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  1. I think 95 pushes 92 as one of the strongest top 12s of the 90s. Would be interested to know how much of the finals placements people feel were due to performance on the night versus strength of design?
  2. I think 88 pushes 92 closes in terms of overall entertainment across the top 12! Lots of corps have strong years. For those that were there, was Arrowhead a good finals venue?
  3. Yay, keep these great posts coming! Random recollections... To a teenage brit, the 93 broadcast was initially dissapointing. It seemed less glossy, not such a grand scale, and with the rain, less American! Watching with some older friends raised on 80s jazz, the top 3 lost them - "they're playing warm ups"! Was this Curt Gowdys most error prone year? Loved the BD interlude with the notes on the screen. Can still hear that mellos and alto section now! Cadets running tenor break Phantom blew the house down with FOEG then were quite messy standing up again. Love that show but at the time felt the ending was abrupt BD chain reaction...they come in with this awesome riff, you think some great Johnny One Note or Tommy esque tune is starting... and then they move on. An early foreshadowing of future programming 😁 Anyone else wonder how come the tenor player for Star in the experiment was wearing a vanguard drum line tshirt? Didn't tribal rules prevent this?!
  4. Love these threads! Some fantastic contributions! I vaguely remembering hearing or reading nearer the time that Regiments show suffered towards the end of the season as people were expecting the fireworks associated with 1812 but as the show cleaned up it felt increasingly sterile. Watching back now it feels low on excitement and some interesting arrangement choices made. Any insights from those those involved? Think it's also a well known thing from the time that there was a 'step too far' backlash from fans and judges alike to the final big tarp that Star raised? The video camera angle suggested it wasn't quite hoisted into positon either? My experience was eagerly waiting for the taped pbs recording to be shipped over. I still recall a remark from friends that went out to watch finals. I was keen to know if Star had upped the whiplash factor from the year before. 'Star were fast but Cadets were faster'. SCV's first and last minutes were awesome. Anyone know why they went with the single flag and old school visual design approach leaving behind most of the theatrics of the previous few years? Was it seen as a competitive risk going into the summer season to celebrate the anniversary in a certain way? From a distance it seemed like Cavies refined their way to a championship having gotten closer in the years previous, but this winning show didn't resonate with me quite as much as 89 - 91, or certainly 95. Agree with the thoughts that 92 was one of the most entertaining years top to bottom!
  5. Acoustic Diminishment Where use of a prerecorded soundscape segues into brass and percussion in such a way that the latter is left seeming shallow or pale in comparison.
  6. It’s the halfway point in the season, and as performance levels rise and execution begins to crystalize, but the mid-season changes are not yet all in. As a casual fan who tends to watch several corps back-to-back rather than fixate on any one corps, variety and distinction is important, which probably shows through here. I thought it might be interesting to some to put some more rambling speculation and commentary out there. Bluecoats For me this feels like the most ‘professionally’ put together show. That’s not slight on the other corps, but more around approach to sound production and musical effect that’s evident. In the modern era where variety is essential, I think its ok for one corps to push the envelope in that way, so long as others continue to push in slightly different directions. Visually they’ve chosen a very evocative styling linked to the Beatles psychedelic era theme and this is an area where their production values excel. They use a lots of props but they aren’t over-reliant on any one prop so they retain a sense of variety and freshness across the show. A couple of questions marks for me at this stage…with the variations in blue on the musicians costumes, some of the dark blue pops out on video and takes away from the sense of uniformity in the drill. Not sure if this is the same from the stand? My main reservation for this show is that structurally in the last third they go from a slow piece to a jam, to a down ending. Is there enough excitement, pace and exhilaration to things through to a conclusion and take them to the very top? Blue Devils At this point, the winners in terms of prop utilization, for me. They derive some downside-up levels of cool from the wave of the backfield doors, and the unison opening and closing is an example of simple but effective (hello contras!). Later in the show the doors doubling up as ramp works well too. One fly in ointment is that after the contra entrance the more random opening of doors backfield is a distraction but assume that’s an easy tidy-up when they need to. Programmatically this show feels like one where the brass line, particularly upper brass are being pushed in their features. Similar in this respect to 2014 (IIRC)? The ballad isn’t as catchy as the past few years but that’s probably in keeping with the theme and mood. I’m not sure of the value of the costume change early on, particularly as the disrobing around the ladders is inherently untidy and untheatrical? The percussion hand-tapping feature is fun and I would imagine it will grow and refine from here. Currently the last portion of the show is the weakest where I find engagement levels do dip, but that’s an issue I find with all of the current top 3 just now. The strengths of prop utilization and integration will fuel strong visual effect and they always perform to the highest levels. They will be right up there in the final conversations. SCV If you take a large step back and observe SCV’s show, I think the standout feature is that those props aren’t as dynamic as last year. Climbing up a ladder is a - relatively - slow process. Musically this show is creative and dynamic. One might argue that it lacks the same strength of book-end melody as last year, but that said the repeating riff at the end of the second movement has become an earworm for me. More so than the towers, I’m not sold on the value of the poles. Their movement around the field is inherently untidy and I’m not sure that the shifting of the visual frame really adds that much to the show. Personable bias maybe, but the recent addition of the tarps is questionable whether it will be a net gain once the newness subsides. For me the problem tarps pose on the football field is that for every eye-pleasing moment where tarp and forms blend well there are more where as many where it’s not easy on the eye. Will more be more or less in terms of overall effect for SCV? That all said, the corps are executing and performing really well and there are a lot of subtle sequentials and other ensemble effects coming through now. I’ve read some criticism of the visual this year and I wonder if part of that is because when the corps hits the full ensemble unison moment they tend to be at slower tempos? I would like to see one or two more of extended big picture transitions! Structurally, I still have doubts the final third of the show. The percussion feature ending is quite underwhelming to the audience (from what I’ve seen) and then the corps quickly moves into the closer which has a triumphal tone. For me it’s too abrupt and emotionally you’re not taken there. Visually the ending reminds me of Cadets 1987 with the dissolving drill into the final form. It curious that such a move still finds an equivalent place in a show so many years later! As the season progresses I’m intrigued to see who from the top 3 can refine their endings to generate audience reaction that lifts above general-appreciation-for-the-previous-11-minutes, into something more spontaneous! Crown The opening portion of Crowns show is possibly the best out there this year. With the bells and chimes it harkens back to Belshazzar’s Feast! I think it’s great for the audience and variety that a top-echelon corps are using a drill heavy visual program. There are many cool a transitions and eye pleasing pictures on display. To the point that while I get the role the stage plays, I’m not sure that the show would be any weaker without the smaller props. The ballad feels to static visually to me – too much down time if that makes sense! I’m not yet sure what I’m meant to be getting from the Beneath The Surface theme, and perhaps when measured in tenths, this could become important? The change of mood into the close is not so distinct for me now as early season, but I’m still not sure the musical selections are bound together within the theme as cohesively as the corps around them. There’s still plenty of time though! BAC Boston deserve, and I think are, getting credit for their full-on dedication to their theme. The period look, combined with the underdog narrative, and snippets of rocky is something that it’s really easy for the audience to grab onto and enjoy the ride. Boston’s musicians possibly bob and lunge more than anyone this year, but that seems to be supportive of the visual approach and the oppressive legion that contrasts and showcases their top-notch guard. There aren’t yet any singular effect moments as memorable as from the past couple of years, but there’s time, and room to make the high points even higher. Looking upwards it will be interesting to see if they find a way to ‘hike the stakes’ and increase the sense of jeopardy arising from Goliath, thus getting full value from the pay-off when he’s slain that should carry the show through to its conclusion. Right now, it’s not controversial to see Boston in a battle with Crown and both with some potential to climb! Cavaliers I deliberately avoid referencing scores when offering opinions, but the one exception I will make is that it’s a surprise to me that at the halfway mark Cavies are not closer to the top than they are. I enjoy this show more than some years for Cavies, particularly around the visual style that comes through strongly this year. Prop-wise the scaffold is a static climb-on and this is already becoming vanilla in the props-race. The timbers are evocative but timing looks to be a challenge with them. I’m not yet sure what this show is trying to convey with the Wrong Side of the Tracks theme – how relevant is the time period (and do voiceovers fit well with this?), and is there a message or narrative thread? I’m not sure I want them to go any further into story telling. What I would like is more danger and excitement! More exposed sequential flag throws, more risk and danger in that rife toss at the end of the opening, more reinvention of the Cavies snake for the 2019 audience. Easy to ask for, much harder to realise, I’m sure! Cadets It’s perhaps unfair to comment on a corps based on what they aren’t doing but I find myself underwhelmed by Cadets programming this year (note, not their performance of it). Primarily this is because, I’d really struggle to pick it as a cadets show. Visually the book is solid and challenging, but generic in style. The story-telling element is not one that I associate with Cadets at their best – with the honourable exception of 2005! The narrative drive of ‘who possesses the mace’ is straightforward enough to follow, but imo, top echelon programming needs something more. Costuming is influenced by past uniforms but I’m not convinced the deep hue will ever serve well for musicians costumes due to lack of pop. When looking at opportunities to stand-out and innovate, I think Cadets would benefit from re-finding theirs. Hopefully these seems proves to be a step towards that. BK Personal bias will shine through again here in that I continue to enjoy this show a seeming relatively ‘unplugged/unpropped’ compared to the rest, and for DCI shows as an entertainment product that variety is important. The show is subtle but engaging. My reservation is whether the high points are high enough just now, in terms of exhilaration. I just hope they continue to develop in their current direction and look for opportunities to max out effect without tying themselves too closely to the prop-race. Blue Stars I find Blue Star’s show enjoyable. The field coverage in the visual is strong with some effective transitions and aesthetic qualities, and the music is fairly accessible too. I am continuing to struggle more with the application of the theme, which is there strongly in the costuming, and the sleds, but then seems to dip in and out in terms of relevance during the show. For example there’s a lot of unison body work in the musicians that works against rather than with that theme for my taste and music that is conveying a variety of moods. The tents are a nice addition in terms of colour and framing but I’m not sure the end-zone mountain is really adding that much to the show. Good show but wonder if stronger sense of ‘wild’ would be beneficial! Mandarins I haven’t seen much of these guys since early season, but June promised much and look forward to catching up with them again soon! Xmen After a couple of watches my reaction is fairly indifferent to this show. It’s highly competent drum corps design but fairly vanilla, and I don’t think it’s controversial to say that this show would be an equal fit for several other corps out there as well a feeling quite similar to some other corps shows of the recent past. I like the contrast of the dark musicians costumes with the crimson of the guard. But the Valkyrie element isn’t necessarily adding beyond a general sense that this is a darker drum corps show. Is it Night On Bald Mountain that I hear snippets from in the second half of the show? Prop-wise the circular platforms work as mini-stages to give the vertical highlight without adding much beyond this. A prop must-have perhaps? It’s clearly not Crossmen’s responsibility to bring a certain style to the field for the sake of audience variety, but personally there’s a classic Xmen style that many remember fondly. I miss that from today’s array of shows, and hope they find a way to bring it back to the field in a contemporary and competitive manner in the not too distant future. PR When I first heard about the Joan of Arc theme, I felt it was a bold choice to go back towards something that would naturally sit in the same ball park as Spartacus. When I heard the I Am Joan show title, I thought it would’ve been great for Velvet Knights if they’d done a 2009 show, but would it be too self-referential here? The show itself uses the device of a costume change from dark to light to sign-post a transformation, but for me the corps presence is stronger on the field with the musicians in black. Unfortunately the costume change is a well-used device of the years in drum corps, so for me effect reward is limited, and I’m not sure how well the narrative really works in this show. The intro is long and dominated by pre-record which for me does then lead to some acoustic diminishment when the instruments on the field kick-in. Fire of Eternal Glory is a Regiment classic, and brave to bring back. For freshness it seems a smart move to split the piece in two, but the second part does not hit the spot for me (yet) feeling as though the excitement of the finale is almost throttled through the chord progressions and restrained design in the drill. Like Cadets, there’s a temptation for me to focus on what’s not there in comparison to their tradition, but I do feel this show is a small step forward from last year, and does have plenty of room to grow this year
  7. When watching shows over the years, increasingly I'm reminded of the phrase 'the more things change the more they remain the same'. One aspect of DCI that is changing incrementally each year is the importance of the month of June! Id say it's a safe bet that these kids have more capacity to perform and learn quicker than ever before, but these shows are of increasingly complexity, and getting drill, equipment, and music onto the field is far from the full story. Into the mix now, throw sophisticated sound and set design, layered choreography, and the detailed logistical considerations of each. I'd guess that while it's still possible to make major revamps to a show during the season, it will become an ever rarer thing - being more about those additions that were planned in during the winter, than reactive changes from adjudication. So with that in mind, here's another rambling collection of opinions, questions, and speculation around the packages and design and underlying trends. Hope it's interesting reading for some... Vanguard In a good way, I think SCV have been fairly predictble in the way the programming of this years show as a follow-on from last year's winner, using a finely balanced blend of retained and new ideas. Time and time again we've seen this two year cycle occur in various forms over the decades. The costuming vibe is similar to last years stand-out, but the colour pallete has been adjusted. Last years cubes and cages are now clylindrically based towers and masts. This years show, in contrast to many, strikes me as one that is still musically dominant. The sound is rich, dark and powerful, but with an evident arranging flair. Based on limited early viewings I don't yet hear a catchy musical motif, but it may come... or this show may not need it. Likewise for the the non-conformity theme from the pre-season show announcement... when they wow with such visceral effect we may not need to know what it's actually all meant to to represent? I enjoy that the corps gets going into the show right from count one, and the end of the opener with the ascending chords is probably the stand out moment for me so far, but the holst-esque 2nd piece is also shaping up nicely. I'm not yet seeing much of the longer-form set pieces that have been such a great feature of SCV shows over recent years, but these may come? One reservation is that this years props don't seem to have the versatility, and so integration potential, of last years. Could this make a difference? As things stand right now I wonder if Vox Eversio could end being to Babylon what Frameworks was to Four Corners, but Drum Corps is rarely that predictable. We shall see! Estimated finishing position 1 - 2. Blue Devils It's well discussed that blue devils are a short odds bet in the year after they haven't one. I'm a variable BD fan, in that I tend to prefer the more musically accessible years, but I'm always a fan of the quality of their productions. Particular the sophistication of staging and visual integration. With Ghostlight, I think they've given themselves a vehicle to pull in as much avant-garde and wgi-inspired effect to the max. Channeling shows like Through a Glass Darkly, and Cabaret Voltaire, this show may not leave you whistling in the aisle, but it will be right up there for finals week. The backfiled props provide the platform for some cool early guard effects, and great use of contrasting colours in the prop itself, but that's followed by a design bug bear of mine - the over-used voice over section. Costume wise I'm not a fan of the messy silhouette that the capes give to the musicians but guess this may align to the shows mysterial theme. The brass play a lot of challenging sections in the show. In conjunction to this it's been said many times before, by many different people that BD's performers often just sell their shows better at an individual level than the rest of the pack. As costume evolution and other trends increase the amount of individual characterisation from all corps, I do wonder if this performance edge will always remain. One for someone who sees these corps in the flesh to comment on. It's far from risky to predict that BD will develop a fantastic show this year, but so can a few others. Intriguing and exciting for all concerned no doubt! Estimated finishing position 1 - 3. Bluecoats With their Beatles inspired 1960's psychedelic theme, the Bluecoats are fishing rom a relatively well stocked and untouched pond. They have maintained a stylishly unique approach to their costuming again this year and the electric blue colour pallet looks striking on the field. They fill the field with a lot of props - first thoughts are whether it's too much, but what they have out there they do use, and the change from white to orange works well. I really like that with the musical book the corps have created some complex and demanding arranging from relative straightforward and melodic musical sources. This is a trend that I hope catches on. The corps appear strong across all departments this year, and the theme gives them tons of opportunity for evocative visual and music effects and motifs. If I have reservations then it's that I don't yet see any of the running drill effect moments that they've done so well in recent years, and for me, they need to balance the period vibe with enough genuine DC excitement. As such, the last couple of minutes of the show lack a bit of speed and momentum before the final coda as a pay off. In watching this I'm reminded of a Summer Of Love WGI show from 10 years or so back that was winner in terms of crowd appeal. I think this show has the potential to be another Coat's classic. Estimated finishing position 1 - 3. Crown Crown are using light coloured costume palette across the corps and guard, and are one of the few retaining head gear. I think the headgear compliments their current visual style which has plenty of marching that the taller silhouette then enhances. In terms of field layout, moving props are evident but less crucial to this production than for many others. If there’s significance and effect to be had linked to the Beneath The Surface theme, then I’m not yet reading it yet. There’s a stage running behind the pit which is well used, but this positioning wipes out a fair chunk of the field, and reaches inwards beyond the 45 on side 1. I watch and wonder whether the visual show would be better balanced with everything shifted left by 5 yards. If only it were that simple!. The production gets off to a strong start with a catchy musical motif and then into a show that is quite light and playful in tone without every being simple. After listening to this show a couple of times by two-thirds the vibe I'm getting takes me back to Cadets We Are the Future show from 2000 (an all time great, imo). Gabriel's Oboe is a highly recognisable melody with a haunting feel, which they play really well, but at this point in time I find it’s a bit too static visually, something I can't find the right description for, in terms of build to the musical highlight, so it's not quite hitting the goosebumps zone when it gets there. Maybe this is what pre-conceptions and personal bias can do for you! When the latin feel closer kicks in the show takes a turn of direction. The closer in itself looks set to be a great production with some intense but melodic music coupled to lots going on in the drill, but I'm not sold (yet!) that this combination will lead to a completely cohesive package. Regardless, Crown have a fun and entertaining show that has the horsepower to score really well, and an accessibility that many will love. Estimated finishing position 2 - 6 Cavaliers When the Wrong Side of the Tracks was announced I was initially confused by the costuming, and what angle the show would be going for. On viewing I was quickly getting a West Side Story vibe from the music and the set up of the on-field props aligned to the stated 19th Century setting. And the costuming does give the corps a strong individual profile coupled to an effective rustic set of colours. After 5-6 minutes of this show I feel that Cavies are on a real up-swing this year. They sound solid, and the visual book has a strong sense of Cavies style at their best, with fast intricate transitions and lots of cool sequential moves. Two challenges at this point are that I'm not sure what if anything the corps are trying to tell me. Is it just a glimpse at a period of time in a certain setting or something more narratively led? There's a triumphal feel to the closing act that seems to arrive to soon, leaving a slightly underwhelming ending from an engagement perspective. Estimated finishing position 3 - 6 BAC I think it's an indicator of boston's confidence that they've chosen to go with this production this year – as for fans over a certain age there is Phantom’s Spartacus still lingering in the memory as a rather prominent benchmark for comparison. Theme aside, Boston have also programmed a show that aims to showcase their progress across all three performance sections, and this is already apparent early in the season. It’s a show with a narrative and a strong sense of time and place, and they've gone for it 'whole-hog' with the period costuming. Curiously, the stockings create an oddly old-skool drum corps look reminiscant of spats! Musically this show has some strong moments, with the percussion having a generous share of ‘stage time’. The Rule the World melody is evocative and could be one of this season's strongest musical motifs. Also, the Rocky section with the fanfare trumpets and trombones stage front is a stand out moment and one I think they can( and will!) build on as the season progresses. The props give the corps the opportunity to present some interestingly posed featues, but I don't find the overall visual program quite as enjoyable yet, as the past couple of years. Programmatically, the key weakness for me right now is the realisation of Goliath, and both the lack of (theatrical) jeopardy when he appears, or sufficient pay off when he’s slain. Fans of GoT may find some similiraties in how long it took for Winter to arrive and how quickly it then went! That said, finding fresh ways of generating effect from killing could now be one of the toughest design challenges in drum corps! Clearly, it would be unreasonable to expect there to be a 9-foot, 250lbs 21 year old on the field, but I’m not sure the current approach is hitting the right level for a corps with aspirations to climb to the top echelon. That said, Boston have proven adept over the last couple of years at introducing some stand-out big-effect ideas. I look forward to seeing what they bring this season. If this show does truly catch fire, watch out whoever's in the top three! Estimated finishing position 3 - 6 Blue Stars I havent seen too much as yet, but early thoughts are that they are continuing their recent tradition of producing shows that little bit different to everyone else. I really like their approach to drill which gives some very eye-pleasing design work aligned to their unique approach to costuming. It may be clever use of materials but I'm not sure I'd want to be performing in Texas in those furry boots! One takeaway is that the Into The Wild theme will need some work to convey, as wild is an inherently difficult concept to convey aligned to 'clean'. Likewise, the props as currently realised are functional rather than emotive. It will be interesting to see how the story of ascending to the top of the mountain is leveraged into emotional appeal in the show, but regardless, I think this shows has the potential to be another strong year for the Blue Starts. Estimated finishing position 6 - 8 Blue Knights The first 2 minutes of this show are some of favourite on the field so far this year as they use full corps music and drill to generate the tension into the opening hit. The battery 360 floating turns are a great example of 'simple but effective', and take me back a little to SCV’s Miss Saigon helipcopter percussion from 91. Bucking the prop race this year, BK have only simple static background props, and for it makes a refreshing change. This years show is a bit of an ‘unplugged’ moment in that respect compared to the pack. There’s no story telling and the show-blurb is so esoteric you don't need it. Instead this show is one just to enjoy for what you are seeing and hearing, not what you think you are meant to be seeing and hearing. With the prop staging as it is, field feels wide open, and the corps – with the guard in a complimentary colour palette to the musicians – seems all the bigger They also seem to march more than most with some great eye-pleasing visual design on display as well as some well-coordinated mass-movement. The musical book appears challenging and has some nice moments in a book that seems to have been arranged with a lighter more ethereal touch than many this year. One question mark is whether that are enough exciting high points and how to close out the final act. But overall, I think BK have got a great vehicle and I look forward to seeing how well they drive it by seasons end! Estimated finishing position 6 - 9 Mandarins I've not seen much of these guys but early impressions are that they are taking another step forward this year, and continuing to plough quite a dark approach to programming in both look and feel. They even make use of the classic drum corps trope of 'evil dude cloaked in black', though to be fair, he's used in an interesting way that deviates from the expected. Like the corps above them, Mandarins are bringing a style of their own to the table, and this for me is a clear indication that they are moving towards being a top 6 contender. Maybe not quite this year but they won't be far off! Estimated finishing position 6 - 9 Others I haven't had much opportunity to watch beyond these and/or some corps are clearly in rebuilding year. I guess we should all try and remember that for one corps to climb a place another has to fall, and in terms of drum corps talent its a zero sum game. General thoughts So far ths year, I've not spotted much in the way of new ideas within drill design and I struggle to recall last year too. Can we now safely say the age of 'peak drill' is well behind us? (peaking omewhere around the turn of the last decade in hindsight?) While the product has to continue to evolve, I do hope corps find new ways to innovate in terms of drill, and full ensemble effect moments. While we may be past peak-drill, we're probably still on the way towards peak prop. Increasingly, the 'high-prop' award will be based on versality, movability, and how fast can performers get on and off (or in and out), rather than what the prop looks like at any given moment? Drum corps endings – are they suffering from the evolution of he prop? Not all corps have space on the field for company fronts and full corps signature moves but in the spirit of the peak-end rule for the audience as returning punters, I hope corps really hone their endings this year even if with build-up evaluation as it is today, they don’t necessarily need great endings. A few times I notice corps build up tension nicely then lose it through dropping horns and going into more freeform movement ready for the next musical phase. I get it has it’s place, particularly when high velocity, but think it can be a missed opportunity to keep the view locked in. When you watch several shows back to back the opening hit into extended drum break pattern is nearly ubiquitous. The 2nd movements of shows tend to carry a lot of the tempo and demand. This doesn't necessarily lend itself to story telling at a point in the show where is needs to propel the narrative. A challenge for several corps as the season progresses. I hesitate to mention this one, for fear of harking back to the perennial applause-ometer discussions from years gone by, but I think the hardest design challenge in drum corps is to generate a mid-show standing O. As shows evolve year on year, so does audience taste, and while appreciation might fuel people onto their feet at the end, to get the audience properly stirred mid-show really takes some work. Who will do this best come August? This is the most difficult of predictions right now! Thanks for reading!
  8. I’m on the wrong continent to attend shows in person so this review is based only on online viewing and listening. As such it focuses more on the design “what” elements than the performance “how”. I’ve been meaning to have a bash at for a few years and I finally found the time. I hope this rambling collection of opinions makes an interesting read for some! Crossmen After the first few of minutes of this year’s Bones you could be forgiven for thinking it was a mix up in the running order and Regiment were on the field, and not just because of the classical slant to the source material. The visual look across the unis umbrellas and gold silks bring a lushness and strong presence to the field. It’s a quality opening to the show that goes right through to the end of the first number. There are some interesting effects at work in both the drill and music and the more traditional edge to the uniform aligns well to the theme. Throw in a some recognisable melodies and you could be forgiven for wondering how here are another eleven corps scoring higher than this? Credit too to the soloist who manages to play while holding that umbrella. That multi-tasking would scare many a player asked to play with that exposure I’m sure! I do find the show loses me a little once the figure-in-black enters proceedings doing their best Wicked Witch of the West impression. There’s some great music going on with the brass on side two and the featured character is a bit of a distraction swinging from the hourglass on side one. If there’s a story being told in the first half of the show I didn’t notice it, and for me the show doesn’t then benefit from the narrowing of focus towards the hour-glass for the next part of the production. It may sound a strange observation to make, but I kind of wish this show wasn’t performed by Crossmen. I enjoy X-men most in their groove years and while I get they can’t be that corps year in year out, I hope we aren’t entering a phase were corps increasingly have interchangeable identities, and you need to see the name on the scoreboard to tell who’s performing. Good show Crossmen. Lots to enjoy! Phantom Regiment In contrast to Crossmen, I’ve listened to Regiment a few times in the car and so far failed to convince myself that I would ever pick this show out in a ‘blind taste test’. When I think of PR at their best it conjures up adjectives such as powerful and majestic, and a church organ brass sound. I wonder if over the past decade the Phantom style has been squeezed out by the need to include so much technical proficiency and high tempo intricacy, along with the ongoing temptation for all corps to segment arrangements to allow the program to meet its competitive demand and variety obligations. This year’s edition of Regiment has an urban hooded look to the costuming. The asymmetric monkey bars also contribute to an intriguing first impression. The red bass skins are striking too, though not replicated in the rest of the battery? When the show starts up there’s a slow ethereal feel. Musically it feels a little folky and I find I’m struggling to connect the disparate pieces of the look and sound together to get a read on what this show is about. Later in the production the familiar strains of Largo can be heard but it’s all slightly obtuse. It reminds me of hearing one of your favourite pop songs on the radio but it’s the chill-out or R&B remix, not the straight-ahead original that sold millions and makes you want to sing along! By the end of the show I found I’d struggled to recount many major impact points, much effect value from the monkey bars, and was confused by the decision to include the bright red tarp across the front side line. Its acts as a thick visual buffer to the audience, and the corps finally marching onto it as the conclusion has little in the way of pay-off. I’m struggling to bring out many likes in this show but as I mentioned at the outset this is relatively uniformed views about the what and not the how….and from someone who’s probably already in the ‘dinosaur’ category! In terms of future programming I wonder if PR could find a way to return to their trademark sound and visual style, and look to own their own trends rather than follow others. For them more than most it’s about picking the right music and giving it full opportunity to shine. A modern design challenge indeed… An on-form Phantom bring something special to the top 12 and I hope they can rediscover their mojo soon. Mandarins First impressions? A large pie centre field, and a show that’s nailed on to be dark! Typically when I see capes I think about slow and cumbersome individual profiles, and Mandarin’s don’t escape this either, but the overall look is a strong one, and with some of the fiery silk choices and aesthetically pleasing visual design it reminds me of A Defiant Heart at times. I’m not familiar with Rite of Spring context, so perhaps my ignorance will shine though in this review. Mandarins have some neat effects visually, the book is well matched to their music though it does take an age to get going; two minutes in and the brass only have two power chords to their name! The field is refreshing uncluttered. The centre stage doesn’t dominate the focus, and the black back panels do their job unobtrusively. I quite like this show but at the same time there aren’t any significant moments that stay with me once the laptop is switched off. I think I’ll mainly remember the look and the pie from this edition of Mandarins. This corps progress over recent years has been fantastic and its credit to their staff team for crafting this vehicle to propel the corps up the rankings… and the performers for pulling it off. Blue Knights There’s an argument that BK have been the most avant garde drum corps over the past decade, and who’s shows are closet aligned to WGI. I care for their music more some years more than others and to get the negatives out of the way I really struggle to connect with this year’s edition. Of course shows are way more engaging when seen live, but on video it’s a music book limited to neutral appreciation of the execution for me. I would think that with repeated viewings the music could be a grower, but I’m not reviewing this show from that vantage point. What’s perhaps a little different to some corps is that a level of esotericism seem to now be an established part of the BK approach, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re quite happy being that card in the deck. Visually there’s some great stuff going on! The costuming is great! Both the purple and yellow both really pop from the field, it looks cool up close and even has room for some dots. The pyramids on the field are both simple and stylish and I like the way they catch the light across different faces, and support the yellow dominant colour pallet. It’s another standout use of colour to bring effect! The visual book is of a different ilk to most of the top 12, they paint some great pictures and utilise some long visual phrasing which isn’t so common these days (it was something I and others often enjoyed from SCV in the Pete Weber years). BK lose me a little when the figure in black from Crossmen’s show turns up again and all the prisms fall over – DC trope in action! - and for a few minutes in the middle the visual stardust dissipates a little. They do get back on track in the final production where the Sun god theme is brought through well. An Egyptian theme give some vivid iconography to work with! You’ve got to be careful what you wish for sometimes, and Blue Knights have an identity that I wouldn’t want them to lose, but in keeping with a few of this year’s top twelve I’d really enjoy a few more melodically driven effect points to balance their undoubted qualities in subtlety and sophistication. Blue Stars I think it’s to the activities detriment that there’s not really been a comedy-player in the top 12 since VK hung up their high tops. It seems that Academy have an interest in the more light hearted approaches and certainly Blue Stars bring a lightness of touch to many of their shows and that’ss a pleasing contrast to many of their contemporaries. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall in the design meeting where the oh-so-literal theme was pitched to support the music of the Carpenters. The utility belt costuming is certainly different, and the high vis gloves and shoes give great contrast. It’s a brave choice in current times given the well-established exposure challenges that contrasting footwear brings to foot phasing. I find I like this show best in the down moments where the well-known melodies come through. I found show does ebb away from its Carpenter theme towards genericism in the faster sections. Visually the book is a feast for those that like to kneel, swivel and spin, this corps doesn’t stop! Given the first impressions of the workbenches and other wooden themed props on the field, by the show’s conclusion I was a little disappointed in how little carpentry theme effects they’d managed to bring into the show. I’d hoped for some ‘Stomp in the wood-shop’! I think there is a compliment in there somewhere as Blue Stars have proven themselves to be a design team of great creativity we can set expectations high! I hope Blue Stars continue to embrace their slightly offbeat approaches to programming! Cadets Looking at the influences of wider trends, I think they are possibly more relevant to Cadets than any other corps. Mainly because in times-gone-by Cadets married the elements of tradition with innovation exceedingly well (as said Cesario on the 87 finals broadcast!) From the 2000’s on Cavies changed the game visually, then Devs came along with new levels of integration and layering, Crown brass came to the fore, and Bluecoats found an edge with their electronics and props. Steadily over time different corps have pushed the activity forward in different ways, and this last decade I think Cadets then found that the qualities that served them so well for so long could no longer support shows that reach the very top. The advantages Cadets gained across a season through mid-season changes, extra running and gunning, and an edge in work ethic (that was the stuff of legend), are no longer there to be had? A show simply has to many component parts. And then in trying to find new ways to innovate, some would argue they lost their way. Anyway…on to this year’s show. From the 1st beat of the show the costume choice for the main corps is striking. The front back split certainly provides contrast, but from the videos the back gives a bolder silhouette than the front which I’m not sure is the right way around? Front field, the horizontal strips give the appearance of the members being sketched onto the field, which is different if nothing else. With the costume possibilities of today, I’m interested to see where Cadets go next in terms of cool modern costuming that pays respect to West Point traditions. This year the balance has been tipped in that wearing shakos is now what seems different – though that’s not to say bad. I don’t think the props that Cadets use add anything t what comes across as quite a minimalist show. They take the learnings on vocals from last year and utilise the small vocal ensemble really well to give an ethereal overtone in places. Cadets play a lot and move a lot in this show – qualities that always floated my boat. But this year, they seem almost stylistically traditional compared to the corps around them. Musically, it’s great to hear the Ballet Sacra on the field (just a shame that they stick that static long tone in there after the pit and singing interlude) but I feel desensitised to the notey music, continual counter motion and relatively limited ranges of colour and mood on display. Perhaps it’s one of those shows were you really need to be there. For those that harken back for Cadets shows of old perhaps this a great example that no matter how fast you play and march, in modern shows you need more…more of what for Cadets I’m not sure. In future, if there was a corps that could pull off an ‘unplugged’ sort of revival, it would be them. Cavaliers I will be upfront and say I’ve watched far less of Cavies this year than the rest of the top six. Bolero is such a strong musical motif and they use it to good effect in places. This show just doesn’t have enough melody around it for my tastes. There are moments in the intro and the closer where the music threatens to catch fire, but they’re cases of what might have been – this show is so clearly visually led. It’s another great drill book from Cavies this year - they’ve been back on top of their game for a couple of seasons in that respect - and coordination levels are really high with some cool audio visual effects and a geometric bias that is unmistakably Cavies. However, I’m not sold on the usage of the theme, or value of props and tarps as key design decisions. There are times where the visual transitions are enhanced by the thick red lines, but for me, there are just as many times where the effect of curvilinear drill is undermined. This is further compounded by the reveal of the wider brighter tarps, with a reveal that is surprisingly clunky. If there’s an overarching premise to the props on the field and how their used then it’s repeatedly passed me by, but I no longer ready any blurb or watch the promo reveals that corps put out to explain the theoretical underpinnings of their shows (if indeed they still do them!) I will add that the Cavies costume gives them a great look this year, and I like that within about three measures of the slow piece you’d pick this out as Cavies show. I enjoy Cavies the most when they’re music books are at their most mainstream (95 and 04 as obvious examples). Not sure if it’s a coincidence that they’re also single source? As times and trends change, I look forward to when they next go back that way. BAC There was lots of online chatter in the winter months about what BAC would put on the field this year after last, and I think they’ve succeeded in putting out an all-round strong show with a few standout moments that will linger in the overall memories of the 2018 season. I’m not sure that the SOS theme gives as much scope for musical effect as Wicked Games did the year before – but it gives plenty to the visual side and the guard make the most of this! The ending effect with the corps disappearing beneath the silks into the sea is visually great - I’m curious to know if this was that was part of the original pitch, or one of those ideas that pops up once the season’s underway. ‘BAC was here’ underlines this moment fantastically, but I think that then leaves them with too much spelling-out for one show. With hindsight could they have found a better way to bookend the lost-to-found narrative? As a fan I think there are small moments that can show the difference in programming at the very top levels. Take the 30 seconds or so after SOS for Boston. It’s percussion led with the corps dancing within a fairly static wedge. It’s an example where I think to rise, they’ll be looking at those sort of sections, and examining how they can be more leading edge in terms of style and content. Likewise there’s some sections of the brass playing runs, which they do really well, but from an effect point of view it’s something Crown have already made familiar to us (some of us fans are hard to please, eh?!) The opening production up to the Conquest ‘morse’ is my favourite section. For me, Marimba Spiritual is a little long, and they lose me a little in the next section before grabbing me again with Amazing Grace through to the end. I’d guess Boston’s staff will be keen to progress the corps up the rankings from here and it will be interesting to see how the go about trying to do that. The traditional top 6 each have stylistic elements both musically and visually that are recognisable as their own. Is it fair to say Boston still have to develop some of theirs? With fire, then water effects, perhaps the natural elements is now their thing?! Crown This year‘s show is one where I wonder if some of the winter decisions might be questionable, but then they’ve done everything right since? You don’t get to fourth place with such strong shows beneath you without having some great components in the show. First and foremost though, for me, the Beast theme doesn’t align to the sounds I’m hearing from the corps in the parts I see as the strongest of the show. In the start (searing brass statement!), sonorous slow piece and kite-silks driven ending (where Crown brass are at their regal best) the beast theme seems to be left behind. Likewise the see-saw prop ticks the box of being a little different to props that have gone before, but I’m not convinced the pay-off is there to justifies it being a static beast picture for most of the show. Early season, someone made a point on these pages that there was too much texture on the field and I’d agree. “Textures” might even has made for a more fitting, if esoteric, theme! Visually Crown march and move as well as always. What’s interesting to me is that I don’t think you’d necessarily pick this out as Sacktig designed drill. There’s a cool move where the brass are in curvilinear lines radiating out from the percussion and the lines invert as they move across the field. You might spot an earlier incarnation of this in Cadet’s Farandole from 2001. That aside I think their visual book is quite indistinct this year, albeit top-end indistinct! I’m a big fan of Crown and hope they climb to the summit of the mountain again, but I haven’t quite enjoyed them these last couple of years quite as much as I did in the first half of the decade. Bluecoats I really enjoy the sense of old-skool that Coats musical selections bring to the field combines with their ultra-modern arranging and programming. The costuming is a standout from the pack, particularly that it’s a uniform costume from the high cam but more varied at field level, and I hope they continue to innovate in this respect. The colour pallet is great again this year and I like the props, with one caveat that I’ll mention later. I really like Coats approach to drill. There are sections in the show where they are really motoring but it’s never drill for drill’s sake. The end of the (2nd?) movement with the diverging and converging block is fantastic. I’m reminded of Blast in the way they move and the style of composition – I think it’s the same designer? The show uses a lot of pre-record to set the scene and transition between movement and they do this fantastically well in the main. However, I think there’s something all corps need to be wary of that when using pre-recorded and the corps are adding lots of visual layering, in that you can get some sense of loss of depth when the corps then starts to only play and march. This is more of an issue further down the ranks but I did find myself wondering about this briefly when watching Coats. It perhaps splitting hairs though, as in the main, the way the singing blends with the soloists and into the main ensemble comes across really well on the videos and when listening in the car. In fact, in contrast to some of the other shows, the middle two numbers are my favourite musically. Quite possible tight integration with the singing back and forth. I read somewhere that Coats’ Bird and Bela piece has some slightly simpler phrasing than BD did in 91? My ears don’t distinguish that – it works on its only merits overall, but I did find it a little jarring this this is the 1st number after setting such a specific laid back mood initially. The Home closer continues the recent trend of fun upbeat closers. If anything I’d have liked a bit more of it as I’m not sure there’s enough dynamism in the final minute or so of the show. The park and play ending has tinge of over-familiarity from what’s gone before, and I’m not sure the hornline being positioned all over the big chair gives enough of a visual momentum to closing things out in barnstorming fashion. Still it’s a small not-quite in a show full of likes. Percussion aside, I wonder if the difference between first and third is rooted in how much value was extracted from those huge chairs compared to their peers (and their props). It will be interesting to see where Bluecoats go next. They have a style and sense of entertainment that’s a little different to everyone else…. I hope they continue to nurture that niche that for the foreseeable future! Blue Devils ‘No significant weaknesses’ is often said about Blue Devils shows in their title winning years and while that’s maybe not the case this year, there are many cool things to like about this show. After some scene-setting pre-record (first time I heard it I thought ‘ya filthy animal!’ anyone else?), I enjoy the way they get going musically and visually right off the bat. It makes a pleasant change from the trend for quiet-and-freeform intro’s that’s perhaps too common now? Last year I thought BD had best colour design in the bag. Some of their rivals have stepped up in this respect this year, but they still own their look. An oft-heard criticism of BD over the years not enough marching demand, but the counter to that for me has always been that they’re the best in terms of design integration coupled with the aesthetic sophistication of transitions. They still are at the top of the tree in this respect but they do move a lot in this show, and the performance demand on the members can, but perhaps shouldn’t, be underestimated. The Harlem Nocturne section has some really neat coordination going on. There’s a contrast of styles leading into the company front and the well-known melody…but is it over too soon? All season I’ve been hoping they would extend the melody into a second phrase (ala 87), but alas it’s not to be. Too much effect to cram in and too little time, to repeat a melodic phrase! The slow interlude with the French horn duet also sets a compelling mood within the theme. I’m not sure the up-tempo sections of this show as memorable as the down – or contain the same standout features as some years past, but everything is performed at Devils’ impeccable levels. Natural Women is a couple of minutes of great melody and great selling. It works because it works on the most fundamental of drum corps levels. A small caveat is that the prop/story narrative doesn’t move on during this time, but many of us will take primal drum corps entertainment and forget the rest when delivered like this! What’s interesting is that musically this show doesn’t really follow a recognisable drum corps template. It’s a collection of snapshots - you could probably shuffle the sequence of pieces around in the winter and still end up with as effective a music show as this one … I can’t quite decide whether this is a good thing? Now, if there’s ever a weakness in BD shows for me it’s their closing chapters. Musically I sometimes don’t get the goose-bumps in the finale from them that I look for and this year that’s the case. Though often BD have already sealed the deal by that point! The key design choice seem to have been the narrative being propelled through the gradual reproduction of the Dreams and Nighthawks painting and I can’t work out just how much of a story they’re trying to tell along the way. The delayed resolution technique is well used in tv and cinema – for example it reminds me of the Breaking Bad season 2 intro’s with the objects floating in the swimming pool. In this show it means a lot of static prop movement logistics to get there. Do BD get the payoff they hoped for? I suppose it depends on how you choose to measure it… and how high you set the benchmark. SCV Back in the mid-noughties if you’d daydreamed about fusing Cavies and Regiment into a mid-west super corps (and add in some futuristic stardust) then you might have imagined this year’s SCV. Many have mentioned that this show is right on the zeitgeist and I’d agree. Part of it is the costuming, which is perhaps the coolest of this year’s collection. While the move away from uniforms opens up possibilities to designers there’s still a benefit to achieving certain qualities in the look. You could perform Sound of Music and dress everyone as the Von Trapp family… while that would be thematically authentic it might not contribute to having the x-factor! One of the SCV backstage videos mentions how they chose the music first, had the idea of the cages to give flexible options into the vertical plane, and then arrived at the theme to bind it all together. It’s not always the case, but I think that sequence of events shines through here as a benefit to this show’s development. Lots of effect with minimal thematic constraints. In recent years the best usage of props has been where they are at their most versatile and/or dynamic – think Downside Up and Metamorph – allowing the corps move up, down, in and out in many different ways. How you get on and off the props is now as important as what you do when on them! In time to come this show may well be remembered as the one that fully integrated performing and staging across three dimensions. It does leave you wondering where corps can take it from here in future seasons? A feature of this show is there are multiple things going on in every transition, and there’s always a balance between moments of dense layering and clarity. The cream uni’s help with the clarity aspect but there’s always a great usage of space. From the high cams its apparent the corps aren’t moving at breakneck speed as often as some others, and they don’t cover as much of the field, but these are observations rather than criticisms, such is the quality of the programming. As many agree, the horn snap in the ballad is a standout moment – it’s all the sequential activity in the lead-up that makes it. The epitome of simple but effective! Perhaps the best compliment I can pay to this section of the show is that it reminds me of Madison 88 with the Malaguena mello soloist and 360 spins into the closing push. Musically, it’s both diverse and well blended - a leading edge modern drum corps show. SCV, to my ears, sound like a classically biased hornline that also nails some Madison-esque influences in often intense but engaging book. When it’s technical it always feels authentic rather than derivative or forced. It’s also a positive that the virtuosic playing is not so obviously focused on a prop-moving small ensemble this year. If there is still clever selection of who plays and when, I can’t pick it out. And the talented soloists are another reminder of scenarios where amplification really does add something. Could they play that stuff that way if they had to project to the stand un-aided? This is one of those shows were you might come away humming one of the prominent phrases without necessarily remembering the fully melody lines. They even manage to sell a hip-hop section that could be incongruous in lesser hands – perhaps they’ve learnt from BD’s recent approach of incorporating ‘urban’ segments into some of their recent productions for added eclectism. Finally the cool Metropolis closer where the whiplash brass parts are some that I think even ardent Crown brass fans would tip their hats too. When the music hits the final push as the platforms come together it evokes Scheherazade, and from what I’ve seen the crowds were on their feet well before the final notes. All in all a really strong show with no significant weaknesses. One of those that’s become more than the sum of its parts. A few random thoughts on overall trends… Firstly, the achievement of the members these days is amazing. I’m interested to see the contents of a modern dot book just to see how all that simultaneous demand is written down! Percussion and guard sections are so skilled, as a layman it’s increasingly difficult to spot differences in proficiency, certainly without seeing them live. Speaking of which, what do you have to do these days to make a battery feature memorable to non-drummers - they can all now play fast and high while stood on one leg! There is still work to do for many corps to better balance the competitive need for layering, juxtaposition and variety with the popcorn values of melody and musically driven goose-bump moments. Consequently there’s still too much use of long tones, chord progressions separated by short drum interludes. The increasing usage of props is indicative of corps have reached the physical limits of what performers can achieve in terms of drill tempo and complexity (a few years back now) and dance and play (more recently). Adding in the vertical plane is simply a way of extending the staging boundaries a little further. Is it now a de-facto requirement that will grow in size and complexity over the next few years? If I were watching live I’m sure the production capabilities of blending in pre-recorded material, and the electronics underpinning general playing generally, would be giving me concerns about how to preserve the value of acoustic authenticity in the activity. But that’s another discussion for people who are better informed and actually witness these shows live. Despite the ever-increasing technical sophistication of shows we’re still reminded that when it comes to communication and effect the techniques available remain quite fundamental. With such a large stage and relatively remote audiences, stories have to be well signposted and significant events need to pop out. It’s probably why meeting/separation, running away/chasing, love, loss, and of course killing, remain the go-to choices, plus those figures-in-black! Perhaps the biggest miss currently is that corps aren’t able to use music from the most popular sources. I continue to hope for a breakthrough in licensing that allows box-office soundtracks, Broadway musicals and current pop be put on the field once again…supplementing rather than replacing the range of source music we have today. In terms of overall enjoyment factor of top 12 shows I’d say 2018 was a middling year. Finally, finding ways to make the audience shiver, gasp, cheer and even laugh, while maintaining competitive placement should continue to be the challenge that keeps designers awake long into the night. Thanks for reading!
  9. There seems to be a growing recognition that the creative possibilities opened up by A&E do present a threat to the ongoing balance between spectacle and competition. The balance is something that the judging system has tried hard to preserve over the years. At one time it was concern over shows becoming too technical to entertain, now if anything the smoke and mirrors production aspects have become the key element for competitive advantage? It’s not that much of a stretch to imagine these design conversations this winter… “The mic’d ensemble playing those runs worked great and so did the members spinning in the disks - wouldn’t it be cool to do both together?" ”Aint it going to be hard to play while being spun?” “Not if we pre-record it….” “… so when the dragon swoops down over the corps at the end we want flames to shoot out its mouth for finals week? Ok cool, we can reuse the 2017 kit but we’re gonna need to hire more engineers to create this!” It’s not a corps specific thing – I love SCV and Boston’s shows – but the influence of the marching members into GE could be on the wane. Is there a way to maintain a balance? As a small mitigation; now usage is well established could the sound desk engineer have to be a member? At least then there’s an age based proficiency challenge rather than potentially using a seasoned pro. And maybe you can encourage the balance through the judging sheets? One suggestion would be to incorporate a new 'check and balance' component into the off-field music captions: Acoustic Authenticity. This would be a line in the sand to say that primarily this is an acoustic and performer led activity. While electronics can be used to support and modulate sound, this should be held on a tight leash with benefits possible but weighted down i.e. where the sound is noticeably electronic supported, there needs to be a tangible effect reward to offset the hit you’re going to take in Acoustic Authenticity. Think about the example where a section is positioned on side 1 and the sound is coming out of the speaker on side 2, or you can’t hear the contras due to the synth bass. There would be more onus in the sheets for corps to demonstrate that the corps are playing in tune, in time, and handle dynamics etc through the member’s performance. The devil may well be in the detail but it seems a good thing to strive for? Does anyone out there with good knowledge of the sheets know if this could be feasible? I wondered if there is scope to lead things back towards the performer from a visual perspective also, but perhaps that boat has well and truly sailed.
  10. Does anyone collate stats on membership age and experience profiles for corps each year? If not, they should! It would make interesting reading...
  11. How far do you need to go back? If you watch stuff from the early 90's I don't see it being any cleaner or individual technique being any stronger (at equivalent tempos). If you go back to the early mid 80's I'd say the same. On the footage I've seen from the 70's the individual quality of technique wasn't any better then either. Can someone quote a year we can go and watch where the drill was noticeably tighter than it is today? Certainly the shows I remember as being really tight have benefited from a rose tinted memory when I've gone back and watched them!
  12. interesting topic. IMO xmen 91 is one of their best ever shows but I wonder if it's better than PR92, even though PR92 is, imo, a long way from one of PR's best. 92 like 91 was a very strong year, and though the show may have been off finals night and not the package it might have been, my understanding is that PR still had a very strong corps that year. If the two shows had been judged side by side it might have been interesting...but then with that mode of though I guess the most recent shows would always outscore comparative shows from yesteryear hence making CC 06 the winner in that sense?
  13. in the pantheon of great corps snare drummers, how good is he? To a non drummer it looks very similar in complexity and speed to what Nick Angelis was doing in that snare solo in Blast.
  14. The general perception of you guys from across the pond has been one of a nation of gas guzzlers. Now before you all jump on me I should say that this is very much the word on the street. We've seen the traditionally large and inefficient cars (when compared to whats typical in Europe) and your more ingrained car culture, and we have drawn our conclusions from that. That said over the last couple of decades I think it's obvious to anyone with half a brain the the two continents are moving more in line. We now have a lot of the same cars on the road etc. Though you guys still seem to be too much in love with 4x4's and SUV's! :) For info in the UK right now "petrol" is about 95 pence a litre. Converted that's about $6.77 a gallon. It's a good job we don't have a touring circuit!! Our public transport is quite dodgy too. The Japanese are the ones to look to for an example there. Latest talk here is of black boxes in cars and being charged per mile driven based on which roads you drive on and whether it's peak or off peak times. Now that's scary b**bs
  15. Aas has been said listen to the recordings can sometimes give a different impression to what happened live. My overriding memory of BD 96 was just how tight they were ensemble-wise. It's by no means my favourite BD show but I remember being very impressed with how tight everything seemed - especially all those shot notes - side to side and front to back. Cadets 96 is a good show imo, but not one that sticks out for ensemble strengths in the same way as BD's did. My main memory from that year was Cadets coming out with a noticeably louder sound (for Cadets anyway). IIRC the staff had made a consicous effort that year to step up the intensity from the hornline.