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Last night's show was tremendous! I had totally forgot DCI was airing that online, so it was a wonderful surprise to check the site and find that I was going to see a show. Despite it's imperfections, FN/DCI LIVE has been more a blessing than a curse.


Leaving scores aside, I think we have a lot of unique shows out there. Each corps has something they are trying to offer, a style of presentation, a theme (or not), a look and feel, and a sound that is uniquely theirs. Each one of the top 5 have 1 or 2 small weaknesses that will keep things interesting.

My big take away from each group:

1. The Cadets - a wonderful music book coupled with frenetic drill and a traditional look back at early 90s Cadets through a modern lens. The show theme really isn't important. Just watch and listen...pure joy of sight and sound in marching and playing. Perhaps not overly innovative (other than the 10 yard ballad, or perhaps the use of French Horns), but then again too much is made of the need to "push" the activity. Perform, entertain, teach kids, travel and learn life lessons...repeat. Can easily win Gold.

2. Blue Devils - A brilliant brass line with some major demand in the book. A true and tried formula from recent years, but continually being updated and tweaked. Staging, free form, mixed with some excellent drill and some amazing marching when they do apply traditional drill concepts. Clearly BD has moved away from traditional drill methods and I have no problem with that. They still do the best job of mixing-up visual aspects of the show. The effect of most of the props this year is probably not as effective as in past years, especially last year or the 2010 show. Then again, changes may come. Still, this show is a delight from top to bottom. Ending does need a boost or at least needs to make more sense. With some tweaking this show can take Gold.

3. Bluecoats - a thrilling ride into the FUTURE of drum corps. Bloo has carefully studied the Cavaliers and Blue Devils over the years, and they have modified their own style to arrive at where they are today. They also took electronics seriously from day one, investing big bucks into equipment and training. Their 2015 show features traditional drill, sequential design aspects similar to Cavaliers early 2000s shows, and staging similar to BD. Kinetic Noise then applies modern scoring of minimalist music with a powerful dose of electronic effects and synth-based sounds, and what you have is a modern approach to drum corps design. If you were to walk into a mythical Disney theme park that featured a look at the "modern marching band," the show you would see is this one. If they clean the feet and lock-in musically in brass and percussion, they can compete with anyone this year. Definitely a show worthy of Gold providing the performance is there.

4. Santa Clara Vanguard - Taking a page out of the Bluecoats book, they are using electronics to excellent effect. The show features traditional drill (lots of it, similar to Cadets), and with their guard integration they have one of the best overall visual packages out there. Percussion is a beast. Brass is good but not at the level of the top 3 plus Crown. The music book is interesting and doesn't always grab me, but I enjoyed it more last night than the two previous times I have seen them on DCI LIVE. Cannot wait to see it live. They march some incredibly tight formations at 1-step and 2-step intervals. Very demanding and scary to pull off. My only concern with this show is music GE and brass performance. Perhaps some of that is the show theme just not being strong enough.

5. Carolina Crown - Powerful music that conveys their Inferno theme and a brass line capable of blowing the roof off of Lucas Oil Stadium makes this show a must see. Some traditional drill writing, but a lot of body movement and staging. They definitely mix-up the visual package, and the guard integration is second to none. For my personal taste, Crown tends to do too much body movement. At some point I'm not sure what any of it means or how to interpret all those moves, especially from way up in the stands. Love the dark uniform, but I hate the red "candy cane" swirl up the leg. This show would have been super with costuming and perhaps even more theatrical staging (a la Phantom 2008 or Blue Devils last year). Still, this is a corps capable of taking high brass and guard come finals. They march well and their percussion is very solid. The ending still doesn't work, but I am sure they will add more in the next few weeks.

6. Cavaliers - Perhaps a throwback to the Cavaliers of the early 2000s. Awesome drill, both traditional drill and sequential patterns of motion. Brass book is their best in the last 3 years. Percussion is good and written beautifully for the show. I like the theme. Nothing to take seriously. Just watch and enjoy. No special meaning, just a concept. I actually really like the guard being in the mock future-looking wrestling outfit. Do not like the singing. That needs to go. Trombone feature is great when it comes over the mics correctly. Overall I find this show FUN and love that it's not trying too hard to innovate, just entertain and push excellent performance concepts. Cavies just need to clean and they can challenge for the 6 spot. BK will be tough, but I kind of think a clean Cavaliers corps will also be tough to beat.

7. Phantom Regiment - A look at American tourists in Paris. Awesome brass line! They have a fairly good brass book with plenty of demand, and boy do they play it well. Percussion is solid, too. The drill reminds me of their 2005 drill, but with less impact. Not sure why that is. I sort of feel the drill is moving almost too much for what the music is saying. Too much jazz running, especially when we are hearing majestic music. There are just some elements of the show not lining up. Otherwise, I find it entertaining and the marching members can definitely perform. If this cleans to a "T" come Finals I could see them challenging Cavaliers and BK. The Organ Symphony (Saint-saens 3rd symphony) is nice to hear but likely needs a more cathedral-like pipe organ and a few more majestic hit points to truly "bring home the bacon."

Edited by jwillis35
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