2011 DCW On-Line: Bealeton, Virginia

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by William Aldrich-Thorpe, Drum Corps World staff (aldrichthorpe [at] gmail [dot] com)

Crown lit up the sky with phenomenal aerial color guard tricks while filling the night air with their outstanding “Rach Star” production. This night notched the corps with their highest score this season and the top of the leaderboard as they head northward to their DCI Eastern Classic performance on Saturday.

This night was heads and tails different for the corps that tried to perform in Chesapeake, VA, the evening before , ending the competition when Mother Nature decided to perform her own classic Rain to Spoil Your Night Cha-Cha. It was not to be this night as fans and performers alike were party to a beautiful day-into-evening of 83 degree temperature and dry, with a mere wisp of a breeze. It allowed one to simple enjoy the shows with no worries about anything else.

It turned out to be an easy victory for Crown with their amazing and fun production titled “Rach Star” that featured outstanding performances from all sections. From the beginning fans had high expectations as the corps wheeled out their large metal towers and they got their first glimpse of the color guard costumes that looked as if they were ready to rock the house with black leather, lace and face make-up, coupled with punked-out hair. From the moment they entered the field it was game-on and they well represented the attitude of the corps’ style of show.

Carolina Crown, Ft. Mill, SC, Drum Corps World photo by Harry Heidelmark

The corps performance was outstanding! They get the crowd chanting from the very beginning with We are the Champions from Queen and the fun never stops until you can catch your breath as they leave the field.

The brass performance has been gaining fans everywhere they perform, you simply cannot help be enraptured by the whole production. Even with the recycling of these historical musical numbers, the corps has found a way to take a completely fresh approach and make the tunes unique.

Percussion was on fire tonight and they, too, are gaining in numbers markedly nearly every show. The front ensemble is in a class by itself with a keyboardist that literally defines “Rach Star.” The mastery of his performance is not lost on this crowd as they were spellbound with his panache and performance velocity. The battery was not to be outdone, as they also brought in their best performance of the season.

The guard has this very cool, “hard” look and they attack their performance with much the same ferocity as they can sell this show with a mere look. What I noted most as I watched this group fly from set to set was the aerial displays of weapons and flags that seemed to fly higher and higher in the inky night sky, as if it was designed like watching a grand fireworks display and you almost catch yourself oohing and ahhhing through the performance. It was a show that simply left you exhausted, like riding a very exciting rollercoaster, but at the end you find yourself saying “let’s do that again!”

Okay, I will admit it here that I have a bit of a struggle truly understanding the Blue Knights’ 2011 production titled “English Folks Song Suite.” I get the color guard costumes as street people of jolly ol’ England around the days of the Robin Hood lore. But I have some difficulty matching up the different musical numbers to the overall production theme. Now, this is not to say that this corps doesn’t perform – oh, no, no! They’re crisp and clean, and the dynamic expressions, both musically and visually, all that goes with this program are excellent. The reaction from the stands certainly betrays my lack of understanding because they certainly gave the corps one heck of a shout throughout the performance. So to all you Blue Knights fans, please do not be offended by my comments, I truly appreciate the programming and excellent performance standards the corps is laying out there show after show and I really want to like the show. Maybe in time?

When you watch the Blue Stars wheeling out those large scaffolding city scenes you cannot help but be in awe of the potential of how they can be used in the show even before the first note or movement. They look fantastic and yes, a little bit scary as well. When the guard also enters the field, you have to do a double-take because man do they look tough (seems to be a trend this season). The anticipation was killing me waiting for the show to start because the programing of the 2011 production “REBOURNE” with the music from the “Bourne” film series and bits and pieces of music used from “The Matrix,” forced fans to keep themselvesw in check to gauge the corps’ actual performance and not the one running around in your head.

I will tell you this, no one left the stadium not sated by that huge production. From the cool sounds of the muted trumpets on the platform to the tenors center-stage way up high, it was such a clever and fun production from start to finish. The guard was great tonight with their fast-paced performance and all those cool weapon tricks — WOW! is the least I can say abdout the Stars this evening.

One of the great fun shows to watch this season is Spirit of Atlanta’s “ATL Confidential: A Tribute to Film Noir” that is replete with the entire genre that the film noir can offer. It starts from the taped medley of all the old black and white film scores as the corps took to the field. The show has many twists and turns, and that includes a “Lady in Red” and shot-in-the-dark special effects. The entire production is well-developed and this is not always an easy thing to produce on the field when it comes to the classic “who done it!” programs. Brass and percussion was solid tonight, and the guard had a great time as Spirit brought it to this audience tonight and they loved it!

Glassmen has a very unique and fun program titled “My Mortal Beloved” that has a few tongues wagging “top 12 – maybe?”. Whether that happens or not this has to be one of Glassmen’s coolest productions. From the entry of the woman veiled in a long black train to the love battle between the immortal and the mortal, this production can keep your attention from start to finish. The production has great brass and percussion performances couple with a pretty slick visual production. If this program seems to lack is possibly more velocity to stand with some of the other corps currently scored above them. Color guard and percussion are outstanding and they are performing this show to the max. Brass is solid as well but still need to lock in this complex book but watch out if they do, they will be a dark horse to watch come next week in Indy.

Even though they have hailed from San Antonio, Texas for several season now, the Crossmen still have a loyal following here on the east coast. They got a similar loud shout out welcome from the fans in the stands. Many in the community like to point out Crossmen and their 2011 production titled “Renewal” is a straight out excellent no nonsense drum corps show. No huge special effects or gimmicks just quality performances with nicely controlled tempos. The brass is solid in their ensemble; they seemed to resonate their program to the audience very well. Percussion, most notably the battery, is performing with that quality x-men sound. Color guard was having a good night as they make the production visually come to life especially with their white outfits in keeping with the “Renewal” theme.

The Jersey Surf was first up this evening and boy are they a lot of fun to watch. Their color guard in their lime green uniforms and a cool headgear that is certainly hard to miss is the strength of their program titled “Petal Tones: Shades of Roses”. Brass is still maturing into the production and has shown marked improvement over the past few shows. The Percussion performance and book at times seem like they are on a different plane than the brass and it seems, at times unclear, of the intent, however, they perform it with great style dynamically and precision. The front ensemble is very musical but does not shine through as one would have hoped. Visually the program stands up well as it is highly entertaining, musically the program is hard to read but not because of the performers. This is a really good production that has some very clever moments both visually and musically.

Posted by on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011. Filed under DCW On-Line, FrontPage Feature.