It is was a sigh of relief heard across the landscape and the moment drum corps fans everywhere anticipate the minute a champion is crowned from the previous season. Six of the best corps in the country curbed our appetite for entertainment, blowing our ear drums wide open and stimulating our visual senses. Another summer of drum corps and unbelievable pageantry has begun.
For the six corps that took the field in Detroit last evening, there is no more guessing about what they will be putting on the field. Typically, you can’t be too harsh or too quick to judge a corps first show of the season. They are, after all, still putting their programs on the field and working out whatever kinks or glitches they may come across. Sometimes, and even after I made it home after the show, I have to remind myself not to be too quick to judge.
Here are some quick thoughts on the performances last night.
Blue Stars – 62.00
The Blue Stars are one of the best storytellers in the activity and I love what they are doing with The once and future carpenter and really feel that they have a lot to “build” on (pun intended) and plenty to clean up. The design of this show takes us back to the type of design we have come to appreciate from the Blue Stars. They do have some nice design elements incorporated in this show, but they are going to have to improve the performance quality and beef up what they are asking the corps to do if they want to move up in the final rankings this season.
Phantom Regiment – 64.00
For the last several years, Phantom Regiment seemed like they were going to be the corps to staunchly hold on to the past. They weren’t really going to accept much in way of the innovation that other corps have adopted and succeeded with. Last night, Phantom showed that they are willing to move into the future and took a nice step forward with This New World. The corps replaced the traditional helmet with a hooded look that I must say I really enjoyed. In fact, I think they should have done that with last year’s show. I do have a slight issue with the props. While they do create some nice staging areas, they clearly had mobility issues getting them into place and I am not exactly sure how they fit into the show. Again its early, it’s my first time seeing them. Perhaps it will make more sense as the season progresses.
Boston Crusaders – 67.30
As it turns out, my guess that the Crusaders would take the literal path in their interpretation of S.O.S.. This is also something I am completely okay with because they did a bang-up job doing so. So that I can end on a positive note, let me get a few not so complementary thoughts out of the way. I am not so fond at all of the corps purple uniforms. To me, they don’t fit that show. There. I said it. The compass on the field is drawing a lot of criticism on social media because it is too much like the burning stakes from last season. I am “ok” with it, I wish they tried something different, but they can’t reuse that again next year for sure. That aside, this may be the best show that Boston has ever fielded. Yes, it is better than Wicked Games. The color guard is already looking like they are nearly finals ready and they have some very nice drill design. I would keep an eye out for Boston because they like they could be a force to be reckoned with this year. I was nearly close to ranking them ahead of the Cavvies.
Cavaliers – 69.35
I had a bit of a bipolar moment with the Cavvies last evening. When the show started I loved what they were doing. I loved that we got hints of the Rorschach test inkblots built into the drill. I loved the intensity that I have come accustomed to with the Green Machine. We also were reminded how capable this group is of powerful, energetic performances while infusing it with their new approach to show design. Then we got to Oh what a world. After I finally stopped laughing (which might have been the intent?), the only thing I could ask myself was… “What the hell?” Now the last few years, they have had sections similar to this where it has developed and improved over the course of the season. This year, I wouldn’t be shocked if they ditched that tune altogether. I will make one prediction. Those “skirts” the color guard puts on during that part of the show may not make it to the next show. That was awful and they need to be scrapped.
Carolina Crown – 70.00
The final performance of the evening brought us Crowns Beast. This was one of the most anticipated shows that drum corps fans couldn’t wait to experience. Rick Subel, the corps artistic director and production director, mentioned during the broadcast that this year’s program was turning away from the abstract style of show they attempted last season and back into a more conventional approach. This corps, with Subel at the helm and Jeff Sacktig writing the drill, has a powerhouse of a design and instructional staff. To be honest, this production has a very clean and even intricate design and the performance of the group is stellar as always. I am, however, not so sure I agree with the overall design approach. The corps is adorned with a very tribal look. They have bones scattered across the field, which I wish they had used in a more functional way and more incorporated into the show. Emotionally, I was never captured that there was some giant fearsome beast in my presence. Instead of bringing this dragon to life building a dramatic, dark, even fearsome setting, we were left unafraid. This show is too lighthearted and despite an image of a dragons head front and center – I am not convinced.
Bluecoats – 70.30
The Bluecoats treat us to Session 44 this season complete with massive and human sized yellow chairs scattered about the field. This was a very thoughtfully constructed approach to portray a jam session from the performer’s point of view. They have a young lady performing live vocals, something I typically abhor because they are usually terrible (looking at you Pioneer). She was fabulous and the Bluecoats were brilliant about how they incorporated her into the show. My initial gut reaction to this show was that I loved it. I loved it that I wanted and expected more. I failed to evaluate the total program for what it was. So much so that I initially had them ranked behind the Boston, the Cavvies and Crown. After I slept on it and pondered what they actually accomplished I came to realize I unfairly punished them. I was still looking for that one memorable visual moment, that I still need from this (and any) show. The Bluecoats deserved that top spot, and I am man enough to admit I was initially wrong.