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Review of DCI Finals - Edited Aug 16

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I will continue to edit this post to add more thoughts on the shows and also on various issues over the season. 

Fantastic DCI Finals overall!  Congrats to all the marching members. You were all amazing and put on your best performances.  Here is a quick synopsis of my thoughts.

Madison Scouts - Excellent brass sound. Really got into the music. Was never sure about what I should be looking at or viewing visually. Sometimes just too much going on. Overall a mature sounding corps that with the right product will excel I believe. 

Crossmen - one of my favorite music books of the summer. Incredible control in the brass. Guard was wonderful and what a fantastic snare line. 

Blue Stars - LOVE the music, the drill was amazing and very demanding, and overall this was one of the more emotional shows for me. 

Phantom Regiment - You guys rocked the house. Most improved corps of the year. That closer...OH MY GOODNESS! I was in love tonight. Classic Phantom!!

  • Edit, Aug 16:  The show we saw from Phantom on Finals night was a show that might have placed higher had they been able to achieve that construction by late July and then clean more. It simply took them all summer to "hammer" things out.  I love what they did with the guard this year, and I found their performance incredible, but I'd like to see a few less in the guard and more in brass. 

Blue Knights - Loved the color of this show. Your brass is seriously one of the better lines on the field this summer...and percussion was no slouch. Visually maybe not my favorite BK show, but the ending was fantastic with those flags. 

  • Edit, Aug 16:  The talent in this corps is close to or on par with many in the top 5. The brass and percussion were indications of that. For BK to push up the ladder I believe they need to clarify and reinforce certain melodic phrases in a way that is less chopped and with more impact. As I watched their show I enjoy it so much, but I never quite get those 2 or 3 big impact moments that pull me emotionally into the show. They seem to like these modern, esoteric, playful show themes. They do work well with their uniforms and visual style, but often I just find myself need a bit more in music construction and music GE. 

The Cadets - One of my favorite shows of the summer. Here is another corps that started slow and finally found their swagger and took off. Scoring aside this was a fantastic show with serious GE and a killer ending! Bravo!

  • Edit, Aug 16:  I felt Cadets began the summer under some pressure to try and relive history and restore the iconic and legendary history of the Cadets to top 3 status. I'm sure this wasn't the case, but it had to feel like that for some. For designers to come into a tough situation following all kinds of turbulence after last season, and for the marching members to tackle this show amid that turbulence and those unrealistic expectations I feel may have caused the corps to work slower at camp to ensure a better overall product as the season progressed. The show was vastly better. Their Finals performance was outstanding.  In many ways the Cadets were cleaner than some corps above them, and there were some excellent GE moments in this show. A few things that could have helped this show are 1) do not overdo narration, 2) don't be so literal, and 3) spend more time cleaning when you come out of the gate from Spring Training. I almost get the impression that they listened almost too closely to judges comments in those first 6 to 10 shows. I respect the judges and would certainly listen and make notes of what they were saying about the show, but with partial panels and the knowledge that your show isn't clean yet and their minds may change once they see things more clearly I would not make lots of changes to the show in the initial days after spring training. I would spend more time cleaning what you have on the field. Come July 7 or 8 I would then begin the process of making small changes here and there, with major changes set to premiere in late July.  I will say that despite all the criticism they got early season for costumes, I thought they looked fantastic! That was a bold show to attempt and the priest robes, the choir robes, the 2nd costume with Maroon and Gold top (gorgeous), to the 3rd costume was really key to the show and the theatrical presentation. Best use of Trombones this year. 

Boston Crusaders - Holy cow were you guys clean and the sound of the music ensemble was outstanding! Loved the guard, enjoyed the theme, and you get the award for best use of a prop. Certainly the most deadly use of a prop. 

  • Edit, Aug 16:  What can you say about Boston!  That is what you call making a jump. I think we all expected it, but most of us (certainly me) felt they would be a year away from making that kind of jump. I was thinking 8th or 9th.  But no, 6th. You do not makes jumps like that in DCI competition without serious designers, teachers, and talented members. Boston has made a commitment to great teachers and to their members. They have always run a wonderful drum corps and are now simply expanding on their dreams. This show was an outstanding vehicle for them to make another leap.  They will need a show with slightly more demand in the content/construction areas to make the next jump. With the direction their brass, percussion and guard took this is not out of the question. When Boston hit you this year with their first big brass attack you could tell it was a Gino line with the kind of control and power we have come to expect of his lines. Their percussion was stellar by season's end! Very clean. Same with guard. Guard was top 3 or 4 at Finals. Amazing. Anyone in the 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 area of placements will have to deal with these guys. Can they move into the top 2 next year? Not sure. But 3 to 5 I would not rule out. 

Cavaliers - You get my crazy, zany visual award. Visually this show was stunning and marched incredibly well. Fabulous guard. Music ensemble was very good, but I did not care for the music construction. To choppy for my taste, and the closer was an odd mashup.  However, you want to talk about a corps selling their show. These guys did. Bravo!

Bluecoats - This is what I call a high-energy show. Some killer GE moments with some mighty tasty playing and marching. Solos were on tonight.

  • Edit, Aug 15:  From the beginning of the season it was apparent that Bloo was taking on a huge risk with this ultra-challenging show. Who has ever tried a prop like that, in that manner?  RISKY and BRAVE!  The timing and impact challenges in this show were off the charts. A very difficult show to clean. In the end this may have hurt Bloo to some extent, but the fans did not mind as Bluecoats once again thrilled fans everywhere. They were one of, if not the most, entertaining corps of the summer. It's nice to see and hear a corps do something so complicated and challenging, yet be so entertaining and still be top 5. 
  • edit, Aug 16:  As for the 5th place finish, I was not a fan of the judges for that, but I do realize they just didn't get things as clean as possible. Having said that I feel the judges rewarded the Cavaliers too much for a poorly constructed music book and average music GE. Visually the Cavaliers were stunning and I heaped plenty of praise on them for their excellent marching, drill design, and amazing guard. Their percussion and brass were good, but I did not feel they were at Bloo's level. More to the point, Bloo's content numbers in brass, percussion, music analysis, and overall music GE should have been the deciding factor. The Cavaliers simply did not look top 4 to me.  I have more to say on that in coming days as I update my Cavaliers comments. They are an excellent corps and organization, and I just feel Bloo was better this year on the field. 

Carolina Crown - What an amazing brass intro!! All season long this was my favorite intro. Sadly the ballad was ruined tonight by mic malfunctions. So sad this happened, because the young lady is a tremendous talent and good person. But this will always be the risk with electronics in big venues. Just go ask the audio guys that handle things like large rock concerts, Super Bowls, college Bowl games, etc. Why do you think some Super Bowl pop star appearances have to be lip synced? The dynamics of outdoor electronics can be very risky and dangerous, and tonight I heard that with not only Crown but a few others. 

Santa Clara Vanguard - A truly amazing show top to bottom. The opener does not grab me until three quarters of the way through, but from there to the end is simply dynamic programming, The last 2 to 3 minutes are HEAVEN!!! I noticed a mic hiccup with SCV tonight as well. The first entrance of the solo brass ensemble did not come through. It was quickly fixed, but I also feel they may have turned the mics off at one point. At least from the FLO perspective it seemed the solo brass ensemble was not cutting through like they normally did. At any rate, Bravo for captivating the drum corps world this summer with a stunning and modern show that also had some wonderful old school moments. 

Blue Devils - To me, this was BY FAR AND AWAY the best corps all summer and this evening.  They constructed a show that began with MUSIC. It was clearly music first and the construction was masterful.  BD put together a music ensemble that blew my mind all summer, and tonight laid down an amazing performance! The showmanship of their visual program, which I feel so perfectly matches the music, is one of the hallmarks of BD. Some call it swagger, but to me it's showmanship, and BD really understands how to add that element to a show. Way to go, Blue Crew!!! What a FANTASTIC show, and your performance was thrilling on all levels! 


Bravo to all!  I had a blast watching everyone this summer! 

Edited by jwillis35
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Great and fast review, Jonathan!  Amazed at how aligned on our thoughts!  It was a great night to be sitting in Lucas Oil.


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