Detailed Observation of Opening Night 2015

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The Venue

As promised, here we are. Will try to give as many thoughts as possible! Been going to these things since 2008. The first time I went in 2008 there were probably 5 people there for the Big Loud and Live, including my mom who probably didn't want to go (but she went with me last night, I've given her the DCI bug, she loves it!). Wasn't any better from 2009 - 2010, probably around 5 - 10 at each. But the last few years, there's been some traction going, when I was in high school I pushed it quite a bit and I think kids at other schools have as well, because the attendance last night was 50 +, the most I've seen at this first one. They added the event to another theater in town, probably because the Big Loud and Live event has been a complete sell out the last three times, bus loads of high school kids being brought in, audible gasps, laughs, cheering, clapping, ect. It's pretty cool to see it getting some traction. Volume was LOUD! I like it like that, quality I thought was solid, video as well.

The Night

Easily my favorite of the Tour Premier's that started in I think 2011? Last year there were 4 shows that didn't really captivate me and stayed that way through finals week, this year there were 0. None. I found something incredibly enjoyable in all the shows. Certain shows have downfalls, weaknesses, and performance issues, but nothing that left a bad taste in my mouth, not even remotely. I saw some shows that have an incredibly high ceiling, and some that have a slightly lower ceiling. None of these shows will peak, NONE of them. They all have obvious growth through cleaning, performance maturity, and design changes to come with the season.

The Recap

I love some numbers analysis. First read of the season, there's always liable to be some weird numbers thrown out, so this part is probably meaningless. What a curious recap. Only one of them kinda took me by surprise, GE 1, not disagreeing with the placement, just the spread. That's pretty big, before that score the 1.6 spread between Cadets and Bluecoats was only 2 tenths of a point! I'm not disagreeing with that score per say, but it's pretty striking. Notable things I that were dully noted after I noticed them being notable:

The Cavaliers Brass were given the largest spread between content and achievement out of any judged caption of the night, with a .8 spread in favor of their content. I definitely agree, which I will get to.

Blue Stars percussion were given the second largest, a .6 spread in favor of their content. I also agree here.

The lower 3 corps were given overall much high scores in their content/repertoire. Indicative of three shows that could have a lot of growth in them. Cavaliers with a 3.2 spread between the two sub-captions.

The Shows

Madison Scouts - 78th and Madison

· NYC from Annie - by Strouse, Charles

· Gotta Dance from Singin' in the Rain - by Brown, Nacio Herb (not available on US Spotify)

· Good Morning from Singin' in the Rain - by Brown, Nacio Herb

· I Got Rhythm from An American in Paris - by Gershwin, George

· Moses Supposes from Singin' in the Rain - by Eden, Roger

· The Boy Next Door from Meet Me in St Louis - by Martin, Hugh; Blaine, Ralph

· Traffic Jammin' from New York Cityscape for Wind Ensemble - by Tyzik, Jeff

· Get Happy from Summer Stock - by Arlen, Harold; Koehler, Ted

· Happy Days are Here Again - by Ager, Milton; Yellen, Jack


First of all, don't they look fantastic in those new uniforms? What a fun show, the theme works very well with what they're trying to portray and do with this music. Overall I think that this show is much stronger than the score indicates it to be (I can say that FOR ALL CORPS last night), and I think this could do great things for them. As stated, the corps proper looks extremely sharp, and the guard costuming works well with the theme. The suitcases, big and small work very well. The opening fanfare is fantastic, the MGM lion roar a very nice touch, starts off right in your face with Madison Screamers, huge musical moments, and some absolutely whiplash drill towards the end of that segment! Was a treat to watch. That Madison M in the drill makes a few appearances in the show, fun to see. The arrival of our Gene Kelly sudo is highlighted very well by the change in music and the visual design highlighting him extremely well, going to doors to try and trying to dance his way into NYC. A very nice ballad is to follow, falling over themselves over a beautiful dancer, the mannequin-esque things they dance with are interesting. Drum feature to follow, drumline is laying down some notes! The medley closer works well, that Fleur de Lis set looks fantastic!

Performance and Thoughts:

As stated, a much stronger offering than last year. Visual design was a blast to watch, they're absolutely hauling it through segments of that, notably at the end of the closer and before the drum break where there is a block form and it ripples in and out of itself into a line, that was a highlight moment for me. Lots of visual performance issues and what I sensed were early season jitters, but overall it's not unclean-able, just a lot of hard work. Hornline sounded nice, music was overall good. In the middle I found myself trying to figure out what they were playing and got lost a little, but overall in the big moments it is solid. Get those in between moments there and they'll be great. Guard looked a lot better tonight than Monday, some nice stuff going on from what I can tell. Percussion, great. Sparling is doing a fantastic job with them. This show felt very retro in an overall good way! From the uniforms, to the percussion, to the music, to the drill, it had that Madison spark. I think this show has some work to be done on it, more so cleaning then changing, but overall, very impressed.

Blue Stars - Side Show

· Entrance of the Gladiators- by Julius Fucik

· The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze - by Gaston Lyle, Alfred Lee

· I Will Never Leavge You (from Side Show broadway original) - by Henry Krieger, Bill Russell

· Send in the Clowns - by Stephen Sondheim

· Carnivale - by Jeff Beal

· Original music - by Richard Saucedo, Ian Grom, John Mapes


Overall, a very fun show with massive potential. As we arrive at the carnival we hear that familiar tune as the brass enters backfield leading into that theme being stated in a big company front, morphing into what looks like a big circus tent, guard interspersed. Things get busy next, jugglers, contortionists, trombones, sword swallowers! That juggler had my nerves on end, but he nailed it. Great job! Pit ripping away in spots in here, drill is booking it as well, really cool FTL up front around the high striker. Ballad to follow, a mash up of "Send in the Clowns" and "I Will Never Leave You", which is portrayed by some siamese twins on side one, and clowns on side two in a strikingly different blue and white costume. Some beautiful writing here, I love the final moments of this movement. Next is the closer, which starts out finally featuring their fantastic percussion section, which builds as our strongman tries to get that striker to hit 100! That drumline is ramming away, as is the pit, they're a real show stopper! Brass is booking it with some fast drill. Finally our trip comes to the end with a huge rotating Ferris wheel, and finally that star we saw last year.

Performance and Thoughts:

Enjoyed the show, surprised at the roughness, was a lot rougher then anticipated. Not unfixably so however. Particularly the front half. I sense a lot of first show jitters, but some pretty glaring visual issues. LOTS of difficulty though, I think there's some great stuff happening design wise. When we hit the ballad it really started to pick up, and when we got to the closer I was a lot more at ease. Brass was ragged first half, overall nice 2nd half. Can say the same for the drill. What wasn't rough was the guard and percussion, as usual both are the highlights of the corps. Guard needs to be more convincing in parts, the high striker moment is the only time in this show that could have been extremely cheesy, was extremely cheesy. Not very convincing at all, that thing is gonna hit 100 you need to smack the #### out of it. But how about that percussion package! In a time where we only focus on drumilne a lot of the time, their front ensemble stood about above almost everyone elses, they're killer! The drumline is getting there too, their feature was absolutely fantastic. Overall I think they have some editing/layering to do and a LOT of cleaning. However once it does, this show has an EXTREMELY high ceiling, this show will either peak finals week or not at all, they won't ever hit a wall, it's just a question of how much they can do with it. A little worried at first, but I think it has huge potential.

Carolina Crown - Inferno


As we enter hell to the sounds of Beethoven, we're met with a pretty striking entrance. Those lime green silks come out of nowhere, they're absolutely sinister. As the last chord plays, the words "Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here" fly over the corps, rifles flying out from underneath as it moves backfield. As we enter, the drumline gives us a fast, sinister, intense feature as the brass books it backfield, morphing, rotating 3D Pyramids, and 9 circles encompassing the guard. Brass sounds absolutely evil as the familiar stabs of Verdi's "Dies Irae" ring out. Some very technical passages in the brass that they nailed. Guard looks fantastic here. Things get purely evil in "Organ Symphony", I'm assuming that's where we meet Satan. Rifles are in the air almost consistently, that guard is killer. Brass is LOUD at the end of this as the organ plays. The tarp incident is really unfortunate, you could see them trying to fix it to no avail, regardless that is going to be an absolutely goose bump inducing moment. Finally we exit hell to the sounds of "Ode to Joy" as the brass plasters us back and that guard is twirling their butts off.

Performance and Thoughts:

Quick thoughts on performance, cleanest of the night to me. Brass and Guard obviously, drumline is great but someone else brought up Front Ensemble, and I can't remember anything about them. Great marching as well. I like this show, however............I can't put my finger on it. I thought seeing this on the big screen would help but I feel the same way I did last weekend. It didn't feel sterile, but for a show theme that should be absolutely heart wrenching and intense, I didn't feel a lot of emotional response. I think they have a lot of layering to do thematically, there are times where it's just spot on, like the end of the Beethoven intro, and the beginning of "Organ Symphony". If they're wanting to portray Dante going through hell being guided by Vigil, they're going to have to do more than two members running out at the end of the show. Others, like the Verdi and ESPECIALLY the closer, it felt sterile. The closer I think will change, that's a given. And I think there are plenty of opportunities to layer the show. So we'll see. None of my comments are anything that I think can't be fixed I don't think. They're a monster corps.

The Cavaliers - Game On

· Fetes from Nocturnes - by Claude Debussy

· Macrotus - by James Newton Howard

· On The Shoulders of Giants - by Peter Graham

· Run Boy Run - by Woodkid

· Symphony No. 8: Finale - by Anton Bruckner

The Show:

The opening minutes of this show are some of my favorite moments this year, the Bruckner/Debussy is just glorious. "Fetes" is exciting, fully of notes and glorious impact moments. Brass sounds great in these opening minutes, some really cool visual things going on too. "Run Boy Run" is an interesting section, the drum feature I suppose? We see the athletic part of this show for sure. Trombone Quartet was not mic'd well last night that sounded a lot more fitting this previous weekend. Not sold on the singing, that needs some looking at. After this though, I love the end of this section, it's pretty fun. Ballad is beautiful, some interesting visual things going on. There's about a minute and a half of show that wasn't shown this previous weekend, it was obviously new, was A LOT rougher than the rest of the show. That said I think the closer is awesome! When that cleans it is going to be awesome. Love the brass writing here.

Performance and Thoughts:

So I was surprised, a lot dirtier than I was lead to believe this weekend watching it online. However I still stand behind my statements, I think this show is dangerous. I say that because I think the first half is a sign of where the second half will get. It's right up there with Blue Stars in room to grow, I don't see this show ever peaking this season. They have A LOT to do. Thematically, I myself found it pretty easy to get. Athleticism and the Spirit of competition. Closer and ballad need some work in this respect, but the front half is where it's fine to me. Brass sounded fantastic at times and really winded at times. Colorguard had some great moments and some not so great moments. Percussion was overall solid. I think this show is still in its early stages, it rang off as unfinished. I think right now, they need to get that closer under hand and then start cleaning like there is no tomorrow, there is a show that can be something amazing in there. Looking at the recap, that brass content score is very promising, they have a lot room with this show. Whereas Blue Stars show ended strong, this one started strong. We'll see, cleaned up I see this being fantastic. The opener is a sign of what's to come IMO.

The Cadets - The Power of Ten

· Symphonic Movement - Vaclav Nelhybel

· Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93 (mvmnt ii and iv) - by Dmitri Shostakovich

· Mulholland Drive/Love Theme - by Angelo Badalamenti

The Show:

You know that first hit is coming, as that last rifle snaps and year hear 10 it doesn't make it any less awesome. That's a face melter. Jeez. Next we move into Shostakovich 10, which is FULL of technicality from the brass, they sound fantastic. Love the guard scheme here, the reds and yellows along with the corps proper look striking. All sorts of 10s and such going on in the drill in countless ways. Love the ballad from "Mulholland Drive" absolutely gorgeous. Some very cool stuff done in the within 10 yards ballad with body movement and choreography. The guard members running side to side through the brass was neat. Here we go, the Waltz section I think will be the most difficult thing on the field this summer. Absolutely insane, that drumline being at the headline of it. Just wow, they're incredible. The horn feature is really neat, a bit short, but neat. Drill makes my legs hurt just watching. The closer is intense, just pure drum corps. The tag ending is OBVIOUS placeholder.

Performance and Thoughts:

Yup, they're going to be contending. Brass is fantastic, guard will probably clean well, and I'm not even going to try and talk about the drums. Just mind blowing. A little less polished than previous years, but I'd rather it be that way because of an insanely hard show and them finish strong than them come out super polished and not grow. Up through the ballad this show feels complete, I think that's probably what got them the high GE numbers. Waltz felt very complete too. The closer is interesting, not as much symbolism and presentation of it here. I think there is some layering to be done in that respect in the closer, I'm excited to see the real ending which I'm sure will be fantastic. They're going to be amazing.

Bluecoats - Kinetic Noise

· Shaker Loops - by John Adams (as arranged/performed by Jon Anderson)

· Electric Counterpoint - by Steve Reich

· Woods - by Bon Iver

· Gene Takes a Drink - by Michael Gordon

· The Animated Description of Mr. Maps - by The Books

· Dense - by Univers Zero

The Show:

If you've seen me ranting and raving, sorry you get to hear it again. If you knew me and asked my friends and family who have gone to shows with me you would probably hear that I always have something to say about shows after they're done. Didn't after this one, first time I've been speechless after a show. At first I wasn't sure if I absolutely hated what I just saw or if I completely loved it. It's the latter. After sleeping on it I feel no less intrigued by it. That opening impact moment just made me smile huge, emerging from white noise and other noisy things going on at the beginning, it was glorious. Loudest moment of the night in my theater. The way this corps explores moods and energies of music is amazing, the transition to the next section is almost ethereal, dream like. And here comes the brass again, mello's and high brass with some very technical passages licks as the guard comes out with some psychedelic flags that really pop. Drill is very organic almost, no stark direction changes, it just flows together in complete thoughts between impacts. That entire time the drumline is throwing it down, they're aggressive and fantastic. Those Bluecoat's contra features that I always remember them for are back. After that we see the brass playing into some mic's backfield for what I sense is something really cool with the sound and location of it. Guard comes out with some really striking silks here to finish out this section with a really cool brass hit, electronic echo, and back in. "Woods" is a fantastic break from all the chaos, beautiful baritone soloist. I think it makes great use of some silent moments and builds to a fantastic ending chord that was just spine tingling. Here come the drums, still my favorite writing, and they play the crap outta it too. Here comes "Dense" the brass flowing around the props for for some very quirky, intense passages. This closer is dark, groovy, and fun. Some really cool layering things going on musically. The tension building in it is unrelenting, it's definitely going some where. Next we hear some echoing from the trumpets as the brass does some of the cooler drill I saw last night, sprinting in some follow the leaders that morph and build into a little tag of "Woods", building to the end where the brass fades out to static and finally silence.

Performance and Thoughts:

I'm going to start with the things a lot people are not talking about. Brass sounded fantastic, easily up there with Crown and Cadets. I think the writing showcases them in many ways and they deliver. Percussion is killer as always, writing and performance. I love their aggressiveness, that feature was awesome. Color Guard looked HUGELY better than this time last year, I thought they were striking, looking forward to seeing some show silks in the closer. But I thought they were stronger than in years before. I found my self enjoying the drill quite a bit. Some dirt, but it's incredibly organic in the way it changes and moves, especially when it's involved with the props. The way it morphs around them in the first hit and the closer is just awesome. Musically this is their niche. This minimalist, 21st century, untouched crazy music works so well for them. The way it is arranged is just seamless to me, it shouldn't work but it does. The moods, textures, and sounds they create are just refreshing. Rarick and Thrower, my hat is off to you. Well done! Performance wise, I think musically it's going to be very strong, and visual has the potential to be. I think cleaning the visual package will be a determining factor in how they ultimately do. Some really cool stuff going on. GE 1 judge, that's interesting. 1st read of many, I won't fret too much over it. I thought Cadets were stronger in that respect, but not by 1.4 points. I'd say .5 or so. If you take out that was close. Really close. .2 We’ll see. Finally, the elephant in the room. I think that their usage of electronics will be incredibly divisive, you're either going to love it or hate it. They went for it, I give them major props for that. So many of those things I bet need to be experienced live, but it was #### cool in the theater too. I found a lot of it looked to be them playing and it being manipulated rather than being prerecorded, which I think is great. The way they are manipulating sound is just incredible, they have a completely different sound than anyone else. There isn't going to be another show like this, they're unique. I think this show is a game changer because of the use of the music they picked, its arranging, and the integration of the electronics into it. In that respect it's unparalleled in my eyes. Champions push the activity. They change it. I see this as one of those shows. I think they have a shot. I'm beyond excited to see what they do with this show. It's incredible.

Other Thoughts

Scores were really low, but at this point I think spreads are more important. I think Madison and Blue Stars both easily have finalist shows, and will place as high as they can clean. I think Cavaliers are in the same boat. Crown's show needs life, they are going to perform the hell out of it for sure though. Cadets and Bluecoats were so different but equally enjoyable. Both were amazing in their own respects, and both shows I really enjoyed. I saw two contenders last night and one that could get there. This season is going to be amazing, some incredible stuff last night.

Edited by DrumManTx
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Awesome unbiased thoughtful review!!! Thank you!!!

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Great review!

Out of curiosity, would you compare Blue Stars roughness to the same rough offering we got at their first show in 2012?

I'd say it wasn't drastically worse than the last two years and this is a more difficult show, definitely not as rough as 2012. This didn't read off as uncleanable, which that one did. I think they'll be fine, to me and from what I've heard they have a VERY mature corps this year that can take this show and really make it shine. I have a lot faith, I'd rather them start slow than end slow.

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