Since I have a few hours to kill I've post my thoughts/predictions. My opinion only . . . I don't flame people for what they think, so please extend the same courtesy to me. Yes, I know all the performers work extremely hard all summer and should be applauded (and I do that). But it is a competition, so here goes . . .
Non-Finalists: Really loved some of the Open Class shows - very high level of creativity. Pacific Crest in particular was a highlight. Madison - all of the talent is there but they need to program better. Hope to see them rebound with a bang next season.
12th - Boston - Saw them in July and found the show to be extremely dull. Good for them for making the necessary changes to edge out Scouts for the final spot in finals. They truly earned this spot. I think they remain in 12th, but kudos to them for not packing it in after San Antonio. Coolest props of the year.
10th & 11th - Saw Crossmen in July and enjoyed the music book quite a bit. That said, after watching them again last night it didn't intrigue me as much. First viewing of Academy last night and was VERY impressed. Solid all around and a great conceptual vehicle to catapult them into the Saturday night show. Could feed off the audience hype and move up even further tonight.
7/8/9 - Blue Stars may have the most difficult and exposed program in this neighborhood. Crazy hard guard book which is coming together at the right time. If they can get a performance edge to them, they could finish at the top of this group. If they are even slightly off, they are relegated to 9th. Phantom plays the heck out of this show. One of the best ballads on the field this summer (and there are a crap-ton of good ones!). The visual program and guard programming seems a bit dated, but they perform the absolute snot out of it. The spread last night to 7th seemed a bit big, so not overly optimistic about their chances of moving up. Drums are fun to watch as well - GREAT performers. Blue Knights left me somewhat confused. I normally love their cerebral approach to programming, but this left me a bit flat. Maybe needs a second viewing. Very talented all around and I love the fact that they are willing to take risks.
4/5/6 - Cadets fell to sixth last night mainly due to the fact that they are still noticeably dirty in the visual caption. I completely buy this show all the way through the ballad, but they lose me in the closer. Kudos to them for challenging the performers with some of the most exposed drill of the summer. Guard continues to improve, but are sometimes overpowered (both musically and visually) by what the brass and battery are being asked to do. Deserving of the "most pages of drill rewritten" award for 2016. I honestly have not cared much for Cavaliers the past couple of seasons - and last night they were one of the highlights of the show. Well programmed and EXTREMELY well performed. Nice to see the green team get their swagger back. Was not shocked to see them move to 5th and if they can equal that level of performance tonight I think they stay there. The closer is one of the coolest things on the field this summer. SCV might have my favorite package of the year. It's just a show to sit back and watch develop - you don't need to look too deep to figure it out and they also perform the crap out of it. Best use of a mello section this year. The subtleties are what make it special. Congrats Vanguard - you get my fan favorite vote this season.
1/2/3 - Let's roll the dice again this evening and see what number shows up. I honestly thought Bluecoats would not be on top last night. The early electronic issues seemed to dull their performance level just a bit and it wasn't until mid-way through the ballad until I felt they got it back. Ballad features some of the tastiest trombone voicings of the season. They are asking the performers to do quite a bit in this show and the effort changes are numerous. Best moving corps out of Canton by a long shot. If they max it out tonight, I don't see anyone over them. Devils are another mystery to me. LOVED their show last year, but this one seems to be so similar to what we've heard over the past 4-5 years from them. Ballad climax is truly the highlight of the program (that soloist - WOW). Just perfection in arrangement and performance. I completely lose the guard in the show this year until the end when they are leveled on the props (which is VERY cool from a design standpoint). The program is missing something, but I'm not sure what it is. Still the best movers out there. I felt Crown's brass simply put on a clinic in semis. I'm amazed at the level of precision at every dynamic level. Sorry, but no one else plays like them. If they play like they did last night and are not up in brass performance, then something's wrong. Drums are better, but not at the level of Devils or Bloo. Guard was SMOKING in semis. The mass weapon statements are deadly accurate. Solid visually, but the program sometimes doesn't seem nearly as complex as others either in this neighborhood or even below them. If all three of these groups have their best performance tonight, I don't envy the panel. Just hope they rank them in the order that the performers are dictating.
My order of finish:
The real winners tonight will be the audience. What a great year!