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Theater Review

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Here are my thoughts on the DCI cinema premier.

As always, they are just that. MY thoughts. Keeping in mind that its "early", that i am in a movie theater, not listening live, and that its a multi-cam viewing so I was not always getting on the screen what the designer wanted.

I will list them in reverse order of where I would have placed the corps.

7) Madison Scouts

As a young man in 1992 seeing my first drum corps shows, this group was one of my very favorites. Big, loud, bold, intense. But over the years, something about them just didnt stay consistent for me. And unlike many other corps where I generally like or just dont care for their style, I would go back on forth on Madison. For about a decade, I kinda forgot about them. In 2011, I fell in love again. Head over heels! But since then, its been back to not caring for them.

Basically, this was like an alumni corps only technically better and in tune.

When the program coordinator came on screen to explain the new obnoxious white uniform and the show concept, I thought "okay.. this could be cool". But what followed was just a lot of very loud noise. This is a pretty low level design which frankly could have a tough time making it to the 12 this season.

As always, I admire the kids performance. But its the programming that I just cant get into. There is nothing inherently wrong with this style, but the show just lacked what I usually look for in a program. Great shaping, dynamic performance, variety, visual artistry, and a sense of a total program rather than just a couple of songs put out there.

Perhaps the worst part of it is the "we want to wow them with color" and the long explanation of the uniform being there to serve as the neutral backdrop for huge flashes of color etc, and not one significant color flash hitting.

As far as the elements, they seemed on par with what I have come to expect. Brass has the chops. Loud and brash and clean! Very well done. I love me some Drumming and the battery is raw and aggressive. Color guard didnt really contribute and i forgot for awhile that they had a front ensemble. Visual design was stunningly lacking. I can see this style being "loved or hated". The enthusiastic crowd in our theater sat on their hands for this one so if thats any indication...

6) BAC

Since hearing about the "Animal farm" concept, I have been rather intrigued. It certainly sounded unique, and daring which I am ALWAYS a fan of! But then the program coordinator comes on to say "the show isnt about the book animal farm....". From there he frankly kind of rambled a little bit and did not give a clear picture about what the show IS about.

And that is exactly what came through from the corps.

Its a great looking, dark, and intense program which is in most way very enjoyable. VERY ambitious visual and musically! Percussion has taken 2 steps forward all around, brass seems as good or better than the last couple of years and their visual program is steeped in demand. The color guard has a monster task trying to spin with the masks on! I have already seen people saying "get rid of the masks" simply because its hard to spin in them but I think that time and reps will cure that. Consistency will get better over the summer.

The big "moment" where they create the human tower with the animal on top making a cross was musically very dramatic, but due to what I am sure is just a lack of refining was clunky. Hopefully they extend the moment to where he makes it to the top and holds the cross longer. And again, I know the fix is coming, but it was SOOOOO very annoying when they were taking apart the "human tower" to see the members just distractingly running around, putting drums on, and breaking character while that wonderful brass moment is still going.

From a pure "story" and "concept" stand point though you cant help but wonder whats going on. Dont get me wrong. I do not believe there has to be a "story" in a drum corps show as the blue coats masterfully showed (more on that later). But when you spend all off-season getting people set for a story show and then there is no story, you just kinda feel let down. Knowing BAC however, they will fix it! it is june after all. I thought this was 4 points better than Madison but then, I am not the guy whos opinion matters!

5) Cavaliers-

"Immortal" has all the makings of a drum corps classic!

Raw, intense, soul-devouring music and visuals will have fans on their feet when its all said and done!

Percussion definitely leads the way in this corps right now. Great clarity from the battery and fantastic impact, musicality, and showmanship from the front ensemble. The "marimbas on the field" thing in the opening felt like a let down. I am just one of those people who want to see something special when a corps makes a big deal of something. And every twitter or facebook post from the cavaliers this past month is all about the hashtag, "#MarimbasOnTheField" so when 2 minutes went by and they didnt do anything, I was getting annoyed. But in the second movement, they let you have it! Cool, clever, fun and unique integration of the instrument! Naturally needs refinement but its a great moment in the making! The soul being taken from the soloist moment was so cool! Crowd in the theater went nuts!

The color guard lacked that classic cavie "punch" but I am also hoping that its an early season thing because they really need to sell it for this show to be fully realized. Frankly, I liked this show better than Phantom, but execution wise they are a few steps behind.

4) Phantom Regiment-

I am one who normally falls deeply in love with Phantom early each season.

I am not fully there yet with Swan Lake, but that does not mean it isnt a great show in the making!

The overall "Feel" is classic phantom regiment, but its not hitting just yet which is okay. These things take time! The brass, while not the PR brass of old has a big, beautiful and powerful sound. They create beautiful color musically which unfortunately was lacking visually. The visual program seems just overall very average. Seems like a visual program more suited for Colts or Pacific Crest than a championship contender. The battery percussion has taken some small steps in the right direction (Thank god). I was really beginning to worry there. Color Guard didnt blow me away like they normally do, but again its a nice show.

The uniform change is definitely where the show begins. Frankly, the show up until then is very flatline but maybe thats by design. As soon as that change happens, something comes over the members and they let you have it! It goes from a very "Blah" performance in white to a stunning performance with moments of goosebumps in black. I am probably most excited to see this show develop because I know PR always delivers the goods!

3) Carolina Crown-

With crown being the "it" corps lately, people seem offended by my stance here. I desperately wish people could get over their own egos and stop acting like someone has insulted them if they differ on a corps placement. Where you place a corps based on your personal evaluation of "criteria" has nothing to do with your enjoyment of them! (at least it shouldnt). Example... Phantom Regiment 2003 and 2010 are among my very favorite shows of ALL TIME. Yet I know that neither one of them belonged in the top 5 competitively. Anyway...

Crowns show is truly magnificent! The uni is definitely a winner for both the corps and the guard. Their brass section once again is absolutely awe inspiring and the overall package is just so cool its going to be contend again!

Percussion wise there is improvement. I wont say "huge" improvement because unlike the legions of people who let recaps taint their senses, I know that crown had a great percussion program LAST year!! Again, its better, but they have always been great so lets just get off of that! The color guard did not (yet) serve up that "Punch" I normally get. Each year, it seems Blue Devils and Crown are on their own planet guard wise a few steps ahead of the pack and Crown usually has me stunned silent but at least for this viewing I was not there yet.

In terms of the overall program, I think they are "complete" in the basic sense, but still probably have a lot of refining to do. The drumming car parts moment is definitely hip, but it needs to be shorter and thinned out. I am a drummer and love me some "notes" but i think overly packing the moment with notes takes away from the effect. Especially when the synth part comes in. Take more advantage of the unique sounds of those metallics rather than trying to do such flashy stuff. It could also be about 10-15 seconds shorter.

The "Ballad" for me loses the theme. Its so stunningly beautiful musically, but its almost a complete abandonment of the "space" theme for about 90 seconds. There may be more coming, but for the moment, that was my feeling. Its like when you sit in a movie theater and after what feels like an hour of commercials and coming attractions, you say "what movie was I here to watch again?". Overall another beautiful program. Cant wait to see it again!

2) Bluecoats-

This was a great reminder to me not be fooled by certain little "things". For example, I saw a picture from a couple of nights ago of the big orange border and the guard uniform. Didnt care for either one. Saw the new corps uni. Frankly, I was thinking "this is lame". Then the program coordinator came on the cinecast to say that they picked some music and then took a while to decide how to use it. Sounded unorganized and unambitious, similar to what the program coordinator of BAC sounded like. Then the show happened.


What a stunning performance!

This is the most complete drum corps the Bluecoats have ever put out! (in my opinion of course).

I have aLWAYS loved the Bluecoats, especially their percussion. But I have never had their elements come together in such a way to produce such a maximized overall effect. Their brass has such fantastic range right now. That note "bend" moment is unbelievably well balanced and so clever and original! The power is there but so is the low end. They create such great moments! I never in my wildest dreams thought I would think Bluecoats guard should be over the likes of crown and cadets, but frankly, I do! I think they were the best guard of the night! Their front ensemble has come a long way this year to keep up with the others and their battery percussion. Well, if you saw it, you know.

I can honestly see this show coming out to knock out one or two or three of the "big boys" this year. Is a medal in the Bluecoats plans for this summer? I certainly would not be the least big shocked if it happened! They will need to refine, clean and expand because the big boys are going to give it their best. But the Bluecoats best will do the job this season.

1) Cadets-

Both Cadets and Bluecoats have shown the world that "its only june" is a sh**ty excuse not to perform at a high level. The cadets preparation is simply impressive. No other way to put it. Strong corps in all areas. I think they can and will be in the top 3 of every caption.

Percussion is again championship caliber, brass is stunning and guard colors the picture.

Beautifully balanced narration, and a spectacular arranging of classic Copland with stunning performance quality. Hard not to see this as a medalist, maybe a champion?

This to me was clearly the most prepared corps of the night. Like most people, I saw the spread between them and Crown and thought "is this for real?". Those doubts are gone. This is a complete drum corps doing a June performance that I honestly believe would have won DCI's August championships only a few years ago. It is that good.

My Captions:

Overall Effect- Cadets

Visual- Crown

Music- Cadets

Battery Percussion- Bluecoats

Front Ensemble Percussion- Cadets

Guard- Bluecoats

Fan Favorite- (in my theater) Bluecoats.

congrats to all on a great opening!

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You refer to the Cadets' "beautifully balanced narration", and others have made similar remarks. From a literal sound mixing point, I often found the narrator's voice and the samples to be out of balance with each other or with the music. (This is from the viewpoint of a cinema-screening, but that's the angle most of us are discussing the Akron show from.) Am I the only one?

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I hope the camera crew realizes that we do not need a shot of the narrarator every time he talks. He is not doing anything important... just give us 1 shot the very first time. In the theatre, everytime he talked, they cut to him... we get it... he is on a stage and talking.

And I agree with you, I had Bluecoats over Crown.

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