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mfrontz

Massillon, OH - Part One

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Review – Massillon, OH, August 7, 2017

Great night of drum corps: packed house, fans in the back stands, championship week buzz in the air, eight finalist corps, including six of the top seven coming into tonight’s competition.

I have not seen this many top corps live this close to championships in 13 years.

My seats were 19 rows up on the 20 yard line, side 2. Best I could do getting tickets ten days before the show. Buy early.

BOSTON CRUSADERS: It’s interesting. The corps that relied heavily on narration tonight did not extend their speakers out to beyond the 20s, or didn’t pipe the narration through those speakers. So it was difficult for me to distinguish the words, which to my mind are very important for understanding the show. Fortunately, I have seen enough runs of this show online that it didn’t make any difference for me. This show has a lot of similarities to Don Quixote in the sense that it is a storytelling show driven by the words. I think that with all the staff coming from other corps I have focused on performance improvements and not so much on the continuities with the past couple of years. It will be very interesting to see if and how the designs change with the improved faculty and corresponding technical proficiency of the members, because they will need to improve that part of the process in order to tangle with the top dogs. Oh, I thought the vocalist was outstanding. I did not mind any of the vocalists this evening. They all added to the shows. Big reaction to this show; what a way to start. My son’s newbie friend: ‘They’re in SIXTH?’

CROSSMEN: It is gratifying, 25 years after I marched in this great drum corps, to see them as a perennial finalist again, to see traditions carried on and see them reaching for excellence every year. It is so hard to become a finalist drum corps; so hard to hang in there consistently.  Staff, members, administration can never rest on the laurels of previous years. That goes for the future Crossmen too; the same show won’t medal three years from now, the people are right who say that there are too many head-scratchers in what the show is trying to communicate. But this Crossmen drum corps is the best technically since the move to Texas; I would argue that the ‘Fragile’ show of 2012 was more interesting thematically. The music grooves so hard – wonderful compositions and arrangements by Andrew Markworth et al – and the members are selling it at a high level. They had a great run tonight; the trumpet soloist at the beginning nailed his solo and it got better from there. Overall, you can tell that the groups are virtually done learning and are now just starting to revel in the opportunity to perform. It’s so great to watch drum corps at this stage of the game. See the previous comments about muddy communication of the theme, and there are too many laser-beam sounds (electronic, not brass) for my taste, too. So, I guess I’m saying that I loved the music and was not offended by the concept holes in the Crossmen show, whereas I liked the music and had a viscerally upset reaction to the show of…

PHANTOM REGIMENT: This is my second try at writing about this show. It looks like a lot of people like this show, and they can’t all be wrong. My son and his newbie friend liked the classical music. I heard some of Phantom Regiment in the show, and obviously the members (I refuse to call them ‘kids’ anymore; most of them are legal adults) are working hard and are talented. Because I’m not a visual person, I can’t comment on the visual too much. However, the voice-over ruined the entire thing for me; it wasn’t just an element I didn’t like and could isolate, but it destroyed my overall experience of the show. When I listen to sports talk radio, there is an occasional ad for a ‘gentleman’s club’ in Pittsburgh, which I turn off when the kids are in the car. It has a woman who says this: ‘Fantasy. Invasion. Beauty. Madness. Attack. Phantasm.’ I could almost say they got the same voice actor. It was not only off-putting, but also manipulative. It was if I was being told how to feel or react based on the words and tone of voice being used. That’s not how good drum corps, or any form of art, works. Phantom Regiment should not need to manipulate me to produce an emotional response. I know that there’s an explanation to the show and I just don’t think it makes any difference. I had a strong negative reaction last night, explaining to the newbie friend that it was ‘high-school band crap.’ I’m moderating my opinion somewhat today, but this was my immediate reaction last night, and I still am considering taking a flyer on the performance at the theatre on Thursday (which I NEVER do).

THE CAVALIERS: ‘Now that is how you design a drum corps show!’ I shouted as thousands of cheering fans threw babies at the Men from Mars. In case you can’t tell, I loved it, and I was still mad at Phantom. So much to see! So many humorous tongue-in-cheek references to ‘male-ness’ to catch! So many ‘wow, is that cool!’ moments! So many ‘Did they just do that!’ guard moves! So many Easter eggs (don’t you think I remember how the percussion ended the show 25 years ago to seal the first Cavaliers championship? And don’t you think I went crazy during those last eight counts of the show last night?) You have to make a certain mental leap to get into the music, however. I’ll put it like this. When you watch the Cadets, you are thinking: ‘Wow, the Cadets are playing ‘Simple Song’ from ‘Mass.’ I like ‘Simple Song’ from ‘Mass.’ They play it well. It’s a good arrangement.’ When you watch the Cavaliers, you have to think this way: ‘Wow, the Cavaliers are using ‘Mars’ from ‘The Planets.’ I like ‘Mars’ from ‘The Planets.’ Let’s see how they use it in conjunction with other musical and visual cues to express their overall show concept of ‘men as a strange and alien race.’ Do you see the difference? It’s not that Cavaliers are the first to do this, but they are doing it in a unique way this year and last. While I have grown to appreciate and love what they do, my sympathies are with the former way of experiencing drum corps.

More to come.

 

 

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