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C.Holland

Annapolis, MD. An Official (mostly) unbiased review.

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I haven't written a review since DCA finals last season. So for all of you out there missing these writings, you're in luck because I had time to go see a show. It was a show sponsored by YEA, and it wasn't a total logistics catastrophe like a certain show at a certain scarlet colored university in New Jersey was last year. yup, still bitter about that one. Both the U and people in charge of traffic flow have a special place under my back tire. jerks.

Anyway. Some of you out there know I moved to Baltimore this year. So this show was nearly in my back yard. (except my yard is small, and concrete) So I was excited to the guys in green (and I guess the cavs as well) as well as others that have been getting ok responses but not necessarily great numbers. You all know I don't really give two sh*ts about numbers but I do care about performance of the highest level. And I care about venue logistics. Annapolis has more parking than disney for this stadium. thanks. seriously. thanks for having ample parking. (now I know I'm getting old when this is a concern of mine)

A couple things about Navy-Marine Stadium, it's big and wide. It's got a shallow bowl to it, which means it is more of a fancy restaurant soup bowl than it is a high sided pasta bowl. Which means that know matter how high you go, you don't feel like you're more than 15 feet off the field level unless you're WAY UP where you can see birds flying below you. It hides nothing in the way of feet, and has no track between the pit and front wall. It also is reasonably dead. So you can hear every horn stick out, every bad release, and every guard person barking orders. (yup, Cavs... heard everything you guys said) BTW... stadium peoples... clean your men's room. It looks like hobos live there. And this was BEFORE the show.

I was 6 rows back from the front, and dead on the 50. As a brass guy, this is an awesome spot to sit. As a person who watches feet and body, this is an awesome place to sit. If you want to see big impacts, and forms, this is not the place to sit. So I won't give you much from a high perspective, but all the performance stuff, I've got all the dirt for you to read. muwahahahahahahahahahahahah.

Ok. So enough BS... onto the corps.

Thunder Brigade. Rockville's soundsport prodigy types. I saw these people last year at DCA and was hoping they'd build up some. They had 6 horns, 5 battery, 4 pit, and 6 guard. I watched from the end zone because I was late getting in from the lot talking to a few MMs i saw before warmups. sorry i was late.

But I'm glad to see that even with small numbers, they are pushing to do something. They had a full drill, and move around an awful lot so the demand is there. Unfortunately they also had lots of cracked notes and intonation concerns. They remind me a little bit of the Marion Cadets. (anyone? anyone?) Marion had a similar size corps, one that you could carry in your oversize Vera Bradley bag, gear and all, but Marion understood that of all the things they needed to do to be successful, pitch and attacks were their bread and butter. And when they were on, they're amazing. When they're off, they're abysmal. I think this is the same situation. When everything pops, these performers looks amazing. And when it doesn't, it just looks rough. So there are moments of extreme WOW, and moments of extreme OOF. There's not lots of in between though. So you're either WOOHOOOOO or oh... crap. They wear shoes that are dark but have a white sole, which amplified every inconsistency. I hope they can see that. Again, I hope they keep pushing, and building off of this season. I'd like to see what they can do with 20 horns and a few more guard because they get it, they just need bodies now.

Mandarins: I love this corps. I remember seeing them in 1996 when they were still wearing pink tops and had 13 horns that could cook anyone. I love the Eastern aesthetic and inspiration that they put into their shows and their style. there's nothing like it and it really pulls you out of the stadium for a bit and welcomes you to a different place. Wild right. It's like huffing glue but better for you, and not as... nevermind.

To be honest... their feet hurt me a little. Lots of out of step, and lack of definable foot technique. They have these statues that frame the space, which really pop the corps members out from the field, and they've got HUUUUGE DRUMS that roll around. Which they bang and sound awesome in that stadium. I don't know the music that well, but I will say there's lots of forte parts, and some horns that still stick out from the ensemble. They had a couple of trumpets that played solos well, and a bari that did not. They have a high brass feature that was killer tonight, and a ssshhhhh... (don't tell anyone) a surprise second ending. To be honest this is an entertaining show. That has some demand. But it's a visual trip to the far east. So you may want to see this just for the culture that they invite you to experience. I wish, with all the mics that we have now in the activity, that when a corps brings a different instrument idea to the stage, that they would use the real instrument and just mic it. There's lots of awesome oriental flute, and throat singing textures, and digeridoo effects that would be simply wicked if it was a real instrument. I'm being selfish, i get it, but the canned version just doesn't have that impact for me. There's some sharp flute moments that would cut through the audience if it were the live flute. Maybe some day. I still love you all. The guard was pretty sweet, pretty tight, and even carried horns at one point. Hats off to them.

Jersey Surf: sun surfing. they start the show in RAINCOATS!!! rain f'n coats. Here comes the sun... doo doo do dooooo... here comes the sun... it's alright... And it is... alright. It's just not more than alright though. Its fun, its a toe tapper. Its all recognizable pop charts. And they play them pretty well. Their effects editing needs some love. They have some weird sharp cut off endings to their effects that sound abrupt. I think they need to fix the fade out on those. It pulls you out of the moment they've worked so hard to put you in. All Beatle-y and lovey. Warm and happy. they've got these great changing tents on the fieldbeach now. Fieldbeach. that's going to be a thing. They need to give me 3% if they put that term on a t-shirt. Because they dont' use the field like a field, but more like a beach, with a corps on it. they play on it, and danced on it, and the guard pulls out giant sun rays on it. And then they use their flags as beach blankets. Its like Annette Funicello got together with the Velvet Knights, had too much to drink, and hooked up. THIS. This is what you get. All they need is red chucks and some hokey pranks. The problem I have with this wonderful display of fun, is that it's still sloppy fun. Where VK (the VK of the 80/90s) didn't settle for hearing feet in the horns, and people out of step, and there were loads of releases in the horns that just weren't together. This is the stuff that makes fun look meh. And i want more for Surf. I want them to pick up where the 90s VK left off, and wow me with fun that's cleaned up. Its got to be fun like Robert Downey Jr. (the potential to go #######, but its just holding it together enough to be mf'n iron man) Other than that, they change in the change tents, they move them, the play a lot of big parts standing, without doing extraneous leg work. Which I like, but I found weird because no one does that anymore. Go surf! They have some timing issues between Pit, and the rest of the ensemble. they'll fix it, but it all felt a little weird in Wipeout tonight. In short, go get some chucks, and send your fun to rehab and people will love it more.

Spirit of... somewhere: I miss the old days of spirit. Your trumpet started Tara ok... then closed their release instead of opened the release and it went THUD. the stadium did not forgive that one. You're coming out of the ashes... not dropping sound into them. To be honest I dont have much for y'all. I like the history of this corps, I just miss the big brass sound of the corps. I feel like there were feet in every sustained note and 90% of the releases were closed off and not together. So bottoms dropped out of the ends of phrasing. oof. They have good charts, and lots of crazy intricate dancy movey motions. But the sound just isn't mac truck hit you yet, its more like chevy s10 slap you instead. And i want more. The charts they play are good. It doesnt feel like they are trying to cram millions of notes into a bar. But when they do cram notes, articulations go south. To be honest, I want to like this show, I just wasn't moved by it tonight. Maybe they were flat. I like the charts, I just didn't feel grabbed.

ACADEMY (the): if this show doesn't make you smile, you are either A. dead or B. have something large crammed in your posterior orifice permanently. It is charts that make you hum. I like the playfullness of it. The pit was well balanced and I feel they listened back to stay with the ensemble more than the other corps before them. The voice at the top of the show is in a vocal range that gets buried. So you don't hear much of it. It got swallowed up in the stadium tonight. Hornline is ok. Good, adequate... not amazing. They have good attacks and releases, but they just dont' grab me like WHOA. The booms were something I finally noticed in the evening. stuff felt tight. and like the rest of the show... playful. good job percussion types. Overall the corps telegraphs which way its going to move with its upper body. So there's not secrets about who's going to march where or when. They've already shown you two beats before they move a foot. Now I'm a sucker for Supercalifragilistic.... because its fun, and different, and lively, and makes me feel like a kid again. They sang it well, and then played it, WHILE TAP DANCING. ( they have a shoe tap section done Jimminy Cricket style also which rocked my socks) So i was left humming it. My major contention here though, they end every song with Poppins up on a riser, and her umbrellas up in the air, down front and center. You aint' gonna Save no Mr. Banks that way! Move her around. We've seen it once, twice, thrice... crap... really. again? MOVE HER. please. thanks. beyond that, i love this show. i think its got all the parts its needs to be in a finals night show (if you fix the poppins staging). And man, it makes you smile.

MADISON: I will recuse myself from this corps. I didn't love the show when I first saw it. I love it now. Its hummable, the horns now sound like Madison should again, the feet look tight and stylistically sound, they invite you to come onto the field and dance with them and Gene F'n Kelly. The trombone is so popular he's on a tshirt. Its going to be a madison classic. the booms boomed, the guard guarded, they're the best guard Ive seen from madison in awhile. I'm biased. I marched there. Will this show save the planet if aliens come to invade the earth... NO... but it will make you hum, blow your face off, and for a minute, make you smile like you're watching Singing in the Rain again with your mum. (or your dad... take your pic) I met some members after the show, I'm proud of the work they are doing, and that the talent/demand/entertainment factor are all there in this show and the corps is making changes happen like its their job. It'll only get better so you go see it.

CAVIES: while I respect your corps, and its history, and one of my very best friends in life is an alumni of you and actually I like the idea of this show, i do not like the execution. It feels flat. I dont think this is the Cavs we are used to seeing. Feet/knees are not clean, horn visuals are not tight, releases tonight were not good and to be honest I think the best section tonight besides the guard was the tubas. Maybe they're still recovering from the plague. I give them all the credit I possibly can for persevering. NEWSFLASH... I do not like the bone feature. Its rough. Its not tight, and the guys playing it dont look like they give two sh*ts about it. The guys in the pit don't look like they want to be there either. The synth kid looks beyond not happy to be there. Lke someone kicked his puppy in the face. I understand no one knows what they just battled and a few days later are back on the field. But woof. I want them to succeed. I dont always want them to succeed as much as the other green team, but I like these guys. They're generally good people. They battled some awful thing to be on the field and are still missing people. But they're dirty, and look just not like a Cav, with a show that just doesn't do it from a design standpoint for me. I love the idea, and I think the first piece is something they've got in the right direction. It just falls flat after that for me. I think there's so much going on at once that I'm not sure what to look at. I dont have the ADHD to look everywhere. Because it's just din.

Cadets: another corps I have a lot of respect for. they're still here after all these years, and still near the top of the food chain. this show, i like. I say they were one of the two top brass tonight. And the booms and pit were wicked. Guard was tight. feet and marching were on point, even the roll back with the toe up... well done. I like the balance they have between pit and the rest, and the voice effects fit really well. the platforms looks great and the horns running on them (diagonally) is a great effect. I think visually they were off tonight. I saw lots of horn visuals not together, and things (besides feet) not clicking. Musically they were tight. And exciting. I think they cracked the code of being both entertaining and arty... until I see the rest of the top 12. I'm going to say it... so don't lash out at me... but the french horn feature... sounds like a mix of actual playing, with canned sound. because where I sat, I heard it coming out of the speakers, when the horn wasn't point at me. the people up top may not notice that though. I would think 60/40 is the mix there, with sampling being used and then played back for reverb and effect. I would dare even say that with all those horns up there, where the horn is facing, and what I heard from the speakes, that some are mic'd and many are not. And the mic'd few are what carries the sound, while the rest carry the look. But that is speculation because I'm not on the field. I just watched the keyboard player in the pit stike notes while they play with nothing else going on... dun dun DUNNNNNN. either way its clean. And effective. we'll see what they continue to do with it in the next week. But the show is fun to watch. And well thought out. So cheers to them.

Post Day EDIT#1: I guess in my sleepiness I left off the USMC D&BC. These ladies and gents sound 99.3% awesome on the old G Bugles. Why did I leave .6% off you ask? Because they did not have one soloist who played a perfect solo. Seriously. Yeah, someone is going to complain and put an un-'Merican tag on me for this.. But listen.. they are pro musicians. Their only job is to play that stuff perfect. And no one played a solo without at least one split note. Moving on, they move way more than I remember. And forms hit pretty well. They must have some new additions because there were a couple horn mess ups, but they recovered quickly. And they played some great charts. "To Tame the Perilous skies", "New World Symphony"etc. They have a power to their sound that nearly matches the other lines of the night. Guess that large bore helps. But they look awesome, attention to detail is there. Everything from uniforms to posture is all super consistent and I'll say they make us proud. They have a new version of Stars n Stripes that starts facing backfield, and sounds amazing. All in all, this group is the best possible exhibition you can ask for. Tight, detailed, just enough to keep you watching but not so over the top artsy to make you want to get up and go get a coke. I hope they come to Indy.

One bone to pick with all corps except Madison, Cavs, and Cadets. If you don't have your mixologist actively working to mic the pit while NOT mic everything else, we hear all the crap we aren't supposed to. We hear horns sticking out more than before simply because of placement to the pit, we hear guard and drum counts and talking, we hear jingly jinglies in the pit when stuff gets set down and picked up. IF you are mic'ing and trying to pick up everything, part of being a good sound person is keeping the rest of the area noise out of your mix and localizing your source. Learn how to do this with your gear. Otherwise you ruin what could have been an otherwise good performance. Which many corps tonight did NOT do well. I heard everything in the other corps.

ok its late. Remember, I'm not an expert. I write this stuff for the people who weren't there. And for those to read and maybe think about what performances they've seen. So yknow discuss. If you feel I bashed you, or someone you love, I apologize, none of this is meant to be malicious but it is meant to be constructive. Overall everyone was entertaining at some point, some more than others. I think that was worth my ticket price and the lineup was excellent. I didn't eat anything at the stadium. And next year they need to find a better place for souvies. There was little room to move once the crowd started filling in the stadium.

Cheers.

Edited by C.Holland
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Thank you for the review.

Irving

Fan of the Arts

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Thanks all. It was a great show. Can't wait to see all these groups at Prelims.

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Marion Cadets. posterior orifice Jimminy Cricket

Any review that can work in the Marion Cadets, posterior orifice and Jimminy Cricket is a stellar one!

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That is an amazing bit of feedback to read. Thanks.

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C. Holland. Thanks for a most entertaining and appreciated review.

Re: your comments about JERSEY SURF." and they used their flags as beach blankets. It's like Annette Funicello got together with the Velvet Knights had too much to drink and hooked up." You had me laughing so loud and uncontrollably that I farted.....TWICE!

Also your call is spot on regarding THE ACADEMY'S multiple use/same staging area of "Mary Poppins" pose with umbrella. Her featured pose, at the top of the front and center chimney, where it pops open at the end of ballad IS picture perfect and no doubt, effectively makes for a touching and beautiful moment. There after However, I have to agree, any additional use of the same pose is over kill, at least move it, It reminds me of the chewing gum left on the bedpost over night. It simply losses its flavor. Toss it.

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Yknow, that pose is pretty common for Mary Poppins, and I get it for transitions, but I really have a problem with it being in the same spot (or varied by 5 yards upstage) every time. I just think you do it once down near the pit, once way off in stage right, once way backfield in the other corner, and then downstage center or just off of center. I'm glad you liked this. I'm certain my personality comes out when I write. So you dont know what youre getting hahaahah.

C. Holland. Thanks for a most entertaining and appreciated review.

Re: your comments about JERSEY SURF." and they used their flags as beach blankets. It's like Annette Funicello got together with the Velvet Knights had too much to drink and hooked up." You had me laughing so loud and uncontrollably that I farted.....TWICE!

Also your call is spot on regarding THE ACADEMY'S multiple use/same staging area of "Mary Poppins" pose with umbrella. Her featured pose, at the top of the front and center chimney, where it pops open at the end of ballad IS picture perfect and no doubt, effectively makes for a touching and beautiful moment. There after However, I have to agree, any additional use of the same pose is over kill, at least move it, It reminds me of the chewing gum left on the bedpost over night. It simply losses its flavor. Toss it.

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