DCI Pittsburgh 6/24: The Good, The Bad, and The Worse


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Okay, most often I post pretty positive reviews. This won't be one of them. In fact, it will be fiercely and nearly uniformly negative. I was not happy with the shows last night, except for Bluecoats and maybe parts of Madison. As always, usual disclaimer - I can't fault the members. And that is particularly true this past evening.

My daughter K was there for the second year running. She has taken at least eight years of ballet, which colors her impressions of the show. She also sings. She does not drum, horn, or guard. This is a thing - the conversion of nouns into verbs without regard to whether the actual word is commonly used as a verb. The phrase 'this is a thing' is also a thing.

So I enjoyed Troopers in the lot. I watched the drum major getting into character as the brass line warmed up. As usual, the Troopers DM has character and is not merely an organic Dr. Beat. I also heard some good stuff from the brass line. Troopers' on field presentation was pretty solid. The design had some neat ideas. I liked the rail fences framing the hornline/guard at different parts of the show. Daughter K's criticisms were of the guard dressed as horses. She also was not a fan of the vocals at all. Her most critical remarks were reserved for the lack of foot technique in the guard. I tried to point out that these were not ballet dancers, to which her response was 'then they should take basic ballet so they can know how to point their feet. Or, alternately, they can not do ballet.' I tried to point out that the hornline and drumline were competent and that the crowd seemed to like them, but she wasn't having it. I felt bad. I like the Troopers and I want them to do well.

The Boston Crusaders are impressive coming onto the field with the big uniforms. I like that percussion feature in the beginning, but I think it goes way long. Overall, my impression was that everything was too cluttered and I did not see the point. The color scheme is so dark. Katie, again, was very critical of foot technique and singing. She said, 'You can't have her running around for two minutes and then sing long sustained phrases without supporting.' Daughter K has spent the last year in a girl's choir which in my opinion is outstanding, and that's not because I'm a dad. The girl has a nice voice, but I have to agree with Katie here. The last two minutes of the show were enjoyable to me. A little more traditional drum corps. ('Traditional drum corps' does not equal 'Conquest sting.')

I was so glad to see the Madison Scouts enter the field, if only to bring a little bit of color to the place. Praise be that Madison has gone back to the green jacket tops. Those short-sleeved things were hideous, and these are so much more visually impressive, and this is the Madison look I remember. I also felt that the guard had a nice color presentation (not, not that kind of color presentation), and daughter K said that their 'presentation' (by which I think she meant the way they communicated to the audience) was the best of the night. She had bad things to say about the last 'turn' of the featured dancer. She said, 'Didn't you see it?' to which I replied that I was watching the hornline and the drumline. Her criticism was of the technique, and she intimated several times before and after the show that people could get hurt if they were doing it wrong. I felt that the musical book and execution were powerful, if a little bit loosey-goosey. And that 'Gotta dance' vocal going through the show has to go. After the first time, I know they 'gotta dance.'

INT: Haluski! The funnel cake of the Pittsburgh show!

Daughter K was very excited about Blue Stars because she has heard the musical 'Side Show' and also loves Sondheim (Send in the Clowns). Unfortunately, I found that the show was not as visually or thematically appealing as last year's presentation. They've got circus themes throughout the show which never quite work. The worst was the thing where everyone's in a file during the percussion feature and they do an imitation of the 'test of strength' machine at the circus. The first time the flags from 10 to 40 spin their flags in sequence up the file. Then 10 to 80, then 10 to 100. Victory! That's thirty seconds they'll never get back. Please change it. It's boring. I just don't know. I mean, they're playing and spinning well, and it's only late June, but there's just no fun in this show yet. Last year was fun. I guess the theme from Side Show is deep, but you have to have some fun in it. Daughter K said that the group looked and sounded 'tired.' She also said that the featured dancers were better than Madison's, but that Madison's 'chorus' was better.

It was Bluecoats's home show, this being relatively close to Canton. Daughter K wanted to be in the show in order to ride in the 'human hamster balls.' There was a long pause of perhaps forty to fifty seconds before the drum major was ready where everyone was sitting in sepulchral silence, while, I assume, the techs were making sure everything was good with the electronics. I thought at first that it was some sort of deep statement about noise and silence. The Bluecoats were amazing; great source material and the arrangements and their execution was wonderful. I loved the idea of the speakers all over the field, and they were very effective. This year and last year, Bluecoats have the market cornered on antiphonal effects, much like Star did in the early 90s. But after seeing and hearing this show live, I don't think it is a show that connects with the audience nearly as much as last year, and I don't know that it has enough to take gold in Indy. Daughter K said that the guard used more stuff from modern dance rather than traditional ballet, and so she was less offended by the technique. Her only real visual criticism is that she thought the horns should horn and the drums should drum rather than dance.

USMC Drum and Bugle Corps showed up. Woo-hoo! It was nice to hear a really meaty arrangement of 'To Tame the Perilous Skies' played on G bugles. At times I felt like I was back in 1992 listening to the Cadets of Bergen County. The rudimental percussion feature was also very well presented and executed. I was zoning out a bit during the 'New World Symphony.' Virtually no one stood up for the hit in 'Stars and Stripes.' Probably Obama's fault. (KIDDING! Don't freak out! Don't close the topic! Doesn't anyone have a sense of humor these days?)

Me: I did a bad job last night too. I promised updates and pictures to DCP and then I couldn't figure out how to post anything. Also felt that I took too much time taking said pictures and videos. Maybe I would have enjoyed the show better had I not been doing so. Then again, maybe I would have seen more to complain about.

Clouds: They rocked. I have nothing bad to say about The Clouds. No rain, blue sky above us, but clouds in the west, enough to keep the setting sun out of our eyes. Nice sunset and beautiful twilight backdrop to the USMC. GO CLOUDS!

Five things:

1. The next DCI Rules Congress should impose a ten-year ban on any use of 'Conquest' by BAC. (G7, anyone?)

2. Madison, make a choice. Either send your tuba section home or be much more judicious about bass synth. Learn from Bluecoats and Santa Clara.

3. I don't mind electronics and amplification, but for the love of Jim Ott, stop using DCI hornlines as backup to samples or vocals.

4. If you're going to use vocals, don't stage your vocalists in the center of the field when you have the sound coming out of the front sideline speakers. I spent ten or more seconds trying to figure out where the singers were in the first two shows.

5. Stop trying to teach guards dance techniques that take years to learn in six months of weekend rehearsals.

I know I've been hard on almost everyone. But if you're upset because I ripped on your kid's corps or your former corps, consider: poor show design hurts the members, their families, the alumni, and the activity in general. If I had the chance to do yesterday over again, I would have taken daughter K and watched the Bluecoats rehearse and run their show for free. Then I would have gone out to the lots and supported the marching members of the other corps by watching them warm up and taking some videos which the parents and fans around the country could have enjoyed. And then I would have gone home, saved some money, and gotten more sleep than I did last night. DCI, your product is bad and you should feel bad.

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Great thorough review, thanks!!

I fully agree that the whole "Gotta Dance" voice over needs to go. IT's hokey and cheesy....and

doesn't add one little thing to the story line of the show. I'd love it if they replaced it with a couple quick little

Baritone or Contra (sorry Tuba) solos in those places....we will all know what they are referring to, and they will

be subtle and stylish!

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Fantastic review!

Favorite part:

But if you're upset because I ripped on your kid's corps or your former corps, consider: poor show design hurts the members, their families, the alumni, and the activity in general...DCI, your product is bad and you should feel bad.

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Okay, most often I post pretty positive reviews. This won't be one of them. In fact, it will be fiercely and nearly uniformly negative. I was not happy with the shows last night, except for Bluecoats and maybe parts of Madison. As always, usual disclaimer - I can't fault the members. And that is particularly true this past evening.

My daughter K was there for the second year running. She has taken at least eight years of ballet, which colors her impressions of the show. She also sings. She does not drum, horn, or guard. This is a thing - the conversion of nouns into verbs without regard to whether the actual word is commonly used as a verb. The phrase 'this is a thing' is also a thing.

So I enjoyed Troopers in the lot. I watched the drum major getting into character as the brass line warmed up. As usual, the Troopers DM has character and is not merely an organic Dr. Beat. I also heard some good stuff from the brass line. Troopers' on field presentation was pretty solid. The design had some neat ideas. I liked the rail fences framing the hornline/guard at different parts of the show. Daughter K's criticisms were of the guard dressed as horses. She also was not a fan of the vocals at all. Her most critical remarks were reserved for the lack of foot technique in the guard. I tried to point out that these were not ballet dancers, to which her response was 'then they should take basic ballet so they can know how to point their feet. Or, alternately, they can not do ballet.' I tried to point out that the hornline and drumline were competent and that the crowd seemed to like them, but she wasn't having it. I felt bad. I like the Troopers and I want them to do well.

The Boston Crusaders are impressive coming onto the field with the big uniforms. I like that percussion feature in the beginning, but I think it goes way long. Overall, my impression was that everything was too cluttered and I did not see the point. The color scheme is so dark. Katie, again, was very critical of foot technique and singing. She said, 'You can't have her running around for two minutes and then sing long sustained phrases without supporting.' Daughter K has spent the last year in a girl's choir which in my opinion is outstanding, and that's not because I'm a dad. The girl has a nice voice, but I have to agree with Katie here. The last two minutes of the show were enjoyable to me. A little more traditional drum corps. ('Traditional drum corps' does not equal 'Conquest sting.')

I was so glad to see the Madison Scouts enter the field, if only to bring a little bit of color to the place. Praise be that Madison has gone back to the green jacket tops. Those short-sleeved things were hideous, and these are so much more visually impressive, and this is the Madison look I remember. I also felt that the guard had a nice color presentation (not, not that kind of color presentation), and daughter K said that their 'presentation' (by which I think she meant the way they communicated to the audience) was the best of the night. She had bad things to say about the last 'turn' of the featured dancer. She said, 'Didn't you see it?' to which I replied that I was watching the hornline and the drumline. Her criticism was of the technique, and she intimated several times before and after the show that people could get hurt if they were doing it wrong. I felt that the musical book and execution were powerful, if a little bit loosey-goosey. And that 'Gotta dance' vocal going through the show has to go. After the first time, I know they 'gotta dance.'

INT: Haluski! The funnel cake of the Pittsburgh show!

Daughter K was very excited about Blue Stars because she has heard the musical 'Side Show' and also loves Sondheim (Send in the Clowns). Unfortunately, I found that the show was not as visually or thematically appealing as last year's presentation. They've got circus themes throughout the show which never quite work. The worst was the thing where everyone's in a file during the percussion feature and they do an imitation of the 'test of strength' machine at the circus. The first time the flags from 10 to 40 spin their flags in sequence up the file. Then 10 to 80, then 10 to 100. Victory! That's thirty seconds they'll never get back. Please change it. It's boring. I just don't know. I mean, they're playing and spinning well, and it's only late June, but there's just no fun in this show yet. Last year was fun. I guess the theme from Side Show is deep, but you have to have some fun in it. Daughter K said that the group looked and sounded 'tired.' She also said that the featured dancers were better than Madison's, but that Madison's 'chorus' was better.

It was Bluecoats's home show, this being relatively close to Canton. Daughter K wanted to be in the show in order to ride in the 'human hamster balls.' There was a long pause of perhaps forty to fifty seconds before the drum major was ready where everyone was sitting in sepulchral silence, while, I assume, the techs were making sure everything was good with the electronics. I thought at first that it was some sort of deep statement about noise and silence. The Bluecoats were amazing; great source material and the arrangements and their execution was wonderful. I loved the idea of the speakers all over the field, and they were very effective. This year and last year, Bluecoats have the market cornered on antiphonal effects, much like Star did in the early 90s. But after seeing and hearing this show live, I don't think it is a show that connects with the audience nearly as much as last year, and I don't know that it has enough to take gold in Indy. Daughter K said that the guard used more stuff from modern dance rather than traditional ballet, and so she was less offended by the technique. Her only real visual criticism is that she thought the horns should horn and the drums should drum rather than dance.

USMC Drum and Bugle Corps showed up. Woo-hoo! It was nice to hear a really meaty arrangement of 'To Tame the Perilous Skies' played on G bugles. At times I felt like I was back in 1992 listening to the Cadets of Bergen County. The rudimental percussion feature was also very well presented and executed. I was zoning out a bit during the 'New World Symphony.' Virtually no one stood up for the hit in 'Stars and Stripes.' Probably Obama's fault. (KIDDING! Don't freak out! Don't close the topic! Doesn't anyone have a sense of humor these days?)

Me: I did a bad job last night too. I promised updates and pictures to DCP and then I couldn't figure out how to post anything. Also felt that I took too much time taking said pictures and videos. Maybe I would have enjoyed the show better had I not been doing so. Then again, maybe I would have seen more to complain about.

Clouds: They rocked. I have nothing bad to say about The Clouds. No rain, blue sky above us, but clouds in the west, enough to keep the setting sun out of our eyes. Nice sunset and beautiful twilight backdrop to the USMC. GO CLOUDS!

Five things:

1. The next DCI Rules Congress should impose a ten-year ban on any use of 'Conquest' by BAC. (G7, anyone?)

2. Madison, make a choice. Either send your tuba section home or be much more judicious about bass synth. Learn from Bluecoats and Santa Clara.

3. I don't mind electronics and amplification, but for the love of Jim Ott, stop using DCI hornlines as backup to samples or vocals.

4. If you're going to use vocals, don't stage your vocalists in the center of the field when you have the sound coming out of the front sideline speakers. I spent ten or more seconds trying to figure out where the singers were in the first two shows.

5. Stop trying to teach guards dance techniques that take years to learn in six months of weekend rehearsals.

I know I've been hard on almost everyone. But if you're upset because I ripped on your kid's corps or your former corps, consider: poor show design hurts the members, their families, the alumni, and the activity in general. If I had the chance to do yesterday over again, I would have taken daughter K and watched the Bluecoats rehearse and run their show for free. Then I would have gone out to the lots and supported the marching members of the other corps by watching them warm up and taking some videos which the parents and fans around the country could have enjoyed. And then I would have gone home, saved some money, and gotten more sleep than I did last night. DCI, your product is bad and you should feel bad.

Sorry for not knowing how to edit properly: my only comment is with regards to the suggestion about banning Conquest. BAC hasn't played any measure able length of it in quite some time. Snippets yes. Those are ok and I'd be okay with not hearing it for a while. Maybe after this season it goes away. But for their 75th anniversary show; 75th!!! for gosh sakes, could you cut some slack? That is about as fussy as foot position.

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