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Why is drum corps so weird now?


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I haven't really watched any shows since I aged out in 2007, and now that I'm watching current shows on the DCI Fan Network I'm pretty shocked by how much things have changed. It's the amps, it's not the electronics and synths, I actually like all that stuff. But the uniforms, the show designs, everything, wtf is going? It seems like every corps now does a "brooding and mysterious" preshow, and everyone is doing A LOT of dance movement as opposed to actual marching. Am I just the old fart that I despised back when I marched? Why can't we go back to the days of Summertrain Blues Mix and Frameworks :-(? I know when I was marching we were already on the path to Bando-dom, but man is the top 12 in bando territory now.

Edited by AlbertBAC
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You aren't even CLOSE to being an old fart yet. Just wait a few years and see how you feel.

I think I exited at the end of an epoch though. The drum corps I grew up watching (1999-2007) is VERY different from the stuff going on in 2011, you have to admit

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I haven't really watched any shows since I aged out in 2007, and now that I'm watching current shows on the DCI Fan Network I'm pretty shocked by how much things have changed. It's the amps, it's not the electronics and synths, I actually like all that stuff. But the uniforms, the show designs, everything, wtf is going? It seems like every corps now does a "brooding and mysterious" preshow, and everyone is doing A LOT of dance movement as opposed to actual marching. Am I just the old fart that I despised back when I marched? Why can't we go back to the days of Summertrain Blues Mix and Frameworks :-(? I know when I was marching we were already on the path to Bando-dom, but man is the top 12 in bando territory now.

From the mouths of babes

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I guess drum corps staffers feel more pressure to put on a show with a solid storyline, or something close to it.

I think the days off putting on a show with just music as the storyline are way gone. There has to be a meaning now, or they risk losing points for it.

Think about it...Frameworks was a show about....? The basic planning in putting together a drill? XtraordinrY is a show about a young boy's imagination, or walking through Where The Wild Things Are. At least that is my take.

Cadets' storyline is concrete, Spirit's, Blue Stars, Phantom, etc. They are all doing Drama on a football field, rather than drum corps for the sake of traditional drum corps. It is almost like putting on a complete musical/drama that you might find on Broadway, or a High School auditorium, except that instead of singing or dialogue (for the MOST part, anyway), there is brass, percussion, flags and marching. And the stage is a football field instead of in an auditorium.

I guess maybe this is how drum corps is changing.

Of course, there are exceptions to this, in the present and the past...namely SCV doing Phantom/Opera in 1988 and 89.

I think drum corps felt pressure in the late 90's / early 2000's to be more competitive, especially the ones at the top, so visual drill became a priority, and the Cavaliers led the way in this regard. And then 8 years later, the fans griped that music was starting to be forgotten, so they started writing shows that were more fan friendly in a musical way, while still trying to be competitive visually.

And I think that since the 2008 season we have seen the culmination of this pressure to 1)put on a fan-friendly musical show, 2)have tough, eyeball exploding visuals, and 3)be more competitive.

And with the newly-formed TOC shows, where being in the top 8 will line a corps' bank account, the pressure to do all this has become even more intense - thus, you are seeing corps that are trying to put on these complete performance package deals that are both fan friendly and tough, to better compete. I think it is a given that a drama/musical show with a solid storyline comes with more GE points possible. And that is where the points are. You can clean a show both visually and musically as much as you want, but if the show is not written with enough GE possible, you aren't going to compete.

And I think we have seen that this effect has improved drum corps (for most, anyway) - that the corps are more competitive, you are seeing a little better quality (despite scores, trust me - even if Crossmen, for example, end up 16th this year, their show is loads better than last year's show that took 17th or whatever.)

So that is why I think drum corps has gone the way it has gone since 2008. And it will be interesting to see how this trend continues and evolves over the next few years.

In any case, I think most people here can agree that this 2011 season has been the most exciting in a long time. I wouldn't worry too much about what's going on, just try to enjoy the shows if you can, and admire the work the kids are doing on the field.

I'd like to see who here might agree with this, or disagree, I'd really like to get some other viewpoints on this, if possible. This is a very interesting Original Post, coming from a former marcher.

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I haven't really watched any shows since I aged out in 2007, and now that I'm watching current shows on the DCI Fan Network I'm pretty shocked by how much things have changed. It's the amps, it's not the electronics and synths, I actually like all that stuff. But the uniforms, the show designs, everything, wtf is going? It seems like every corps now does a "brooding and mysterious" preshow, and everyone is doing A LOT of dance movement as opposed to actual marching. Am I just the old fart that I despised back when I marched? Why can't we go back to the days of Summertrain Blues Mix and Frameworks :-(? I know when I was marching we were already on the path to Bando-dom, but man is the top 12 in bando territory now.

An Old Fart from '07? Welcome to the rest of your drum corps life. It only gets worse from here.

Nearly all of your thoughts and comments will become more and more out of touch with what they're doing out there.

You'll probably still enjoy the shows.

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That's an interesting analysis and probably deeper than I could have gone. If I were going to pinpoint a year of change, though, it probably would have been the introduction of amps (and then later electronic instruments) rather than 2008. With that introduction, the potential for communicating a storyline increased dramatically, at the expense of the old "show, don't tell" mantra. Consider the Cadet's two-year Alice in Wonderland concept or their talk-show show.

An interesting result of this is that show designers now have a chance to make political and social statements that they couldn't make before - such as in Pacific Crest's show a few years ago which depicted the development of flight and then made (in narration) several social comments about war, etc. Carolina Crown's Bohemia show in 2004 ended up with completely meaningless beat poetry in it, but at the beginning of the year the poetry was much different, full of social commentary (which I imagine drew enough negative feedback that they changed it).

To me, these are not improvements. Shows are becoming more about the show designers and less about the performers. Play great music. March readable formations. Give me a guard show that looks like it's part of the whole corps show rather than a completely different production.

I find storylines distracting, especially when they feature guard soloists cavorting around the field for the entire show. When the story is presented more as an abstract theme (a la Phantom this year), that's less distracting to me. I can't follow a guard soloist trying to communicate a story and still watch the show as a whole, so I tend to ignore the guard in those storyline shows. An exception this year is Glassmen, whose show I really like - but the guard soloists in that show actually function as part of the guard for much of the show, making the story easier to follow.

The best example I can give of how shows are becoming more about the designers and less about the peformers is pre-recorded voice and other sounds. Seriously? Amplifying the performers is one thing (which I've learned to live with); giving them electronic instruments is another (which I'm still trying to learn to live with). But bringing in audio elements that have nothing to do with the performers? I'm astonished that ever got passed - major step in the wrong direction, IMO.

So I agree that it's probably pressure to be more competitive. It's also show designers wanting more freedom to do "whatever". (Did you ever read Hoppy's justification for the introduction of amps? No attempt was ever made to explain how it would improve the activity - it was all about the effects he wanted to create. The number of times the word "I" occurred in that proposal was astounding.) I get it, but I don't have to like it.

That said, I also agree that this year's shows are generally more entertaining than the last couple of years. In the early days of "wild west" (electronics), there was a sharp dividing line between corps that used it and corps that didn't - and those that used it invariably overused it. Now, I think corps are beginning to find a balance - a way to get electronics to complement the show rather than dominate it. Same with FOF (Furniture on the Field). With the exception of the Blue Devils and a couple of others, the FOF this year generally is not that distracting. I'd rather be without any of it - but I appreciate the balance that seems to be evolving.

I'm also interested to see how this all evolves. Ultimately, the financial pressure to place in the Top 8 will make scores incredibly important, so the only way things will change significantly is if the sheets change.

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You wanna talk stark difference in show design, go compare like '92 and '95 or '90 and '95. Even the difference between BD '93 and '94 is STARK. That, IMO, was a conceptual change that never got to fully live out as we were moving on by 2000 with the esoteric, what-the-heck kind of shows, but (for me, at least) was a turning point.

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