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DCI Finals


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#1 EdMedina

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 08:14 AM

Two days removed from 2011's Drum Corps International championship show, I feel motivated to share a few impressions of what took place in Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night. First, however, let it be said that this was the first finals in my recent memory at which I enjoyed every show in the top 12 and wished there were more spots in finals for the corps who did their thing but placed lower than twelfth. That said, the strong performances at finals coupled with above average fan interactions made for a fantastic evening of drum corps, and that's no exaggeration.

Starting at the top, I had mixed feelings on the chosen world champs, The Cadets. Positives: they whack you over the head with concept; drill was smartly written and was superb; electronics were stunningly used and very appropriate for their show. Lots of high-tempo marching and playing and they had a loud, full brass sound.

My reservations in agreeing with the judges' decision and buying into it were these: compared to the second-place Blue Devils, there were many more "young" and "inexperienced" performers who stuck out visually and, at times, musically. Now, in the content-versus-content discussion comparing the top two corps, one could argue Cadets asked their kids to do more visually and athletically at more times during their show, meaning I need to chill out with my expectation for their execution to be rock solid all the way through. I get that, and that sways me somewhat.

However, the Blue Devils displayed quite a high level of sophistication and finesse in performing their show, which I didn't see present in the winning team. It's tough to explain and maybe other reviewers will have spoken on this topic, but I saw a nervous and almost tentative energy in the Cadets on finals night. I could be wrong, but they seemed down a click on the confidence meter, getting through their show and breathing a sigh of relief at the end.

Otherwise, I had no problems with them winning. They certainly deserved the title and the crowd gave them the love the deserved.

Blue Devils, on the other hand, having braised it all week in the Indianapolis Colts' indoor training facility, laid their show out there on a rectangle plate under a massive brick, concrete and steel tourine and made it look easy. This idea of performing in a relaxed versus uptight manner is what I think erroneously made Devils' show look easier than that of The Cadets. The Blue Devils, obviously, are a veteran drum corps (lots of age outs this year), meaning just about every kid in that corps understood their performance to be not only about nailing dots, notes and movements. They performed with swagger, confidence and a stage presence not seen in any other group at finals.

Did this lose the title? Was it theirs to lose? Interesting questions for the fan of DCI, for sure. Let's add a few others: Does Blue Devils have to design a tougher show for their highly skilled and more experienced corps? Is the expectation now higher for a 14-time world champion?

The Cavaliers were "the corps my hungry stomach skipped" at finals. They got a pretty large ovation from the audience -- this I could hear in the tunnel while digging in to a freshly fried plate of twice-dipped French fries, chicken fingers and ketchup. Salty goodness!

Carolina Crown was a rock concert from the get-go and had my entourage's heads banging from start to finish. The horn line was incredibly controlled and balanced. Hits were spot on. "Freebird" at the end sold the show and had the crowd standing the entire tune.

I wonder what held Crown back. Visually, their movement, from my vantage point, was second only to the Blue Devils and they carried off the "rock star" image as if Steven Tyler had come to rehearsal to do a clinic on it. Their concept -- and the way they smacked its audience upside the head with it -- was second only to The Cadets.

Phantom Regiment captivated the audience with its "Juliet" production, finishing it true to Shakespeare's play at finals. My entourage and I enjoyed their brass sound and the cleanliness with which they attacked their drill and music. The added oomph of the ending -- with Romeo the drum major taking his life and Juliet using the dagger on the podium -- really sold the show and was reminiscent of their "Spartacus" win at Bloomington a few years back. A highlight for this superfan was the opening of the show, the first tune and the way in which it set the tone for theatrical suspension -- I forgot I was at a drum corps show for a moment and was mesmerized by their performance. I didn't want their show to be over.

Vanguard. Vanguard, Vanguard, Vanguard. My favorite corps of all time, ask anyone who knows me. All I can say is this -- they manned/womanned up and ended the year in solid shape. The drum line was amazing, no doubt. Visually, they were ok. I think they must consider, however, their brass caption and musical book.

Bluecoats' opening tune sticks out for me, big time. I loved the way the corps comes in off the outer edges of the field, forms that wedge and then uses body to communicate Radiohead's "Creep." They needed more time to get the rest of the show clean and up to the level of the opener.

The Boston Crusaders "Revolution" show and Blue Knights’ “Suite" were both solid finalists and fun to watch. But in this bracket of finalists the Madison Scouts drove it like they stole it. If you are looking for a way to grab an audience, go to a seminar run by Scouts' design team. The audience was sold from beginning to end.

For a bunch of Midwesterners, Madison's show was New York through and through, without the smell or boiled hot dogs. There was, however, lots of traffic. Guys were seen walking around in suits reading newspapers. There were honking horns and squealing brakes. Even Jay-Z was there (musically) with Alicia Keys. No one yelled, "Hey, I'm walking here," but a clear idea of setting and place was evident. It was NYC on a field and the crowd ate it up like a fresh slice from Ray's.

Spirit of Atlanta opened the show solidly and Blue Stars followed up more than adequately. If Spirit went back to its roots then Blue Stars showed how far the activity has progressed. Blue Stars' electronics were awesome. There, I said it. I don't know what they did, but their music really communicated well with the subs blasting away. For Spirit, "Harlem Nocturne" had me at hello.

The irony, I thought, was in Blue Stars' placement. They were eleventh, but all season they performed in the great G-8 Tour of Champions as a top-eight unit, based on last year's finish. It reminded me of why we "play the game" all summer. This year's elite can be next year's success story for another corps (or three) and Cinderella could show up at any time -- just ask Star of Indiana.

My wish is that DCI leaves the competition intact and realize people will still pay to come to the games. Yeah, people paid to see that TOC stuff. I would have too! But I also still would have paid to see the other groups who didn't finish top eight. These days, it appears all groups have a good design. They all move well and they all use electronics to their advantage.

But in the end, it's a game. That's why we fell in love in the first place and why we come back year after year after year.

Edited by EdMedina, 15 August 2011 - 09:04 AM.

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#2 Schickmeister

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 03:02 PM

However, the Blue Devils displayed quite a high level of sophistication and finesse in performing their show, which I didn't see present in the winning team. It's tough to explain and maybe other reviewers will have spoken on this topic, but I saw a nervous and almost tentative energy in the Cadets on finals night. I could be wrong, but they seemed down a click on the confidence meter, getting through their show and breathing a sigh of relief at the end.


Great post! Really enjoyed reading.

In regards to the Cadets comments I do agree on many levels, however, do want to respond to the "energy at Finals" comment above.

Full disclosure: I was NOT there at Finals, but as a recent alum of the corps I was/am in contact with members, staff, alums, and leadership alike that were there. From all accounts it was the most energetic and moving performance most have been apart of. Not only in 2011, but in their drum corps careers! Sure there is a bias there, but I trust these people enough to tell me when it doesn't happen for them on the field.

Just found it interesting that you feel the performance was somewhat tentative. Any areas in particular that stick out? I ask because I'd like to go back to the video and see for myself.

Thanks again!
Jason
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#3 KAW

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 05:00 PM

Great post! Really enjoyed reading.

In regards to the Cadets comments I do agree on many levels, however, do want to respond to the "energy at Finals" comment above.

Full disclosure: I was NOT there at Finals, but as a recent alum of the corps I was/am in contact with members, staff, alums, and leadership alike that were there. From all accounts it was the most energetic and moving performance most have been apart of. Not only in 2011, but in their drum corps careers! Sure there is a bias there, but I trust these people enough to tell me when it doesn't happen for them on the field.

Just found it interesting that you feel the performance was somewhat tentative. Any areas in particular that stick out? I ask because I'd like to go back to the video and see for myself.

Thanks again!


I was there and agreed it seemed a little tentative. But this has to be put in perspective against others (e.g. Phantom and others) who absolutely killed it. I can see where for members of Cadets they accurately believe it was the most energetic and moving performance they've been a part of, it's just that the bar was raised incredibly high earlier in the evening.

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#4 jwillis35

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 05:58 PM

Starting at the top, I had mixed feelings on the chosen world champs, The Cadets. Positives: they whack you over the head with concept; drill was smartly written and was superb; electronics were stunningly used and very appropriate for their show. Lots of high-tempo marching and playing and they had a loud, full brass sound.

My reservations in agreeing with the judges' decision and buying into it were these: compared to the second-place Blue Devils, there were many more "young" and "inexperienced" performers who stuck out visually and, at times, musically. Now, in the content-versus-content discussion comparing the top two corps, one could argue Cadets asked their kids to do more visually and athletically at more times during their show, meaning I need to chill out with my expectation for their execution to be rock solid all the way through. I get that, and that sways me somewhat.


I think you are pretty correct in your assessment here. The Cadets mostly won because of a terrific GE vehicle that also showcased a very good guard, brass line, and percussion section. But it was GE and content that got it for them. I did disagree with them winning visual ex. That was Blue Devils all the way, as was Visual Ensemble. Visual GE, sure, that was Cadets! Overall, from just a performance standpoint, the Blue Devils came across to myself and my friend as the best performers. They had more control of their show than anyone. And you are correct about your comments below about Crown. They looked the second best to us from just a performance standpoint. Crown's visual technique was almost as good as BD's.

Now some of the tentative nature you spoke of with the Cadets (and I agree) is certainly caused by what they are being asked to perform. Their show, for the uninitiated, may seem not as hard as others, but I can tell you that the large-scale movement in this show, sometimes while backing up with no cover, no tempo indication (other than looking for legs around them and keeping pulse in their head), and while having to hold very large, open forms where it is easy to see errors...well all this made their show almost too hard to perform. At times you watch them and you hold your breath or cross your fingers that someone doesn't fall or that there is not a massive tear. The split percussion stuff was also risky. I do think the judges took content into consideration, as they have to, and the demand here was off the charts.

At any rate, both corps were fabulous. If it had come down to performance only, the Blue Devils would have won. The Cadets got this one because of GE.


Carolina Crown was a rock concert from the get-go and had my entourage's heads banging from start to finish. The horn line was incredibly controlled and balanced. Hits were spot on. "Freebird" at the end sold the show and had the crowd standing the entire tune.

I wonder what held Crown back. Visually, their movement, from my vantage point, was second only to the Blue Devils and they carried off the "rock star" image as if Steven Tyler had come to rehearsal to do a clinic on it. Their concept -- and the way they smacked its audience upside the head with it -- was second only to The Cadets.


Again I agree. Crown should have been closer to Cavaliers and BD, even Cadets. They were right in the mix. At quarterfinals I might have put them in 2nd, BD 1 and Cadets at 3. At semifinals I had Crown at 3. Not really sure what judges were reading, but their visual technique was the second best to me, and their ensemble movement was outstanding.

Nice review! Thanks for sharing!

Edited by jwillis35, 15 August 2011 - 06:06 PM.

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#5 EdMedina

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Posted 16 August 2011 - 08:10 AM

Great post! Really enjoyed reading.

In regards to the Cadets comments I do agree on many levels, however, do want to respond to the "energy at Finals" comment above.

Full disclosure: I was NOT there at Finals, but as a recent alum of the corps I was/am in contact with members, staff, alums, and leadership alike that were there. From all accounts it was the most energetic and moving performance most have been apart of. Not only in 2011, but in their drum corps careers! Sure there is a bias there, but I trust these people enough to tell me when it doesn't happen for them on the field.

Just found it interesting that you feel the performance was somewhat tentative. Any areas in particular that stick out? I ask because I'd like to go back to the video and see for myself.

Thanks again!


Thank you, Jason.

I mean no disrespect to The Cadets at all. I know those are some amazing drum corps people inside and out of the membership and I know they work hard and reap deserved rewards. They've brought me to my feet many times over the years.

I guess, however, I saw finals as a composite of their week and I let previous performances taint my reading of them at finals. On Friday night my eye was drawn in the direction of the maroon horn line several times due to missed releases. Thus, I found myself watching that side of the field when they were separated and I saw a few of the tuba players scuffing their feet at the higher tempo. One tuba player fell during the run through and he looked to recover ok, but there was some rub in terms of tempo and such after that from a few individuals.

Hey, they're attempting some crazy stuff out there, I know. I'll give them that in a heartbeat.

On Saturday, I couldn't help but look over there again. Not that it was rough, but it just didn't feel confident.

Again, just what I saw. They rocked the house, no doubt, and they opened a bit of a spread on Devils that I had a hard time understanding.

Edited by EdMedina, 16 August 2011 - 08:13 AM.

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#6 Schickmeister

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Posted 17 August 2011 - 10:59 AM

Thank you, Jason.

I mean no disrespect to The Cadets at all. I know those are some amazing drum corps people inside and out of the membership and I know they work hard and reap deserved rewards. They've brought me to my feet many times over the years.

I guess, however, I saw finals as a composite of their week and I let previous performances taint my reading of them at finals. On Friday night my eye was drawn in the direction of the maroon horn line several times due to missed releases. Thus, I found myself watching that side of the field when they were separated and I saw a few of the tuba players scuffing their feet at the higher tempo. One tuba player fell during the run through and he looked to recover ok, but there was some rub in terms of tempo and such after that from a few individuals.

Hey, they're attempting some crazy stuff out there, I know. I'll give them that in a heartbeat.

On Saturday, I couldn't help but look over there again. Not that it was rough, but it just didn't feel confident.

Again, just what I saw. They rocked the house, no doubt, and they opened a bit of a spread on Devils that I had a hard time understanding.



All good! Great review!

:thumbup:
Jason
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#7 George Dixon

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 02:31 PM

It's hard to match BD in terms of experience & talent

They are the Yankees of DCI - especially with SCV weaker lately on the left coast. And Crown has pulled some of the mid atlantic horn talent south - in the prior two decades it all headed up 95 -- VA is more Crown country now...

I felt Cadets outperformed BD in '07 - but didn't have the show

This year it worked the other way around in my view

But personally finals night I thought Cadets had a VERY strong run - and they could have pulled ahead further IMO / the guard gap kept things a little tighter - otherwise they were about a 1.5 point better corps during that finals run. Semis it was a toss up - BD on semis seemed to out execute while Cadets out GE'd - even with that distracting fall that took some energy out of the crowd that run

You're probably right that proved "distracting" to those members involved the next night - didn't see it myself but was watching the big picture, intervals clean up etc that gave them the bounce I felt they earned that final run

Anyway - great year - some great corps and what fun to watch!!!

#8 Jeff Ream

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 12:14 AM

great review

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