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DATR Denver Review

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Drums Along The Rockies Review

 

Yesterday I got to start my Drum Corps season with one of my favorite shows – in absolutely my favorite venue for a show.  Mile High is the perfect venue for drum corps - a stellar stadium with great acoustics and always enthusiastic crowds.  Despite the warmer than usual weather and a lineup with only one top 6 corps it was a great night and I enjoyed nearly every performance.  As I’ve said many times, first viewings can be very tricky – I can’t count the number of times my initial impressions changed dramatically for shows by the time championships have come around.  I went into the show “cold” not having seen or heard any corps online this year even, and in many cases not even knowing programming or show themes ahead of time.  I had a great friend with me who has come to this show with me many times, and also another friend who was seeing their first ever show.

 

The Battalion – So great to see this new corps continue to grow and mature.  While the youthfulness of the corps is apparent in execution, they seem to be growing more confident and competent each year.  The horn line seems to be their strength so far – both in numbers and performance.  I’m excited to see where this corps goes – hopefully to ultimately include rising to the World Class Ranks in a few years.  Glad to see they are taking the correct approach with building a foundation and gradual growth

 

Cascades – Alright!  I really liked Cascades show.  The horn line is again large and continuing to mature year over year.  There is good solid demand in the book and the ensemble sound is at times very nice.  They show seems well-written to their age levels.  Both brass & percussion seem to be above the guard at this time.  There is some really nice use of rotating props with soloists on them that fit the theme of the show quite well.  Very enjoyable show – can’t wait to see where they take it.

 

Oregon Crusaders – While there are strong visual references to “The Shining” program theme (and a few tasty voice-overs that I hope they have licensing for) with the guard costumes, the horn line costumes, etc, this show just didn’t connect with me.  Yes, the music needs to be dark given the program, but there is very little that drew me into the show.  The book is clearly challenging and it seems as if they are still focused on the basic execution issues.  Hopefully the staff can help the members embrace and emote or communicate the show as the season progresses.  One cool thing I didn’t’ realize until the very end – there is a cool abstract likeness of Nicholson on the black side of the uniform jacket.  Either there was a change made right before the end, or I was just very slow to catch it.   This was the least favorite show – by far – for both myself and both of my friends.  At this point in the season it doesn’t come close to the quality of design or performance from that wonderful “Nevermore” show from a few season ago – I hope they get there!

 

Pacific Crest – I liked this show, but I also felt it’s missing something.  Perhaps part of it is tempos that are under where they could be in the first parts of the show?  The ideas are cute and well relayed, and as usual there is a very competent horn line with a nice ensemble sound.  The music is very melodic and recognizable.  It’s hard to put a finger on what’s missing for me at this point.  I will enjoy seeing it several more times, though!

 

Troopers – Whoa!  Yes, that’s a show that feels like World Class Drum Corps to me.  While my newbie friend was enjoying the show prior to Troopers a great deal – he was almost giddy with how much Troopers blew him away with their emotion, performance levels, music & visual books.  I leaned over and told him, welcome to what drum corps can do when they have that combination.  This is already my favorite Troopers show since Wild Horses.  It’s always a challenge for a design staff to capture the right direction for a show on a big Anniversary year with a traditional corps with a strong alumni base.  I thought Troopers absolutely nailed it with nods to tradition and nods to modern and current drum corps.  The music book was extremely enjoyable, and the corps has the makings of another strong brass line yet again.  On the downside, while I think their material could make a run to edge of top 12, they have a ton of cleaning to do visually, and the visual issues impact the music towards the last 3rd of the show.  Clean, Clean, Clean and build up endurance and this will be a much appreciated show in Indy.

 

Academy – Another corps I thoroughly enjoyed!  THIS feels like the show that should have followed their Drum Corpse Bride Top 12 breakthrough.  Mature, demanding and emotionally impactful design performed by what I think are easily their best guard and brass sections yet.  The Keating piece from the end of Dead Poets Society is very moving and makes me wonder what took so long for someone to pull it into a show.  While no expert, I think the percussion session has work to do to rise to the level of the guard.  I also really hope they cut down on the # of Oh Captain, My Captain vocals at the end of the show.   It almost feels like they are trying to recreate a “I am Spartacus” crowd engagement that is just not going to happen, as it doesn’t fit the beautiful, moving music like the adrenaline pump at the end of that show.  From costumes to music & visual book to already impressive performance levels, I’m excited to see where Academy takes this show.  An A-minus for early July – that’s fantastic!  My 2 friends loved Academy.

 

Blue Knights – Not the easiest year to go last at their home show after Vanguard sucked all the already thin oxygen out of Mile High, but I was pleasantly surprised by BK & their show.  Great to hear the rich and powerful brass sound continuing after the brass caption change for sure.  Also, I loved that this show has more drill and more visual definition than last year.  The music book is enjoyable, and the ending is strong.  It will take another listen or two for me to decide just how much I like this arrangement of Rite of Spring, but it has it’s moments.  Also, they do a great job with props that they use different sides & colors to enhance different moods with quite well.  Cadets & Phantom better be careful or BK will once again knock people off – despite the fact that many absurdly count them out year after year.  Great organization here is not missing a beat.

 

Vanguard – Holy @$%@.  WOW.  Vanguard is on fire.  This is one hell of an intense, passionate, powerful show that is vintage Vanguard.  The hornline, drumline & guard are the best I’ve seen from Vanguard since 1999.  Searing music performed exceptionally well.  Both friends totally blown away.  This show seemed like it was over in 5 mins.  That good.  It’s also a bit of a blur, and I can’t wait to see it again.  So many layers, and done incredibly well.  The props are done in just a fantastic way.  The expansion, contraction and changes to them fit the show well and were done in a very seamless way (on first viewing).  The white unis look fantastic, and finally, a corps that demonstrated a great understanding of how to contrast color with the guard, with the rich reds & orangs in the guard uni.  Such a great show on every level.  I never fully felt Vanguard last year was ready to grab the ring.  Not so this year.  My only quibble would be a lack of field coverage and drill at this point, but with current adjudication (ala Bluecoats 2016), that may or may not matter.  I wanted to see this show again moments after it was over.  Go Vanguard!

Edited by TexasPRfan
Grammatical Clean Up
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Great review. Thank you

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There are some very comprehensive reviews of this show in this thread. Thanks to you who took the time to share. My thoughts are not nearly so erudite, but I paid for a ticket, so . . .

Venue: Once again, Mile High (the Sports Authority sponsorship is over and naming rights once again are up for grabs, so for now we can rightfully call it "Mile High" again) delivered. It was a 100-degree day and a hot night. Swirling breezes  were making things a bit rough for the color guards, even SCV, on the field. But, unlike some other DATR shows in recent years, there wasn't a hint of rain. Big, enthusiastic crowd that gave every corps a big reception. The lot scene, as usual, was one of the best of the tour.

 

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Battalion: Getting the most out of those old BAC uniforms, and I'd happy if more corps took that kind of sensible, budget-friendly approach. The classic cadet uniform gives this young ensemble a mature bearing, and the show theme, "Seeing Red," is an example of making the theme fit the look, not the other way around, and it's just fine. No need to buy 150 pairs of red pajamas. The corps puts out a quality, powerful sound. They have the feel of a well-managed, professionally run organization, and the members seem to be responding very well to it. Pointless observation of the night: for the second show in a row (it happened in Casper, too), the same red shako fell out in the same exact spot on the field at the same early moment of the show. Someone needs to inspect a hat.

 

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Cascades: The musical arrangements are really pleasing. Some very nice writing that includes ("Unraveled"? "Ave Maria"?) a very effective, satisfying drum tag, which has become a lost art in DCI. Some nicely effective moments in "Around the World;" lots of opportunity for the performers to rise to the occasion. Battery had more clarity issues than I'm used to hearing from Cascades, so the job for the next month is to clean, baby, clean.

 

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Pacific Crest: hooray for PC for remembering to make a drum corps show a show. I just love the musical selections, the arrangements, the groove, the melody, and the melody, and the melody. The designers gave the guard a big task, they carry a lot of weight of this production. They seem to be well-staged and integrated with the musical members. Execution will be the challenge for the rest of the way. But overall this is a show I will not miss if I have the opportunity to see it; PC does a great job of entertaining, and the Denver crowd loved it.

Edited by 2muchcoffeeman

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Troopers: The best inside joke on the field this year in DCI is the corps-block slow walk in Welcome to the Black Parade, to match the infamously largo gait of the Troopers' drum major. Leading the parade block is an assistant DM in a classic black guard uni, who might be less than 4' tall but who leads the parade with a bearing that stands taller than the entire corps. Mesmerizing. Black Parade may be one of the 3 or 4 best first two minutes of any show in DCI this year. Thematically, The New Road West is as clear as a Wyoming sky; there's no mystery what's going on with this show, and that clarity is refreshing -- not only from Troopers, but from much of the rest of current DCI programming. The show clocks in at about 9:30, so I'm wondering, even at this advanced date, whether the designers have more planned, especially at the rather abrupt ending. Aside from design, the percussion is the strength of the corps. Brass is well-instructed but you can hear some of the immaturity (chronological, not emotional) in the line. Give this corps a higher retention rate and they could soar. The recaps continue to say the guard is the area where Troop needs to invest. The corps is decently clean visually through the first half; most of the dirt seems to be in the tight whirly bits in the second half. There's that wonderfully earnest and open Troopers energy in Toward the Splendid City and in Smith's original closer. And -- yes -- the compasses ultimately point west!

Edited by 2muchcoffeeman

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Crusaders: Maybe instead putting The Shining on the field, Oregon should have gone for There Will Be Blood. The most effective part of the show are the massive red streamers that form a bloody cyclone around the corps in the show's final moments. There are a few popular-culture references to the Stephen King novel in the show, but nothing that counts as actually frightful. Musically, the show is straight out of Central Casting: lots of dark mood and angry posturing and scowling big chords and stick heights up to here -- all pretty standard these days. Battery, as usual, was rockin'. Conceptually, the show is one you've seen a thousand times: A strange bewitching female character emerges, and puts the rest of the corps under her spell, drawing them to her and pushing them away in some kind of forbidden-attraction kind of thing. Toss in Jack Nicholson, and voila: Crusaders 2018. Lots of energy, plenty of movement, and some excellent impacts.

Edited by 2muchcoffeeman

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Academy: Much better live than what I had seen from California via Flo. Others see great potential in this show. Okay. I see a bunch of desks and blackboards, and hear a bunch of equations and quotations. I guess when it comes to Academy, I'm a bit of a contrarian. Others thought Corpse Bride was magic; I thought it was gimmicky. For my money, Mary Poppins was right in Academy's wheelhouse, and I think with Academic, they are taking that formula and adding some heft. They got the heft, but they are missing some of the whimsy that has set Academy apart. But again, performance level is high, and with cleaning and polishing, this show will be a contender for finals. I'd just like them to wink at the audience a bit more, and I don't think "o captain" is the way to do it. The only way it could be more obvious that they want the crowd to shout the "o captain" line just before the hit is to use cue cards, and honestly, it makes my eyes roll. But I can't stay mad with Academy. The members are 110% into selling their show, and they understand better than most corps that the real magic is in making a connection with the crowd.

 

Edited by 2muchcoffeeman

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Blue Knights: The back end of the show has become much more coherent than what I was getting from the livestreams from California. Once again there's one of those strange bewitching female characters who makes the rest of the corps woozy for a while. I appreciate Rite of Spring more than I love it, and BK has chosen well, drawing much of its material from Spring Round Dances, and it is meaty. But to me, Exit Music is the highlight; it's made for the domes. Visually, BK still has dirt in the spinning boxes/wedges in Rite, right up there on the front sideline. Toward the middle of the show, during a side-2 perc & rifle feature, there seems to be a visual stall among the corps as they bunch up within the circle of pyramids, just before the curved "sun rays" extend outward. The rays eventually are a cool visual effect, but the setup seems to be one-minute visual pause. The horn line is in frozen in place inside the ring of pyramids, and half the guard is sitting on the rear sideline! You can almost hear GE (and VA) leaking out of the balloon. When the big explosion of brass arrives and the brass push the sun rays outward (yes! woo!) , only a third of the flags on the back sideline spring into action (what? no!). Seems to be a big moment wasted visually. But things pick up from there. The brass re-entry after the strange, backfield scarab-like dance in front of the dystopian radio speakers (or whatever, it's BK) , is both glorious and haunting, a sound that few arrangers this side of Jay Bocook could engineer. The program says the music includes Welcome to the Machine and Time After Time, but I could not discern either of those tunes coming from the field. They must be very loose transcriptions, or I'm just too much of an old drummer to recognize them. As usual, the BK brass is a high-tuned, smooth-running powerhouse; percussion is nails; and the color is beautiful. (And honestly, the costuming actually makes sense and does not induce the fainting spells it did when it was revealed a few weeks ago). Tons of content in this show, and if BK can make the visual spotless, it could surge. They feel a bit underscored; seemed to be an 80-point show at least.

 

Edited by 2muchcoffeeman

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