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MotoSurfBass

What I Saw From My Theater Seat... (6/22/17)

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First things first... my theater was the unofficial Allentown, PA theater showing the Premiere last night... the AMC Center Valley 16 at the Promenade Shoppes at Saucon Valley. The crowd was mostly Cadets friends and family with a mixture of Buccaneers people and local HS kids as well. The crowd was VERY welcoming and clapped for all of the groups. It was a fantastic experience, and I'm seriously considering going to the Prelims event now as well, even though I will be attending both DCI East shows in person the week before.

Now, on to the corps. I will be doing them in order of finish:

1st: Bluecoats- "Jagged Line" 72.300
Hellz to the yeahz, folks! My biggest concern when it comes to the Bluecoats is that when they have an extremely popular show that charts them higher than they've ever been before, they ALWAYS seem to do a sort of "Part 2" show the next year, to diminishing returns (2011, soooooorta 2015, etc.). This was my biggest fear heading into the show tonight, and within a minute of them starting, all my fears were gone. 

I had seen the show poster and description before leaving, but had no idea on the uniform. One of the big factors in last year's historic victory was that they caught the world off guard with their "out there" costuming, massive, colorful props, and inescapable groove to their show. It was a tough task to replicate that this year when everyone knew what was coming now (especially with the similar source music), but son-of-a-gun they pulled it off! 

The Music: I will admit, the early parts of Psychopomp didn't hit me as hard as I was expecting it to. I'm a sucker for that song (and Thank You Scientist in general), and the melody seemed a little muddled at times. It was MUCH clearer when they used it as a tag at the end, and I ate that ish right up! Grow Til Tall was haunting and wonderful, a top 3 musical moment of the night for me. They were talking about the percussion playing from under the stage during that section, and I certainly got hints of that, but it kinda got lost in the sauce. I highly anticipate it being much clearer seeing it live in Allentown. Zomby Woof is fun as hell, perfect for the closer, enough said. One Study, One Summary was the weak point for me, musically, but that's not saying much, as it was still lively and engaging. Every section felt sharper compared to early last year, ESPECIALLY the snares. Maybe it's because they toned down the echo effects, but it was a lot clearer. This show is musically a LOT more conservative than last year's bombastic party, and I think it will work to the Bluecoats' advantage this year.

The Visual: HO. LEE. ####. I said last year that the biggest impact the Bluecoats' 2016 show would have in the future was not the costuming, but the incorporation and usage of 3D drill. Tall props were no stranger to DCI, but "Down Side Up" really explored the potential of tall props as more than "stand on top." With "Jagged Line," that idea begins to come to fruition. Not only was the stage used for a TON of different ideas, but it also miraculously didn't get in the way of any other drill that was on the field! The wide open pit allowed for a 2014 Bucs effect with a front field push at the end (which I and the other 2014 Bucs members in attendance certainly appreciated :22_stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:). The whole package looked tight, controlled, and insanely polished for June 22nd. They could make little to no visual change for the rest of the year and still be right up top in the visual caption. Additionally, after last year's "clean feet" debate, I can tell you for certain that the feet are already MUCH cleaner to start than last year. The tempos are a little more manageable, and it looks sharper as a result. My only complaint? Ya gotta add some color to this show, possibly in the corps proper. There are times where the stark black-and-white palate works to great effect, but it can also turn into a muddled mess rather quickly. The most notable instance of this was the tight horn dance block during One Study, One Summary. I lost most of the moves in a muddle of white, and the black did not help to differentiate members. A splash of blue on the uniform SOMEWHERE could help prevent that from happening.

Overall: I'm going to say this now, and stick to it throughout the year...

IF THE BLUE DEVILS DON'T LAP THE FIELD AT THEIR FIRST SHOW OUT, THE BLUECOATS WILL WALTZ AWAY WITH ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR.

UPDATE EDIT: BLUE DEVILS LAPPED THE FIELD. IT'S ON.

Where last year was a surprise party that rode the fan-favorite coattails to victory, this year's show is a more controlled, conservative evolution of the styles the Bluecoats popularized last year. Ultimately, this is massively beneficial to the Bluecoats, as they have the fun of last year's show without all the outrage over a perceived lack of cleanliness. It will take everything the Blue Devils have for them to not lose back-to-back championships for the first time since 2005-2006. The gauntlet has been thrown down HARD. 

 

Next up will be the best show about nothing ever made, Carolina Crown... (Seinfeld fans, don't @ me)

Edited by MotoSurfBass
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Bluecoats arent waltzing anywhere with what BD has coming.

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1 hour ago, BoaDci said:

Bluecoats arent waltzing anywhere with what BD has coming.

They better... Bloo set the bar VERY high last night.

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2nd: Carolina Crown- "It Is" 70.95

Hoo boy. 

Now let me preface by saying this... I love every individual part of this show. It sounds great, it looks great, and they were leaps and bounds cleaner for night one than any non-Bluecoats corps out there. That being said... this show ends up being less than the sum of its parts for me.

The Music: Crown's Brass is Crown's Brass, enough said. the loudest and most intricate horn sound of the evening by a country mile, and given a knockout book to work with too! Not to be outdone, the percussion section appears to be MUCH improved! There wasn't a standout percussion moment, but the multi-perc setup in "NO one To kNOW one" is an interesting concept that is open to more development throughout the season. The musical selections are certainly popular, and they blend well together. Overall, very enjoyable, will once again be a top musical contender. 

The Visual: My biggest complaint with Carolina Crown since their 2013 win has always been that their visual program is far less demanding that their competitors (I still maintain that the easy drill is what sunk them in 2015). The addition of Jeff Sacktig, whose "refreshing" quote got the single biggest reaction of the night from the theater crowd, IS AN ABSOLUTE GODSEND FOR CROWN! The drill was much more intriguing, and the guard doesn't seem to have lost too much of a step despite the staff exodus. Crown also had the single best color palate of any corps last night. The clear shakos are still weird, but weren't nearly as much of a distraction on the move that I thought they would be. The purple/silver/green combo is BREATHTAKING. 

The Singer: Now let's talk of the elephant in the room. Crown is not a stranger to having vocalists sing in their shows, but their usage in this show is baffling and may ultimately be a detriment to the overall design. Her usage is not consistent, as she is non-existent in the first half of the show, shows up out of nowhere, and is inescapable in the second half. Musically, it's a ballsy move to have her singing over the ENTIRE BALLAD when you have the best sounding hornline in DCI already. The mixing was also vocal-heavy, which did not sit well with the theater audience at all. These things can be easily fixed, however. My biggest issue with the vocalist is the lyrics she's singing. I have absolutely no idea what "For Good" has to do with Deconstructivism, or whatever their concept is. It's a nice song that sounds great when arranged for DCI, but makes zero sense to be sung within the show based off the words. "NO one To kNOW one" isn't nearly as important from a lyrical standpoint, since the vocals sounds are more of a percussive feature than actual lyrics. However, at this point the vocalist stands in a circle of discarded skirts and DOES NOTHING. She is literally standing center stage the entire time, basically doing nothing but singing and taking up space that the corps could certainly march in. If she remains a part of the show, SHE NEEDS TO HAVE SOME FORM OF VISUAL INTERACTION. 

Overall: In the end, calling this show an "artistic study in Deconstructivism" is more of an excuse than anything else. It's OK to say that there is no concept for a show, it really is! Madison pulled it off to great effect in 2010! But if you are going to announce a concept like Crown's, you need to commit. The first half seems pretty good in this regard, with the sectioned brass parts and the deconstructed props and guard equipment (bars and beams, the third part of the Star/Crown tribute trilogy!), but the second half seems to abandon the concept entirely. I want to LOVE this show, from the music to the drill to the costuming, but the singer usage and the flimsy concept adherence makes it just not possible right now. Crown can probably medal with this show on cleanliness alone, but if they want to solidify that position and have even a glimmer of hope of winning in August, a LOT of changes need to be made to this show. These guys could take silver at Finals, or they could fall to sixth. I just don't know at this point.

Next, we'll go from a corps with a washy concept to the corps with the single best developed concept out of the gate so far...

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3rd: The Cavaliers- "Men Are From Mars" 70.15

This is the one score of the evening that surprised me, and in a good way! Simply based on how clean the corps were with their respective shows, I pegged the Cavaliers to be in the same bracket as the Cadets. The fact that they are less than a point from Crown is incredibly encouraging not only for the Cavaliers, but also for the Cadets, Vanguard, and any other corps that may find themselves in the 3-7+ bracket this year. The placement of those corps this year is WIIIIIIIIDE OPEN! But enough about those guys, let's talk about the most complete concept of a show presented on Thursday night.

The Music: I honestly did not have Cavies winning percussion, but I can see where Webb was coming from giving them a high score. The Green Machine brought more bravado and energy to the percussion section than any other corps save Carolina, and they were clicking the whole time. You could tell the whole corps was hungry to finish the show after they were cut short on Tuesday's preview. The horns are coming along nicely, though clearly they are not in the Crown/Bloo strata just yet. The biggest takeaway from this show was that the Cavaliers have settled into a musical identity, something that I honestly don't think they've done since 2011. Last year's show proved they had a good musical package in them, and this year proved they could replicate that success. A very masculine program (duh) with a bit of a cheeky attitude is both a perfect homage to their past and a strong identity for the future. The quad feature on spinning stands seemed pretty okay-ish at first, but the entire theater lost their collective minds on the unison spinning spock roll. I personally was reduced to disbelieving belly laughter. MAJOR props to that section. The "My Way/Mars" mashup, when clean, will bring the house down at Finals, it's clever and powerful. I'm a sucker for "O, Superman," and hearing the metronomic "ah" loop turned into "man" was maaaaaaybe a little too cheesy, especially to those unaware of the source music. Either dump the "man" or shorten that transition, and you're golden. This musical package will carry the day this year, and if the performers are up to the task they will be VERY pleased by the end of the year.

The Visual: Gonna be honest here... the uniforms didn't really work that well on screen. I'm sure they pop on the field when seen live, but they looked muted and blended in to the field in the theater. The tall backfield props are certainly interesting, but the camera work seemed to ignore most of the stuff going on there. The octagonal stage is well used to feature sections, though a second, smaller one stage right might have helped to balance the setup. The geometric cages were good for the start, but felt too small to make an impact throughout the rest of the show. I think the camera angles didn't help my viewing of this show, and most of the prop usage and design can be tweaked to work, with nothing seeming to be catastrophically problematic. The drill spends a LOT of time working around the props, but nobody had more effective block movement Thursday night. When the Cavies are marching or doing body work in a tight block, nothing is more bad###. 

Overall: If the percussion section keeps momentum going from their hot start, the Cavaliers may have a real chance to finish top 3 in the Music captions when they return to Indy. Ultimately,though, the visual package will keep them out of medal contention for this year. It's simply too cluttered, and it will affect both the visual and effect captions in the end. However, there is a TON of stuff to be excited about musically. The Cavaliers are back for real, folks, and as soon as they can take a "less is more" approach to their visual design, they will be in regular medal contention once again. As it is, this was about as good of a result as they could have hoped for tonight.

Next, we go to church with the corps that needed it the most this offseason...

Edited by MotoSurfBass

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4th: The Cadets- "The Faithful, The Fallen, The Forgiven" 68.30

AKA, "Just Call It 'Mass,' You Dummies!"

As mentioned above, I had this show MUCH closer to the Cavies than the judges did. That percussion score is also suspect, but that's just my opinion. The fact that the biggest question mark the Cadets left tonight was "what would their score be if the show was finished?" is already such an improvement from last year, it's truly relieving. Even if this is another down year, The Cadets will be just fine after The Exodus.

The Music: I will make no secret of it: I love Bernstein's Mass. It is a life goal to watch a full performance live someday. With that out of the way, it is a MONUMENTAL task to condense the entire Mass into an eleven minute show in a way that satisfies the stingy Bernstein estate. It was gutsy for George to go down this path after losing his longtime percussion and brass arrangers, but what the Cadets have written for them definitely works. Right now, the only two things that are holding the Cadets back are the unfinished show, and the performers really selling the show. The entire run felt rather "safe" to me, as there were no real gigantic issues, but nothing stood out too much either. As performances continue, the confidence should build, the notes should clean up, and the raw power and emotion of the source material will begin to really shine. The SSAATTBB choir is a nice touch that honestly is probably a necessity for performing Mass in a modern corps setting. There were a lot of balance issues regarding the choir, and the theater audience only really heard the choir when they were more exposed. It's early, so that should be an easy fix. 

The Visual: BE STILL MY HEART, THOSE COSTUMES ARE F###ING WONDERFUL!!!!! I was soooooooo worried when I first saw the skirts, even more so when a picture of the cream and blue(!) under-forms leaked just before the screening began. Let me tell you, they are BEAUTIFUL. The halfway uniform, with the maroon tops and cream pants, SCREAM "Modern Cadets Look," and I honestly am praying that something like that is their look going forward. As a guy who marched at least four (it honestly could have been all six) Bobby Jones shows in my lifetime, nobody deserved a chance to write for the Cadets more than him, and he rose wonderfully to the challenge. The chaotic sections are chaotic, the serene sections are flowing and beautiful, and all of the drill in general fits the emotion of the music very well. There could be a bit more prop interaction at times, especially with the beautiful stained glass panels in the corner, and I do think that something more needs to be done visually with the choir, who are currently just standing there, but this show is so quintessentially Mass that it works very well for them. It just needs to be finished, and the performers need to sell the product better.

Overall: The Cadets have never gone three straight years without a medal in the George Hopkins years. Honestly, after the chaos they had to endure in the offseason, preventing that was the least of the Cadets' worries this year. Maintaining order and setting up a strong launching point for the next generation of the Cadets was the key priority of this season, and this show has the potential to deliver that in spades. The energy and performance need to come, but the design is there to make a run at the top four this year. If they are as close to the Cavies as I thought they were, and the Cavies are truly that close to Crown, a medal is not completely out of the question, just unlikely. 

Next, let's mix Hollywood and Vegas together with a corps from Wisconsin. What's the worst that could happen?

Edited by MotoSurfBass
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