80 + 1 – BAC On the Move Again

The BAC brass pre-show stretch.

August 3, 2021

Zoom is the operative word as I traversed several states in the pursuit of my favorite summer things – hiking, and the musical and visual experience of DCI, youth performances. Caffeine, cruise control, and rock n’ roll was the mode in the Silver Bullet (Volvo) and I arrived safely at Patriot Place in Foxboro, MA in record time. 80 + 1 mph to celebrate the 80 + 1 years of the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps (BAC) and the many fine members past and present who were feted for their service and talents. A family reunion large enough to fill a stadium was enlarged by a corps of youth musicians and performers – marchers. Guard, battery, hornline, and percussion ensemble, assembled in an opportune concrete amphitheater outside the meeting hall. Following a healthy social hour and award presentations to inductees of BAC Hall of Fame and honorary corps members, it was time to hear some drum corps.

Words of encouragement at training camp in Castleton University, Vermont.

Elevated on the terraces above the hundreds of welcome pairs of eyes and ears of the attendees on the esplanade below, the corps performed an animated stand-still of their production ­– ZOOM! The event was a celebration of the eighty-years of the corps history, disrupted by the dreaded global pandemic, and a BAC comeback-year that zooms into the future. Our eyes and ears were fully engaged as we absorbed the intensity of the horns, percussion, and the richly portrayed, fast paced imagery on the four larger-than-large video panels that towered above the corps, more than twice their height. The cumulative energy was almost too much even without it being set in full motion across a 1.32-acre rectangular field. 

A makeshift amphitheater at Patriot Place.

My only opportunity to visit the encamped kids and watch a rehearsal at Castleton University in Vermont back in July was brief as they had the night off and there was no ensemble rehearsal in the evening. But, I did get snippets of the energy and the power of the brass, and a hint of the increased number of color guard members. The ever-present and obedient pit went through many takes with the battery and then adding the brass into the mix for short segments of the book. Over and over again the members reset, each time gaining in clarity and precision each time. These takes were punctuated with frequent water breaks in the hot sun. I would have to wait to hear the entire program as unfortunately, I missed the Castleton Community Show night due to my Michigan mission with the North Country Trail Association, my first in-person board meeting. 

Al, still hauling the food trailer.

By plane and auto, I went from MI to VT, to MA, transporting into the epicenter of wow with Zoom, and what a way to get there. To say that those in attendance at the grand comeback celebration were elated is an understatement. Cheers, whistles and exuberant applause confirmed the 23-month drum corps drought endured by the members, dedicated fans, alumni, and volunteers was over. According to MC, Mike Woodall, the BAC now stands for Becoming A Champion, as the corps continues to set its sights on becoming the best in the world. This is a reasonable goal since they seem clearly ready to play to a full stadium of fans and have a good head start on the next season where the competition that selects the champion will begin again, presumably. I used to say that the scores didn’t really matter to me. Well, that was not really true. I too get caught up in the numbers. What is it that attracts us to such a pivotal analysis? Competition is healthy I suppose. For now it’s time to love all of the corps equally. 

The Cadets.

August 5, 2021

This is the time of year that I go completely opposite of my normal routine and mission. Normally, I am hiking in the Green Mountains, attending a (Zoom) board meeting for my two current boards, walking with my friend Ivey, or advocating for pedestrian access and trails. But now, I am taking to the road again in the Silver Bullet (Volvo) to complete my DCI tour through to Indianapolis; a city that you might say is auto-centric (pun intended). I am currently along the Mill Brook, arriving home from the Boston area and having attended two live and in person, outdoor drum and bugle corps shows. Quincy and Lawrence, MA each hosted junior drum corps shows that featured Music City, from Nashville, TN; Spirit of Atlanta; The Cadets from Allentown, PA; Bluecoats from Canton, OH; and the Boston Crusaders. 

The Bluecoats.

Having now seen and heard them all twice, I personally perceive a battle of the brass emerging as these same corps will be touring together and they seem to all have mouthpieces with flame throwers. My ears are still ringing, and my head is still singing from the assault of the outrageous sonic blast, both harmonic and disharmonic.  I will not begin here to describe each corps’ programs, but Lucy kicks ass, and BAC is back on the move! The brass and percussion have never sounded better. It was great to see the gleam in the eyes of the instructors whose tans bely their commitment to building champions. And, if you love The Cadets, you will love The Cadets. Rocky Point Holiday never fails to raise the hair on the back of my neck. My eyeballs were shooting droplets like sparks. Once again, a very intro-retrospective program of this venerable corps of 86 years. Oh, how I love the Boston drum corps people who give it all back with hollers, whistles, shouts and more. Music City and Spirit of Atlanta set the pace for a great evening of drum corps’ return to the Beantowners and got their fair share of love in return.

Future percussionists enjoying the warm up.

Prior to the show in Lawrence, I dallied in the lot, not knowing that the fans were discouraged from doing so for obvious reasons. This I regret. However, I am happy to have had the chance to say hello to The Cadets’ corps director Ron, who graciously accepted me when I ran away with the drum corps (BAC) back in 2017 and started this blog. I knew then that my summertime mission would be to write and tell this great story of love and family. I wanted to hear some Lucy, but I never found the Bluecoats hornline. I did locate the BAC brass in a nicely secluded area of the campus, the land being shaped in circular orientation that fit the arc well – a natural amphitheater. My ears did not lie to my brain as I instantly experienced a remarkable preciseness of tone and quality that I had not yet heard or felt before. I relished the rare drum corps experience as I was the lone interloper watching them come together in a huddle silhouetted against the orange evening sky.

Oh, that BAC brass sound.

Time to wrap up this post and continue to pack the Silver Bullet. I will be taking all of the necessary gear to hike and bike on some awesome trails between shows along the way, including the North Country Trail. I’m looking forward to reuniting with my trail friends, drum corps friends, and family long not seen and hugged. 

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