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DrumScorps

Birmingham, AL - July 26, 2018

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It's exciting to see all the excitement and support for the Mandarins!  They have been building such a great history - this year is so special!

I know it's not a big thing, but they everytime someone calls the Mandarins the Mandies, a small piece of me dies inside.  Spelling it out is only two more letter than using Mandies, so let's find the inner strength I know y'all have and call them by their full name.   **WHEW** I feel way better getting that off my chest.   

This is the most competitive year of drum corps in a verrrry long time.  EXCITING!!

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A couple of disclaimers up front:

1.       This was my first show since 2008.  Obviously, a lot has changed since then, most notably electronics.  I may dwell on them from time to time.

2.       Our seats were almost at field level. Consequently, I won’t be able to say much about the visuals.  Our seats also impacted my reaction to the electronics, as most of the time we were right in front of the speakers.  It’s very disconcerting when the mic-ed soloist is on the other side of the field but the sound is coming from right in front of you.

3.       I took some pics, but I probably won’t be able to go through them until next week.

4.       Had to leave before the Blue Knights, as my son was running out of energy.

 

Southwind – The Guitarist

OK, this show was flat out fun.  They don’t have the money or talent of the upper corps, but they sold this show from start to finish.  Even the prerecorded guitars worked--which frankly surprised me—it helps that they were used very judiciously.  Favorite musical moment: A magnificent trombone soloist.

ETA: I've been informed that the guitars were live, not recorded.  Nice!
 

Seattle Cascades – What Goes Around

Just didn’t do much for me. I got the feeling that they were trying to imitate Bluecoats’ heavy use of electronics without really understanding what made the Bluecoats stuff effective. The electronics tended to overwhelm rather than enhance.


Music City – Hell on Wheels: The Final Journey of Casey Jones.

Another show that the corps just flat out sold.  It is a testament to the energy of the show that when the familiar strains of Cohan’s “Hallelujah” drifted into the stands, I didn’t take an icepick to someone (lovely song, but it’s been played into the ground). Kind of had an early 2000s Carolina Crown feel to it—take a slightly goofy idea and dial it to eleven. Favorite musical moment: God help me, but I gotta go with Ozzy Osbourne and Crazy Train.


Troopers – The New Road West

This is not your father’s Troopers.  I gotta admit, my initial reaction when I first saw the signposts was “WTH? Troopers are doing a Prince tribute?”  The show design is somewhat reminiscent of PR’s 2010 Into the Light in the way the show migrates from one end of the field to the other.  Very sophisticated use of electronics, combining sounds effects with fairly subtle musical enhancements.

 

Aside—One of my problems with electronics Is that it adds another layer of costs to an already expensive activity. This equipment is not cheap.  Southwind had a bare bones setup, but beginning with Troopers, the corps had very sophisticated setups. Shouldn’t we be trying to make it easier for an organization to field a corps?


Pacific Crest – Here’s to the One’s Who Dream

Played and performed well; it just didn’t leave much of an impression. A little overboard with the electronics. Favorite musical moment: Mambo!
 

Spirit of Atlanta – Knock

Stronger musically than visually.  The tall feathers on the hats added an extra jaunty feel to the proceedings. Great show, the kids play with attitude and fire, but for the love of God, that is the most annoying and pretentious narration I’ve ever heard.  DOORS, WE GET IT.  While I like the door props, they may have a few too many—at time the field seems cluttered, particularly since the MMs and color guard unis have the same dark palette.  Favorite Musical moment: Hurt

PS: Spirit, for the love of God, buy a quieter generator!
 

Mandarins – Life Rite After

From the opening hit, there is no doubt these guys mean business.  This is a bada** show that grabs you, stares you in the face, and dares you to look away.  Dark, brooding, and above all, powerful.  There are massive visual GE hits (the lightsabre rifles are spectacular) and equally massive music GE hits.  They’re breathing down PR’s necks and may well pass them by Indianapolis, unless they’ve peaked too soon. Favorite musical moment: the aforementioned opening hit. I hope to be able to see this again from a better angle.  Easily my favorite show of the night.
 

Phantom Regiment – The New World

Knowing we’d be leaving right afterward, we went to the top of the stands for PR.

The closer has the power and passion we expect from PR.  The rest of the show, not so much.  There’s a lot of good technical work, I love the way that phrases from the New World Symphony are sprinkled throughout…but I’ve got no idea what the theme is.  The wonky hotel luggage carts look much better in person than they have in pictures and video, but they’re still more visual clutter than visual element, which becomes painfully evident when they are trundled off to the end zone right before the final push.  Visually, the “stage” in front of the pit looks great, but I can’t help but think that it could be used more effectively—it seems like a logical place for soloists, for example.
 

The placements seem about right—though I really would not have been surprised if Mandarins had edged PR.

Edited by jthomas666
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5 minutes ago, GetOFFmyDot said:

It's exciting to see all the excitement and support for the Mandarins!  They have been building such a great history - this year is so special!

I know it's not a big thing, but they everytime someone calls the Mandarins the Mandies, a small piece of me dies inside.  Spelling it out is only two more letter than using Mandies, so let's find the inner strength I know y'all have and call them by their full name.   **WHEW** I feel way better getting that off my chest.   

This is the most competitive year of drum corps in a verrrry long time.  EXCITING!!

I like calling them the Mandies. It's a term of endearment. They won my heart after seeing them, this Summer.

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4 minutes ago, jthomas666 said:

Mandarins – Life Rite After

From the opening hit, there is no doubt these guys mean business.  This is a bada** show that grabs you like Batman picking up a mugger and will not let you look away. Dark, brooding, and above all, powerful.  There are massive visual GE hits (the lightsabre rifles are spectacular) and equally massive music GE hits.  They’re breathing down PR’s necks and may well pass them by Indianapolis, unless they’ve peaked too soon. Favorite musical moment: the aforementioned opening hit. I hope to be able to see this again from a better angle.
 

Phantom Regiment – The New World

Knowing we’d be leaving right afterward, we went to the top of the stands for PR.

The closer has the power and passion we expect from PR.  The rest of the show, not so much.  There’s a lot of good technical work, I love the way that phrases from the New World Symphony are sprinkled throughout…but I’ve got no idea what the theme is.  The wonky hotel luggage carts look much better in person than they have in pictures and video, but they’re still more visual clutter than visual element, which becomes painfully evident when they are trundled off to the end zone right before the final push.  Visually, the “stage” in front of the pit looks great, but I can’t help but think that it could be used more effectively—it seems like a logical place for soloists, for example.
 

The placements seem about right—though I really would not have been surprised if Mandarins had edged PR.

This pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Nice review!

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8 minutes ago, tim_brandt said:

I like calling them the Mandies. It's a term of endearment. They won my heart after seeing them, this Summer.

I shall never come between a man and his corps-crush!   #MandiesAllDay

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nm

Edited by jthomas666

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13 hours ago, jthomas666 said:

Southwind – The Guitarist

 

OK, this show was flat out fun.  They don’t have the money or talent of the upper corps, but they sold this show from start to finish.  Even the prerecorded guitars worked--which frankly surprised me—it helps that they were used very judiciously.  Favorite musical moment: A magnificent trombone soloist.

Glad you liked the show! Just one correction for you. The guitar notes are not prerecorded. The guitarist is live on either an acoustic electric or electric guitar with a wireless connection to our speaker system - 100% authentic musician and skill.

Edited by lawrenceleclaire
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18 minutes ago, lawrenceleclaire said:

Glad you liked the show! Just one correction for you. The guitar notes are not prerecorded. The guitarist is live on either an acoustic electric or electric guitar with a wireless connection to our speaker system - 100% authentic musician and skill.

Thanks--I'll correct my review!

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16 hours ago, tim_brandt said:

Here come the Mandarins. I think they'll pass Regiment on Saturday Night.

When I saw them at the Rose Bowl, I figured it was just a matter of time. 

Their show gets people out of their seats, as opposed to putting them to sleep.

The Mandarins were by far the biggest surprise when I saw them at Stanford. They probably also garnered the biggest ovation that night. (The crowd was largely split between BD and SCV fans, but everyone pulled for the Mandarins)

I hadn't been to a show in about 4 years, and that was apparently the time period in which the Mandarins paved the path for their emergence. Last time I saw them, they didn't field a full-sized corps -- not even close. Shocking enough for me to see the Mandarins as a full-sized corps, but to also see them performing a bold in-your-face show that takes a lot of chances.

First time I saw them was in 92, and I think they had maybe 40 members. In that early season show (highlighted by an early iteration of the Velvet Knights' now-legendary Magical Mystery Tour III show), the Mandarins placed in dead last, behind all of the other lower division corps. Yet, they came back and eventually won the Division III title that year. They have a long history of being the little corps that could, and this could be the year that they take their place among the big boys.

Edited by Woochifer
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59 minutes ago, lawrenceleclaire said:

Glad you liked the show! Just one correction for you. The guitar notes are not prerecorded. The guitarist is live on either an acoustic electric or electric guitar with a wireless connection to our speaker system - 100% authentic musician and skill.

Thanks! I was wondering about this. I knew SW recruited a great guitarist and I was afraid something happened where he couldn't play.  Glad all is well. 

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