My Take on DCI Finals 2014

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Excellent review!! Very detailed and I agree with you on almost all points. And you're right, the performances at Finals were just stellar, regardless of who your favorite was or what shows you liked. It was nice to see such incredible performing from those young people.

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Well, another year of junior drum corps is done. I was there with a friend who played in the Watkins Glen Squires to witness it from the 50 of the oil can as drum corps fans have dubbed the reverberation chamber known as Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Certainly not the type of venue or programs which we grew up with, but which I found almost uniformly enjoyable and often awesome.

We had the pleasant opportunity to connect with Steve Rondinaro for lunch and were treated to some inside stories of DCI today. I also had the pleasure of meeting Dennis DeLucia for the first time and sharing memories of the Muchachos and Bridgemen.

I have not posted on DCP in sometime, but I enjoyed the show so much that I felt compelled to share my viewpoints. I welcome your responses both pro and con. By way of introduction, this is my 50th season either participating or following the activity. Forty years ago I had the wonderful experience of playing in DCI finals with New York State's only finalist, the Auburn Purple Lancers. But enough about me, on to the show...

12th place- 86.225

Crossmen- they played gypsy inspired music complete with very authentic costuming of the guard. I found their performance stirring and full of mystery. They are very strong musically with great solo work. This is the strongest which I have heard the corps since their move to Texas...seriously good!

11th place- 87.575

Madison- their book was one of my favorites, a jazz oriented show complete with the intricate rhythms of the late, great Don Ellis. It was old time screaming Scouts (at least in the second half of their show) with a trio of amplified trumpeters worthy of any big band lead trumpet section soaring above the roar of the synth bass. I understand that they offered scholarships to attract the kind of players they needed for the worked! You have to hear the finale of their show to believe it, a solitary trumpeter playing tasty licks leaping to a sweet double G as the crowd roared its approval. No pressure there! well done young man! This was the eleventh place corps. Hard to believe!

10th place- 88.950

Boston Crusaders- this was a bitter pill for me to swallow. I saw them several times throughout the season yet the show remained an enigma to me. It was based on the political satire, "Animal Farm". Very dark with the guard's faces hidden behind animal masks and a lot of emulation of animal behavior while the horn line was locked in a minor key the entire show. The fact that they beat two very good corps is testament to the strength of their performance with a book which was very difficult to sell. The one highlight for me was when the corps created a G7 formation near the climax of their show. This was a clever wink at drum corps own brand of politics referring to the so called group of 7. This is the George Hopkins led break away group comprised of the top seven corps in DCI which have begun to sponsor their own shows and are agitating the status quo of DCI. I am sure that Boston had hoped to break into this group, but not with this years show!

9th Place- 89.600

Blue Stars- this show grew on me over the 3 days of championships. Initially I felt the whole homey theme complete with a house blueprint laid out on the field was overdone and not particularly interesting. However, the great sound of the hornline and the joy which they communicated eventually softened me up.

8th Place- 91.150

Blue Knights- the surprise corps of the season moving past Boston and Madison. For a show based on narration, I was surprised how well I liked it. The narration was minimalist and served to set up the flow of the music well. It was a pre-recorded female voice which was both pleasant and compelling. Entitled That One Second, it was a tone poem about your whole life flashing in front of your eyes. The narration would make a thought provoking statement about life then back away and let the corps paint the picture with the music. They are a great sounding corps and communicated the changing moods well.

7th Place- 91.425

Phantom Regiment- Show was entitled Swan Lake and was based on the old Good vs. Evil fairy tale with a prince trying to save a cursed swan queen. Phantom is usually one of my favorites, but not the past couple years. I did not find that the beautiful musical performance communicated the high drama that I am accustomed to from this corps.

6th Place- 93.675

The Cavaliers- Wow! Now this is the kind of high drama that I expected from Phantom. Entitled Immortal this show was a superb performance of dark vampirish selections. In fact the guard was costumed as ghouls and one of the members disappears into a coffin at the finale! This easily could have been a very cheesy show, but the strength of the musical performance and the clever visuals prevented that. The wild dance with a skeleton by a guard member in La Danse Macabre had to be seen to be fully appreciated. A big step up this year by Cavies. The fact that they could not break the top five is telling of how strong the corps were this year!

5th Place- 95.675

Carolina Crown- Entitled Out of This World, a superior brass performance was unable to overcome a show which was out there. Nobody articulates the way that Crown does! At one point all the baritones and tubas picked up trumpets to create a massively articulating soprano voice which was breathtaking and unbelievable in its precision. The ballad is an achingly long crescendo which was very satisfying and demanding in a different way. I believe they would have won in many years, but this year there were four more corps to best them.

4th Place- 96.075

Santa Clara Vanguard- Entitled Scheherazade this show was a visual feast with beautiful costuming, an elaborate temple-like backdrop, an amazing flowing pattern drill, and a wonderfully performed lush Rimsky-Korsakov melody. At the finale, it virtually vanishes as the whole corps disappears beneath a giant colorfully patterned tarp and Scheherazade emerges through an opening in it center. Super job, Vanguard!

3rd Place- 96.875

The Cadets- Entitled Promise-An American Portrait this show left me a little flat despite a very crisp performance led by the #2 visual program of the night. It was heavily based on narration and replete with many historic quotes from our past presidents. At the risk of sounding like a pinko commie cynic, I found the show theme trite and lacking in originality. I agree with The assessment of many that they are in need of some new ideas. ###### if you do and ###### if you dont for this corps which until recently was scorned for its iconoclastic themes.

2nd Place- 97.175

Bluecoats- I was delighted to see them upset The Cadets. Their show was entitled Tilt and I thought that along with Blue Devils was the most imaginative and original of this season. Personally, this was my favorite show of the year. They stage this on a field whose boundaries they re-mark in a tilted fashion. The music is very contemporary and unfamiliar yet very interesting with a great sense of directionality. The ballad of Hymn of Axciom is one of my favorite tunes now. The sheer competence of the musical performance is second to no one. The final strains of the show with pitch bending and a member launching himself into the air from one of their tilting ramps was thrilling. (see the pictures I posted in our photo files.)

1st Place- 99.650

Blue Devils- Not to be denied this year, the corps returned to their accustomed position at the top of DCI after one year as the runner up. What was refreshing this year is that I actually found their music enjoyable. Entitled Fellini, it was based on the work of the iconic Italian film director. They completed an undefeated season in record setting fashion with the highest score in DCI history. They were great although I think it is arguable that they were almost 2.5 points above Bluecoats. The corps is at the top of its game in all captions and particularly strong in programming with a lot of acting done to communicate the mood of the music. The guard was outstanding as usual in taking the caption award. I loved the opening 40 trumpet double tongued fanfarewhat a sound!!

So there you have it. The kids are better than ever and as different as it is from my day, the kids do a hell of a job performing their hearts out!


Boston There is a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line . (Oscar, Lavant). Creativity is contagious pass it on. (Albert Einstein).

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Great review! Thank you.

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  • 2 months later...

Very nice review. I checked out your bio. Did you know you were overage when you marched dci finals? Just curious.

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  • 3 months later...

Great review! :thumbup:

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What a great review. I commented at the time to Kara at Friends of DCI that top to bottom I thought this was the best crop of performances from 20th on up that I can remember ever seeing. As an "old-fart" who vehemently opposed the addition of amplification and spoken word I didn't like the direction things were going for several years. It seems that as the addition has matured and experience gained that (most) corps are finding ways to use it that are less intrusive. In the early years of this era as soon as I heard talking I'd almost automatically lose interest in the show. Not so much anymore. Or maybe I'm just getting used to it :music:

I could definitely do without the syntesizers though.

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I could definitely do without the syntesizers though.

My sentiments as well. I used to feel that the depth and balance of the acoustic sound was a good gauge of how accomplished the brass section was. The synths homogenize everything and you can't tell anymore.

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