Show Review

2007 Cadets Review – DCI Fan Network Finals Video

2007 Show Concept:  This I Believe. Truth, Value and the Personal Experience Called Drum Corps

2007 Repertoie:

Symphonic Movement
Blue Shades Amazon
Adiemus: Cantata II Amazon

Show information courtesy of

The corps starts spread out on the field on every yard line, forming a giant block.  The horns start backfield and open with the opening chords of Symphonic Movement.  Members of the hornline drop out of the form, walk across the field, and speak to the crowd, wearing wireless microphones controlled from the sound board in front of the field.  Major fast paced drill action after an accelerando leads into a company front with a huge statement from the horns.  The opener features small brass ensembles throughout the piece, especially during a wicked double tonguing moment from the trumpets while half time marching towards the front, which leads into a big statement.  Each major section of the music is introduced by a member of the corps as they start to play the next segment.  The opening is very fast paced, which we’ve come to expect from the Cadets.  A great rifle and saber ripple across the front leads into the final segmant of the opener, which finishes faster and louder than any other part of the piece.

The second piece opens with a quote from Martha Graham.  Stabs from Blue Shades are interspersed through the quote.  This section of the show deals with an average corps rehearsal day:  Basics block, brass ensemble, and full corps rehearsal, complete with staff quotes.  The year started with a lot of negative quotes from the “staff”, although still very benign compared to what staff REALLY says when the corps doesn’t perform well.  After building up to what seems to be a hit, the corps stops and a member says, “OK, let’s do something with NO voice!”.  The crowd roars, either in amusement or approval.  A trumpet soloist does a great job leading the corps into the big hit of Blue Shades, while the mellophones get their moment in the sun during the hit itself.  A few more positive staff quotes, then the corps “brings it in” for the finish.

The closer focuses on one member of the corps, who, up until Finals, talked about how he didn’t fit in until he found music.  This was changed for the last show, removing any “emo” aspects of the narration and just focus on how he loves music in its various forms.  The music itself is intense and the corps is running all over the place, including a very crazy drill move with the horns in a block rectangle moving across the field from left to right.  Two blocks within the rectangle rotate in opposite directions during the move, while the guard runs through the middle of the block, moving from right to left across the field.  The drum feature is just as intense, complete with an insane bass roll and a finish which thunders throughout the stadium.  With a final statement of what he believes, the narrator leads the corps into the final moments of the show, the fastest and hardest drill of the performance, finishing in a company front at the front of the field.

Final impressions – First off, let me state right off that I am not a fan of narration.  It is rare for me to enjoy a show which features narration.  2007 Cadets is no exception.  While I am amazed at what the music and visual programs achieve throughout this show, I am constantly annoyed by the voice overs which only serve to block my appreciation of those musical and visual achievements.  For a corps with so much talent to purposely hide it for the sake of concept is a problem.  Despite my strong feelings about this show, it placed exactly where it belonged.  The talent of the corps, as well as the incredible music and visual program, pushed this show right to the edge and was championship calibur.  In the end, Blue Devils simply performed better.

Show Review

2007 Blue Devils Review – DCI Fan Network Finals Video

2007 Show Concept:  Winged Victory

2007 Repertoie:
Bird and Bela in B Flat (2nd Movement)
Celebrare Celeberrime
Introduction to Rite of Spring
Pegasus Amazon
Firebird Suite Amazon
The Kiss 

Show information courtesy of

The show opens with the horns spread out in a large open block rectangle.  The guard is spread out in front of the block in a wing shape.  Drums are up front and start the show with the pit.  Snares and tenors trade off and march around each other while playing tom drums on the front side line, a gimmick from earlier in the 2000s.  Horns start backfield, then turn front with dischordant stabs.  Pit plays tons of runs before all of this resolves into the Pegasus statement and a major park and blow, which gets the crowd going.  Horns turn backfield again while the pit plays a riff before the next segment of the opener, the Space Chord.  Horns are in a diagonal line across the field, which the drums march in, around, and through.  After the drums pass through, the horns in that segment of the line start making the line wave.  The space chord resolves into a major statement, but the crowd barely has time to recover before the drums begin their feature.  A lot of body movement is incorporated into the feature, which a portion of the hornline joins.  Sixteenth note runs from the horns lead into a major pit accelarando.  The guard is all on rifles at this point and is tossing all over the place.  Horns turn backfield again and restate the Pegasus theme before turning back front and finishing the piece in a similar manner to “Day Danse” from the ’94 show, complete with the drums high sticking in different patterns to add visual flair.  Guard changes uniforms, going from very dark to white in the female section, with more shades of blue on the males.

Second piece opens with the pit, while the horns scatter and form up in pairs before they enter.  This piece is very much like a chorale, slow with quiet dignity, although the pit has more runs in the background.  The guard spends a lot of time in a group doing dance, but the second half features flags, while one of the women has blue shaded wings (’80s BD) and one of the men has a streamer (also ’80s BD).  One last Pegasus quote from the tubas before transitioning to the third section of the show.  The horns play backfield, still in chorale mode, while the drums, double-timing across the back of the field, play a lot of notes subtly.  Horns turn back forward and play a fanfare before moving into the meat of the third section.  Volume comes back down and, with tasteful playing by the pit, slowly builds to a hit.  Drums are up front again, moving across the field and preparing to return to the tom rack.  The toms lead into the final segment of the show, The Kiss, which the corps milks for all it’s worth.  The horns arc around the field, forming a block rectangle as they prepare for the main statement of the piece, then peel off from the formation from front to back, forming giant wings on the field as the guard wears large double flags of white wings.  Horns collapse into a pod on the 50 and crank out the ending, complete with an Amen chord progression.

Final impressions – I have a confession:  I spent most of 2007 HATING this show.  I thought the book was not meaty enough for the scores the corps received and, anytime I downloaded an APD, I would just listen to the show once and move on.

Then I got the Quarters APD, the studio recording made close to the end of the season, and the Finals CDs.  Now, when I look at my iTunes play count, this show is at or near the top of the list.  I don’t know what changed my mind, but the sound the horns put out is one of the most balanced and in-tune sounds I’ve heard from a drum corps.  The energy, even during the soft sections of the show, is intense and never lets up from beginning to end.  Nobody under BD was able to step up and match them during Championship week and I have no argument with the 1st place results.

Show Review

2008 Blue Knights Show Review

2008 Program:
Knight Reign

2008 Repertoire:
Jeux D’eau
Amazing Grace

The show opens with a trumpet solo of a minor variation on Amazing Grace as the rest of the corps performs the trademark body movement of the Blue Knights. The tubas have an awesome growling low note they repeat a couple times before the horns join in, facing backfield. The corps uniforms have been modified. The dots from the corps uniform of the 90’s are now on the left breast, above the heart.

The second piece has a definite John Mackey feel to it. More body movement from the trumpets as the mellos play the melody. Great unison rifle catch from the guard. The drill is very spread out throughout most of the piece. The horns have a very balanced sound from top to bottom. The first Trittico quote of the show comes near the end of the piece. Expect more as this is an anniversary show.

I don’t recognize the next piece, but am assuming it is the Ravel. Lots more body movement in the horns, as well as drill, as the pit is featured during this section of the show. Bass drums trade off with the pit as the music develops. The horns perform a great rippling visual effect up and down the 50 to finish the song, reminiscent of the Cavaliers.

Piece #4 is another piece I don’t recognize. First big horn hit of the show in a while at about 7:30. This is a great sounding hornline, but I feel like they’re getting gyped from playing and showcasing their talent. Drumline has a feature up front now as the horns play behind them.

The closer needs some work from a visual standpoint, but the horns collapse into a company front before bringing back Amazing Grace. The guard uses colored silks, basically forming a rainbow across the field. I don’t understand the ending to the show at all. They finish reprising the final chords of their 2006 Barber show, but it doesn’t fit with everything else they played up to that point.

I don’t really get this show. The music lacks impact, the horns don’t even play for almost a quarter of the show, and the selections don’t really tie into one another. Yet, for some reason, this show is placing as high as 8th, which, I assume, is purely on the talent level of the members. Blue Knights have been accused of being esoteric and not connecting with the fans in the past, but this show doesn’t seem to give the corps a chance to connect, either with the fans or with a coherent theme. This is the third time I’ve listened to this show and I’ve had a difficult time concentrating because there just isn’t much musically to hold my interest. I see this show trading off with Boston for the 8th and 9th spots, but it’s possible Blue Knights could drop to 10th if Blue Stars continue their surge this season.

Show Review

2008 Santa Clara Vanguard Show Review

2008 Program:

2008 Repertoire:
The Chairman Dances
The Man in the Bath

The guard starts the show in business suits on side 2 of the field. I don’t know how these fit into the show theme yet. The horns and tenors are on side 1 in a block triangle formation, horns on the outside. The rest of the drum line is on the back sideline. The trumpets play on mutes to begin the show.The horns unwrap out of the triangle, circle around in three individual lines, then wrap back into the triangle. The opening drill, while fun to watch and full of Pete Weber goodness, is dirty, which is most apparent in straight line formations. The horns finish the Chairman Dances opening intro drill in a Star of David formation, which is essentially six small triangles, another reference to the show theme. The drill is very kaleidoscopic and is intricate while easy to follow. The guard has a lot of equipment work during the main section of the opener, Man in the Bath, which is always a plus, and they seem to achieve it will. I only say seem to as I am not a guard expert and have a hard time watching both the guard and the drill at the same time. Drill usually wins out since I know that better. The corps performs a version of their “T Push” move from the late 90’s/early 00’s for the final hit of the opener, then turn backfield and wrap back into a triangle, this time on side 2, as the pit plays the final notes of Chairman Dances.

The second piece, Eclipse, is a new piece for me, and makes me think of The Mummy with an Egyptian feel to the music. The drum break after the first hit of this piece seems to be shortened, which is too bad as I think the drum writing for SCV this year is the best it’s been since 2004. Man in the Bath is a very aggressive piece and one I find myself listening to repeatedly, especially when the corps goes into a jam session near the end. Once again, the horns finish the piece in a triangle formation.

To open Cloudburst, the horns turn backfield and move the triangle across the field, dissolving it as it moves. The closer has been the weakest section of the show this year for Vanguard, but they have been making changes throughout the season and it is starting to come together. There still isn’t much of an impact to the closer, however and, until the big finish, you’re pretty much left hanging. The big finish is big, however, and is led off with the Vanguard yell while ending with one final triangle formation as the cymbals perform the Viper in the middle of it.

The closer definitely holds Vanguard back. The first two-thirds of this show are some of the most exciting moments in drum corps this year, but you lose all of that once Cloudburst starts. I almost feel as if the design staff had a fourth piece in mind and hoped to use Cloudburst as a transition piece between the intensity of Man in the Bath and what would serve the corps as their closer. Instead, they’re trying to make Cloudburst do both and it just doesn’t quite work. Because of the closer alone, I don’t see SCV placing higher than 5th this year and wouldn’t be surprised if they finished 7th.

Show Review

2008 Bluecoats Show Review

2008 Program:
The Knockout

2008 Repertoire:
On the Waterfront
The Boxer

The show starts before the opening announcement with a great Wide World of Sports moment. The corps plays fanfares from Rocky and On the Waterfront, forming two “corners” as a drum major “ring announces” both the Contender and the Champ. The show officially starts with On the Waterfront. Throughout the opener, the corps forms a boxing ring which appears and disappears, showcasing the fight between the two boxers. The piece ends with the Contender knocked out, down on the mat, as the referee counts him out.

Not wasting much time, the Contender and his “trainer” (voiced from the pit) begin working out for the rematch. The bass drums create the effect of a punching bag, increasing the speed of their rolls as the Contender improves his punching ability. The rest of the second piece, featuring music from the various Rocky movies, is a training montage which would make Rocky, the Karate Kid, and Bill Conti proud. The drum line, which is by far the best section of the corps, really shines during this piece. The piece ends with a triumphant Rocky fanfare as the Contender is physically ready for the rematch.

Mentally, however, there’s still plenty of introspection to be had, which is where the next piece takes us. Starting with the love theme to On the Waterfront, the horns move into an arrangement of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer. This arrangement is based on a performance by The King’s Singers and includes the horns coming to the front of the field and wailing on a shout section based on the “in the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade” section of the song. The song finishes with the hornline singing the final lines.

The closer returns to the Rocky music and brings us to the much anticipated rematch. Throughout the fight, quotes from On the Waterfront appear as the Contender struggles to hold his own once again. Finally, the Contender gets the upper hand (or glove) as the corps plays the music from Rocky when he went the distance against Apollo Creed. One final uppercut and the Champ is down. The corps counts him out, then, in victory, plays the final chords of the show.

As I stated before, the drum line is the best section of the corps and mirrors the Contender of their show as they can themselves take down the Champ for the title this year. The hornline is no slouch, but the use of On the Waterfront, while in line with the theme through Marlon Brando’s character, doesn’t seem to work as well as the corps hoped and detracts from the horns ability to perform emotionally. The drill is dirty, even on simple straight lines marching across the field, and will be a major hinderance to the placement of the corps as a whole. While I first saw this show as a 7th place show, rewrites and strong technical performances by the brass and percussion may be enough to push this corps into 6th, possibly 5th, by the time final bell rings.

Show Review

2008 Phantom Regiment Show Review

2008 Program:

2008 Repertoire:
Ein Heldenleben
Battlefield (from KA)
Dance of Exstasy from (Danses Fantastiques)
Toccata (from Piano Concerto No. 1)

The show begins with the corps in full character – Horns and percussion as Romans, guard as chained slaves. A trumpet fanfare from Ein Heldenleben starts the show, leading into the main Spartacus theme we all know and love from ’81 and ’82. The guard comes front and forms a human chain of chained slaves. This, of course, will not last. Let the Third Servile War begin!

The drill for the 2nd piece is fast paced, involving the hornline covering a lot of ground quickly. The music is very angry, stacatto, and in your face. Drumline is another out of this world group of performers and a strong contender for the percussion trophy in Bloomington. Two slave gladiators are fighting up front during all the noice. Once there is a winner (Spartacus, I assume), the “Romans” call for him to DIE!!! leading to the first “murder” of Phantom’s show.

The third piece is when Spartacus and the slaves first revolt. The horns trade difficult licks back and forth before the drumline takes over, allowing the horns to practically run all over the field before coming back in with the classical version of a drum corps park-n-blow. The mellophones finish the song with a giant unison note, courtesy of former mello player J.D. Shaw.

The Spartacus love ballad is next, performed by a mellophone who completely nails the solo, both in terms of music as well as expression. The hornline moves backfield during the solo, forming a heart with the mello soloist as the bottom point. Unfortunately, the love doesn’t last as a Phantom DM/Roman emperor steps forward to kill Spartacus’s love interest. This is murder #2 and the most effective of all the death we experience in this show. As Spartacus carries his love’s body off the field, screaming in grief and anger, the sound of Roman legions can be heard as the slaves gather their spears and shield and face off against the Emperor’s finest. Unfortunately, history does not change as the slaves are defeated and Spartacus is killed (murder #3).

The close of the show has Phantom returning to the Khachaturian ballet. As various corps members yell out the famous “I am Spartacus!” cry from the Kirk Douglas movie, the corps builds to a big finish, reprising both the opening fanfare and the love theme while coming to the front of the field to finish the show.

While the music captions (horns/percussion) are definitely championship calibur and the arrangements do an incredible job of showcasing this fact, the visual design is holding this corps back from contending for the 2008 title. While the corps does march well, the drill itself is not very interesting and it’s easy to ignore when theatrical moments occur throughout the show, such as the various murders. This show will not pass Blue Devils or Cavaliers and will finish somewhere between 3rd and 5th, in my opinion. There are rumors of a new closer for the show, but, as of San Antonio, I have not seen nor heard it, so it’s hard to say if it exists and, if so, whether or not it will be enough to push the corps to the top.

Show Review

2008 Cadets Show Review

2008 Program:
…And The Pursuit Of Happiness

2008 Repertoire:
American Elegy
Round 4
Apollo Unleashed

This year’s Cadets program is essentially an episode of “This American Life” distilled into 11 1/2 minutes. The pre-show setup even includes radio “promo” announcements telling you to stay tuned for tonight’s episode. The corps begins along the sidelines and end zone lines of the field with just a living room set in the middle of the field.

The opening vocal is a direct quote from the Declaration of Independence stopping right before the line from which the show title is taken. The corps starts backfield , slowly swelling the music until they turn front and perform the main theme from “American Elegy”. It’s not a hit, per se, and the corps turns backfield once again as the radio narration returns. Unfortunately, it’s hard to pay attention to both the narration and the music, especially as the narration demands more attention. The narration is well rehearsed and the best Cadets have used since amplified vocals were allowed.

The second piece also starts backfield but is much faster featuring brass fanfares. The percussion enters the show for the first time as the horns turn front and gives the crowd the first real musical hit of the show. The drill is very clean and the Cadets should vie for Ensemble Visual this year along with Cavies, BD, and Crown, as well as others I have yet to review at this point. The music, while played well, does not distinguish itself much compared to other shows I have seen.

Section three of the show features back-and-forth moments between the brass and percussion, brass on the left, precussion on the right. The piece is another high energy selection with the tenors receiving the most crowd reaction to their solo. The audience also enjoys the screaming trumpet soloists which pop up throughout the piece.

While each section of the show deals with the protaganist’s “pursuit of happiness” in different areas, the music does not change enough to reflect those different pursuits. Except for the opener, each piece is essentially a variation on a theme – fast-paced, tense, with lots of notes for both the brass and percussion. Eventually, the music blends together to the point where it’s difficult to distinguish which piece of music is which. What’s more, since there isn’t enough time to do a true radio show, it’s hard for the interview narration to convey more than just the intros into each section. Sarah Jones talks about what she was pursuing, but doesn’t have the opportunity to go into details.

Despite these issues, there are great musical and visual moments throughout the show, including the end of the fourth section, the last full musical selection of the show. The closing moments have the brass and percussion form a smiley face (think “Eat ‘n’ Park” cookies) and, as with the opening, the horns playing backfield.

Unfortunately, the way this show is designed, the narration is given the chance to shine at the expense of the rest of the show. There are great moments for the brass and percussion, but they are just that. The rest of the time, the music is either filler between narrative moments or background underneath those moments. As a result, this show could suffer from a performance caption standpoint. Also as a result, I do not see this show placing higher than third as shows like Blue Devils and Cavaliers have a more balanced and complete package at this point.

Show Review

2008 Carolina Crown Show Review

2008 Program:

2008 Repertoire:
Toccata and Fugue in D minor
Barber of Seville
Ninth Symphony (Ode to Joy)
Mid Summer Night’s Dream #9
Suite Bergamasque (Claire De Lune)
One Hand One Heart (from West Side Story)
Somewhere (from West Side Story)
Hngarian Rhapsody
Festive Overture
1812 Overture
Appalachian Spring
Hallelujah Chorus

The corps begins at the end – the end to the Candide overture, playing it backfield before going into the first big hit. The opening drill is very kalidescopic and fun to watch, while the first big brass hit is glorious. 80 horns and 16 tubas have that kind of effect, even when listening to the camcorder field on the Fan Network recording. The drum line has improved over last year and is a classic Lee Beddis book, full of tasteful writing which packs plenty of punch for the fans.

After the Candide ending intro, Crown plays the overture from the Barber of Seville. This piece feature the first insertion of another piece – specifically, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy melody from his Ninth Symphony. The baritones are very strong near the end of Seville. The piece ends with a “Shave and a Haircut” quote for a little fun.

The mood changes with the ballad of the show, Claire de Lune. This is performed in a very straightforward manner for most of the piece, but, in the middle, West Side Story’s One Hand, One Heart makes an appearance, followed by segments of Somewhere near the close of the piece. Michael Klesch does a wonderful job of integrating these melodies into the arrangement with seamless transitions between the different pieces. The end of the ballad features the trumpets playing a wonderful chord backfield while the low brass plays the haunting final notes to WSS. This may be one of the most moving musical moments for 2008.

The tempo picks back up for the drum solo, which also features the tubas performing the most famous of Franz Lizst’s Hungarian Rhapsodies. Not wasting time, however, the corps goes right into the closer, which is a medley of Candide, the 1812 Overture, Appalachian Spring, and Festive Overture, before finishing with the closing strains of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. I have heard the closer described as a composer who is trying to find the perfect ending, but thinks of so many that he ends up using them all, a very apt way to finish a show titled Finis. The drill finishes in a crown formation. The crowd finishes on their feet. Crown could very well finish in the Top 3 for 2008 with a very balanced package of powerful brass, tight percussion, and exciting visual.


Box Center Episode 2008-6 – Interview With the Abbotts

After over three months, the latest episode of Box Center is finally available for download. Join Drum Corps Planet Managing News Editor Kevin Gamin as he takes a look back at a wild DCI regional weekend, looks forward to the drum corps events of July 19th and 20th, and features an interview with the Abbott family, a drum corps family which is a little different than the norm.

Listen to it Now!

Show Review

2008 Cavaliers Show Review

2008 Program:

2008 Repertoire:
Busido – The Way of the Warrior
Ronin – Masterless Samurai
Ken-jutsu – The Art of the Sword
Fumeiyo yori shi wo – Death Before Dishonor

The Cavaliers, as with Machine and 007, totally embrace the theme and character of their show from the very start, with the drum major bowing instead of saluting. The opening drill is symmetrical, which adds to the effect of Michael Gaines writing. The Cavaliers’ horn sound is very distinct – Instead of four different types of horns, you hear the sound of the same horn in four voices. The pit is in the same samurai uniform as the guard this year. The drill is incredibly clean for July, but I expect that with the way the Cavaliers utilize the dot system. The rifles in the guard aren’t white, but are what I would guess a bamboo-esque color. A great moment in the opener occurs with the horns in rapidly expanding and contracting boxes, chanting loudly while the percussion plays distinctly Japanese rhythms, complete with Taiko drums. The guard finishes the opener in some kind of Japanese symbol – not yin-yang, but close, and most likely related to samurai.

The second piece features a lot of pitch bending in the horns, a wonderful effect which also shows the strength of their ear training and ability to play in tune in general. The drill features both regular time and double time marching, with forms flowing through each other, another Gaines trademark. At one point, the horns form a block triangle, which, in and of itself, isn’t a big deal, but the transition drill to get there is incredible. Another great drill moment features a circle of tubas pushing down through a rectangular block of horns. As it does so, the horns scatter as if water yielding to a dropping stone.

The third movement opens with a classic Cavalier move not seen since 1998 – snake drill! This movement again features Taiko drums and chanting, as well as plenty of drumline high sticking and movement. The horns and guard get into the act, as well, complete with a guard member taking down a horn player.

The next movement starts off with the horns forming what appears to be Japanese writing before moving into a major statement, including more chanting and drumming. The tempo picks up after the statement and corps goes into pure Cavaliers Finale mode. While watching the multi-cam video from Denver, there is a great shot of the pit taken from the side as they literally ram 16th note runs in unison, followed by another where they’re pounding the snot out of their keyboards and cymbals while the horns and percussion punch out musical stabs.

Like Blue Devils, this is a championship-calibur show. There is, however, one weakness: The music. There are no major melodies throughout the show which remain with me and, while the corps has one of the best balanced hornline sounds in DCI, it does sacrifice some volume and impact to do so. This hasn’t stopped the Green Machine in the past (5 titles in 8 years attibute to that) but it does give other corps an opening a chink in the Green Samurai’s armor, if you will.