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Had a great weekend of Drum Corps in Casper and Denver. Didn't catch the Open-Class corps at Denver; couldn't pass up the opportunity to listen to Troopers' Hero opener in the lot, under the Colfax Ave. overpass. It stopped passersby in their tracks.


Hot day and stifling night in Denver. That's unusual. The typical situation has been thunderstorms and worries of a cancelled show. Not this year. It was a scorcher, and the air was motionless inside the stadium.


Impressions:


Oregon Crusaders -- The Casper venue is perfect for watching a show; it gives you an up-close view, so we got a detailed read on those OC costumes. I see them and think, "The Last March of the Ents." Thankfully, the 2016 Crusaders bring a bit more energy and tempo to the concept than did Treebeard. What I noticed about them is a very tight, focused brass sound, lots of control. Drums didn't dominate, and weren't showcased, the way they did/were in 2015.


Cascades -- A louder sound than Crusaders, but to my untrained year, less disciplined. Horn attacks are more splatty, and some transitions were ragged, in comparison to the organ-like quality to Crusaders' brass articulation. But the volume was satisfying. Lots of movement, some nice impacts. Kids are really selling it.


Troopers -- This is a hornline that outscored Cavaliers a week ago, and their opening fanfare brought "whoa"s from the Mile High crowd (Cool fact: the movements by the horn players during the recorded "my hero" narration at the beginning of the show incorporates sign language that accompanies the vocalization). Looks like a lot of new body work and character enhancement has been added throughout, and it's especially evident in the "battle" and "rage" sections of the show. The Corigliano in the middle -- depicting the emergence of an AIDS sufferer who is shunned -- was deliberately designed in the winter to be a hard turn from the more obvious rock-em-sock-em drum corps of the opener, into a style and a message you wouldn't expect from Troopers. This is the kind of thing top-levels corps can do, and it is to Troop's credit that it is accepting the challenge. The challenge is not to lose the audience when you make that hard turn; keep them tracking with the idea of the show. This segment still needs to evolve, in my view, and work harder to connect with the audience, to make them love the disocrdant, angular music of Corigliano's Symphony No. 1 and the intense visual mesage as much as they loved the big, lush opener. This segment of the show seemed to be the best yet in Denver, but still has some way to go. It could be a leverage-point of their 2016 season; if they can take the audience on a hard turn into the AIDS section, keep them engaged and then safely navigate them back to more familiar drum-corps ground in the "fire" section, it could unlock reward that currently is being withheld. Visually, the corps is fundamentally cleaner than previous Denver shows, with loads of visual demand. The guard is more confident and seems more up-ftront in the presentation than I recall from other years. Drums had a good night, they read very well and cleanly from the stands, though I wish they were more visually obvious in the presentation of the theme.


Cavaliers -- One of the great things about the Casper show is that it is such an intimate venue, and in the past 3 years the fans have seen Crown, Bluecoats and now Cavies at a close-up range that would cost you $200 a seat at Indianapolis. Seeing Cavies in this almost "private showing" atmosphere was a real treat. Anyway, I love the way this show has been unfolding in the early days of the season. The guard is compelling, and they've introduced some mini-battles between political signs. On Saturday, the "Trump" sign won. Perhaps Cavies didn't get the memo that Democrats now outnumber Republicans in Colorado. Visual is going to compete with the top corps by the end, I think. Just a very well-put-together concept, and entertaining as heck.


SCV -- my first look at them in 2016. In contrast to 2015's compact, whirling look, the 2016 presentation is open, flowing, majestic. Some masterful visual moments. Exquisite mellophones, some of their featured moments were as pure as liquid silver. The forms are sharp and locked in; still some dirt in the feet, and some frantic get-to-my-spot moments. But, if drum-corps show design is calligraphy on paper, this show wins, hands down. Beautiful penmanship. Oh, and the tenors get lots of stage time, which makes me happy.


Blue Devils -- I can't remember the last time I enjoyed BD this much. From top to bottom, I was entertained. In recent years, BD had been a lecture. I considered them a duty, not a pleasure. This year, the corps has a much more inviting, come-along-with-us feel. There is an element of whimsy that I had despaired BD had long since left behind. The battery is a fury, and their staging is highly effective. The backdrops do a subtle job of shortening the stage, creating the illusion that the corps is filling up the canvas, when in truth the canvas has been shrunk. They are put to effective use in the ballad, at first hiding the brass and drums to showcase the color guard, then are spun 180 degrees to reveal the brass as they build the climax. Perfect. I felt a connection to the Blue Devils on the field, something I had not felt in a long time. They have always demonstrated their mastery, but this time they did something more powerful: they communicated. It good to be a BD fan again, and not merely a BD admirer.


Blue Knights -- They finally brought me on board with their 2015 show, "Because," which was unlike anything else on the field that year and was mesmerizing from first note to last. They had become the "it" corps. Now I wonder if BK is outthinking itself. The morning after the show, the images that come back to my mind are of the horn line on its back, flailing arms and legs like so many overturned beetles. There is lots of obsession with the spangly right arm and hand. There is constant motion and lots to look at and some wowza drill at times, and it's all very . . . something. BK has found a niche in the no-theme theme, but this show seems like so much paint thrown at the wall. Even as abstract art it was difficult to find a sense of where BK wanted to take me. I was struck by the fact that the first 2 minutes of the performance includes zero musical notes played by anyone on the field. It's all electronic atmospherics and some occasional puncutation by the front ensemble, but we are about 2 minutes into the show (or so it seems) before we hear any instruments being played. Of course, that entrance is a doozy, an eruption that seems to be trying to make up for all the notes that hadn't been played up to that point. BK plays with its usual beautiful tone and power, but it's a series of moments more than a line of musical thinking. The other corps took my hand and led me somewhere. With BK, I felt I was wandering. The mirrors, and the images on their reverse sides, contributed nothing but distraction -- though like last year, something more effective may be planned for them by season's end. Loved the percussion as usual, though I felt they were showcased much more effectively last year. I had to go hunting for the drum line on Saturday -- or maybe I was just distracted by all that fascination with the right hand everywhere on the field. The end of the show is a big, powerful moment, but overall the show feels truncated. I didn't put a stopwatch to it, but it felt like an unfinished thought. The 4-point spread over Troopers is not undeserved so much as it is surprising for a corps that, if it has top-5 aspiriations, should have a 10-point spread. BK was excellent in several ways, but every other corps I saw on the field this weekend was more fulfilling.

Edited by 2muchcoffeeman
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Beautifully done review! I particularly like this . . . . . "But, if drum-corps show design is calligraphy on paper, this show wins, hands down. Beautiful penmanship."

Oh, yes. Congratulations on passing 1000 contributions to DCP!

:thumbup:

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Beautifully done review! I particularly like this . . . . . "But, if drum-corps show design is calligraphy on paper, this show wins, hands down. Beautiful penmanship."

Oh, yes. Congratulations on passing 1000 contributions to DCP!

:thumbup:

That comment is absolutely perfect for what SCV is doing. LOVE it!

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Beautifully done review! I particularly like this . . . . . "But, if drum-corps show design is calligraphy on paper, this show wins, hands down. Beautiful penmanship."

Oh, yes. Congratulations on passing 1000 contributions to DCP!

:thumbup:

wow, hey! didn't even notice the odometer roll over. How did that happen?

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Oregon Crusaders . . . I see them and think, "The Last March of the Ents." Thankfully, the 2016 Crusaders bring a bit more energy and tempo to the concept than did Treebeard.

I love this reference! But fyi, if you're thinking of the movies, they got this wrong. Tolkien says that Treebeard's normal walking gait is faster than the beats of a heron's wings, which to judge from a sampling of videos, means that Ents take about 150 steps per minute. OK, not super fast for drum corps, but not that slow, either--in the movie it's more like 60. (And that's an Ent's normal pace; there are times, when they're riled up, when they're described as moving much faster than their normal pace.)

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