/ reviews

Show Review: DCI 2017 Tour Premier - 06/22

the show

2017 DCI Tour Premier in Theaters presented by Fathom Events.


image credit - feedback?


the lineup

(click the name of each corps below to be taken to their website)

the scores (thanks mdelcorso)


a disclaimer

This review is coming from the context of someone who marched DCA between 2006 and 2010 on both G bugles and Bb horns. Growing up I spent a lot of time listening to shows pre-2003, so it's taken me some time to wrap my brain around the direction of the activity since 2005. I have an intensely negative stance on the use of synthesizers and/or piano to supplement any part of the hornline, as well as vocalists, amplified soloists, and extreme brass modulation via synthetic effects. In my opinion, this is distasteful in the face of the massive amount of work that the hornline puts in to achieve the powerful wall and pyramid of sound that fans have come to know and love across the decades, and it has a very minimal place if any in Drum and Bugle Corps.

That being said, I love me some drum corps, and I have to look past it to keep enjoying and supporting the activity. I'll try to keep the amp and synth bashing to a minimum (minus some extreme saltiness about one of my favorite hornlines towards the end here..)

I'm a brass guy, so it takes me a few viewings to absorb anything outside of horns. Visual, Battery, Auxiliary/Pit, and Guard books should be taken with a grain of salt, as I really can't take it in the same way as my primary section. I just know how to go doot doot and what sounds tasty to me.

It's also important to remember that I'm just some dude that likes drum corps, it's literally day one of the season, and we've only seen six performances so far. All of this is subject to the lovely ebb and flow of the season ahead. When talking about any corps or production, remember that these kids paid a lot of money to participate in this activity that they love, and work extremely hard to execute their show as best as humanly possible.

With all that out on the table...

lets get into it.


Crossmen and Blue Stars

It's hard to tell if it was the theater not understanding what Drum Corps is or if it was the live stream not being balanced until Cadets came on, but I don't feel like I can fairly review these two groups with how quiet the sound was. It was literally 100% quieter than what it should have been for both groups. I could hear the guy in the back row's clothing shuffling around over the horns.

Overall they seemed like solid shows for June from some standard bottom-six contenders, and I'm interested to see these later down the road. I felt like Blue Stars had a more entertaining show overall, but Crossmen did still have a certain flair to them that will keep me in my seat when I see them next time. There were some clear timing tears, feet out of phase, and end of show exhaustion from both corps, but nothing blatantly out of place for June. I'll reserve placing predictions until we get to see Academy, Troopers, Scouts, Blue Knights, Boston and Phantom. There's no telling how the bottom six are going to play out until we get to see what the rest of the landscape is coming up with this year.

Crossmen had a really interesting use of field space and prop placement, but overall this show didn't grab me. Maybe I was too distracted due to the audio balance issue from our theater's perspective. Overall visually interesting, but otherwise a bla·sé show for me.

Blue Stars had a hilarious delay of start due to their piano not functioning out of the gate. I know she was probably mortified that this happened at their first show. Sorry :-(

Horns really caught me off guard, I haven't been a follower of Blue Stars previously, but I'll definitely keep an eye out for these guys as the season moves forward. Lots of potential there. The odd choice of pop music in the middle of the show was really off putting. I'm interested to see late-season changes and cuts to that, but I won't hold my breath. The friend I brought with me is a WGI nut, and he was losing his mind over Guard and Visual work.


Holy Name Cadets

Oh. My. LORD.

This was like watching an opera. The composition and arrangement of all the pieces across the choir, the incredible pit and auxiliary battery, the SICK sounding drumline, and the intensely powerful hornline. The whole package has a way of really grabbing you with its insanity. Acting from the members around the tone of this production was well executed. The visual effect from the robes swirling around that body work is mesmerizing.

Such a powerful show, but in a way kinda cluttered. There is a lot of stuff going on here, and it feels like there's a good bit of dirt and kinks to work out of the production. Highly recommend that if you typically hotdog during Cadets, stick around. It almost feels like everything they've been doing over the last decade has finally clicked for me in a very very good way. I hate vocalists during drum corps, but this actually fits in the full package. If you can get past the choir and really take in what they're selling, it's a hell of a ride.


The Cavaliers

This show's testicles had testicles. From start to finish it was massively entertaining. Dripping masculinity, charm, swag, and pure power from the hornline. It feels like they still have the solid foundation of skill from last year's membership fueling the fire, and I cannot wait to see this at the end of the year considering how well Propaganda matured over the season.

I still have some reservations about horn effects being as drastic as these were, however I can overlook it as it's an obvious direct nod to Isao Tomita's all-synthesized version of Holst's suite. Only made more impressive due to it being a contribution from Matt Owen of Eclectic Tuba, which I believe are hand-crafted live effects rather than pre-recorded overlays.

I am in love with this show already, and I'll be buying a t-shirt for sure.


Carolina Crown

There has been a very yummy evolution of Carolina Crown and CrownBRASS over the last few years. Out of this World, Inferno, and Relentless are gold standards of brass excellence and execution, and they are very well deserving of the Jim Ott Memorial award last year. Everything about their hornline makes me shiver, and those kids should be proud of the product they've been putting out lately.

The first half of tonight's show was an incredible display of their continued domination of brass in DCI. This is a very Crown flavored book with some insane licks, unbelievable articulation, and they sound loud as balls. I'm surprised something didn't break from how loud and DARK they were. There is such a stark contrast between this hornline and the others from tonight.

The second half of the show is a complete left field tone change disaster that doesn't match anything I would expect of a Crown show. A vocalist takes over for the rest of the show, flippantly masking the entirety of the book from all other captions. Crown was LOUD. Insanely loud. SO loud that they had to blast this singer even louder, and amplify the pit even louder to mask over the hornline. I can't even believe this has made it this far into the process without Matt Harloff trying to choke slam someone.

I don't think it's an exaggeration or a projection of my own feelings onto what I heard when I say that

Crown's brass and percussion sounded PISSED.

This corps oozed anger over this chick masking their insanely hard work with out of tune and unenthusiastic singing. I believe you can actually see hatred on the faces of all members. What I could actually hear over this performer sounded like it was stripped down and constructed completely outside of the format that Crown is known for. None of the arrangement matches the first half of the show. It doesn't make any sense at all to me why this design decision was made, and I'm fiercely disappointed that my favorite hornline is being mistreated by a wild design decision like this.

Rant over. Moving on.


The Bluecoats

My favorite part of this show was their show designer being interviewed and having roughly said that they need to move forward and try to progress from the success of last year to newer better things... and then the first part of their show sounded exactly like last year's show. I may be wrong, but it also sounds like some of their sound clips are getting recycled from last year, too.

Very interesting work with the stage and use of the space around it. I'm not entirely sure what was going on with that back sideline microphone array, or how I feel about their use of a billion speakers and effects over the whole hornline. One of the trombone soloists' amplification devices failed towards the end of the show, and again, apologies go out to them. Not a great feeling for the first show to go wrong, no matter the circumstances. I really hope that the safety of the members is being carefully looked after as this stage goes through the season's set ups and break downs. This has all the mixings of a disaster with a lot of injuries if this stage collapses, which I absolutely hope does not happen to this wonderful corps.

The uniform is... interesting. Kinda looks like they picked up an under armor shirt and some suspenders from Wal-Mart and ran with it to the crafts department for some sequins and glitter. Somehow they make it work, and I don't actually hate it at all.

Brass book was actually kinda boring for me. Insanely clean for June, and this will be a hot contender for the top 3, unless they peak early and rest on the victory of last year rather than claw and fight for the top spot. It's almost like watching a version of Blue Devils with soul and character that nobody's started hating yet. Interested to see where this goes this season.


moving forward

I'll be attending the DCI Southeastern Championship in Powder Springs, GA at the end of July, and the Big Loud Live! theater broadcast during finals week. I love Drum Corps a little too much, and I'm really really excited that the season has finally kicked off again. The little band nerd in me is getting all giddy.

If you haven't, you should totally subscribe to the Drum Corps Scores and Rankings email list via their facebook page to get a nightly recap as the season unfolds sent directly to your inbox.

Please don't forget to show some love to Open Class and DCA as well, attending any shows you can to support all of the activity, not just the top 12. Support your favorite drum corps by buying a t-shirt or other souvenirs at a live show's sovie booth avenue, or from their website's store. Also considering subscribing to FloMarching's broadcast package if you can't make it to any live shows!

Good luck too all the kids out there busting ass in the heat to put on some insanely excellent entertainment for fans all across the country. We can't wait to see what you have in store for us.

-ds