This is my second viewing of most of these groups, as I was also lucky enough to see the San Jose show last week.
Show logistics -- My general admission ticket cost $25 bucks, which allowed me to sit either way low, or way out on the past the 25 yard line. That's fairly steep compared to the cost of other drum corps shows, but fairly reasonable for a night of great entertainment. I certainly enjoyed the show last night more than any Mariners game I've ever been to! Still, I'll admit it, I had no compunctions about breaking the rules and sitting in the sections designated for high rollers. There was plenty of room there anyway.
Venue was the huge Husky Stadium at UW. I'm starting to like this venue more and more over the years. The roof holds in and amplifies the sound -- good. The stands are high, allowing one to get a good read of drill -- good. There's a huge running track separating field and audience, so big it could accomodate a NASCAR race -- bad. The views of Lake Washington are breathtaking -- good.
Weather was fantastic.
On to the show...
The crowd -- I'm horrible at estimating numbers so I won't even try, but it was more than 200 and less than 50,000. Very enthusiastic and appreciative, which surprised me considering Seattle's laissez faire attitude toward pretty much everything.
National Anthem -- well played by a 12 year-old solo trumpeter.
Corps reviews will be short on details/analysis, long on impressions. I don't like analysing shows as I watch them.
General Comments --
* what is up with these Div. II/III corps? They are awesome. I can't believe there are people who skip out on these guys and come just for the Div. I corps.
* enjoyed the musical selections more this year than in recent years. Is the trend away from obscure music written by people with no vowels in their names finally over? God, I hope so.
* can it be DCI policy to supply every show announcer with phonetic spellings of drum major names? Failing that, can drum majors just use fake names that are easy to pronounce?
BDB -- This is simply an excellent drum corps. Show design fairly safe but entetaining. Horns (I think I counted 37 of them?) were well-balanced and controlled, though not very powerful. Drill makes great use of what they have. I know nothing about guard, but they weren't a distraction for me, which is usually about all I can say of my appreciation for the guard. Drum feature was highlight of the show. Marching was very clean, forms readable. Very strong across all captions. Most I have ever enjoyed a BDB show. I was looking foward to this show after seeing them in San Jose, and wasn't dissappointed! I have little doubt they'd make finals and challenge for the top if they were going to DCI.
Oregon Crusaders -- When I first saw these guys in 2001, I remember being angry at the staff for giving them a show way above their heads. It was one of those uncomfortable experiences where I was actually somewhat embarassed for the kids. I remember thinking in '02 and '03 that things were improving, not because the show designs were much better, but because they were performing just enough better; not to the point where it was real fun to watch, but at least to the point where it was no longer uncomfortable to watch. I didn't see them last year, so, naturally, I was shocked when they did so well. So -- this was the corps I was most looking forward to seeing tonight.
Wow. First thing I noticed was their size. Div. I sized corps. 10 contras. 56 horns. A pit the size of LeBrea. Guard of 17 or so seemed small compared to the rest of the corps. New (to me) corps uniforms look sharp, if a bit generic. Is this the biggest corps ever to come out of Oregon? Did the Argonauts ever have 10 contras? Great job recruiting in an area that has traditionally been somewhat tough to recruit in!
The show -- very well designed, very entertaining, very, very, very dirty show. Although the horn-line is big, and they were easily the loudest, fullest sound in Div. II/III last night, they have a somewhat young sound. It's almost an old-school drum corps sound. Harsh and brash at the cost of intonation. Like those old drum corps recordings from 1978 corps whose names I can't pronounce. Whether by design or accident I don't know.
The guard is, regrettably, in Aladin-type costumes. Again, I know nothing of guard, but this guard was something of a distraction for me, with some cheesey sword-play and acted-out scenes seeminly thrown in random that, for me, added nothing and detracted much.
Show starts with some mysterious, Egyptiany sounding stuff, and then a predictable first big, loud, full horn hit. Very nice. I like predictable horn hits like that -- not a knock! Music overall is kind of Egyptiany. Very nice arrangements; appropriate for the talent level; full phrases with beginnings, middles, ends, and real dynamics -- none of this three-measures-at-ff-and-then-on-to-a-new-phrase business that seems so prevalent in drum corps today. Some outstanding sop soloists bordering on screamers.
Drill again was well written with some big open forms. Not terribly demanding, but tasteful. At one point the hornline makes an hour-glass and the guard, dressed in white and carrying white silks, ran from the top to the bottom, representing the "Sands of Time" theme well. Pretty cool. First 2 or so minutes of the drill was fairly clean, and then the dirtyness sets in.
Bottom line -- an enjoyable, accessible show that needs lots and lots of cleaning. Corps has come a long, long, long way in just two years. Great work Crusaders!
Fever -- saw these guys in San Jose and was left with sort of a "blah" taste in my mouth. Not so tonight. This is a show that grows on you. Big horn-line for Div. II -- I counted something like 44. They seem significantly cleaner than in San Jose. I'm not sure if their orange and grey uniform scheme is doing them any favors with the judges, but I appreciated their willingness to do something different. Show is tidier than Crusaders, but less accessible. Some cool drill moves in the opening movement were well-executed -- full corps in a block, every other line moving in opposite directions. Guard didn't annoy me much, but their dancing, even to my novice eyes, could use some work. The original music is interesting, if a bit dark. It has the same feel throughout, although it doesn't all sound the same. Deserved their placement tonight over Crusaders -- although their show design isn't as cool (IMHO), they are that much cleaner.
Spokane Thunder -- Div. III. 42 horns, 6 in the guard. Now, that's what I'm talkin' about. This is an excellent philosophy -- can more corps please use this horn-to-guard ratio? First year in competition for these guys, and, I'll admit, I was expecting a train wreck. A train wreck it was not. Horn line had some volume at times; at others some, uh, issues. Music wasn't "fun" and/or hummable, but it was pleasant and enjoyable. I joked about the guard above, but only because their 6 person guard actually added quite a bit more to the show than you'd expect. Show was very dirty; maybe a bit too difficult for the performers. They seemed to be having fun, though, and performed with the enthusiasm and energy you love to see from a young corps. An excellent showing for a first year corps! Keep up the great work in Spokane!
LONG INTERMISSION -- I had time to smoke a cigarrette, use the restroom, and read 25 pages of my book. In succession, not all at the same time. The cigarrette and bathroom were needed and enjoyed. The reading could have been better.
Vanguard Cadets -- regrettably, I don't have much to say here. Show didn't really leave much of an impression on me. They march and execute well, and have that Vanguard presence, but I just didn't enjoy it much.
Phantom -- Phantom actually went on last, but I'll review them here in one word: sweet-a-licious.
Cascades -- I think this is one of those shows that you're either going to like or you're not going to like. Not much middle ground. It's design is too much at the margins. The cube props that makes an airplane; the guard uniforms; the fact of narration. You're either in their camp or you're not when it comes to its design. I'm in their camp. The purple and orange guard uniforms make a statement, but it's a statement I like. The orange cube things that make an airplane are bold, but its a boldness I applaud. The narration is unecessary, but does that mean it should go?
I'm resigned to the fact that narration and human voice are now part of drum corps. I bristled when I heard it San Jose, because until then, I'd never heard human voice in drum corps. The fact of it was just so startling. But once I got over the fact of it, I was fine with it. The narrated parts account for, I'm guessing, at most, a minute of their entire show. Not that big a deal, IMHO, and way less chintzy than Boston's last year.
Show design -- music good, drill, not so much. It's music you've never heard before, save Stairway to Heaven, but its interesting and fairly accessible. You're not going to be humming it out of the stadium, but you're not going to be wondering, as I often do watching corps, "why the heck did they play that?" I think Stairway is probably overarranged. It's such a powerful song, I'd leave more of the oringal structure in there; its powerful enough that it can stand on its own.
Unfortunately, I think the drill is not up to par with the music. Very compact. It's fast and challenging, but they don't cover much of the field. You have a huge drum corps full of interesting colors -- use it to your advantage and spread out! Perhaps when they clean it all up it will make more sense. The drill in Stairway has nice moments, though. At one point, they make a stairway that is moving toward the back corner of the field, almost like an escalator -- very cool. Either they changed the ending or cleaned the heck out of it, because now its working for me whereas in San Jose it didn't.
Hornline is loud and powerful; good blend; a bit muddy in the low brass, at times it sounds like they have horse tongues. Soloists don't seem to be playing with a ton of confidence; I thought OC's were better.
Overall -- noticably cleaner than in San Jose, but still noticably dirty. That their score is less than two points better is odd. Show has finals potential, but not sure they can clean enough to get there. Which leads me to my next point:
It doesn't matter.
My Not So Deep Closing Thoughts -- That's right, it doesn't matter. I was so impressed with the overall quality of all the corps last night, and the enthusiastic reception they all got, that it reinforced for me what drum corps is all about. Working hard, having fun, performing cool music, and making out in the back of the bus on the way to the next show.
The Cascades, Oregon Crusaders, and Spokane Thunder left me feeling particularly warm and fuzzy. Northwest drum corps has been through some hard times; to see three corps tonight (with a combined 150+ horns!), was, in a word, awesome. I marched in two Northwest drum corps that bit the dust in the 90s, and I'm sure I speak for every alum of a defunct Northwest corps when I say that I sincerely hope all three of these Northwest corps can keep on keepin' on. Amazing.