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.
This post has been edited by EdMedina: 15 August 2011 - 09:04 AM