Drum Corps International-federated drum and bugle corps commentary



I went to 4 live shows plus the start-of-the-season theater event. That makes 29 consecutive years of outdoor, world-class (formerly Division I), DCI ("junior") drum corps, 144 shows, 19 consecutive years of Masters of the Summer Music Games or equivalent (Murfreesboro, Nashville, Cookeville in 2006), and I added a 57th unique venue--Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, GA.

I reviewed the July 7th (Columbia) and 12th (Powder Springs 1) shows soon after the fact, and then I wrote my 28th (Nashville) and 29th (Powder Springs 2) reviews about a month after the shows.

post-season notes

Before I review my 2nd two shows, some post-season notes. The DCI season ended late on August 12. That was DCI episode 46 of "new and exciting ways to try to beat the Blue Devils." Shockingly, year 46 ended with, wait for it, insert perfect open drum roll, ... a Blue Devils win.

Sometimes I'm grumpy with BD wins, but I think they earned it this year. About 30 seconds of their show was what I identified as "swing beat" / "swing" music, and that 30 seconds was enough to put them over the top to earn the win. Over the years, there are a handful of corps that have competed with and even beaten that sound, but it wasn't beaten this year. This year, there was nothing quite like it. I believe (code name) Soko would also agree with the win.

A few other notes on ranking: in a reversal from McEachern, Cavaliers beat Bluecoats, giving Cavies a final ranking of 4th (and BlC 5th). I'm happy with that either way, but Cavaliers show was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it the last 3 times I saw it. Bluecoats were Soko's favorite, though.

We didn't see Boston Crusaders at McEachern. They continued to beat Cadets and came in 6th ahead of Cadets 7th. As I've hinted earlier in the year, I'm happy with that. I'm excited to see what BAC (Boston) does next year. Boston did the infamous-to-some Salem Witch Trial show (official show title Wicked Games).

There are 7 corps that are almost always the top 7. Boston replaced Phantom Regiment in that group. PR got 9th, which eliminates them from next year's Nashville show (and other Tour of Champions shows) unless the rules change. Blue Knights came in 8th, to round out the top 8. I'd much rather see Phantom, but such is life.

For code name "Ms. Lotte," Blue Stars came in 10th. They did the Romeo and Juliet show that was the first-ever live show that Lotte saw.

Southeastern Championships, McEachern High School, Powder Springs (Atlanta area); 2017 live show #4 for me, #144 lifetime - Saturday, July 29, 2017

That night was about as good as it gets along several dimensions. (I'm starting this 3 weeks later and continuing a month later.) I judge seasons by roughly the top 8 corps in part because that's all I've consistently seen since 2011 (inclusive). It's the top few corps that are worth driving 200+ miles to see. That night, however, Soko and I only had to drive about an hour. That was a big improvement over the sudden rush (on my part, at least) the night before. The point being that the biggest outdoor show in Atlanta in 33 years (that I know of, since finals at Georgia Tech in 1984) was really nice to have. (I can say more-or-less with certainty that it's the biggest show in Atlanta since 1989 inclusive, and my near-certainty is certain by 1996 - 1997. )

Next year, it's back inside a brand new dome, so I will likely continue my boycott of domes. The four of us who went to the show were already starting to debate that after the show, though. I plan to go to Nashville (or Murfreesoboro?) with or without anyone else, and Mr. Z will likely come with me. That will probably persuade Soko. I might consider going to 2 shows in a row and seeing if I can tolerate a dome again; we'll see.

But back to the essentially perfect night...

The weather was about as good as it gets in the South (or much of the North, for that matter) during drum corps season. According to Soko, it was notably cooler and less humid than the day before. I tend not to notice or care. I just expect heat; it's part of the package. I've joked for many years that the DCI rulebook says a show can't begin unless the temperature is at least 84 degrees and 70% relative humidity.

No one told me that "they" are literally going to blow up the Georgia Dome in a few months, and that's why we were outside for one shining moment. Thus, we weren't smack on the 50 yard line because i bought tickets later than I should have (on Feb 16). I was on the 42. Mr. Z was 2 seats closer. We were in row 9. The stadium is pretty steep, though, and there is no foot-racing track around the field, so the seats were close enough to perfect for my purposes. I couldn't tell any difference between the night before when we were roughly on the 48 yard line.

Soko was in no mood to get there for the 4pm start. I'm not sure what I would have done alone, but I'd say our strategy worked out. My target was to be in the stands after the intermission to see roughly the 9th ranked corps (the 9th from the last to perform).

Another timing factor was I was still in possession of Ms. Lotte's ticket, which may have been a mistake, but it worked out. Also, the parking for late-comers was at a church somewhat outside of easy walking distance. DCI said they would be running a "continuous" shuttle, but I was concerned that musicians' notions of "continuous" and a software developer's notion of "continuous" would be different. The point being that between needing to meet Lotte and my concerns over "continuous," we planned to and did get there very early.

I was very pleasantly surprised and impressed to learn that "continuous" easily meant "continuous" by my standard. When we got there, there were 4 empty shuttle buses lined up. They filled up fast, though, and off we went. Not that they were waiting for the bus to fill up; I suppose they were running every few minutes. In any event, we didn't wait long for the shuttle to leave.

The only nearby restrooms were inside the stadium area, so Soko went in. I stayed outside to wait for Lotte, who arrived in plenty of time. I explained to her the rules that one can't get up or come into the seats during a performance, and the interval between corps is only around 6 minutes, so restroom breaks are tricky. I mention this because that rule is not-at-all obvious to newcomers; it's kinda a note to self for future reference. It's interesting to see shows from the beginner's POV.

One sour note in Soko's mind: as it turned out, she waited in line for something like an hour for concessions. When she finally got the counter, she asked what in the heck was wrong with the concession setup that she had to wait so long. The McEachern volunteers (I assume from experience that's who was running the concessions; more specifically, probably the band boosters.) explained that DCI specified in great detail where and maybe even how many concession booths there could be. Soko was potentially irritated enough to complain to DCI after the fact; I don't blame her. I found this puzzling; I hadn't known that DCI did that sort of thing. I always think of DCI having way too little control; of course, the situation is different between a high school and a college or pro stadium. Then again, I've generally assumed that one should never count on getting concessions during a drum corps show. Again, given the timing of drum corps, it's too difficult because everyone rushes all the facilities at the same time.

Soko was still waiting in line while Lotte and I went in for the 9th-to-last corps to perform, as planned. Soko didn't make it until the next corps.

Ms. Lotte's first-ever live show

Lotte saw Blue Stars first. I am pretty sure she was already amazed by Stars' colors--uniforms, flags, etc.--before they played a note. Blue Knights (BK) went on 2nd (after our arrival), and that memory is blurred with Stars. Lotte was definite amazed by Knights' colors. As soon as she said that, I started the middlish-aged-male equivalent of giggling, or snickering. As BK marched on the night before, Soko commented that "Those are the most [messed] up colors I've ever seen." Soko went on to wonder by what process individual corps members had been selected to suffer wearing the more messed up colors. (Part of the oddity is that the uniforms weren't totally uniform in that the color theme was the same but not the colors themselves.) I pointed out after the show that the theme of the show was jarring; the weird colors were intentional. She at least partially conceded my point. Of course, we didn't know the theme before they took the field.

This was Lotte's first-ever live show. For sake of simplicity, she'd seen next to nothing on video before. She's mostly heard me talk about drum corps for ~14 years previously.

Lotte's reaction was pretty much the best I could hope for. As it turned out, even when the whole show / evening was over, Stars had such an impact on her that she liked them best, in part because she liked the music best, but I'm sure part of the reason was seeing even the 10th place corps as one's first-ever is quite an experience. (Stars went on in the 9th place slot, but they ranked 10th at the end of the year.) Also, I can see from the beginner's point of view why Stars' music was simply more normal than the higher-ranked corps. Stars' show title was Star Crossed, as in Romeo and Juliet, and they did some of Prokofiev's R&J music. (Stars' repetoires including 2017. It would appear that I can't individually address 2017, which is annoying. I may have to talk to "them" about that.)

I was concerned about Lotte taking pictures during our first corps (Blue Stars). I've never tried to or been interested in taking pictures, so I wasn't certain of the rules. I know with some certainty one shouldn't use flash because it might affect the performers. Her camera wasn't flashing, but it was getting dark; who knew when the software would kick in the flash? I asked her to stop during that show. Between Stars and BK, I made sure her flash was off, then I stopped my objections. I mention this because, once again, it's interesting all the little things that a beginner doesn't know, and, in this case, I don't fully know or care about.

Lotte's reaction was more evidence in favor of my decades-long speculation that drum corps would be 10 times as popular if we fans could collectively expose more people to it. One major problem is that any given city or town has one or, if very lucky, two shows a season. Many of those are on weekdays. The logistics of drum corps are difficult all the way around.

I think on our second corps I realized that Lotte was busy texting. It turned out she was sending her friends pictures and gushing texts about how great it was. When I realized she was trying to decribe the experience to friends with pictures and SMS, I mostly internally LOL'ed (if that expression even makes sense). I did say out loud, though, something to the effect of "Good luck with that. I've been trying to express that to people for at least 26 years since I failed to get other students to the Boston College show in 1991."

She was confused about finals being two weeks later in Indianapolis; she thought there was a show in the Georgia Dome 2 weeks later. She thought she could get one or two people to go. Again, though, the logistics of drum corps are too difficult for that. It'd be difficult to get tickets for extra people 2 weeks in advance to a major show even if there were such a beast. The point being that, again, that demonstrates that it could be much more popular if the logistics weren't just too difficult.

Skipping ahead a bit, for at least a week or two after the show, I was suffering at-times moderately severe drum corps withdrawal. I asked Ms. Lotte about this around 2 weeks after the show. She, too, was suffering some degree of withdrawal. She complained that I hadn't warned her about such "side effects."

She also thought drum corps could inspire a young relative of hers who has had a rough few years. He's into hip-hop; she thought drum corps is intense enough to get his attention and possibly have a broader effect on him. I think that's somewhat possible, and maybe we'll get him to a show in the future. At this rate, Lotte is probably motivated to drag him to Nashville next year or soon.

more generally / back to my own review

I was reminded for the first time since 2009 why it's nice to see corps at least twice a season. Ms. Lotte understood after her first corps why I used to go to up to 13 shows in a season. "There's so much going on that you have to see it multiple times to absorb it all." I doubt I absorbed nearly everything when I used to see a show 10 times. But it's nice at least a second time because the surprise is over. I've already done a first-pass of my reaction, and I either try to concentrate on things I wanted to see again, or I try to give a show a second chance if I didn't like it so much the first time.

Cavaliers' ballad piece just got better and better each time I saw it. I saw Cavies and Cadets live 4 times and once in the theater. Bluecoats backfield ballad had more impact the second time. (I don't remember much impact from the theater, but what should one expect?) Lotte whispered "beautiful" about the same time I was thinking it. Cadets' drum line was fun, but no one has come close to topping Cadets 2005 drum line in my mind. Cadets '17 was still fun, though. I can enjoy a drum line even if they aren't an all-time favorite.

Intermixing reviews, Crown went on as the first world-class corps the night before. The "Tour of Champions" events have a random (as far as I know it's random) performance order. I was all excited to hear Little Fugue, and two people came into the seating area and made us get up and passed in front of me during Fugue. It took some restraint not to fuss at them. At McEachern, I enjoyed that without a hitch. Crown's show ranked 3rd at finals, but they were something like 5th in my mind. As much as I liked Fugue, it wasn't enough of the show, and the rest of the show wasn't as good, in my mind.

Again intermixing reviews, the night before a young woman sitting directly in front of us had seen SCV (Santa Clara Vanguard) before, at least on video, and was all excited to see them (again?) live. When their show was over, I asked her if it met her obviously high expectations, to which she essentially shouted while looking at the sky and holding out her arms, "Thank the Lord for Santa Clara Vanguard!" In part inspired by her enthusiasm, I tried again at McEachern, but I'm afraid I just didn't get their show. It didn't connect. I'm not disputing the technical proficiency (2nd place), but still. Maybe, eventually, I'll get the '17 blu-ray and try, try again. (Since 2009, I've also been 100% consistently boycotting audio and video recorded in domes.)

I've already given my commentary on Blue Devils in my post-season wrapup.

I wish I could see Phantom's show at least one more time. I suspect I didn't grok it in its fullness. It was subtle. The fact that it ranked 9th matters not. I loved their 2009 show that ranked 9th.

All 4 of us went to the Marietta Diner after the show. Mr. Z had been before but didn't grok it in its fullness. Both Lotte and I are Marietta Diner experts and connoisseurs. In fact, Lotte re-introduced it to me and got me hooked in 2003. We helped Mr. Z to appreciate it; he is now a fan, too. Soko had been to Marietta before and the literally related Metro Diner in Stone Mountain, so she was happy. It was a nice ending to the evening.

But back to corps, I'd say '17 was overall a very good year. As I see more and more shows and get fussier and fussier, it takes a lot to please me. I almost quit after 2010 and to some degree after '13, and '15, but '14, '16, and '17 were really good years. With that said, I haven't really been gobsmacked since Cadets 2011, but I've found that 5 - 8 very pleasing corps are good enough to keep me going. Not to mention, having a newbie there is always fun.

others' visit to the Cavaliers' practice

I got a review from two people who didn't make a live show but saw Cavaliers practice at West Forsyth High School before McEachern. They barely got to hear the horn line because sometimes the horns don't play during a practice, to spare their mouth muscles. They heard the entire drum line show, though. They heard some horn warmups from a distance, and they saw the higher tosses of equipment (flags, rifles, sabers) from a distance. Practices are in shorts and T-shirts and sneakers. With all those limitations, my two reviewers were very impressed. They might be inspired to go back to live shows for the first time in 7 and 11 years, respectively.

Someone who was with them was so impressed that he thought about trying to get tickets to McEachern. I saw one guy selling at least one extra ticket, although I don't know how good the ticket was. There may have been others during the afternoon or after I went in. Or they were selling tickets on the oppose side of the field. So, it would have possible to get good tickets, but there are no guarantees. I know for a fact that on the concert side of the stadium, there were 6 tickets left as of a week or two before, and those were at best on the 20 yard line or much worse. In any event, I was happy to hear that even such a limited experience had such an impact. But again, the logistics of drum corps are not easy.

Nashville, Vanderbilt University, Masters of the Summer Music Games, part of the Tour of Champions; 2017 live show #3 for me, #143 lifetime, #19 consecutive of Masters or the equivalent - Friday, July 28

Soko and I saw almost the same corps this night and the next night, so I don't have much that is specific to this night.

In terms of traffic in Atlanta and (as always at that time of day) Chattanooga, and at least one accident-induced traffic jam 20 miles outside Nashville, much that could go wrong did. We left about 2:10pm from the east side of Atlanta, and we made it with literally a few minutes to spare. I was a few minutes ahead of Soko because I couldn't help but run for it. She made it, though, as Music City was taking the field.

One item of note: at my 142 previous shows, I'd never experienced anything like the almost literally crushing, very densely packed crowd under the stands during intermission. I must not have attempted the restroom in '14 or '16. I have a few thoughts on how DCI can improve that situation. For one, it makes me hope that the show goes back to Middle Tenn. State U. (MTSU) next year.

I am writing this at the same time as the McEachern review, so I already intermixed some comments. I can't think of anything else that needs be said specifically about this night.

through the Hillgrove HS / Powder Springs 1 / July 12 show

As of July 14, I've seen 2 live shows this past Wednesday (7/12) and Friday (7/7 - Columbia, SC area) and the premiere movie broadcast. As of the 7/12 show, I've been to 142 shows going back to 1989.

Note that I write backwards in a sense. Friday's writeup is below the more recent show's writeup. Perhaps one day I'll clean that up.

more general than 2017

Originally the primary audience of this page were other drum corps fans who have seen at least a handful of great shows over many years. Perhaps I should be writing for a more general audience, though.

I'm very fussy about taking my daily long walk. Just after I got home from Wednesday's show, I wrote a friend, "Who needs a walk when one has a drum corps show?! I didn't even think about missing my walk until I was about 30 minutes away from the show coming home." Her response was "That good?" That deserves a detailed answer.

"How good is good?" is tough to answer. There have been shows that are good enough that they motivate me to pretty much literally scour the country; I've seen shows in 20 states. It gets to be a bit like an addiction that requires a more and more powerful dose. Although that isn't a fair comparison. Ayn Rand said that art is a concrete representation of abstract values. Objectively good art demonstrates THE Good. If they had a handful of great shows of different types to choose from, Objectivists would consider drum corps to be great art. I specify a handful of shows because there is a degree of personal taste involved.

In spiritual terms, a great show is a dose of heaven or a dose of magic.

Just below, I rate Wednesday's show an 83 and explain what that means. By comparison, a quick search through my memory banks pulls up Blue Devils (BD) 1999 at Murfreesboro and Phantom Regiment (PR) 2006 at quarter-finals. I was almost if not crying during PR '06 about 2 minutes from the end of the show. They weren't playing Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral precisely, but it was interwoven into another piece that I won't go digging for right now. Let's just say at times Wagner would have been thrilled by PR whether they were playing his music or not.

I'm not sure BD '99 has the same shelf life. In other words, it's not so high on my list anymore. When I saw it live at M'boro, though, I was stunned. It's still one of the greatest impacts I remember. It's kinda a floating feeling where I'm not quite on the ground for 20 - 30 minutes after the show.

On my personal scoring scale, I'd put BD '99 or PR '06 at something like 97 out of a 100. I leave room to be gobsmacked in the future. The scale is exponential to a degree. Perhaps I shouldn't score out of 100. Similarly, I would describe the DCI judge's scoring system as exponential. There is a huge difference from 57 to 80, and a very notable difference from 70 to 80.

Atlanta / Powder Springs / Cobb 2017 #1 (hopefully of 2); my 2017 season live show #2 (lifetime 142); unique venue #57

How Good Was It?

Good enough that I'd keep coming back to Cobb County (an hour away) or at least somewhat farther. Every year, I question whether drum corps is worth it. I don't blindly follow it. I've almost quit a number of times over 29 years.

In isolation, it might get me going to Nashville just to see it outdoors, if that's what it took. Wednesday was not good enough in itself to scour the country, though: to go farther than the nearest outdoor show.

In my personal scoring system, I'd call Cavalier's and Boston's show an 83. I refuse to pick between them. They are very good shows in different ways.

more general intro

Without publicly revealing details that could be in a web account security challenge question, let's say I have history with Cobb County high schools. I never heard of Hillgrove HS, so it's relatively new. (I looked it up later; Hillgrove opened for the 2006 - 2007 school year.) Thus, I added unique venue #57 to my list. The show was on Wedesday, 07/12. I mostly wrote this a day later, and I'm editing 2 days later.

Yesterday (show day) was the first metro-Atlanta outdoor show since 2008. The last time I went to the Georgia Dome was 2007 (because I've been boycotting domes for years), so it was great to go to a show that's not 200+ miles away. There is still Atlanta traffic to consider, and I visited friends in the area before the show, so I still didn't get as much sleep as I would have liked, but that didn't interfere with the show. I suffered mildly after the show, but that's ok.

The weather was as perfect as one can realistically hope for, and code name Mr. Z (Zildjian T-shirt) was with me. In hindsight, being alone and far from home and the rain delay probably affected my Columbia experience more than I thought. Thankfully I was still focused enough to be impressed by BAC (Boston (area) Crusaders) before the rain at Columbia. Also, yesterday, I effectively avoided my email, and / or there was nothing interesting in it.

Thus, I was very focused and enthusiastic. Waiting for BAC helped. Waiting for Mr. Z and his friend to see BAC helped. Overall, it was a very satisfying night of dc. (That was written the next day. Being more precise and giving the show a score was written Friday.)

Boston beats Cadets

That's my headline from last night. I was hoping to see it. Braw-ha-ha! As I said days ago, it's not anti-Cadets bias. I also learned *why* BAC (Boston) is so good this year, or at least a big factor. More on that later.

in performance order

This time, I saved the show schedule to help me write this. So, in performance order:

For the record, Appalachian Sound (senior / all-age) was a no-show.

Atlanta CV

Atlanta CorpsVets (corps veterans) is now known as "Atlanta CV." Historically, it's been common for corps to declare bankruptcy and change names. With that said, I don't want to "accuse" CV of that because I have no clue why they changed their name.

I'd heard from my neighbor at Columbia that my old band director was (a) drum major of CV. It took me a while into the show to recognize him. He looks good; it's just been a long time.

I hadn't seen CV is roughly 10 years. Given that, I was very impressed. My guess is that their show is roughly 5th place by DCA (senior / all age corps, as opposed to DCI "junior" corps) standards. I promise I didn't look until just now, and I haven't looked in years. I just looked it up: CV ranked 6th last year, and hopefully they will be 5th this year.

Upon further thought, I'll back off that statement a bit. I noted relatively recently that CV had moved up in the world a bit, but I don't remember if that was last year or 4 years ago. It was long ago / vague enough that they could have moved down, too. It's one thing to see it on the screen; it's another, though, to hear how much they've improved in 10+ years and be confident that they were higher-ranked.

When I last saw them, they might have been as high as 8th and as low as 11th. (Atlanta CV score history).

By DCA standards, I was impressed all the way around: brass, percussion, color guard. I don't care much one way or another for drill (formations) in general, and I sit too low to see them well anyhow. At some point maybe I'll write out how my judging standard differs from official. On a related point, I tend de-emphasize the close-up "marching and maneuvers" too.

Mr. Z commented positively on my old director's direction. I rarely watch drum majors, either, so I have no comment.

Jersey Surf

I saw them Friday, so I felt a bit foolish that I didn't notice until the last few moments of last night's show that they are marching cymbals. That used to be very common, but it's rarer and rarer.

I can't think of much else to add from Friday. One problem with going to so many shows is that I come to have expectation of every corps. Surf put on a solid, entertaining show, and that's all I hope for from their rank. With that said, there is a HUGE difference in impact between a score of 57.2 (Surf) last night and 81.5 (Cavaliers).

Mr. Z thought he heard some serious timing / togetherness problems during one section of 6 / 8 time. He's likely correct. I perceive that as an absence rather than hearing that specifically. I just know that sort of thing is the differnce between the 50s scores and 70s scores.


I know that Colts' ranking has bounced quite a bit over the years, so I tried not to have expections in this case. I just looked after I said that. Actually, they haven't bounced as much as I thought. The variable is whether they do or don't make finals (top 12), which is probably what I was thinking of. They bounced in and out during the era I attended finals *outdoors*.

They got 16th last year. I will predict with some confidence that they will be several ranks higher this year. If not, then the overall quality of DCI may have improved a bit since I've seen the non-Tour of Champion corps (9th and lower).

I thought it was a very solid show, but perhaps a more useful indicator is how impressed Mr. Z was. They were the first higher-ranked corps he'd seen since last year. BAC was going on after Colts. Between Colts and BAC, I was trying to convince Z that BAC was a whole 'nother universe. It's funny how the less-experienced fans forget what a great show sounds like in just one year.

Boston (BAC)

To continue with that, I became somewhat concerned that I was over-billing BAC before they went on.

scuttlebutt: poaching

Before BAC went on, I learned on good authority that BAC has a wealthy benefactor this year. They lured away Crown's color guard head instructor and probably some of the other guard staff. My informant guessed that 20% of the Crown guard followed their instructors to BAC. I think BAC hired other staff from other corps, too.

and back to the show

BAC met or slightly exceeded my own expectations. Before they went on, I feared I'd over-billed my own expectations to myself.

The guard does a saber catch on one leg with their other leg parallel to the ground. I caught that both times. It's stuff like that that gains my loyalty to a show. Mr. Z. reacted to a major saber drop--he looked down. Thus, he missed the impressive ensemble 5 toss. (5 is a guess. Even if I were paying very close attention, I'm not sure I could count spins in one viewing.)

I think I said enough after Friday's show, but BAC has the total package: guard, brass, percussion. Beyond that, the show is well designed in that it hangs together and holds interest from start to finish. One mark of a very, very good-to-great show is that it's impossible to lose attention no matter what is on your mind. BAC 2017 has that effect.

Mr. Z's reaction

On one hand, Mr. Z admitted even after the whole night was over that BAC lived up to my billing.

With that said... I use the politically correct term "African American" with a good deal of hesitation, but I don't want to turn this into (too much) political commentary. Mr. Z is black, or African American, so he had an objection to the life-sized hangman's scaffold and the mock hanging(s). His black friend and other blacks in the audience had a similar objection, I understand.

a brief historical commentary

I didn't want to argue the point when I'm enjoying a night of dc, but here we go...

I have some advantage because I've been watching the current or at least very recent Salem TV series (starring Shane West of Nikita fame). And BAC is the Boston area Crusaders. Also, I've been working with a Boston attorney for over a year, and I find it grimly amusing when I see his records when he goes to court in Salem to defend someone.

Thus, to me, it's immediately, blazingly obvious before they take the field that the show is about the Salem Witch Trials. I wasn't looking for it, but I feel safe in assuming that none of their black performers are mock-lynched. I'd imagine they'd considered that.

Over 500+ years, I wonder what the ratio of lynched white "witches" is versus blacks for any (alleged) crime. I suspect that the ratio is huge "in favor of" witches, probably even orders of magnitude. I suppose because of feminism we have some notion of witch lynchings, but, given that the vast majority of victims were white, ... Ok, I'm going to shut up now. I'm biting my tongue, but I'd really like to get through a drum corps review for now and not alter the whole nature of my web site.

I don't fault my friend, by the way. He's just reacting to very intentional and extremely often repeated propaganda.

Also, drum corps is targeted to the young. Hopefully they don't react like that. Mr. Z is somewhat older than I am. (Trying again to shut up...) Z's friend was a friend from high school, so they are the same age.

Cadets (ok, "The" Cadets, or, to me, CBC)

Cadets (once know as Cadets of Bergen County, or CBC) felt like they upped their game from Friday. I would have been ok if CBC beat BAC, as long as BAC was close.

I think I mentioned (days ago, below) that singing is a minus until proven otherwise. Their choir, though, is so good that they're a plus.

An entertaining show but I have so many great Cadets shows in my head that this year's probably won't remotely make my top list.

Cavaliers (ok, "The" Cavaliers)

As I said, SOKO thought they were "great" in the theaters. I'm not sure I'd go with "great" given my historical perspective, but after once in the theater and twice live, it grew a lot on me. I *really* enjoyed them last night. Now I'm much more excited to watch SOKO see them live and remember what live, outdoor drum corps sounds like. If she thought they were "great" in the theater and in a dome, I think she'll be very pleasantly surprised live and outside.

I don't dispute the 1.8 point difference from BAC to Cavies. Cavies won last night; BAC was second. The two shows are very entertaining in different ways.

Cavies color guard really got my attention last night. Flag work usually isn't as flashy as rifles and sabers, but I noticed at least one toss that was so well coordinated that it really registered.

On the percussion side, I should give a bit of background. At the highest level, dc percussion is almost binary--it's either done very well or mistakes are very obvious. With that said, it's not quite binary. If I'm really paying attention, I can usually hear the slightest deviation among drummers--well within enjoyment tolerance and the state-of-the-art, but I can hear it.

Occasionally, though, there are moments when the drum line is so perfect that the perfect notes stand out. Even after 29 years, that's magical to hear. There is a point in the show, during a "drum break" (feature), that the line is spread out close up from the right side (audience right) 30-ish to 45-ish yard lines. There were something like 20 - 30 notes (which happen in a few seconds) that achieved that level of perfection.

Z's friend's reaction, and more of mine

Z's friend had heard about the Cavaliers and other great corps for decades and had never seen them, at least live. Cavies 2017 is a very modern dc show, so I think that's part of the reason Z-f (Z's friend) was a bit disappointed. Cadets lived up to their billing with him, though, at least.

Part of Z-f's complaint was that the horn line didn't play enough, even though he acknoweged that the drum line was usually "on" even if the horns were "off." I'd say less horn time is part of the modern dc show. I bet Z-f was a horn player. As I've hinted, I don't mind the extra exposed-drum time. If it weren't for the quality of Cavies drum line, though, I may have agreed with Z-f. I suspect I was biased against such a show Friday, but I couldn't help but accept it last night.

back to me

In short, Cavies show was a lot of fun.

It occurred to me after BAC and before CBC, and I mentioned it to Z, that I was already happy with BAC. That made my night. Anything else was gravy. I think that helped in my mind with both CBC and Cavies.

Spirit of Atlanta

Quite a few times I've seen Spirit have to take the field after Cavies or another of the top 7 great corps. Spirit goes on last because it's their home show.

As was almost always if not always the case, Spirit holds their own and held their own after Cavies. I think that's the best praise I can give them.


Spirit did an encore. They did a corps song other than Georgia on My Mind that I've heard before but don't know the name or history of. Then they did roughly 2 minutes of their show, then ... on My Mind. I hadn't heard that in quite a few years; I'm not even sure how long. They overall encore was a lot of fun and great icing to the night.

During an encore, corps stand still and are thus not wasting breath or attention on almost literally running around the field, so it's a different experience and a better sound and lived up to encore expectations.

score announcement

I don't think I've ever seen so few people stay for scores. There were 30 - 50 of us left. I suspect, though, that there is *not* "an app for that" when it comes to scoring. Maybe I'll make one some day. It always takes a surprising amount of time to collate, calculate, and announce scores, even in the ever-cheaper-computer age.

The announcer gave Colt's 4th place ranking and score, and thus he was to the point I was anticipating--a BAC victory over Cadets. Out of the few people left, only 15 or so of us were relatively close to the announcer. Someone a bit closer approached the announcer after the 4th place announcement. The "intruder" grabbed the score paper and studied it for a while. Maybe he was griping about Colts versus Spirit and wanted to see the scores. I think the "intruder" knew the announcer, and there was some discussion I couldn't quite hear. The other option I can think of is that the announcer couldn't read something, but that doesn't seem to fit the interplay. In any event, there was an odd delay of a full minute or two.

Then I got my fist pumping and mini celebration when Cadets were announced in 3rd.

BAC versus CBC

Maybe I should explain why I'm so invested in BAC's win. I said days ago that it's not anti-Cadets bias, and I mentioned today (or implied) that I have a number of great, all-time-favorite Cadets shows in my head.

I suppose there is an underdog aspect to it. CBC has the 2nd most wins after Blue Devils. BAC has never ranked higher than 5th, and that took them until the year 2000 (in the DCI era starting in '72). They got 5th again in 2002 and then have dropped back for the most part.

I'm struggling here. I'm not conscious of all my reasons. I think part of it is that I like to see a serious subject and a serious show pulled off.

I'll probably keep thinking about this.

final notes (written the next day)

A very satisfying, entertaining night. (I mentioned my walk here, too, originally, but I moved that further up.)

Mr Z.'s show count

When I mentioned that last night was show #142 for me, Mr. Z wondered about his count. He implied my memory on that might be better than his, and we were always together. So, I'll give it a go:

  1. 2005 - Columbia, for sure. C-B and Z and I went to a new-to-all-of-us high school in Columbia. We were rained off the field, and the show was in the gym. That show may have been before the McEachern / Powder Springs / ATL-area show. C-B and I went to Birmingham, but I don't think Z was there.
  2. 2005 - McEachern. I'm almost sure Z saw "The Zone" Cadets show on the field. He thinks he went to McE, too, so I'll count it.
  3. 2006 - Columbia, Irmo HS. I remember this for sure. Once again, Z and C-B and I. This was the year the dog was running around on the field during a show. I went to Jacksonville State, Alabama, but I don't think Z did.
  4. 2014 - Nashville, for absolute sure. Without Z, I may have quit that year, but that's another story.
  5. 2015 - Murfreesboro, TN, also "The Masters of the Summer Music Games" / Tour of Champions, top-8 show. For sure. We went with another Z and his fiancee
  6. 2016 - Nashville. We sat separately again. Went with another K. For sure.
  7. 2017 - ATL / Powder Springs / Hillgrove HS

other shows?

I may do some cross-referencing eventually. I have records that should help shed light on other shows Z may have gone to.

Columbia (my 2017 season live show #1 (lifetime 141))

Preview of tomorrow's show (2017/07/12) in metro Atlanta

I'll start with the near future and work backwards. I saw Boston Crusaders live at Columbia (Lexington) SC last Friday (2017/07/07). Based on that and their scores 3 days later (Monday night), I'd love to see Boston beat The Cadets tomorrow (Wed night) here in metro Atlanta, and, based on the scores and my judgment, it's actually possible. Boston has caught up with Cadets quite a bit since Friday.

Cadets have a special place in my heart, so this is not a matter of anti-Cadets bias. I'm guessing Cadets will come in 6th like last year, or they might lose ground. Boston may come in 5th for the first time since 2002, which would be tied for their best finish in the DCI era (1972 - present).

In relatively recent years, Boston 2009 and 2014 were good. I haven't consistently seen them lately because they haven't consistently made the top 8. I did not see them in '15. I saw them last year (2016), and they were ok (and ranked 12th).

In part based on Boston's recent history, I was very pleasantly surprised Friday. Beyond that, though, their 2017 show is one of the better-designed shows I've seen since Cadets 2011 (1st place). That puts the show as one of the better-designed in my memory. Their execution of the design is good enough that I'd like to see them get to 4th place, but I think that's very unlikely, and their execution almost certainly won't get them beyond 4th.

Electronics weren't allowed in drum corps until 2003, so singing with amplification in general is a long topic, perhaps for another time. In this instance, though, a woman (on the field) sings Wicked Games (the Chris Isaak song, not the other one). I like that song because it appeared in a good-to-great SYTYCD (season 10) dance (by Amy and Travis Wall. I hedge on good versus great in part because I'm fixated on other Amy Yakima dances, especially this one. I'll have to watch the Travis Wall dance again later. It was also amusing when Wicked Games showed up in Fifty Shades Freed (book 3).) The point being that I like the song and it was well-sung, so it at least didn't take away from Boston's show in my mind.

SOKO (code name) thought Cavaliers (2017) at the movie theater were "great." I saw Cavies and Cadets at the theater and live last Friday. I'd say they are both entertaining, but I hope Cavies and Cadets are around 7th - 8th because I'd like to think their shows can be beaten by the corps I haven't seen (BD, PR, SCV) and Crown and Bluecoats (which I saw only in the theater) and hopefully even Boston.

As I recall, last year, Spirit had a full rock band, complete with electric bass guitar. That's a bad start with me, and puts them "right out." This year was a traditional and decent show, and entertaining.

Jersey Surf was ok. They were plenty good enough for the first live drum corps I saw this year.

Review of Corps not at tomorrow's (Wed's) show

First, some personal history. I'm a big JS Bach fan. Within the little I've heard of his vast work, "The Little" Fugue in G Minor is one of my favorites. I own the Canadian Brass version, and I bought their master score because I was curious how it was written. (It's mainly 16th notes--not as exciting as I thought, but I'm glad I know. I was a drummer, so notes going up and down the scale confuse me. :) ) Oddly, though, it never occurred to me what a top-rate drum corps' horn line would sound like doing The Little Fugue.

Thus, I was rivited when Carolina Crown starts their show with Little Fugue and continues it well through the second round--trumpets starting and altos / French horns on the second round. For those who don't know, it's an understatement to call Crown's horn line "top rate." I'm not quite into the details as I used to be, but I think it's safe to say Crown's horn line has won first place or vied for it since 2007.

Apparently the sound of the first two rounds of Fugue were not as distorted by a domed stadium (broadcast in theaters) as much of the shows were, so it didn't sound any better live, but it was magic either way. Perhaps unfortunately, I didn't cry live, but, God willing, I'll see them twice more live this year and maybe even an encore if I'm really lucky. (To be clear, I have not been to a domed stadium in person since 2009. I've only barely tolerated the early season broadcast in theaters.)

As for the rest of their show, I don't know. I'll let you know when I see them again.

Friday's show was rain-delayed for 1.5 hours. Crown went on last and started at around 11:10pm. Yes, I am the King of the Night Owls, but the logistics of getting to a 7:30pm show 200+ miles away means that I didn't get as much sleep as I'd like. I was still intent by the time Crown went on, but I'm afraid the rain delay took something out of me and others in the crowd. I wasn't paying enough attention, but I'd say 50 - 60% of the crowd stayed after the rain delay, which says something about drum corps fans.

Also, I had a strange incident with email that probably distracted me too much just before Crown started. I hadn't checked email for hours before that. I only inadvertently checked because I wanted to email a fellow fan. I was sitting next to someone else from Forsyth County. Given that I drove to the show alone, I figued I should keep in touch for future reference. He'd probably know someone who would drive or ride with me next time. I saw just enough of the wrong email to distract me.

Based on the theater, Bluecoats look like they have a chance at another win. I look forward to seeing them live.

Back to the Columbia review

In hindsight, I'm not sure it was worth going alone. I may have gotten a Crown encore without the rain delay, but there was no encore. That might have made it worth it. I was also hoping in theory to be there in time to see Crown practice. They were on the River Bluff HS (show site) field until about 5:45pm, I'm told, but I got there at about 6:15.

With that said, I would have wondered if I hadn't gone, and I'll try harder to find others next time, and maybe I made a contact who will help with that.

my history in numbers

More of my numbers:

Not that I'm counting or anything. Once upon a time on my web site, I had detailed reviews of 2000 - 2005 and some degree of commentary going back to 1989. Maybe I'll re-post that one day.

More / Bibliography

Part 1, before July 12

Part 2, after July 12

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