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Hi All,   Here’s some sharing of my night at Clifton.   This is way short of a proper review, but I’ll post it here and hope other types of review come in.  I like what BigW said about prep on the repertoire.  I have not done that, maybe next time.  That study could be a summer music course - DCA rep as modern music snapshot.  Music educators, flesh out the syllabus; leads to recruitment. Notwithstanding DCI, this could be a valuable:  DCA Music Academy.   (I digress as always, “Don’t prompt a lecture” the kids at Fusion have said).

I’m in my “senior year” now as retired from competitive corps, after a quick 10 year stint marching 2003 thru 2013.     Wait that’s 11, wow, recalculating.

Arrive – park at Clifton.   So, btw, my first performance at Clifton was Band Festival Oct 1966, by bus of course and even years prior with bus trips so we could see the local band.   Arriving by car since say 2002, the parking is a trip.   This year we have construction, so the usual park on the school grass for $5, even at weird angles of elevation was no-go.  Off to remote corner of the school block, next to line of port-o-johns – parked legally, check.  As I park I notice a serious horn arc, non-descript in halves.  1st up for my visit … Paul B, trpt for Sun.   Then lots of amazing Sunrisers staff to talk with.  I have a lots of folks I want to go see warming up … Sky Alumni, Saints Brigade, Fusion, maybe catch Reading, but no - this spot is fun.  Gene O taking the horns thru warmup and it sounds great.  Oh yeah, Paul says check the new DCA soloist gear – a mic’d up unit mounted on his horn.  WOW.

I break away from reminiscing and catching up.  Next is visit with Fusion percussion warmups, and staff.   Catching up with my Fusion peeps.  Missed the brass line as they were out for warmups.   Finally head to Stadium with intent to catch the contest for Sun, Bush, Fusion, Bucs, C2, Cabs. 

Sorry I missed the earlier exhibitions (Saints, Sky alumni), and Hurcs, and most of Sun.  You know at a drum corps show as a vet you meet SO MANY AMAZING PEOPLE.  This is what it’s about after the competitive attainment, amazing sweat experience and comradery to put out the show.  I digress.  The last outside the stadium conversation was … oh yeah, her son is a chemistry professor on tenure track.  Yes drum corps does not damage your kids!  The kid marched and now has “Cadets” as students, and yeah he knows drum corps too.  How cool is that?

So into the stadium with unreserved ticket.  Spot friends from HS and break away to grab a seat. 

Sun - The ending for Sun caught my interest for great brass ensemble, and Paul as the vet is putting out more volume and power than I may have heard in past.  Great to see and hear.  Need to see Sunrisers next time for full show – sorry.  As I think now of the overall brass sounds, maturity of sound is mostly not there.  Sun had some of that – appreciated.

<mature sound breakout:  you know the kids are young, somehow a mature sounds seems to come with age.  We proved it in horn arc one day, another topic.  If mature sound is correlated to older players, does it still have a different great quality.  Is this too complex physics of sound now?>

Bush is up – they were a little tentative on opening, but got real strong.  Lots of good chord sounds with reasonable dissonance, some great musicianship, as always their signature.   Really nice to hear.  This is a serious program - want to see it again.

Fusion – The corps entrance is confident.  The opening cluster of many folks with a sudden guard pop-up was engaging.   Solid formations, and sound follow.  Guard accompaniment throughout is awesome.  Fusion has a big spread of field coverage differentiating from the prior 2 I’d say.  They had a show tension esp. in 1st 5 mins to really gain attention.  A new trumpet high note impact was added since my last visit for the indoor preview (later I ask, it was an F – yeah).  Simple concept but WOW, congrats.  I understand the ballad solo was in debate between trombone as I heard it prior and bari now.   I vote trombone, but leave it to the pros.  Fusion brought it all to a higher level of overall show.

Bucs – Drum major up to the podium.   Man, she conducts with authority.   As when I saw Jimmy Russo in past years pull the best out of Cabs Alumni or Bridgemen Alumni, that’s what see.   A big bad corps on the field and she’s in command of the tempos and dynamics.  The sound Reading puts out is spectacular.  Volume + 2 from Fusion. 

I looked around the stands and recognizable vets of the activity smile big time at the sheer power of Bucs hornline.   Me too.  I want to say that the crowd was cheering and applauding and giving standing O’s for all corps.   Sorry, was the Reading usual huge fan base there?   They can be corps specific fans I’d say, yahhh?  I guess most corps fans are that way.  But I report otherwise tonight.

Again, I have many years at his Clifton stadium, lots of brick and mortar, walls, and to sit side1 at 40 yard line, ½ way up and get my face blown off is sheer pleasure.  The summer evening at this point is gorgeous and the breeze is strong.  Complete immersion in sound – sorry so many not there to hear and see.

Look at our roots, Sky with loud, Renegades, “loud is good”.  Reading has achieved full body, undistorted loud.  But to me there is a lack of mature tone.  Now I am questioning quest for loud, as I know so many other let’s say more refined listeners have for years.  These huge block chords (the donuts), with precise releases are a gas, but we need more to be presented now with this amazing potential (like physics, the potential energy).

Cadets2 – again, a big sound and power, a level above Fusion and prior.  Now here’s a thing – how much is about “the groove”.   After watching Boston Pops on TV July 4, I know there is a musical “high groove” to classical, or contemporary, however you classify.  I am I guess mostly a funk guy, as bass player, and add in various Latin/salsa band and jazz ensembles from my trpt perspective that I really appreciate.  What translates best to the field?  This is all subjective, and no one can replace the experience and evolution of the individuals in this activity, esp. arrangers/composers.   In recent years I have learned and felt that “contemporary wind ensemble” might be it.  The Cabs latin grooves are awesome.  To me sorry most rock does not translate.  Ok where is this going?  Rock does for me does not do it, but see Cabs below as Stairway is close.  Samba does it!  So hello, First Circle from the Cadets2 (btw, first notes from Fusion ever was that tune in 2007).  At moments the C2 First Circle overall groove was spectacular – best of the night (for me).  Whatta way to use the venue – congrats!

Cabs – this is a show they will build and build.  The dance performer was engaging with early entrance glide across the field of “stairway” walkway props.  I didn’t see the stairs or ramp toward heaven used much at this point, it will evolve.

Stairway to Heaven has a gorgeous sound, esp. with the French horn or mello soloist.   The mic’ing of those soloists to me is annoying.  I need to relax and let all the changes evolve.  Yes, soloists are mic’d now.  We have trombones, we have narration, we have electronics, all check.  So talking musical genre subjective favorite for corps, for me rock is tough sell, but this sound and feel on Stairway is really good.  This tune is in syllabus for DCA Music Academy.

Cabs Alumni – so many highlights, the initial drum cadence, Concierto de Aranjuez – worth the price of admission alone, the classic drum solo with snares switching to neighbor’s drum, horn solo working with trios, lip trills, all the entertainment skills are there.   The company fronts have my friends cheering, can’t ever get enough of those.  (other corps use that well too).

The Closing Taps tribute – combined Cabs alumni and field corps beautifully performed arrangement, and led by the composer Larry Kirchner.  This in tribute to last original 1946 Caballero to pass.  At that moment, again the weather was perfect summer evening, breezy, and what a tribute it was.

Scores – OK, with the brass power of Reading, C2 and Cabs, I had my Fusion 4th.  But their guard and visual and show impact took them higher.  Cabs have so much to grow, as does C2, and all others.  It is July 9 now and we are off to the races.  I have a feeling of celebration for every single unit for their accomplishment to field a corps, have a corps, and engage so many people in an amazing field show of music and guard as we do!

Announcer – Fran has fun with his gig and does it so well!  This year the sound system sounded good – I think prior was too loud.  All in all, a great night of drum corps at, yes - a storied location.

After Parking lot – Fusion has a corps song “For Good”.  It is secret sauce but I’ll disclose/leak – LOL.    I got to join in, see more vets.  And that was the night.   Pride in the corps accomplishment, and ready to work.  But as the Bucs’ narrative says, be better than your prior day – that is your competition.

Edited by trptmagnet
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Nice review! Enjoyable to read. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I have a question . . .

Did you notice what you believed to be an overuse of electronic amplification?

Over on the DCI side, there is a heated discussion of corps taking the electronics too far. Beyond what was the original intent. Evidently, Phantom Regiment is sending their entire horn line through a series of 8 sideline mics their corps has placed there for their own use. I've seen those mics, haven't seen Phantom Regiment in person. However, during the telecast, Phantom's overall sound sounded "juiced" at all times.

I am VERY much against using mics on more than just a soloist, or small ensemble, to make one's corps appear to be something it is NOT.  Couple years ago, I noticed corps beefing-up (through deep electronic instrument-created bottom sounds) the final few measures of their tunes, making the finish appear to be handled by 50 baritones and tubas. I felt cheated in some way. It was all a little too "fake" for me. I became concerned smaller brass lines will now simply "raise the dial position" to WOW us. I find that prospect disgusting. Something that will drive me away from the whole thing, actually.

So, again I ask, do you sense some corps are abusing the use of electronics, and do you also find that off-putting?

Others please comment, too!

 

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Fred, you are exactly in tune with some angst I was going through at the show.

Early this AM while writing my review, I was looking up “Loud” to try to figure out the evolution since my first experience with 1969 Skyliners, and as I have written prior there was the thrill of blowing out the stands, led by Pepe’s insane French horn (bugle), with sheer power of sound.   I did not finish that research, and used my memory of Renegades and Skyliners for now, and then to what we have now with Bucs, C2, and Cabs.  They are all loud.

But yes as I listened last night, I was in angst over amplification.   It came in to DCA to save the mallet players hands, accepted (my director’s kids no less).  Then synth!   (I used synth in funk bands starting 1975, and that portamento slide to low bass on mini-korg was additive.  I love it).  And then narration and sound effects, and now mic’ing of brass.   Hmmm

So now with corps using synth, yes I came around to really dig those slides to low bass.  But the doubling of tubas, I cry foul!    And last night I heard some of that.

And then the whole sound gets to be hybrid of electronic and acoustic.   The blend balance meter moves from 10% electronic to near 70% I’d say.

That is why I wrote “relax”.   It is game over.   I ended up this AM at 2 AM listening to 1960 Sky to totally level set my expectations on “what do we expect of drum corps sound”.   No comment on that amazing G bugle sound, that war is game over.  And so in between that 1960 sound and all the amazing drum corps acoustic sounds thru the years, we are now in an entirely new era.

I saw Stevie Wonder (with his amazing road show set of musicians including plenty of brass and great strings) at NJPAC last year, a great birthday present.  At one point the mix was way bad and I start internally freaking out.  Amplified sound is art in itself.  Recording Engineers labor for months to get a sound just right.  Now we have these field productions, and btw one corps I think was using remote mix control as I did not see “the board” (could be me).  That is probably really smart to optimize the mix from the stands.  I have seen prior discussion on the power of 1 producer at the board versus our 70+ performers’ skill to produce and balance. 

So, short answer yes, some corps way too juiced.  Off putting – yes.  The sectionals gathered around the mic’, were not that effective last night.   The amplified French horns – jury is out.  (Still not sure what instruments Cabs are using, sorry).

I like soloists acoustic.  I do not recall much soloist mic’ effect from last night, it was more ensemble stuff, like 8 trombones.  (did not get to hear Paul, assume he did a solo, as usual ;) )

Again what even is drum corps now?  It is multi-facet football field-sized music/visual wild 3-ring circus of performance.    I want to fight the amplification but we all need to pick our battles.  I love that we have these amazing corps and a DCA ruleset to balk about!   Juiced up brass is not good when you have the best of field acoustic brass right there.   The amplified sound of brass, sorry it s**** as compared.   When they juice it I hate it.  Walk away – not yet.

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Thanks for the great review, and the kind words about my work!!!

It certainly helps make my life easier when the PA system is in good working order. That has not always been the case at Clifton... LOL... but you're right, this year it was just fine.

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good stuff!!

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Thanks for the read, man.

 

One of the problems with playing pop music with competitive bands or corps is this-- There's  an unwritten rule (which should be written out!) when you play a tune that you play it like people know it rhythmically, or you'd better have some kind of a spiffy rework and arrangement which evades it. Otherwise, the group sounds like a droney-baloney (I should trademark that) college football show band with everything beyond square and going cubic. Some folks love that. I... don't.

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On 7/9/2017 at 2:49 PM, Fred Windish said:

Nice review! Enjoyable to read. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I have a question . . .

Did you notice what you believed to be an overuse of electronic amplification?

Over on the DCI side, there is a heated discussion of corps taking the electronics too far. Beyond what was the original intent. Evidently, Phantom Regiment is sending their entire horn line through a series of 8 sideline mics their corps has placed there for their own use. I've seen those mics, haven't seen Phantom Regiment in person. However, during the telecast, Phantom's overall sound sounded "juiced" at all times.

I am VERY much against using mics on more than just a soloist, or small ensemble, to make one's corps appear to be something it is NOT.  Couple years ago, I noticed corps beefing-up (through deep electronic instrument-created bottom sounds) the final few measures of their tunes, making the finish appear to be handled by 50 baritones and tubas. I felt cheated in some way. It was all a little too "fake" for me. I became concerned smaller brass lines will now simply "raise the dial position" to WOW us. I find that prospect disgusting. Something that will drive me away from the whole thing, actually.

So, again I ask, do you sense some corps are abusing the use of electronics, and do you also find that off-putting?

Others please comment, too!

 

"Techno Terrors":

If the activity had stayed with the G BUGLES they wouldn't NEED any of this.  I never knew any of the old super soloists (WAY too many mention) needing to be "Amped".     :music:

Fire away.............:soapbox:

Elphaba      :flower:

 

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5 hours ago, elphaba01 said:

"Techno Terrors":

If the activity had stayed with the G BUGLES they wouldn't NEED any of this.  I never knew any of the old super soloists (WAY too many mention) needing to be "Amped".     :music:

Fire away.............:soapbox:

Elphaba      :flower:

 

Ready for the incoming?   LOL.  I will agree to disagree with you here.

When the miking of brass was first approved, I was dead-set against it..... for much the same reason (except the "G instruments being louder"  thing...LOL) ..."why do soloists need to be miked, if the whole thing worked so well for years without it?"

But in recent years... the way some of the soloists are staged in the visual show, and with the use of French horns, etc. (to great effect by a number of corps, IMO, including the Caballeros this year) ... the miking helps quite a bit in those instances.
 

Edited by Fran Haring

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The G Bugle argument is overrated. Some folks think it's the panacea to all of the things they dislike if they'd use them again.

 

One can project more than adequately with a System Blue without a mic if they want to.

 

The real issue with the mic could be, do we want to just have people blow their brains out to project, in the good ol' fashioned way or maybe try and play more within themselves and just maybe sound a bit better? I can crack concrete, a given. Maybe people might want to rather hear me play a feature on a concert Euphonium that's miked and see that maybe I'm not just a screamin' Philistine.

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