August 10, 2021
“It’s rainin’ outside, and that’s not unusual. But the way that I’m feeling is becoming usual.” – Uriah Heep. I am sitting comfortably in the Hilton Gardens in Akron, OH feeling great after another great night of DCI. The Bluecoats home show never disappoints. Again, in the Infocision Stadium, I had an awesome seat, first row, second tier, at the right 45. I’m looking out the window thinking about how I am going to spend my day as it pours buckets. How fortunate we were when yesterday’s thunderstorm cells passed over before the show, the positive effect of evaporation cooling was welcome even though my seat was wet, a discovery that I made once I sat down.
Earlier in the day, I awoke in my hammock at the Highland Shelter on the North Country Trail. It was a quiet night with the exception of two bard owls having a conversation. I decamped from the primitive site and returned to the trailhead and my obedient steed, the Silver Bullet. Repacking the box-topped rig and taking care of business nature-style I was ready to travel to Akron, destination BAC rehearsal. Once again, I poked the bubble and sat in on a rehearsal of the entire ensemble in the stadium of this massive high school in the suburbs. Gino was directing the rehearsal from up high as the kids were giving their best in the 90+ degree heat. Each take was an improvement on the previous as they worked through the book in segments, standing still, on the move, first on the metronome and then on and off the met. Finally as they reached the closer and gave it one more dedicated go, Gino let the kids go to lunch ten minutes early. It is hard to describe the bond between the instruction staff and the members. I get my share of coachable moments as a substitute teacher and have bonded with the pre-K through 6th graders. They love Mr. Russell, especially when I teach music class. I am also a requested sub for the middle and high school music department where I always show a DCI clip. Their favorite is the closer on Tilt with that amazing trust-leap. I have really enjoyed my relationship with this team of teachers and inspirer, as they inspired me when it is my turn.
My wet butt did not deter me from enjoying my perch and the entertainment below at the Infocision. This is another great stadium that is high and early, meaning we are up high but still close. My seat neighbors were once again quite cordial as I apologized in advance for my sometimes over-enthusiasm. Next to me was a nice lady who once marched with The Cadets (they are everywhere!). She and her drum corps savvy family hugged the 40 yard line to my right and really enjoyed the creativity of the shows. Their positive spirit was infectious. To my left, I met another music teacher, Kevin. He and I commiserated about the need to promote youth music education. We agreed that the dreaded Covid-19 has had a serious negative impact. The director of music at my local high school where I substitute teach has expressed his concern that kids are not as interested as there are so many other attractions (distractions). We agreed that every kid should have the opportunity to be inspired by music and that all barriers should be removed such as the cost of instruments. Kevin has fixed up and donated many instruments to deserving kids in his long career. These are my peeps.
System Blue, the Bluecoats alumni band played some favorites to the local crowd that we all enjoyed, followed by the Columbus Saints. This small corps strength was its diversity of age, gender and race. The young guard member on the far left was the hit of their show. I expect that in the future she will be auditioning for one of the corps that followed. The line-up that followed has been the same for four previous nights with a slight shuffle – Music City, Spirit of Atlanta, The Cadets, Boston Crusaders, and the Bluecoats. Though I have seen these shows three times previously, I enjoyed them even more. It is amazing how fast things improve, a testament to the work ethic of DCI, that even though there is no adjudication this year, that are working just as hard to be the best they can be. The moody arrangement of Music City is really growing on me and the corps has really polished their delivery both musically and visually. Spirit of Atlanta launched us into another layer of the stratosphere with their strong performance and full brass sound. Georgia is on my mind this morning as I write.
The battle of the brass ensued with The Cadets setting the marker. It is impossible for me to explain the link between my ears and my eyes that triggers the tears at the opening trill of Rocky Point Holiday. Goose bumps just popped up again writing about it. What a joy to watch the drum major lead the corps enthusiastically during their classic piece from Van Morrison – Moondance. It was a marvelous night. Now that glove was thrown and it was BAC’s turn to turn up the volume and intensity with Zoom. The well-oiled machine took the field, erecting the video screens and setting up the massive pit in record time. Normally there is a time limit, however this year it does not matter and that allows for more stuff to plug in. As the bouncing Waldo (the lion) moved across the four side-by-side large video panels when it booted up, the crowd reacted to each time it hit a corner, an unexpected General Effect moment. Now it was time for me to concentrate on the fifty-four-member color guard. These kids are spectacular! Coming back into season following a two-year winning streak, this guard is the best in the business. Maybe DCI will allow for increasing the number of marchers as these kids literally paint the field with color and movement to great general effect. Brass-up. How interesting it would be to get at least one caption scored – Brass. Not to be left in the dust, though last in performing order, the Bluecoats took the field. Talk about painting it with color. The tarps, ramps and other moving psychodelia spread across the 1.32 acres were richly adorned with a Peter Max-style look, fitting for the retro-duo performance of the Beatles anthology. Who knew back then, that this music would be such a gas to hear in the twenty first century performed by seventy-five bell-forward trumpets, mellophones, baritones, euphoniums and tubas. Far-out man! And, to top off the evening; the Bluecoats played an extended encore of their favorite traditional pieces as well as the closer of the show in stand-still. This is rated the best encore in DCI by me so far. Thank you Blooooo..
It is time for me to check out and hit the road, so I will post this for now. I am headed to Zoar, Ohio in search of the North Country Trail.
For a taste: BAC 2021 – Akron