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I decided to “blog” my tour 7 straight days of drum corps, including 5 shows, here on the review page. I have planned to see as many of the top corps as possible, including practices. This is a great time of year to be in the Northeast. The wait has been worth it! Sorry it s a little behind…posting from the road. Hope you enjoy!


Sporting the appropriate swag on the car, I started out on the 7 hour trek to West Virginia. Any car ride seems to go faster when you have a good set of playlists, and mine included plenty of drum corps, including “The best of the 70’s” and the 2012 San Antonio APD’s.GrabbedFrame1-2.jpgDSC01839.jpgDSC01841.jpg

Passing through Hershey I was reminded of all the great family vacation days spent there, including several fine drum corps shows. With 76 BD blasting over the stereo, I remembered a show I attended with my dad in 75. Back then, the Hershey Chocolatiers hosted a combined DCA and DCI show, and the crowds were great. Although I was mostly a DCA corps fan at the time, I always enjoyed Madison and 27th. After watching “some corps” from Concord CA that I had never heard of, I remember dad saying, “watch out for those Blue Devils. They are going to be something special!” If only I realized then how true that would be for the next 37 years of my life!


Heading into Maryland, and passing Gettysburg, I thought about Uncle Truman and his days with the Yankee Rebels. I cranked up 71 Rebs, one of my favorite shows that he arranged and conducted from the podium.



The ride into West Virginia is some beautiful country, and 03 PR and Harmonic Journey seemed a fitting soundtrack as I crested Sideling Hill.




Fuel stop and a great dinner of ice cream in Clarksburg!


Made great time and rolled into WVU80’s house right on schedule. I cannot thank him enough for offering to put me up and host my first Drum Corps in WVA. He is truly a wise drum corps fan, and a super nice guy! I was surprised and in awe of his great horn collection, including a MINT King 2 valve mellophone, and a sweet DEG 2 valve soprano. His 2 valve flugel bugle is a rare one as well. We watched some of the FN Atlanta as we planned our next day with BD. His bose speaker system set up was the perfect blend for the audio. Talking drum corps with him was a real treat.


Next 2 and BD LIVE!

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I decided to “blog” my tour 7 straight days of drum corps, including 5 shows, here on the review page. I have planned to see as many of the top corps as possible, including practices. This is a great

It was 45 minutes to the stadium, where we the “first customers” at the box office. This was the first year that reserved seating in the top center was being offered. Previous years had been general a

Got on the road to Frostburg MD early, looking forward to spending the day with PR. The Frostburg U campus is a nice small college in a nice small college town. There seemed to be a lot of constructio

Looking forward to this! Really awesome way to spend part of your summer! :thumbup:

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We headed out for the hour trip south to Hurricane (WV pronunciation Hurrakin) High School to find BD. They had arrived about 6:30. In typical BD fashion, the schedule for the day was some solid floor time, an 11:00 brunch, then a 4 hour rehearsal. The schedule on Devil’s Food requested some airing out of uni’s.


Don't get down wind!


We started with some visual block. Todd Ryan lead the visual techs from his typical position on the field as they cleaned the closer . He truly is one key reason for BD’s tremendous visual success. The stadium was a nice turf field, but it was HOT!


Next we watched the brass line work some music in sectionals. I must say that the line seemed a little “groggy”, as I witnessed some uncommon errors, and more push-ups in the hour or so session then normal. Somewhat expected, being their 4th show day in a row, and considering the long trek from NC. John M seemed to be spending most of the time working on exercises that worked on finishing/sustaining phrases. They certainly had their focus together by the time they reached this last excercise! Check out the part where they play the end of the run with no conductor and no met!


The hour long ensemble block consisted of running long chunks, starting with the new closer. JM and TJD were up top. I always marvel at the way a BD rehearsal block is run, the model of efficiency and professionalism. TJ is a fantastic guard cleaner, another reason that BD has had such success in the visual caption. She was nice enough to share the design of the "banner to flag" used in the opener when I explained how well it would fit in the "Grand Illusion" fall band show I'm designing right now.

Here are some of the staff comments (paraphrased)…

“remember Blue Devils that you are salesman. You have a great product to sell, and although some may not want to buy it, your salesmanship, or performance intensity, will win you new fans with every performance”

“do not hold back in this section. You should not be holding anything in reserve. You are highly trained musical athletes, trust in your training and do not be afraid of running the tank empty. Push hard and trust in your performance ability and stamina”

“This show is designed to have a very high performance level throughout. There are no breaks or down time in design. Losing momentum will make it very hard to get back to the level that the design dictates”

The Hurricane marching band and another local band were there to watch in force, probably 50 or so kids. The BD DM cam up into the stands and thanked them for coming and gave them some insight into DADA. He answered questions politely, a real class act. We learned that the French narration in the opener had no translation required, as basically it was a bunch of gibberish simply designed to add a layer to the fabric of the music. I must say that hearing it live, I was very impressed with its function in the design. It does not detract or disrupt, but actually serves a very useful purpose in setting and enhancing the tone of the show. I honestly believe, having heard it live, that I would miss it if it was not there.

No run through, just 3 long chunks of the show, including the “backing up block” segment, which is one of my favorite moments. I was amazed to see live all that is going on in this show, and as clean as it is, there is still plenty of “meat on the bone”. I looked forward to seeing it with full uniform.

The corps mingled with some of the bandos after, and one snare in particular was very popular with some of the female percussionists from the band.


Next up…SHOW TIME!

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It was 45 minutes to the stadium, where we the “first customers” at the box office. This was the first year that reserved seating in the top center was being offered. Previous years had been general admission, first come best seats. $24 was a bargain to me for the 45yl high tix we got. It was like a 2 for 1 sale compared to the YEA shows!

After a quick tour of the capitol building area it was dinner at a close by steakhouse. Rib eye dinner and drink for under $10? WOW!



We headed back and parked less than a block away from the gate, (great parking set up), and headed toward the lot. The clouds looked a little threatening. The warm up area is in a beautiful park like setting in the capitol building complex across the street from the stadium. We found Xmen battery, and then their brass line, just as they were being instructed to “hide the chickens’, (put their plumes under cover). That was a wise choice, as before they could get started, the thunder and lightning and rain moved in.


Conveniently there was an empty parking garage that gave great cover. They we found BD brass singing CA girls as they prepared for vis warm up. It appeared to me that they have also “Dada”d the vis block as well!


As the rain came down we met a young man and his mom from Virginia. He had just made the snare line in his HS band, and was set on auditioning for BD next year. Mom had driven him the 5+ hours just so he could see them. When we met, and he saw my hat, shirt, pins, necklaces etc, he was so excited that he gave me a big hug. He had been wandering the lot looking for the battery, afraid he would miss them. He proudly announced that he had spent the last few days learning some ScoJo licks. We hooked him up, showing him where the truck was so he would be sure and see them when they came out. His enthusiasm was so great to see, and reminded us of how cool drum corps is for so many.

The storm blew over and left a rainbow over the area as it was determined that there would be about an hour delay. We walked out into the park to find BD brass, and stopped to hear Xmen. They have a great brass sound, and tremendous instruction, with a lot of attention to detail.



We found BD in a perfect setting, with the Capitol dome as their back round. The storm had cleared out a lot of the humidity, and it was a great night for Drum Corps.






We watched somePR visual warm up, (they warmed up in ”pairs” ), and then some Madison battery…

Madison Battery

Then...this is the last thing we saw before going into the show…WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!


Next up…show review and Pix!

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I suppose it’s time for a show review!

Firstly, I have to apologize to Cascades and Troopers fans, as I did not see their shows from the stands, and therefore won’t comment. Scades were just finishing when we got in. Over the years I have made many friends at the souvie stands, (BD especially), and I spent most of the Troopers show there as intermission was cancelled because of the rain delay. I think a part of me did not want to be disappointed, as I so loved when they were a top 12 corps. As I have gotten older, I have become MUCH more sympathetic to supporting all the corps in the show, especially in light of the recent demise of a couple. I did give them a little “support” at their souvie stands’ gas funds.

There was a great size crowd. The stadium is concrete, turf, decent size, and was pretty much filled up from 10 to 10. I saw ALOT, (20 or more), of high school busses in the lot, so the teen population was pretty high.


Being a little late, we found seats in the GA section for Bones. The solid brass sound from the lot found its way to the field. They have some very nice moments in the show. The guard is very solid. I heard a lot of fuzz in the battery however, and while the show starts off gripping me, and the ending is pretty cool, they seem to always lose my attention through the middle? Overall, well done by Bones tonight and the crowd was very appreciative of their efforts. Standing O!



This is a great show. They have some great musical selections, and weave them together nicely as the show develops. The visual book is much more demanding than last years, and it's marched pretty well. The ending makes you stand at the company front, (some were up for the "wheel") and then they just keep coming at you so you don't sit down again. I did however have 2 main problems...

1 is the lower end goo synth part. I LOVED the power of 20 tubas, and don't find the same enjoyment in 16 + the synth. The sound just isn't the "natural" horn sound I want. At least they feature tubas only in the ballad, and to great effect. It may be just that ALL the pit is TOO loud most of the time.

The 2nd is that the design relies very heavily on the guard. A lot of the staging is directed to them, even the end when it's BRASS that I want. Unfortunately, their guard isn't that great, and that creates a problem.

I was pleasantly surprised with the power and performance of the battery. The crowd was pretty drum corps, or at least marching music, savvy. They cheered all the right impact points, and gave a long heartfelt standing O, that started at the wheel/front. I would love to see them in the TOC, just not sure they have enough to get past Cavs and BAC.




An interesting comment from practice earlier in the day about the pre show. They were questioned as to how and what they want to feel when they get to their opening set, and what they would do entering the field to set that up. Although the show seems full of random acts, everyone of them is masterfully placed by design. Everywhere you look you see someone "performing the H&@^ outof whatever they are doing. The stuff the guard does with the hoops is amazing to see. The importance of the soloists, as well as their talent, is ALOT more noticable live than on the screen. Unconventional design that almost makes the spectator somewhat uncomfortable at times, trying to figure out what is being done. The level of performance, particularly by the brass, was much higher than the practice. Simply put, they are winning the captions that they are winning because they are performing those captions better than anyone else. ALWAYS IN COMPLETE CONTROL, every performer every part. All one has to do is see the way they end the show to know that it is not about throwing babies. Not even sure that most spectators really can tell that the show is over at the "still alive" echo. I don't know if I would call it "groundbreaking "show design, as I can't see everyone else following suit in the coming years, but it is without question unique in the activity up to this point. Expect more and more polish as the week goes on.





BAM! Right from the first note the contrast with BD is apparent. They are not worried about doing something unexpected, they just want to yank your heart out. The design knows what is expected of PR, and THE CORPS DELIVERS the moments that get the job done. The new ending is great. I did notice that the Flugel re-entry was "covered" by the wild cheering after the first kick halt. The crowd went wild for them. I was really looking forward to seeing them work in practice the next day'





PR did the encore, inluding Fire and Eternal Glory. It was magnificent!



As we left the show, 2 Scouts, still in full uniform were hanging around the gate. With big smiles they thanked us for coming. WTF was that? It was really nice and unexpected.

5 minutes and we were on the expressway heading back North.

On the way back we talked about the show and "who we liked best". We agreed that it was the variety, the polar opposites that BD and PR represent this year, that actually help each other in their own appeal.

It was decided that your experience at a drum corps show really was about the big picture, not what corps you liked more than so and so, and who should beat who.

The venue: the area it's in and the parking, ease of access and facility stuff. The location of the lots, and the restaurants nearby.

The variety: different and unique corps and the feelings they inspire in their own way.

A big appreciative and respectful crowd. The people you go with and those who sit around you.

The ticket price.

All in all...This show scored A+ on every count.

Thanks West Virgina, and a special thanks to WVU80! He really made it a great time!




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Mmk, I'm doing something like this before I die.

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Got on the road to Frostburg MD early, looking forward to spending the day with PR. The Frostburg U campus is a nice small college in a nice small college town. There seemed to be a lot of construction going on, including the front sideline of the nice turf stadium, so PR used the back stands. They would battle weather all day.


The heaviest rains came when they were on lunch and dinner, so the practice schedule wasn't really that upset. There was a point when they cleared the field for some thunder and heavy rain, only to have it pass just about the time they walked up the hill to their housing, so right back out they came.

Afternoon block was about cleaning and some changes. I believe that Jamey Thompson and Shane Gwaltney were the ones in the box. Some time was spent "redotting" the battery from the box for a couple sections. PR was also hosting a marching band DM camp, and the kids seemed a little bored with the rigors of watching the reps over and over.


I noticed an "extras" group doing the reps along with the corps from the end zone. Looks like they have a spare tuba, one low brass, and one trumpet, "just in case".


After a quick dinner and a downpour, I returned to find the brass setting up to stretch and warm up. The camp DM's were invited to join in. PR has some interesting breathing warm ups, including one involving balloons that help the brass control the volume and force of their air.

I believe it was Christian Carichner who was running the warm up, and he spent time explaining things to the DM kids as they went. After a little warm up they performed part of the end of the show. I suggest cranking the volume for these clips!

They invited guest DM's from the group to conduct. This kid obviously knew Fire and Eternal Glory pretty well, as he did a great job leading them through it.

They finished with Canon to Firebird!

It was so powerful that my knees got shaky and I actually felt myself welling up with the emotion. I was actually trembling a little as I stopped back at the car before going into the stadium. This moment alone was worth the whole trip.

As I was walking in a guy came up and asked me if that was "band camp". He said he was working with a high school football kicker and they liked the stadium because of the turf and lining. I told him that it was a drum corps from Rockford, and that they had the field till 10, ad for the next 3 days. He said he was sure they wouldn't mind him using one end of the field. I tried to be polite when I told him that wasn't gonna happen. He thought better of it when him and the kid got onto the track and saw what they were doing, (and the heads on the poles...hehe).

I settled in for the 3+ hour ensemble block. A really funny comment from CC when he was cleaning some brass articulation. He was discussing compressing the space of some notes, and was using da vs daah as an example. After stretching it out to DAAAH DAAAH, he said, "that is not how we want it, that is someone else's show". lol

A lot of time was spent on ensemble music timing and alignment. The corps was reminded of the last time they were first in ensemble music at finals, and the result. (that was in 2008).


The battery went off for some work in the park next to the stadium as the brass and guard worked on a big addition to the show. Let's just say it's not the ending of the show that they were working on.


The ending did get a little change, addressing what I noticed about the flugel re-entry after the first kickhalt. They actually worked an "a" and a "b" version. I liked the "b" version the best and that was what they performed for the run. Problem solved.

This show is just so full of power and emotion. The "Buicks" are remarkable. There is no question that this corps believes they have a shot at the title. There are a lot of similarities to 08, when they were 3rd behind BD and Cavs at both DATR and Atlanta, and 4th in San Antonio behind Crown as well, about 2.5 points behind BD. As I left I could hear the loud and unison "yes" from the corps as the staff was questioning something. They are working hard, and one should not count them out of the mix.


Next up...

SCV in PA!

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I followed a storm into PA, and decided to get to Harrisburg before stopping for the night. I was actually able to use one of those rest stop coupons for a great rate as I met all the disclaimers, (single, walk in, early weeknight, proper barometric pressure etc.) Very surreal situation as I was in front of the lobby on my way to my room at 1:30 AM. The crickets were chirping as a lone vehicle came up the entrance. As it passed by I saw “Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps” and the Delta logo on the window. Out jumped 4 older guys in Spirit polos. They all kinda stopped and looked at me, surprised that someone was out at this hour. “Welcome to Vegas” I yelled. They must have been drivers cause they didn’t seem to get it, but the staffer who was dropping them off sure did. They were getting some bed time on the way to Rome NY.

After a drive of about 8 APD's, I got to Haverford. Haverford PA is a small town just west of Philly, a nice residential neighborhood and a clean and busy “main st” area. I found SCV at the local high school. There is something magical about driving up to a school and seeing a corps’ busses and trucks. It seemed like I had just been watching the same people in Georgia only a few hours before, yet here they were, almost like magic, in NEPA.



PA Dutch meal was on tap. Their original plan for a 2 block rehearsal had been altered into a longer one block because of some late arrivals from their show in Virginia.



I decided to get some lunch at a great looking local Italian deli and the bakery next door. I always like trying “local” places when traveling after drum corps, as opposed to national chains that you can get anywhere. When you find a good one, you can always look forward to eating there for future years when corps could be in the same housing or at the same show. A Hot Pork on a fresh roll, and a big cookie for desert. All about 3 blocks from the school.




It was overcast and a little breezy as I made my way to the field to watch ensemble.


Guard extra workin hard...also noticed 2 trumpet extras


At first glance I thought it said Corndog Stadium...MMMMM! And I'm really a Chevy guy.


The thing that jumped out to me first was the crisp and clean excellence of the battery, the Rennick book, and its alignment musically to the pit and to the ensemble. Certainly a real noticeable difference from PR the day before. I detected a certain amount of frustration, especially with the brass, that was different than the vibe I got with the BD and PR. Disappointment from the previous night's performance was mentioned more than once.

I really like this show, and enjoyed every minute that they performed it.


Another thing I noticed that was different was that they did not have personal water jugs. The whole corps used 6-8 big coolers and cups. Unlike the BD and PR approach of glug and go, they took a much longer water break, somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. The staff was able to discuss things they wanted to address and change, and when they would work those things in over the next couple of days. Jeff Fiedler came up to the box, and actually stopped by myself and the 2 other guys who were there by me. “Hi guys, thanks for coming by today”. Kinda cool, I thought, that he took the time to do that.


Something happened at the final run through that I can’t ever remember seeing before. Right after the opening impact point, the staff stopped the run through. They were “not accepting” the way the brass started, the trumpets in particular. Someone on the field actually questioned exactly what the problem was.

The performance level after the “reset” was the highest I saw that day. At the conclusion the staff even commented that it was probably better than their show the night before.







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I had been undecided about going to the show, wanting to avoid the traffic issues so I could get home early, but couldn’t pass up the thought of seeing the SCV drum line warm up in the lot, so I headed for the stadium. When the nice policemen guarding the closest lot told me that parking for the band show was across the street, I couldn’t help but explain that calling drum corps a band was like me calling him a crossing guard. Luckily, he had a sense of humor, and laughed and told me he would try to keep that in mind.

I picked a lot that I knew was close to some of the more popular warm up spots, and mixed a nice cocktail while I waited for the corps to arrive. Looking at the performance times, I figured to be able to see Crowns horn line and then SCV battery before heading out. The clouds were breaking up and it looked to be another great night for drum corps.

Just about the time I was ready to go and find Crown’s brass, I saw the line of cream coming my way. They picked a fenced in basketball court not more than 30 yards from my car. Must be the staff got my memo…lol.


Seeing my "I love 27" bumper sticker, Barry Hudson I believe?, a brass tech who was from Boston, and who marched BAC and then Star, struck up a little old school chat before he ran the breathing exercises.



“Com awn folks, rich dahk ayah for a rich dahk sound”


Just as they were playing a LOUD warm up, the Cadets filed passed. Crown seemed more than happy to demonstrate their brass power for them. After the final release, the comment to a couple low brass players was “I am not sure I have ever heard you guys play that so loud, and I probably shouldn’t ever hear you do so again. I am sure the Cadets did not really appreciate it.


Water and energy bars were delivered just as they started tuning and getting dressed.


I couldn’t believe my luck when the SCV battery set up just around a clump of trees from the court! As Crown left for the field I got a spot in the front if a growing crowd.


This line is just sick...the plates alone are a show by themselves!


As soon as Crown left, Cadets took over the court. The echos of Fanfare rose up from the stadium as they were putting on their jackets and cumberbuns. I bet that Cadets are getting preety sick of hearing about Crown, and I know they don't like losing to them. The warm up episode didn't help. They were intense and focused as Gino pumped his emotion and his arms to a nice run of Rocky Point. It's not a good idea to mess with the champs!

I was planning on taking off, but the stadium lights and sounds pulled me in.


I watched SCV from the track outside the end zone gates. They got a lot of love from the crowd.


I followed them into the lot in front of the stadium.




It sounded as if the staff felt this show was not one of their best efforts, especially the lower brass. Sometimes things just seem to not go your way on tour. They want to move up. They need to build some momentum. A long trip to Boston and back awaits them. Keep pushin SCV!


Crown at J Birney Crum

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