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Well, the Texas tour has come & gone again. One of my favorite weeks of summer. After catching my usual shows in Ogden & Denver (my week to get out of the Dallas heat), the Denton-San Antonio-Dallas show trifecta is always a great chance to see most every corps twice, and to see shows that are starting to come together after 6-7 weeks of rehearsal & performances.

I was a bit negative in my thoughts after Denver this year, but I was pleasantly surprised by almost everyone this week, including those I had seen before.

Guardians - It is so great to see another Texas corps off to a good start. Their programming is ambitious, and as such, there is still a lot to clean. So happy for them to have progressed financially to the point they can go to Finals week. I think they will have a single digit Open Class finish. The theme is ok, though I thought the hazardous barrels in front were more work than they were worth as an accent to the theme. Perhaps they are planning on doing something with them soon?

Louisiana Stars - Wow, I hadn't seen them before and was very pleasantly surprised. Large corps with a nice, clean uniform and a very big sound. Their show is simpler in design both visually and musically to Guardians, but to my ear in the 2nd deck in SA, they were much cleaner from a brass performance perspective. Pretty cool to see 3 Open Class corps from LA/TX that have big numbers and high potential.

Genesis - On another level from the first 2 Open Class Corps. I really enjoyed their Phantom Revisited show last year, and this year they've taken another step up in demand and performance. If they improve as they should by DCI, they are a real threat to win Open Class. The ending of the show with the scorned women's revenge on both her former lover and his new love was nicely done, and with the "HELL" in the drill, made for a very effective close to the show. This corps seems to be on a mission. I hope they are coming along financially - as they could emerge as the next World Class Corps and a very competitive one in the not so distant future! Don't miss these guys if you have the chance to see them this summer!

Jersey Surf - Honestly, this show was not memorable to me. The Ebb & Flow show is kind of mellow. I'd like to see some more energy and high points. The horn line can play, and has improved YOY. The color scheme that is almost all blue makes sense I guess, but it sure would be nice to have some more color in some of the guard equipment.

Cascades - I've seen Cascades 3 times this summer. Each time I've been a little less drawn in by the show. I can't put my finger on why, though. Still, this is a clear year of improvement for Cascades over last year in terms of performance and demand (perhaps a little less entertaining) and LIGHT YEARS ahead of where they were just 2-3 years ago. Amazing that a show of this quality will place in the 20s in Indy. Speaks volumes for the quality in DCI at every level of World Class competition.

Pacific Crest - I was very pleasantly surprised by PC! I felt like the last couple of years the corps had regressed in show design and entertainment, but they have nicely reversed that this year. The Union show makes sense, and the linking of the rails is nicely done. As usual, they have a hornline with some power and presence. Visually, apart for the rails, there wasn't much that stuck with me and that could be their opportunity. This is a show I've only seen once that I will look forward to seeing again in Allentown & Indy!

Spirit of Atlanta - After reading all the negativity online, I was prepared for the worst, but I was very pleasantly surprised by Spirit. There are some nice, accessible parts to the music book, and some solid performance levels of that book. The guard had some impactful moments on flag as well. I'm not sure the character roles in the guard made much sense though. Why run around seeming to kiss different partners? The show would be better without trying to tell a story, IMO. I just hope they are laying a foundation that keeps them around for the long run. Nice to see a more solid show than the last 2 years. Very enjoyable.

Oregon Crusaders - I feel like this corps hit a plateau 2 years ago with the Raven that they have not only not been able to surpass, but haven't matched since. Visually, the book is demanding, but is woefully dirty for late July. The hunted theme comes out only occasionally, but I did catch more of it in SA than I did in Denver two weeks ago. Musically, there are some nice moments from a typically strong & talented hornline for Crusaders, but other parts of the book just don't sell. Love the "Who Wants to Live Forever" ballad, though. Not a fan at all of these unis. They don't fit well, and while I get the connection to a forest & the show they are portraying, they just don't look good. You already had a classy, nice black & GREEN uniform - wouldn't that have fit just as well if not better?

Mandarins - Wow. Mandarins just seem to be getting better YOY for several years in a row now. Strong performance levels with some very nice impacts from the music book. The horn line has a nice maturity to it, and can deliver some nice power with a rich and deep sound. The biggest flaw in this show is the "forest" of bamboo trees - there are a ton of them, and in thin green poles, they are hard to make out from the higher stands. Oops.

Colts - I have really liked the direction Colts were headed the past few years - even if shows like last year took a while to grow on me. I was worried when so much of their music & visual design team moved on and sadly what I saw in San Antonio confirmed those worries. It's not the kids - there is good talent there and respectable performance levels. Apart from the first time or 2 they use the boxes with lights with members inside (a cool effect) there isn't much else in this show that is memorable - visually or musically. This was my first time seeing Colts this year, so I'm hopeful I can get more into the show next viewing.

Troopers - I have become a pretty big Troopers fan over their recent 5-6 year run. It's impressive how much they have grown their brass program, for example. They've developed what you would expect with Van Doren involved - a big, open, full sound that is a joy to listen to. I don't think this year is taking the step forward they hoped for, however. There are pieces of this show design that work (primarily the opener & closer), but there are sections that just don't work. To be percussive and angry in the AIDS section just seems off, for example. Some of the story line & characterization also just seems to be amateur. In just 2 examples (there are more), the pulling out of the large yellow ribbon is just messy, distracting & takes for ever, diverting your attention from anything else going on. In the AIDS section, after all the turmoil, a hug later, the character with the red ribbon just starts happily dancing with someone? I'm sure I'm over analyzing, but I had high hopes for a breakthrough year for Troop, but this isn't looking like it will be that year. I do love the Cold Play closer - it works well and connects with the audience. One other observation - perhaps it's changes, but Troop is very dirty compared to the corps just above them. They need to clean, clean, clean - and that might help the effect of the show as well.

Boston Crusaders - My first viewing of Boston was up top in San Antonio on Saturday. I struggled to stay engaged and follow the program, nor recognize what should be familiar pieces of music from the source materials. Either it's just progress in defining the show and bringing out melodies, or the lower seats ( I was 3 rows from the top of a smaller stadium in Dallas, on the 50) and a 2nd viewing, but I was able to connect more with what they are doing with this show and enjoyed it much better. I also was able to find some of the melodies that seemed too obscure just 48 hours earlier. They have a noticeably stronger and cleaner field presence (movement, body posture, clean lines, spacing and uniform feet, etc) than Troopers. They have a lot of experience so I certainly wouldn't rule out Boston clawing there way up one spot (perhaps Madison is most at risk?) to make it to Saturday night in Indy. They seem to have some good momentum over the last 2 weeks.

Academy - Wow. Talk about a corps on a roll over the last 3 years. 2014 was a very solid comeback from the 2013 Piano Man debacle, and the Mary Poppins show in 2015 was one of my favorites of last year. This year they are equally - if not more - entertaining, and the performance levels and demand visually are far higher. What a great show. Easily the best visual program Academy has put on the field, giving them a complete package for perhaps the first time. The hornline is once again solid - but with perhaps their best intonation, tone and performance levels ever. Not only do I think this is a solid top 12 finalist - IF THEY DO NOT PLATAUE LIKE THE DID LAST YEAR - but this is one of the most enjoyable programs on the field this summer! Last year they seemed to max out the show 10 days before finals and just didn't clean and tighten as much as the corps above them did. If they solve how to maximize each day through championships, this could be Academy's year. I certainly hope so! What a remarkable turnaround from 2013.

Madison Scouts - I knew I was going to have a hard time with this show, as the 1999 powerhouse version of JCS is one of my 3 or 4 favorite shows from Madison back to the first year I went to shows live in 88. I have to agree with some others, the "Judas" theme seems un-necessary and simply a way to bring back some great Music and pick up some other source material from JCS. Musically, the arrangements are solid, but not as impactful upon first listen as the 1999 show. What was jarring to me on Saturday though was just how dirty Madison is. From feet and marching to guard to brass execution, the performance is shaky. Perhaps there have been a ton of changes recently introduced, but I think Madison had better watch out or they will find themselves looking up both at Academy and even Boston. The middle 2/3s of this show were very forgettable, though the last 2 minutes really helped salvage the show. I'm afraid Scouts may have squandered their momentum from last year. I hope I'm wrong in 3 weeks.

Crossmen - Like last year, this is a tasty show. It's enjoyable, easy to communicate and understand, and has some vintage Crossmen trademarks scattered throughout. While I still think their best uniform was the red jackets used prior to last year, the all black and white uniform really helps sell the color scheme from the guard. Upon first vieiwing, I didn't easily get into their music book, but upon the 2nd viewing in Dallas, it is starting to grow on me. Crossmen have a strong color guard this year - both in design and performance as well. There is also better field coverage and a more open drill at times this year (and much better drill). I wasn't a big fan of the 2015 show, but I'm starting to warm up to this one. I could see Bones land anywhere from 10th to 12th in Indy, though I think 10th or 11th is more likely.

Blue Stars - We have a very tight competition in the 7-9 block this year, which will make for a lot of fun in the coming weeks. What a leap forward for Blue Stars this year. Vastly improved hornline, in terms of intonation, tone quality and demand - and that complements a great music book well. The Wagner piece should have been a Regiment moment - and is one of my favorite parts of the show. The new uniforms look spectacular as well - very classy, modern and have a big time corps presence. The Le Reve theme is nicely done and is simply a nice cohesive theme for the show. Easily my favorite Blue Stars show since their great run in 2008-2010. It's great to see the corps on the rise again. It's not surprising to see them giving Regiment & Blue Knights a run for their money - though I think the latter 2 have more room to grow.

Blue Knights - I've seen this show 5 times now (Ogden, Denver, and all 3 of the Texas shows I caught). I've gone from thinking it's a complete disaster in Ogden/Denver to the show growing on me. I still think it's a far inferior vehicle from a design and effect perspective than the stellar 2014 and 2015 shows, but it's coming along - saved by what are becoming a very solid last 4 minutes. I think the Great Event theme is hard to pick up at times, and the first 7 minutes feel like an eternity and are not interesting to me. I also am not at all a fan of the uniform change from the past 2 years. The dark grey pant leg is just awkward and makes the corps marching look strange and less impactful. The previous design fading from a lighter grey to white on the right leg was far more effective. All that said, there are some striking visual moments in this show, incredible demand content and a very talented corps. With a better vehicle, this corps could have been 5th this year (in top 5 for the first time). As constructed, I think they could put a scare into Cavies & Cadets but not likely stay in front of both of them, and Regiment will have to work their butts off to finish in front of BK. Right now I'd put the odds on BK over Regiment, but just by a smidge.

Phantom Regiment - I do have a bias towards Regiment and their longstanding commitment to music first, and complete melodic phrasing & ideas. However, I've been equally critical of show design (especially visually, but also in music books the past 4 seasons) and the decline in their brass excellence. I'm becoming pretty encouraged by signs of progress this year. I didn't see this show early when it was evidently close to a train wreck. I didn't have that negative bias going into San Antonio. I actually am starting to really enjoy this show. The music book has some great highlights, and the transitions and updates seem to make the ballad - drum break - ballad progression not feel uncomfortable. The brass performance levels - FROM THE STANDS - feel light years ahead of the past few years. I'm guessing the King instruments have been a massive plus on that front. Their ensemble brass sound is just gorgeous in tone, depth, intonation, blend and that rich Regiment bottom. There is a lot of demand in that music book - and Kudos to Regiment for still exploring and maximizing the low volume ranges as well as the more intense ranges. The control to play softly on the field is always underestimated as to how hard it is to do well. The Dallas crowd has always loved Regiment and finally having Phantom back in Dallas led to a very receptive & enthusiastic crowd. The vehicle here is good enough to get to 7th and maybe 6th IF they can clean, clean, clean. One final point I hope they fix - the blue single piece, 2 pole blue flag in the 2nd ballad is a pretty color accent but the actual design of the equipment is impossible to clean. Change the flag/equipment, please! The current result is a dirty mess that doesn't reflect the solid talent in that strong color guard.

Cavaliers - This is a nice progress year for Cavaliers. The propaganda show is easy to identify with and has some strong musical and visual impacts. The best performance levels and brass power I've heard from Cavaliers in some time. The guard is VASTLY improved over 2015 as well. Still, the show is just missing something to me that would pull it into the top 5 (though I don't think Cadets are out of reach). I can't completely put my finger on it. I wish the ending would be changed to add more drill and impact. I've never liked it when Cavies finish a show by rambling up & jamming at the sideline - it doesn't play to their strengths. Still, it's great to see Rosemont getting back on track.

Cadets - Far better talent than program design - that's my summary in July of Cadets. There is some great music in this show. I'm just not sure the theme about the statues who awaken but decide to return to being statues is the best idea. There is a very meaty music book, though the drill seems tame in places compared to Cadets at their best. They do still have some great velocity and flash in their drill, but the black unis really mute the effect or reward for that. I get the color choice to the overall show, but they lose - just as they did last year when they changed - one of their greatest aspects. To gain the reward for their visual demand, they need the white pants to make it pop and be as impressive as it should be. I like this show, but I don't love it. The last 3 minutes really lose momentum at this point. I just don't think they have the vehicle to put them safely in the top 4 in Indy.

Santa Clara Vanguard - It's beautiful to see Vanguard in Red & White again. Bravo. The show itself has some fantastic highlights with high velocity high impact moments and some beautiful more elegant moments as well - just as you would imagine a show about nature and the seasons. SCV has the best drill on the field this year, IMO - and it's not even close. It's not the ultra-hip, modern staging first approach that Bluecoats and BD seem to be pushing, but It's great, modern yet classic drum corps drill with a lot of difficulty AND reward if done well. The performance levels of the brass line are improving, but aren't at the level of the top 3. There is far more noticeable dirt visually and musically with Vanguard compared to the top 3. IF they can close the performance level gap, they could be a threat, but they are running out of time. Regardless, this is a HIGHLY enjoyable show that is true to Vanguard's identity and that's fantastic to see.

Blue Devils - It's ridiculous how much talent there is in this corps, both in the members AND the design staff. The showmanship and individual performance levels are off the charts. BD often gets knocked for sub-par drill & visual books (sometimes unfairly). There is very solid demand in this show. I love the white stripe they continue to use on the right leg and it really emphasizes just how clean and well they move & march - both at high AND low tempos. It's hard to put a finger on it, but this show is just missing something. The show feels a bit formulaic & mechanical- and the emotion is not coming through as much as it could. That leaves them vulnerable this year - some years performance levels and talent alone are enough for BD to win, some years, that's not the case when someone else can get close enough in those 2 areas AND has a more compelling engaging design. Not QUITE the powerhouse in show design BD had in 2014 and 2015, but still a #### good show.

Carolina Crown - I am just loving this show!!! The music book is wonderful, the theme is accessible and the story line becoming more defined. I love Crown's approach that the show isn't about telling a story but they use the story to make the show cohesive and compelling. The uniform is easily my favorite of their recent, modern variations and fits the Western-tinged theme to a "T" The hornline is strong, melodic, powerful and insanely talented - and the guard is stellar. I'm no percussion expert, but it feels like they've upped their game on that front. This is a HYPER competitive top 3 this year and I could just as easily see them win as finish 3rd. I favor Crown because of the quality of the music book and the amount of drill they are bringing to the field. The slow mo scene as the villain's shot misses and revenge is finally exacted is very cool, but missed by many due to how far to the side that plays out. That might need to be re-visited. Loving Crown 2016, though!

Bluecoats - This is a very cool show from 'coats. I wouldn't want to see them do this every year, but it's a great one year (hopefully) ride with something very fresh and different, from uniforms to design. Musically, the corps is lights out in talent and entertainment. I have 2 personal wishes: First, I wish there was more dynamic contrast with a bit more lower end dynamics and textures to complement the all out volume assault in many places. Second, the mikes and volume from speakers is TOO LOUD in places, putting soloists and mic'd small ensembles to far above the rest of the music at times, and at volumes become piercing and a bit uncomfortable (not in a way seemingly DESIGNED to be uncomfortable either). Back off on the mic'd performance volumes and I think the show will sell even better. Finally, I wonder if there is enough real visual MEAT once the gimmicky prop work is not as new to viewers to sustain them in first through Indy. I don't think they are in any way a lock. It's truly a toss up right now among the top 3, where the small biases from one judging line up to the next can make a difference when all 3 have very different styles.

What a great year we have shaping up, folks! Should be a lot of fun and intrigue in the closing weeks of the season. GO ENJOY LIVE PERFORMANCES! Only some shows come across on web viewing well, while others are FAR more impactful live.

Harvey

Edited by TexasPRfan
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Looking forward to hearing the rest of these.

:)

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Great stuff!

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Ok, I'm finally finished! Sorry for the delay.

Harvey

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Great review Harvey

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Thanks, guys. Always great to hear from Wes & Jonathan - always respect your views greatly!

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BTW, on 7/26 a friend asked me if BS would pass up PR. Reluctantly, I had to say 'yes'. This is without even seeing Blue Stars. Hate to say I called this but unfortunately, this seems to be the pattern as of late. DCI (judges) have their 'opinion/preference' of where the activity should go and that direction does not appear to be in the Regiments GPS. This is in no way a knock on Regiment either.

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