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Back from a long and entertaining day in Indy, and here are my thoughts on the show and the performances I saw.

Fair warning- if you're a die-hard Cadets fan, you might as well go read another thread now because you're not going to like what I have to say about your corps.

Still with me? Good. On with my review. I'll start with the corps that performed in the morning event but did not advance to the evening show. First off, I'm sitting in the upper deck, 30 yard line, drum major's left.

In division 3, the Racine Scouts were the first corps to perform after Revolution (who advanced to the evening show). Racine has a very small corps this year, with 12 horns and only 3 battery. Their show is called "Chrome on the high seas", and incorporates a lot of well-known nautical tunes, starting off with "Victory at Sea", which comes off the field fairly well. However, the hornline did not have the same success at projecting for most of the rest of the show, the result being that most of the rest of their tunes (Drunken Sailor, Popeye, Flipper/Jaws, etc) got washed out by the acoustic black hole that is the RCA Dome (more on this later). The one shining moment of this show is the baritone soloist in "Shenandoah"- he's got a very good, rich tone that carried well in the stadium. The hornline really didn't seem to have enough gas to get to the end of this show, or at least not to get their sound up to the upper deck where I was. The guard wasn't anything to write home about during the show, and the "Flipper" segment where they swing around blow-up dolphins was way over the edge on the cheese scale. I sincerely hope that Racine has better fortunes recruiting in the future, or they could sadly go the same way as a lot of other D2/3 corps and go inactive due to poor numbers.

Next in D3 competition was Capital Sound. They had a slightly bigger corps than Racine with a bigger drumline on the field. The sopranos started off their Elfman show a little bit on the shrill side, but they made a good recovery for the rest of the show. There were spots where they also had their sound get swallowed, especially with their soprano section in the 2nd movement (at one point, a sop soloist was overplayed by the drums). The hornline does have a pretty good sound, and the corps is pretty crisp visually with some nice visual effects like putting the corps in a block, then pointing the horns at various soloists. However, the visual demand seemed a bit on the low side, so perhaps they could improve their show with some more visual effects or more challenging drill. They had a pretty good end to their show, with a "performing exit" that reminded me of Bluecoats from 1993.

In division 2, the Colt Cadets have moved up a division from the looks of things, and they have a very large feeder corps this year, which will certainly benefit the "A" corps in the coming years. They start off their "Criminal Mischief" show with a big solid sound and go from there. I'm not going to give too much criticism here, just to say that there seemed to be a lot of individual marching issues with body posture, bell facings, etc, and a lot of times when the hornline seemed TOO loud to be heard indoors. The guard is pretty big and had a good performance today.

Onto the senior corps, starting with Chops Inc. They're a bit on the small side as well, although they looked a bit bigger than the last time I saw them in 2004. I honestly don't recall much of what they played, but they had a nice sound to them. They ran into the same problem that almost every other corps had so far, with their drumline overplaying the horns inside. I'd also say that their soprano section needs to play with more support on their soft sections- their sound seemed a little tenuous at soft dynamic levels.

Next up came the Mad Plaid, the Kilties! Kilts got a very good reaction when they took the field with the biggest corps I've seen from them in a long time. I had read elsewhere that they've made a good start to the season, and they DEFINITELY have! Their opener's got a nice beat to it, and the Norweigan Wood section features some strong screaming sop soloists, which carry on through the rest of the show. The crowd loved their traditional "Auld Lang Syne" ending, especially when they nailed the high notes at the end. I'd say that with some attention to the drill, Kilties could well make DCA finals this year.

Advancing out of the afternoon show were Revolution (D3), Memphis Sound (D2) and Minnesota Brass (Senior). Revolution starts off with "Kaval Sviri" that Blue Knights played a couple seasons ago. They seemed a little hesitant in the morning show, but had much more energy in the evening show and took better care of their marching as well. They have a strong drumline which is featured well in the middle of their "Bulgarian Celebration" show. The rifle section's good, but the guard as a whole didn't really seem to add that much to the program with their work, and seemed like they needed more to do to make themselves stand out more.

The division 2 champions were Memphis Sound. WOW Memphis! They got my attention right off the bat and held it through the entire show. I liked how they played a lot of "softer" jazz music for the first part of their show- they played it very tastefully, and there is a lot of strong technical musicianship in their trumpet section with shakes, growls and lifts in variious portions of their show. The guard's pretty solid here, and they remind me of Blue Devils from their 2002 show. Pay attention to their DM as well- he's an excellent conductor and really gets the corps to respond dynamically (and they can put out a big wall of sound as well as play softly). I haven't followed D2/3 this season so far, but I'd expect this show to contend in Madison with some cleaning. Congrats Memphis- you've made a new fan tonight. :)

Minnesota Brass won the senior corps segment, with a powerful arrangement of "Open Up Wide" and "Get it On" by Bill Chase. They start off with soloists on some kind of risers, which get moved around at different points of the show. MBI had a pretty solid effort all around, and provided a good example of "life after junior corps" for the younger portions of the audience.

On we go to the Div 1 portion of the event, starting with the Blue Stars. Welcome back to Div 1, folks! Blue Stars have the same big corps (64 horns) that they've had the past couple years. They have a pretty nice brass sound, but there's too many vocals for my taste. Also, their vocals were largely untelligible because of the dome. I expect they'd sound a lot clearer outside. Visually, they have some work to do if they're going to contend for a high spot in semifinals.

Pioneer are smaller then they've been the last couple of seasons with just 36 horns. Their show suffered as a result, as I was not able to clearly hear big chunks of their brass book. Their drumline also has the same tendency to overpower the brass that they've had the last few seasons- they need to settle the drums down, maybe even have a smaller battery, and focus more on the brass and less on the percussion. The ballad was ok, but again, the soprano sound was lost in the dome.

Magic of Orlando were on next, with a show called "Imagine". I honestly wasn't impressed much with this show. The opener seemed to have 2 volumes: loud, and nothing. The ballad was a little more under control, but visually, what the guard was doing didn't really impress me (they form the ribbons like you see on the backs of cars). Closer is Reflections of Earth, which seemed to be more than the hornline could handle. The mellos in particular had a rough time getting their moving melodies to project, and the result was that you mostly just got horn stabs and not much rhythms. The drums are this corps' strongest section right now. All in all, the pieces of this show just don't seem to fit together that well.

Southwind made good use of the split uniform for their "Duality" show. Visually, they do a lot of good things with this concept, but musically, it seems like there's too much going on to start the show. They should have settled on 1 or 2 musical themes (Firebird and Cirque de Soleil were 2 of the many elements you catch), because it makes it sound like there are 2 different shows going on at the same time. That may be the point, but it makes for a muddled show overall. In the ballad, the visuals bog down a bit- they need to do more then just stand and do a little dance/walk for this to be effective. The third movement was my favorite part of the show, with very audible horn "pops" (I love that :)) from small groups and the guard making good use of bright orange flags with blue arrows on them. I'm hoping that Southwind can make another late-season push like last year because right now, they're sitting outside of semis and I'd hate to see them slip back out.

Crossmen are MUCH improved over last year, and they've got a very enjoyable and entertaining program this year. They start off quietly, a different approach for them, but one that their hornline pulls off well. The "radio" section is funny in a VK sort of way (and if that's a direction they're going to take, more power to them because I think they can make it succeed), but like Blue Stars, their vocals were a total wash in the dome (I did catch the nice "hometown" football score- IU 28, Wisconsin 3, but that was it). The ballad was VERY nice, and it's the first time in a while that I've enjoyed a Crossmen ballad. Luscious sound makes this work very well. Overall, Crossmen are a much better corps than last year, and I see them fighting for 12th in finals if they can clean their drill.

My alumni, Capital Regiment, came out with new uniforms that look better than I imagined they would after seeing pictures of them. They had some balance issues between the horns and drums like most corps before them have, and I probably need to hear these corps outside to get a better idea of those sort of issues. The drums also seemed to have their entrance written a bit too early in "Equus"- I felt they should have given the horns more time to develop that. One big problem in their show was in the closer with the vocals- they COMPLETELY washed out, and all you saw was 4 mellos (who you couldn't hear) and 6 horn players dancing in the pit (anybody noticing a trend here?). They'd have done much better to have the hornline just PLAY the thing instead of that. They do end the show on a strong note, but it seems like this isn't a show that really makes a statement. I remember when we first came into D1, a lot of people had high expectations for us, and to be honest, the corps has yet to live up to those expectations. I'm hoping for better things ahead for my corps in the future.

Intermission performed next, and had a tremendous show that rivaled the Stealthmen in magnitude. You'd need to see it to believe it. B)

Colts were the first corps on after the break. I really enjoyed their show last year, and this year was no disappointment. Their guard is definitely at the fore for this corps at this point in the season, which isn't meant to take away at all from the rest of the corps. They have a good show concept, and beautiful arrangements this season. Their ballad is one of the big "wow" moments of DCI this season, and their arrangement of "Ride" hearkens back to Bluecoats in '04. They only had 3 movements, and I'm seeming to notice a lot of 3-movement shows to this point- perhaps a change from typical arranging in the recent past. I liked this show and hope to get to hear it outdoors soon. The show is pretty clean now (moreso than Scouts or Crossmen), but that may be a sign that there's not enough demand. I wouldn't be surprised (but would be disappointed) to see "Ride" get hacked up and have most of it replaced with a big drum solo by the end of the season.

Up next were the Glassmen, recently back from Europe. They have a fantastic opening statement of Beethoven's 5th, and made use of a lot of different parts of the field, somethat that no other corps had yet to do. I had heard that there was a contra solo in this show, but missed it tonight. Perhaps it got cut overseas? All in all, I really liked this show, and look forward to seeing it again. Personally, I thought that this could be a top 6 or 7 show (if they don't peak too soon), but the judges were a bit stingy for them as compared to last night in Elizabeth.

Carolina Crown had a typically solid performance. Visually, they're very strong this year, and their guard is as fantastic as ever. But their "In Trance It" show just seemed to have something missing for me. I was left with the feeling of witnessing a strong performance, but not quite seeing the purpose of it. Scorewise, the judges had them well ahead of Glassmen, and I expect they'll probably stay there. I didn't like the middle section leading up to the ballad, but the ballad itself was pretty good.

And now we get into the main event, starting with the Cavaliers. The crowd was VERY partial to them tonight and gave them the best reaction of the night as they took the field. Their "Machine" show has a whole lot of robotic elements in it- from the guard costumes (and movement) to the stuttering, robotic salute of the DM that drew a good laugh from everybody. The "robo" movements did go a little overboard at times, but they also gave some good moments, like the "elastic" parts of the drill where the corps gets stretched and compressed, and the "Robot Club" dance section. This was a tremendous visual spectacle that I believe can keep them in contention for the title this year. Going off the recaps, it looks like they need to improve their drumline, because their drums were a full point behind Devils tonight. Also, they realistically should have performed in Madison's spot, and you could make an argument that going on when they did could have cost them the win tonight.

Bluecoats came on next to a hearty BLLLUEEEEEE!!! from the crowd. They have a very enjoyable show this year- their guard gave a spectacular effort tonight, and I thought their trumpets had the best sound of all corps that had previously gone on, including Cavvies. They don't quite to have that same intensity as last year, and the drumline isn't featured as much, but they still generate a lot of special moments, and I remain hopeful that they'll pass Cadets by season's end.

Speaking of Cadets, it's that time where half the people reading this thread are going to start sending me hate mail. Again, this is As I Saw It. They still have the same backward uniforms as last season, keeping the whole "Zone" theme going. However, while last year's show was exciting and driving, this show was NOT. They start off with the last minute of drill from last year's show, with no music accompanying, then they move on to a soft opening statement. You expect to hear some kind of strong musical impact, but they don't bring it out at this point, and the opener seems flat and downright boring as a result. I think they also spin around some floral screens at this point (I guess we're "through the looking glass" now) that look cute, but don't really add all that much. The drum line is pretty good again this year- in fact, they probably have more material than the horns, who again go silent for most of this segment. There's a lot of high-powererd drumming while the guard characters prance around and ask "Where are we?" (to which I responded, "On a football field!"). I could go on, but my main criticism is this: this show is suffering from a bad case of sequal-itis, and it's not going to win no matter what they do with it, because the show is focused too much on the characters and not on the actual performance. It's like a lot of hollywood sequels that emphasize spectacle and high-cost visual effects (speaking of which, I'd wager they probably need a 3rd semi to haul around all the props) rather than things like plot and acting. I'll end on a positive note- the ballad is pretty, and the vocal soloist there is a nice addition to it (when she's not getting washed by the dome). There- I said something nice about the Cadets- you can stop yelling now :P

One last thing- if anybody gets the APD and laughs at (or is put off by) the yell of "Pizza!" as the girl goes through the door- you know who to thank for that. B)

Penultimate corps is Madison! Madison... well, yeah. The new coats are an improvement, but the guard uniforms are not (my mom said they resembled roadkill at the beginning). There's a nice bit of drill at the beginning that reminds me of Vanguard's "Pathways" show with the bass drums running through a shifting maze of drill, but beyond that, this show has a lot of dirt that needs to be cleaned, PRONTO, for Scouts to push for top 6 this year. In fact, I'd honestly say that Colts were cleaner visually. From the first big set to the end, there are a lot of ragged forms and fuzzy marching. The corps has a nice ballad sound, and is earning their brass scores, but overall, this show just doesn't seem like a fit for Madison.

And finally, the corps that EVERYBODY came to see, The Wise Guys Blue Devils. BD have their attitude back after last year's debacle, and it's good to see the swagger back. The opening statement is POWERFUL, no doubt, but it does take a little while to fully develop. There's a spot that builds up the energy, but then lets it down before the big hit. Once they get past this though, they go on full cylinders to the end, with strong playing and some insanely high tosses in the opener (I think a couple rifles may have gotten stuck in the roof of the dome). The second movement is a restatement of the first (which may be the one thing that holds them back this year, if anything does). There's a nice "knife through the heart" set at one point, and the "horse's head" flags out of nowhere are a very nice impact. Bottom line, BD "went to the mattresses" tonight and walked away with the win, but I expect a VERY stiff fight between BD and Cavvies all the way to Madison. In the end, BD may well have to make somebody an offer they can't refuse (or just put out a contract on Cavvies ^0^) to take home #13.

Finally, I'll say a few words about the stadium itself. I have a "love-hate" relationship with the RCA Dome. I have fond memories from marching there for state band finals, and without that experience I wouldn't have gotten into drum corps, so in a way, I consider this stadium to be "sacred ground" for me. But I also know that it's an absolute NIGHTMARE to watch a show in because of the acoustics, and I sincerely hope that the new stadium is better in this regard. Looking at pics, I think the closest comparison will be to some of the big retractable roof soccer stadiums that we've seen in the World Cup. I was hopeful that DCI would make some kind of announcement about having finals here in 2008, but I guess that still hasn't been decided. I'd seriously urge DCI to hold off for a year and have finals somewhere else in '08 and let BOA make the first acoustic test run of the stadium before committing to a long-term contract. If they are keen on holding finals in Indiana, there's a pretty good stadium 50 miles south in Bloomington that doesn't really get much use in the fall that I'm sure would make a good 1-year replacement B).

Edited by Galen
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Awesome review. Thanks, Matt. Your Cadets comments seemed well though out and reasonable to me. Not sure why you prefaced the review. Loved the details of what you saw going well and not so well with ALL corps.

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Excellent review Matt. You are so lucky that you got to be there. So, are you saying all the vocals didnt go over well, or clear enough in the dome ??Thats a shame.

Your Cadets review was much more upbeat and positive than mine, I dont think you should change your name yet ! :P


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Or maybe the Cadets show just doesn't work for everyone the way it does for you. That doesn't mean anyone's 'right' or 'wrong', it's just different taste.

I would have a tendency to agree on the 'sequel' aspect ; there are very few times when a sequel to a successful movie, book, etc, lives up to the original. There's a lot of talent on the field with Cadets, but it might over-assume the popularity of the '05 show to think that the audiences were desirous of 'more.'

(btw, if they'd simply give Alice a baton to twirl during her opening dancing sequence in the front, they could actually do TWO years worth of sequeling... :P )

Edited by mobrien
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Great review Matt!

Way to go Kilts!

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Excellent review, Matt. I appreciate that you got a chance to see so many corps, and I am jealous. But your review made me feel better about losing the Season Pass live feed at various times last night. You were not that hard on the Cadets, and think those are logical conclusions. I think BD and Cadets take way too long to say anything, but that aside, I loved BD's show. They will be tough to beat, but you are right, the Cavaliers will be the one to beat them if anyone can. Glad you liked the Bluecoats.


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Once they get past this though, they go on full cylinders to the end, with strong playing and some insanely high tosses in the opener (I think a couple rifles may have gotten stuck in the roof of the dome).


Loved that comment about the rifles getting stuck in the roof....I LOVE rifle lines and can't wait to see BD's in Atlanta and Madison!

Thanks for the great review!!

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