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Catan

Bristol, RI 3 July 2015

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I was also at the show at Gillette last night. As it was a livestream and others have reviewed the show already, I figured I would write a review of the Bristol show instead. Pretty obvious but I am a brass guy.

First off, for those of you who haven't been, the venue at Bristol is...interesting. Probably the tiniest stadium of any drum corps show I've ever seen.

Pros - The crowd is typically very excitable, a good mix of drum corps alumni and folks from the community (it is part of the larger 4th of July celebration in town). Since the stadium is so small, the corps are close to the audience and one feels the full impact of the music.

Cons - You can't get a read of the visual ensemble at all since there are only 15 or so rows in the stands. It is also a grass field, which is tough on the members (I always hated marching on that field as a MM).

Anyway, onto the performances!

Open Class

7th Regiment (2nd place - 54.8) I'm always impressed by the quality shows they put out every year, and this year is no exception. Cohesive program, and overall a very solid performance. Drum corps fans will recognizes various allusions to prior DCI programs - the opener is from Bloo 2007, and there are some visual moments reminiscent of the Cavaliers (2008, 2011) involving bass drums and drill moves. The members really looked like they buy into the show, which is a plus. They move decently for this early in the season, and the brass line I thought was much stronger and more refined than the Spartans.

Spartans (1st place - 56.0) I have to admit their program didn't really capture my attention as well as 7th. They move quite well, and put out some decent sound. The performers are really selling the program on an individual level, but overall I think the product is not quite as engaging as 7th. The pacing of the first half of the show seems a bit strange, with very short musical phrases. As usual, the guard was a strong point.

World Class

Jersey Surf (5th place - 60.7) I thought they performed much better tonight after working out first show jitters in Gillette yesterday. They have an enjoyable (if simple) program with lots of little nuances and funny visual gags (especially in the guard). The opening visual statement involves several huge streamers and flags that appear out of nowhere in conjunction with a grand opening brass statement. By far the strongest point of the show. They have a good fundamental brass sound, but visually are quite inconsistent from member to member, especially with regards to upper body carriage. Overall though, I enjoyed the show. I just wish they had headgear of some sort.

Troopers (4th place - 69.6) I know their visual scores are killing them right now in relation to the Xmen but I couldn't get a good read due to the stadium. From a field perspective, I thought they moved better than Bones. Their uniforms just look spectacular on the field and suit the show theme excellently. The show itself is essentially a rehash of Crown 2007, but much more sober in tone. Music arrangements are well-constructed but are unfortunately plagued by tacky horse sound effects and unnecessary narration blips. They have a (guard) singer who performs well, though her lyrics came across as corny to me. The singer had a duet with a trumpet soloist at the beginning of the show. Both tonight and at Gillette the two were way out of tune with each other. It's a difficult listening environment since I'm sure they can't even hear each other being 25 ft apart (and the singer being mic'ed). But still, it's best not to open the show with such poor intonation. Thankfully, the initial brass opening statement more than made up for that - great sound, very lush.

Crossmen (3rd place - 71.7) Enjoyed the show more tonight than last night, though it still doesn't strike me as a "Crossmen" kind of show. It seems very "WGI", but not in a good way. The brass arrangements for the most part fell flat for me, though there is some really interesting small ensemble work that I enjoyed. When I first heard their show title "Above and Beyond" I was halfway hoping to hear house music (a la the British electronic group), but in reality the show is just about things that fly (a la Phantom 2007). The props look cheap and come across as tacky (paper airplanes, parachute). They do make good use of the field - the pit is pushed back behind the front sideline, with a tarp in front of it for sections of the corps to come forward and show off. The entire hornline does so in the ballad with a rousing unaccompanied brass chorale. That was the highlight of the show for me, but it still needs some work from an articulation and release standpoint. Once clean, they'll have the crowd going nuts during that segment. While I thought the singer in Troopers' show worked conceptually (though not from an execution standpoint), it stuck out and made little sense to me in the Xmen's show.

Cadets (2nd place - 81.8) Thank you George for dumping the patriotic schlock from last year and giving us a no-nonsense drum corps show. The opener is my favorite of the year. Jay Bocook has written a monster of a brass book which the hornline is actually handling quite well for the early season. Out of all the corps I've seen thus far, I think the Cadets have the most impressive dynamic range, especially on the low end - they play some pretty darn tough stuff on the move at piano volumes with excellent sound. On a related note, I'm convinced the mellophones are not human - they are nailing a book filled with nearly endless runs. The horn fanfare feature was also well done, though intonation remains an issue. The drill program seems classic Cadets - fast and difficult. I think it will be challenging for them to clean enough to win a championship, but I would love to see them prove me wrong. I also think their guard will be a weakpoint this year - they don't really stand out, though their terribly ugly uniforms this year don't help. (Seriously, the Cadets guard uniforms the past few years have looked like pajamas you'd find at Wal-Mart). They have an obvious placeholder ending at this point.

Blue Devils (1st place - 82.5) BD essentially combined their 2008 and 2014 shows (along with 2006 Cadets) and got "Ink." Not that I have a problem with that. I was more engaged by the Cadets, but more entertained by BD, if that makes sense. The brass book is insane (but then again, so are those of Crown and Cadets, both of whom are moving a lot more than BD this year). The hornline delivers power and technical brilliance (especially the trumpets - holy ####). That being said, the first brass hit of the show (a single stab) was simply not together side to side and sounded "blatty" to boot. Not a good first impression. But they made up for it and then some throughout the rest of the show.

The guard was outstanding as always. They really emote so well and draw one into the performance. The K-pop section and dance is a riot. BD's front ensemble writing and integration of electronics is probably second to none, with the possible exception of Bloo. The uniforms are not my cuppa tea this year but the white stripe on the pants is appreciated and showcases their excellent technique. They move so effortlessly - it was an absolutely joy to watch their high-velocity jazz run moves. They too have an obvious placeholder ending.

Highlights of the show:

  • BD's trumpet line (so many features!)
  • Cadets' mello line (so many runs! it's like the 90s Cadets have been resurrected)
  • Troopers mello line (also really impressive, powerful sound and tough book)
  • George Hopkins coming out during intermission to check the paint job on the field

2015 is shaping up to be my favorite DCI season since 2011. Just great shows all around and outstanding performances.

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Nice review. Thank-you.

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  • George Hopkins coming out during intermission to check the paint job on the field

LOL - did he really?

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LOL - did he really?

Yup. There were some sarcastic comments from a few show attendees sitting close to me about the 2007 quarterfinals? paint fiasco with George in Pasadena.

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I was also at the show at Gillette last night. As it was a livestream and others have reviewed the show already, I figured I would write a review of the Bristol show instead. Pretty obvious but I am a brass guy.

First off, for those of you who haven't been, the venue at Bristol is...interesting. Probably the tiniest stadium of any drum corps show I've ever seen.

Pros - The crowd is typically very excitable, a good mix of drum corps alumni and folks from the community (it is part of the larger 4th of July celebration in town). Since the stadium is so small, the corps are close to the audience and one feels the full impact of the music.

Cons - You can't get a read of the visual ensemble at all since there are only 15 or so rows in the stands. It is also a grass field, which is tough on the members (I always hated marching on that field as a MM).

Ah...twice as high as good old Maxwell field in Wildwood (though they may have changed it since I was last there many many moons ago). :tounge2:

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