For the 41st time, the Drum Corps International summer season began, this time in Akron, Ohio, at the Bluecoats’ Innovations In Brass competition. Like last year, the first show of the year was also filmed and will be shown to the nation in cinemas all over the country on Monday. Also like last year, the scores for this show were kept secret and, along with the Louisville, KY, show’s scores, will be announced at the end of the cinecast. As a result, the crowd left the stadium not knowing who was on top, although many, including myself, had an opinion as to who placed where and why. Since there were no announced results, I have reviewed the shows in the order of appearance, capping each review off with my predicted placement for each corps. Also, since this was my first read, I tried not to get too specific with each show, hopefully giving my readers a general overview of each concept and level of performance presented by the corps.
Blue Stars: The Blue World
After last year’s attempt at avant garde show design, replete with scaffolding, synth drum kit, and music from the Bourne movie trilogy, the Blue Stars have taken a step back and turned to a classic music and drum corps selection: Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The show is not a straight interpretation of New World, though, and is more along the lines of Capital Regiment’s 2003 Glassmen’s 2004 shows. You definitely hear melodies from the source material, but the Blue Stars make it their own. The brass is the strongest section of the corps, which makes the combination of the arrangements and the performance one which the crowd will enjoy. Percussion is good, as well. All of this is overshadowed by the visual and guard, however, which is very dirty, something which stood out big time last night, especially when two trumpet players fell over each other during a close quarter drill move. Fortunately, cleaning is something the drum corps activity excels at once the season starts, so it will be interesting to see how much the corps improves over the season.
My prediction: 6th
Phantom Regiment: Turandot
Phantom has this recipe down to a science – Take a classic story, include at least one musical selection the corps has played in the past which is at least loosely related to the theme, and stage at least one death. Add brass, percussion, and visual seasoning to taste. The 2012 production is no exception and fans will feast heartily on this dish all season. The corps has come out strong for the first show of the year and got the first non-courtesy standing ovation of the night as a result, especially with the closer of Nessun Dorma and an excellent flugelhorn soloist. The guard uniforms are especially striking, adding a brilliant red to the stark white and black canvas of the corps uniform. The performance was very clean, but this may be an issue as the corps could plateau early in the season as a result. I do feel, though, that the staff has plenty of additional material to add to the show as the season progresses, something else Phantom is good at, including last year.
My prediction: 3rd, possibly 2nd
Carolina Crown: For The Common Good
I had no idea what to expect fro this show. I know Fanfare For the Common Man, as most of us do, but Dreams is a piece I have yet to hear. That was before I heard more notes coming from Crown’s hornline than most of tonight’s other corps combined. The drill takes a cue from the horn book and features the corps moving A LOT. As a result, the show is very demanding and, while performed will for the first show of the season, very dirty. Percussion, unfortunately, stands out as significantly dirty, with fuzz happening that I would not normally expect from a Top 6 corps. That being said, this show is designed to win DCI and already draws the audience with both technical demand and moments of sheer drum corps awesomeness. It’s too early to say, though, whether this show will finish on top or if it becomes one of those “If they only had two more weeks” shows that finish in 3rd or 4th.
My prediction: 1st
Cavaliers: 15 Minutes Of Fame
Taking into account that this was the first competitive performance of the season, I have to say that I was disappointed by what the Cavaliers offered up. The performance in general felt flat to me, especially coming after Crown’s show. I can remember snippets of music (Don Giovani, Pagliacci), but the only thing that really stood out to me was the guard, and that was mainly the solo tosses and the uniforms themselves. If you’ve seen the tour shirt (and you have if you saw my pictures), you’ve seen half the guard uniform already, which is a nice touch of meta. You’ve also seen the general color scheme for the rest of the uniform, which, once the guard pulls off the personality the show and the uniform demands, will be even more awesome. I definitely need a second read on this show before I can truly pass judgement on it, but, just for this performance, this was the lowest of the top tier corps tonight.
My prediction: 5th
The Cadets design staff took a huge risk after taking last year’s title by choosing a show based on Christmas music. I remember one of my friends who is on the brass staff of another corps dismissing the Cadets as contenders this year because of their show theme. Personally, I wish I had responded to that with the example of the ’91 Cavaliers, as their show, while not Xmas themed, relied heavily on advents which are associated with the holiday and nearly took the title in the process. I can’t say just yet if this show is championship caliber. What I can say is that the naysayers have underestimated this show and it will do very well, especially once the real ending is put in place. The Cadets are doing with Christmas music what the Blue Stars are doing with Dvorak – performing variations on themes which allow them to make the music their own while keeping the audience engaged. This show does have a lot going for it, including a great park and bark section in Jingle Bells and a moving ballad in Do You Hear What I Hear? Even with the corps going all cream with maroon accents this year, this show is full out Cadets and could be Top 3 this year.
My prediction: 2nd, maybe 3rd
The Bluecoats definitely had home field advantage tonight, building on their 40th anniversary celebration from the night before, and the corps answered with a powerful performance. The corps comes onto the field in a very exaggerated gait as if they were entering a masquerade ball, embracing the show theme right from the start. The horn line sounds great, even after losing two of their top brass instructors to SCV, and is another in a long line of powerful Bloo hornlines. The opener uses Masquerade to good effect, as well, a theme which returns throughout the show. The problem I have with this show is that the second half loses momentum and it’s hard to say what the theme really is during that section of the show. This is definitely a corps which wants to show that 2011’s 7th place finish is a fluke and will do significantly better, especially once the show theme coalesces and the designers tweak the show.
My prediction: 4th
I was able to take pictures of each performing corps last night, as well as some other stuff I saw before the show. Here they are for your enjoyment.