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Quite a night here in Madison...I'll let you guess on your own whom the sizable crowd (the theater was maybe 80-90% full) was cheering for...A very mixed group of HS kids, recent age outs, and more elderly fans. It was nice seeing corps trivia and listening to some older corps shows before the broadcast. Sure beat commercials, at least. Some general observations first...

- The audio in our theater was LOUD! With apologies to the 2016 Cadets, it was cranked up to 11. Almost painfully so. I'd rather have it that way then too soft for this, but that leads to my next point...

- Balance seemed to be a serious issue for almost all corps. The thunderous goo was overwhelming at times, as were some of the other electronic effects and pit amplifications. But because it was so universal, my gut says this may have been the fault of the broadcast, I'm not sure.

- I genuinely think that corps are reaching their upper limits for usage of body movement. Knee pops at every halt, playing while in contortionist positions lying down on the field...I think most trumpet sections only spent about 10% of their show with both hands on their horns.

- ALL of the first group of corps were so heavily reliant on solo singers in their ballads...It's ridiculous. Having a talented vocalist or two now seems to be all but a requirement...and yet, the top five didn't use singers at all. So you'd think that the corps below them would learn, but I'm not confident at all that'll be the case next year. I'm well beyond marching eligibility, but I'm not THAT old...I've accepted electronics, I'm open to corps trying new things...but this is no longer a new thing, and I'd rather here a great brass solo in a ballad any day over a vocalist, no matter how good they are. On to the shows...

ACADEMY or "I am VERY disappointed they didn't spell Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious on the field!"

Loved the uniforms. Makes the members look nice and tall. Great staging and the arrangements were engaging and moved along at a nice clip, even if they were familiar tunes. Fun show, but I wonder if they could've taken on slightly more challenging drill.

TROOPERS or "Cowboy with lasso vs. horses with rifles."
SERIOUS thunderous goo during pre-show and beyond, but see above. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one. Some glaring visual problems in the opener. To anyone confusing them with Crown '07 - those were RACE horses. These are WILD horses, silly ; ) Still, an emotionally pleasing show. Nice big sound.

COLTS or "If this is a radio play, why can we see the characters?"

There was so much focus on the featured guard characters the rest of the guard was completely lost in the background, I felt bad for them. For all my griping about what they're doing with the radio play thing, at least the story is coherent, unlike last year. Also a serious step up in demand and execution, I would've put them ahead of Troopers.

CROSSMEN or "I played paper airplane."

Great smooth brass ensemble sound, they knew how to highlight it out well for that big chorale moment in the ballad, too. Seemed like pretty good battery, but I'm no drummer. If I had to rate them, their vocalist was my favorite of the night. They're my bet for the #12 spot.

BLUE STARS or "What did I play in the corps? A sideshow performer."

Not a weak section to be found, everything seemed to come together strongly for them. I loved how they gave each of the stages a musical signature.They had a great night!

BOSTON or "A member of House Purple survived? How awkward!"

Poor balance between their singer and the brass, but again, that may have been a broadcast audio issue, I'm not sure. There didn't seem to be much dynamic range for the brass, it was all either loud or louder. Visually muddy a lot, too. I'd put Blue Stars ahead of them.

MADISON or "I like my women like I like my coffee cups - Cardboard."

Madison knows how to give the crowd what they expect from them, and I mean that in a good way. Engaging brass, and some pretty slick drill to boot. No visible story and just the barest hint of a "We love Gene Kelly" theme. But that was all we needed.

CAVALIERS or "Did their staff just mention American Gladiators?!"

Talk about vague theme...I had no idea what was supposed to be going on. The difference between them and Madison was that the Cavies seemed to be trying super hard to show us something, but darned if I know what. Positives: They might not have been super shiny clean, but they still had some very impressive drill moments, giving us just the barest hint of their visual glory days under the much-missed Micheal Gaines.Give this corps just another season or two and I think they'll begin to climb a good few spots up!


...which aside from the ballad, was pretty much the only emotional texture I got from them. My only other real complaint was the SUPER heavy organ. Still, they had my favorite ballads of the night, and they did not disappoint when it came to that lush brass sound. My favorite uniforms of the year, too!

BLUE KNIGHTS or "Why am I writing these fake quotations? Because..."

Very talented corps this year! This show left me with a kind of thoughtful "Huh. That was...intriguing." reaction after. I feel like I'd need to see it a few more times to really get the most out of it.

VANGUARD or "No, seriously...I marched theremin."

Wow. A very sexy show! Loved the thunder and "power up" pre-show. Like our announcers said, terrific variety of music, and they held on to their theme quite well throughout; the cutting edge of innovation with just a hint of madness and sinister danger. If only they could've turned the lights off on the field at the end! Not sure there's anyway to bring out their lighting effects even more without actually doing that, sadly. One of my favorite shows of the night, narrowly behind Bluecoats for me.

BLUECOATS or "We're going to do WHAT with our audio equipment?!"

My favorite of the Top 4. Utter audio madness, especially that final push, which you have to hear to believe. I can't even imagine how intense it must be in person! I don't have a clue how they managed to pull it all off. The only word I really have for them is from our announcers: "Relentless." I don't see them taking first, (visually, those spheres take up an awful lot of room, but I was too focused on the audio to really care,) but anywhere in 2-4 is certainly within their grasp.

CADETS or "Shostakovitch meets Sesame Street"

...unless of course, you count the Cadets. A much more "classic" kind of show. Super big chills near the end of their opener with those huge ensemble moments, both musically and visually. I'm not the first one to say this, but THEY NEED A SILVER CUMMERBUND so stinking bad, it's the only thing missing in the black uniform for me. I'm not going to pretend otherwise just because the corps is so fantastically strong; I think that yes, it's a lightweight theme. But they paired it with such heavyweight music and rocked it with such undeniable gravitas that it didn't really matter. They could take it all, but it'll take an off night for both Crown & BD, and I'm not sure that'll be the case.

CROWN or "Insert Hell Joke Here"

A great night for Tiger Leg corps as well. Such a smart show design with (like everyone says,) an utterly ridiculously hard-working guard. This isn't a show with much intentional humor, but I laughed when one or two of the brass players tried to escape under the Red Blob of Souls and got sucked back in. If I absolutely had to bet, I'd put money on them for Finals, their skill this year is beyond ridiculous.

BLUE DEVILS or "Snares in the air, drumming like they just don't care."

Anyone thinking that BD would bring anything less then their A game to this weekend is going to be extremely sad. I was honestly surprised to see them in 4th tonight, but then again, the captions are all over the place and anything could happen. *(Edit: I typed all this before I realized they were penalized.) The show is a three ring circus with almost too much going on at once for me to figure out what to focus on, especially with, as their staff said in the interview, "no hard narrative."c. The flip side to that though is that even with the narrow focus of the camera, I still felt like I could watch any random group of performers at any time and get to watch something fantastic. I feel that their performance level is right up there with last year. The biggest difference is that the Crown and Cadets are reaching that level too.

It is a good, good year for Drum Corps.

Edited by troon8
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Very enjoyable review, troon8!

Seems to me, GENERALLY, the consensus pick to win it all is Crown. That magnificent guard speaks as loudly as their brass. I think the Championship is Crown's to lose here, no matter what happens tonight. As so many others have said, I couldn't score this thing. The Finals panel HAS to be nervous!

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