot, stylish, innovative and shows the evolution and the positive impact of the possibilities given and created by this great organization for years to come. PC is in it to win it.

The Mandarins and their production of “Forty Thieves” came to Southern California to show their Northern California dominance also had a big effect in the south as well. Knowing that Pacific Crest was still on their heels, the corps was out to try and stifle PC these three shows. Unfortunately, the corps couldn’t quite steal enough of the limelight from their rivals and move up in the standings . . . yet!

But with that beautiful-sounding horn line and a great color guard, I think this will be a fight to the end. Currently there is a little more than a point separating the two corps, which can change from one day to the next. The Mandarins’ drum line and pit are very effective and carry a large part of current show, but be it known, they do it exquisitely when blended with that powerful horn line that I love listening to.

The Academy is pure class. This corps walked on the field and exuded respect without the fear of doubt. I personally have to admit that their new black uniforms are the classiest I’ve ever seen in my 36-year involvement with this activity, except for the 1977 uniforms of the Argonne Rebels from Great Bend KS (my old corps). Having a show titled “RE”, meaning “For every action, there is a reaction,” their 2011 program is more than just a show, it’s a musical interpretation of visual variations in the realm of repetition. Repetition with deeply rooted musicality and a horn line that can pull off such a phenomenal feat.

The show is energetic, fast, loud and absolutely beautiful. The color guard uniforms are perfectly designed to give major contrast in the corps’ performance and enhance the show visually in any particular area, but done with brilliant style. This show is a very modern interpretation of music, but uses a hint of repetition as a medium, that medium very well coinsides with a program played more into the area of a film score, such as the feature film “Inception.”

This performance was modern, repetitious, powerful, but wildly entertaining. Though their visit to Southern California kept them in that fourth position, their work ethic, hot drum line, wildly athletic color guard and one of my favorite World Class horn lines could place them in DCI Finals next month. On a difficulty level, I would have to give the Academy a 9 out of 10 for their 2011 production of “RE.”

Gold and their staff are taking us on the set of their new production titled “Reel to Reel.” Dr. Donald Flaherty, who is an actual Hollywood film producer as well as corps director, set up a perfect Hollywood scenario with this year’s theme. Starting off is the sound of the film director saying “Quiet on the set, please,” which is followed by him saying, “Come on baritones, places and speed on the film,” then the corps comes alive with a light, airy, energetic piece, giving you the sound and sensation of movement.

This is all built up to a great solo by the bass drum line, that’s followed up by the director saying “Action,” which is when the entire corps slams you with all of that built-up energy. As the show progresses, the film director is keeping tabs on the tenor line when all sound some to a halt and he asks if they can “Just get the tenors in the shot, please!” Then the tenors play a fantastic, quick solo that I would love to hear again and again.

But then again there’s silence and he says, “Now let see if we can get everyone in the shot,” and Gold comes alive with anticipated exuberance and ends the first segment. As the show progresses, this Open Class corps shows you that it’s not always necessary to be a World Class unit to create an extremely entertaining field production.

The color guard is an excellent example of a top-notch organization, as well as the corps itself. Dr Flaherty himself has stated that “In order to support a top notch drum corps these days you have to think out of the box.” So that being said, he has produced a feature film titled “The Steam Room” staring the beautiful Morgan Fairchild as a fund-raiser. This type of out-of-the-box thinking is what’s needed in today’s marketing of drum and bugle corps. So go out and help your local drum corps and keep this activity alive. This film is available at www.steamroom-movie.com.

Impulse comes out of the gate and immediately gets up-close and personal with their powerful horn line that just blows you away! The 2011 theme is titled “Tribute” — a tribute to the music of drum corps’ yesteryears. Knowing that there are so many of us old timers — and newbies as well — that really appreciate the music played several years ago representing a completely different era of the activity we all love.

With an impressive color guard and a fantastic drum line, the drill is one that’s fast and furious. The creativity and maturity established by the corps is very commendable. With a nice ballad midway through, things quickly turn and this full-sounding horn line comes back at you for a second time. Now, the drum solo . . . excellent. Thed drum line is fast, musically articulate, especially in their solo that totally wowed the crowd, with great trumpet solos and some very impressive tubas.

Impulse is performing the best that I’ve seen in years. I also have to give credit to the new corps director, Omar Vidana, and the co-director, Carolyn Parsons, for creating the corps we’ve been waiting for over the years and bringing drum corps back to its roots. Very well done!

City Sound, Los Angeles, CA, 2011. (Drum Corps World photo by Francesca DeMello)


City Sound is bringing the “Sounds of Our City” to drum corps . . . “An Urban Musical Tour of LA 2011.” With music to open their performance from LA’s own “Ozomatli ,” you know right off the bat that this is going to be a fun show. In new blue and white uniforms, the corps strutted their way, showing both poise and sophistication. The program is one that depicts the musical sounds of the people who call Los Angeles home.

It’s not a show depicting the somewhat superficial hype and looks created by the Hollywood media, but instead, the “real” music played by the real people who live and work in this city. The opening number City of Angeles by Ozomatli. is a hip-hop/funk taste of LA’s inner-city, then grooves its way into a house party favorite called Saturday Night. The opening number features a great trumpet soloist, who captures the funkiness of hanging out with your friends on a Saturday night in LA’s urban community, complete with the drum line and pit throwin’ in that extra funky beat.

As their performance continues, a tribute to the founders of Los Angeles with a song titled Pistola El Corazon by an East LA group Los Lobos.

The drill performed by City Sound was written by Ryan H. Turner and performed very well. As this beautiful production continues, City Sound plays the Etta James classic At Last, closing with some very cool and upbeat music by Fishbone and hot percussion charts by the great percussionist CJ Jackson. “So let me tell you a little something about LA” and the past two shows of this corps . . . We love it!

The Velvet Knights opened there 2011 season with the sounds of opening day at the baseball stadium. They were so precise, it even included the sounds of ushers selling programs, crowd noises in the background and the removing of their hats for the National Anthem, as the corps turned and faced the American flag on the field. This corps went all out this year, including new baseball uniforms, flags that represent the stitching on baseballs and instead of rifles, the guard spins baseball bats.

This is a great continuation of the overall theme titled “Play Ball.” VK’s opening number is from the 1992 Columbia Picture “A league of their own” staring Madonna, Tom Hanks and Gena Davis. About four minutes into the performance, the entire corps stops for an impromptu baseball game that lasts a few seconds and is entirely unexpected. But remember what I said in my last article regarding the Velvet Knights — expect the unexpected.

Later on in the show the corps takes a quick step back in time, with a few musical selections from the motion picture “The Natural” staring Robert Redford, Glen Close and Robert Duvall. Later on, the sports announcer comments on a high fly ball out of the park, which happens to be the beginning of the seventh inning stretch. Now we all know what happens during the seventh inning stretch right? Well, in this case, it’s a first for drum corps, when VK has the entire crowd on their feet and singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game while the horn line plays this classic song and closes out the show. If you want pure fun and entertainment this is a don’t-miss production!

SoCal Dream, Los Angeles, CA, 2011. (Drum Corps World photo by Francesca DeMello)


So Cal Dream started their year out in Southern California with a show titled “Dream Riffs.” Director Mike Nash says, “This year the music is faster and more exciting, you’ll notice a huge difference.” Even though the corps is a bit smaller, the music is still equally beautiful and much more upbeat than last year. With a color guard in beautiful bright blue satin dresses and a fantastic opening number soloist, this combination really adds a little bit of sexiness to their 2011 program.

The repertoire includes an opener titled Baroque Samba, followed by a French composition titled Les feuilles mortes which in English is called Autumn Leaves with a slight SoCal Dream jazz twist. The next piece has some really great melodies simply called In Her Family, followed by a high-energy jazz number Nutville. The overall performance had some great solos and drill. Earlier this year the corps director told me that “The corps was in ‘stealth mode’ ” and getting information out of him was like trying to fly to Hawaii without a plane – impossible . . . lol. Well, it looks like the plane has landed and now it time to go check out SoCal Dream!

Posted by on Friday, July 15th, 2011. Filed under DCW On-Line, FrontPage Feature.