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Jake W.

2017 Drums Along the Rockies @ Mile High

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I thought I'd post a review since I find them to be a super helpful supplement to whatever videos I can find online in terms of forming ideas about how various corps are developing. Just my opinions. Take them as you wish.

Columbians & Battalion both got grouped similarly in my mind, and both were excellent ways to start the show. Both corps were quite clean, and I was struck by how each units' design was at a very appropriate level to be effective and challenging for the corps, yet both designs were able to be cleanly presented as both corps were ending their seasons tonight. Columbians seem to have taken a direction towards a more serious show, which ended up working out quite well for them. Both units were powerful and passionate, and I look forward to seeing each grow in the future (both being so incredibly young in terms of competitive history!!). Again, would love to see either or both corps make the trip to Michigan City/Indy regularly in the future. Job well done tonight from each unit!

Cascades have a lovely show this year and continue their MARKED improvement from year to year that begin in 2014. If you haven't familiarized yourself with Cascades' rebuilding process, please do!! Their evolution, as I mentioned in another thread, seriously needs to be held up as a textbook example for anyone other corps who unfortunately finds themselves in the Cascades' 2005-2013 down-on-their-luck-competitively-and-financially situation. A smart staff that has been retained and allowed to grow, member retention and growth, and steps up in show design every season that has seen yet another huge improvement this year. My only complaint is that the speaker reading Maya Angelou's poem doesn't draw the emotion out of it, and the "we are set free line" she shouts is over the top and cheesy. "Gilding the lily" is the term an old professor of mine used to use. But, other than that, love the show. More meat than we usually see from them, so it will take a bit to lock in, but the group is well on its' way. 1000 Airplanes is a fantastic opener with lots of musicality written in, Fly to Paradise makes an incredible ballad, and as I've raved about in other threads, the Sia/Shosti combo as the closer is a brilliant depiction of struggling for freedom. Great stuff. I'm repeating myself from the Denver thread, but I do want to officially call it: Cascades, I believe, will finish ahead of all the Open Class corps, BDB & Vanguard Cadets included. They're a serious drum corps this year, and should hang 16 - 20 at the season's end. Excellent showing tonight.

Mandarins are truly here to play this year. They are a different corps. The show design is intense and never lets you go. Best of all, every single member sells it and there's no shortage of goosebumps throughout the performance. The guard is absolutely over the top in the best of ways and executes some terrific writing at super high levels. They really make this show what it is. The visual design of "Inside the Ink" is definitely the stand out for me and totally worthy of the top 12: wonderful use of color (starting with blacks and dark purples, adding reds, ending with brightly colored rifles and neon orange flags), the drill & staging is superb...the whole visual performance is just so engaging and you can't turn away, even for a second. Butttttt......that's the only aspect of the design that I feel is Finals-worthy, and please don't crucify me for that. In terms of the music book, a) I don't believe there's enough depth in the brass book, and b) I *REALLY* appreciate the incorporation of real music this year, but Sound of Silence, as well as the return of it, stands out as starkly memorable and awesome against a backdrop of moderately benign Key Poulan original music that the performers are simply able to elevate beyond its lackluster roots. I hope that doesn't offend anyone. In terms of the overall design of the show and GE, I really LOVE it all, but if I think about it, I'm not sure I get the crazy tie in to the ink. Other than...Rorschach tests are used in psychological analyses? I like the ink theme, and I get the original intent of the show, and I adore all of the crazy that's been added in, and now it permeates every aspect of the show...but how do they fit together? It seems like the huge crazy aspect has been capitalized on by the staff as the season has progressed, and it's wonderful, but it doesn't feel very organic, like it was intended to be there from the start, and currently those two design elements (ink & crazy) seem more separate than cohesive. BUT BUT BUT BUT please don't misunderstand me; those are just some general points about the design that I imagine will separate them from the Finalist pack at the end of the season --- if they make the top 12, I'll be up on my feet SCREAMING because this just seems to be one of those special corps where all of the membership gels cohesively and MAN do they weave so much insane passion and energy into their performance!!!! They lit the place up tonight and will continue to do so all the way through the end of their season. As I mentioned before, so many chills from just the raw energy and performance levels. The crowd ate the show up, and will continue to do so as they get better and better!

Oregon Crusaders were just a touch flat following that on-fire Mandarins performance, but honestly, no one other than Bloo & BD touched Mandarins' performance energy levels, and someone had to follow them. As I've mentioned in other threads, this show is a complete 180 from Hunted & nevermore --- it is refined and classy and elegant, not boisterous and huge. It is similar to their Midnight Garden show from 2015. Finally, OC's design seems to be on par with the corps' talent level (as opposed to the usual far above it that we all love OC for), and I believe this show & corps, when clean, could push for 15th. The flagwork is exquisite and nuanced, the usage of their props to form compasses, the classy uniforms, all conspire to make a nice package. If you haven't heard their hornline yet, FIND A VIDEO!! Their brass sound was my favorite of the night outside of the top 3: rich, full, luscious, chocolatey, smooth, blended. BEAUTIFUL. And that Enya piece as the ballad, hands down one of the most tear-jerking ballads of the evening. Just a detailed and well-designed show, top to bottom, that I really look forward to seeing crystal clean in Indy.

Pacific Crest has also taken a really nice step up design wise this year. PC, in my opinion, had nice shows in 2015 & 16, but has not had any truly memorable moments since their 2014 "No Strings Attached" show. I FINALLY saw some moments that sparkle tonight!! There's a moment in Beautiful Mind in the first few minutes of the show with the band in a diamond wedge that has some super musical choreography that just HIT tonight. That was a nice "chills" moment. The weaving of California Dreamin' into the closer is super cool and well done. The last few minutes of the show just plain make sense visually; the drill, the guard work, it's all just...right. The Lost ballad will be stunning when it's clean. As I mentioned in the Denver thread, that was my only beef with the performance...the Lost ballad went by too fast and was sped up and just didn't arrive like I wanted it to and know it can (thanks, Crown!). It's SUCH a unique and beautiful few minutes for them, but it could be more so if it was allowed to breathe and build up and ebb and flow a bit more naturally. Really like what I see out of Crest this year. I think OC passes them by the end of the season, but like Cascades, I see PC staying ahead of BDB & Vanguard Cadets at the seasons' end. 

Troopers, ah, Troopers. Another talented corps from Casper paired with a lackluster show. I just feel like this corps can do so much more given a better package --- then again, last season's show was chock full of musical and visual meat, and never quite cleaned, so maybe not. Love the performers...intense and engaging and as passionate as ever. Brass sound is spectacular and big and the Troopers sound we all love. Honestly, the musical arrangements are quite nice, and, of course, Nessun Dorma is unapologetically gorgeous. The surprise incorporation of it following the drum break, the unaltered presentation of it once we arrive, and the return of it in the closer...all fantastic. Visual design....eh? So much left to be desired. There's so little depth (at the moment) compared to their competitors, and I feel like the guard could do a lot more, if only they were given better writing. Staging and focus seemed to be an after thought with the visual design. The visual design just kind of....exists. Without much purpose. It certainly doesn't match up to the music design, nor does it often appear to be a good visual manifestation of what we're hearing. Again, just my opinions, and they're probably wrong. Troop is the only corps from last year's 14 - 21 that I feel like took a step *back* design-wise this year, and that's too bad, because as usual, they're fielding some brilliant brass ensemble sounds and a great overall corps.

Bloo & BD, I don't think much needs to be said that hasn't been said. Both are monsters that presented masterful shows this evening and were deservedly well-lauded. Paired with SCV, I think this will be among the best of the best in terms of top 3s. Incredible corps.

And BK. I was admittedly a little disappointed. Let's start with the good: MUSICCCCCCCCCCCCC and color!!!! Color was, of course, used expertly throughout the show. Musically, I'm pretty convinced they're offering much more than either Phantom or Boston, even considering nothing other than the massively exposed attacks in the Bjork and Hide & Seek. Lots of pregnant pauses and sudden starts from silence that take a ton of musicality and ensemble focus to pull off. Tons of brass and percussion exposure throughout the show. And just plain cool music overall. On to the biggest negative for me: guard writing. And we KNOW how well this guard can execute from previous seasons!! Does anyone know why the decision was made to cut back the demand of the guard book in a BIG way? Was it done to fit the show, or is the guard crazy young this year? Following Bloo & BD's guards is no easy task, and I have to say that BK's guard (the writing) was the least up to that task of the 8 world class groups tonight. Just a bit of a head scratcher. I get the I's/eyes, the spinning circles, the curved pipes....I like it all. But it was all glaringly less-than-effective as a whole visual package next to the other guards of the night. But, as mentioned, incredibly cool music book that yet again elevates some terrific source material and makes it truly shine. I still don't think remaining in 7th is out of the question for this wonderful corps.

Edited by Jake W.
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Nice write up, Jake.

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That's was an awesome write up.  Loved all the focus on the high quality yet not elite placement level corps that can be so entertaining!  Thank you for sharing!!!

 

harvey

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Thanks for the review especially Mandarins. They are that special corp this year.

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good stuff!

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