Colorado Adventure for DCI

Brooding weather surrounds the crew of BAC in Eaton, Co.

July 13, 2023 – Along the Mill Brook

Rain, rain, go away. The ups and downs of the Mad River in July.

When it rains, it pours! That is the story here in this humble valley nestled in the eastern foothills of the Green Mountains of Vermont. The Mill Brook has been doing its job without incident while I was away on my mid-west DCI tour of Illinois and Wisconsin, shedding copious amounts of water off Mount Ellen, General Stark, Baby Stark, and Molly Stark. These are the peaks that gird the Mad River Valley to the west. Our steep slopes and narrow valleys make for some exciting weather events. For us skiers, snow is our friend in the winter, no matter how much we get. Conversely, rain can be a challenge when it comes too much, too fast. Much of Vermont has not been so lucky. Communities all around have experienced catastrophic flooding. Hopefully, we will continue to dodge the bullet, and I will head out on my Colorado adventure for Drums Along the Rockies tomorrow as planned.

Along the swollen Mill Brook.

Since returning from my Midwest tour, I have been an online junkie, watching videos and checking scores. This year seems more competitive amid the rankings, with a few standout corps well up from their finishing rank in 2022. Phantom Regiment (5), Mandarins (6), Blue Stars (7), and Troopers (9) are on the move. There is one corps solidly in the place where we most often find it, in first, the Blue Devils. The Cut-Outs is a highly stimulating display of art in motion to music with dance. And oh, that music and dance! I turned up the Bose system to max while on Flo during the ballad, Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell, which could be my favorite. Bravo! I will be at the 50-yard line, row 48, on Saturday to let that one really reach inside the thalamus gland. It is sure to trigger my built-in ocular watering system.

Captain Ahab.

Boston Crusaders is currently edging out Bluecoats and Carolina Crown for second place in the rankings. It is still early in the season, and these standings will surely shift throughout the long summer yet. I have experienced Boston’s White Whale several times now. Given my growing relationship with this extensive family and watching this show evolve since spring training, it is hard not to be a fan of BAC and favor this show. However, this one, in my book, is a winner. In music and movement it tells an epic story of Captain Ahab’s demise with passion and precision. The program is witty and emotional, with regular blips on the EKG chart along the journey. I will not tire of experiencing it again and again at seven more competitions and an unknown number of rehearsals. Saturday, in Fort Collins, BAC will perform head-to-head with the Blue Devils for the first time this season. It should be an exciting evening as BAC follows the Blue Devils in performance order this night. This corps is due for a performance that will show the world what it can be. I feel it now, like the electricity in the sky outside.  To quote Captain Ahab, “I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”

July 14, 2023 – Greeley, Colorado

These are the evenings that matter.

By the grace of providence and the wings of man, I am now in Colorado. Greeley, that is. Captain United flew the friendly skies direct from BTV to DEN, and with a budget rental, I am firmly ensconced at the local mid-range hotel that I am honored to be a member of. I achieved my goal of reaching Eaton High School, where the Boston Crusaders are encamped in time for the evening Block rehearsal. I knew that they would have an ensemble rehearsal late in the evening. Tomorrow, they will perform at that time, following the Blue Devils’ performance at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins. These are the nights that matter. Everyone on the field was focused, with no chatter and complete attention to Gino, Collin, Michael, and Aaron on the mic and the drum majors on the field—150 to 167 off the met, all in.

Time to call it a night.

Thunder and lightning surrounding the high school stadium shortened the ensemble, and everyone was sent inside. I retired to this locale with a handy can of VooDoo, Juicy Haze IPA from Fort Collins. I am so glad to find good brews at most of my DCI venue cities for a relaxing post-travel and drum corps wind-down. There is something in the Colorado air.

July 15, 2023 – Saturday 9:00 am

Well, it is Saturday, a show day. This evening, I will be at the 50-yard line, up high in Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, for Drums Along the Rockies, with a forecast for a perfect night of drum corps. This morning, I awoke to partly cloudy skies with a cool breeze moving across the flat landscape of Northern Colorado. The Rocky Mountains can be seen flanking the western skyline in the far distance. I am still in Greeley, sitting comfortably on a Gallery Green Natural Area bench. Not to sound too disparaging, but this is a glorified stormwater retention basin amid the sprawl of shopping centers, parking lots, and hotels. Thousands upon thousands of acres of impervious surfaces surround me amid the 21st-century auto-dependent sprawl. This development pattern can be found on the outskirts of every city in the land—box-store, franchise ally. 

Poudre River Trail: One of Colorado’s many fine multi-use paths.

The forecast is grim back home in the Mad River Valley, with heavy rains expected again Sunday into Monday.  There is nowhere for any additional rainwater to be absorbed, which may once again inundate those already affected and possibly others. And now add to that landslide warnings due to the highly saturated soils. The clay slopes along Mill Brook are particularly vulnerable. Damage reports from last weekend’s catastrophic flooding are heartbreaking. My family will keep an eye on the Russell Ranch along Mill Brook while I am gone. Now, it is time to head back to Eaton HS for a quick check-in with the BAC crew and get stoked for tonight’s show. But first, a walk on the Poudre River Trail, a national recreation trail nearby. 

Peace out for now.

Irrigation giants roam the landscape in the high plains of Northern Colorado.

4:00 pm – Fort Collins, Colorado

My drive from Eaton to Fort Collins was an idyllic cruise through the open countryside of northern Colorado. The mountains before me to the west became increasingly visible as the haze cleared. Snow in the higher elevations was evident. Vast fields of corn flank both sides of the road almost as far as you can see. Several skeleton-like structures on wheels hundreds of feet long grace across the tops of the corn, spraying the precious water necessary up high in the arid west. The road shoulders are perfectly maintained and clear of vegetation. This is monoculture on steroids. Huge puffy clouds launch high into the atmosphere, boding for a possible storm amid the otherwise pristine blue sky that seems to go on forever. Our valleys are small and narrow, with a vertical landscape behind our views. Here, the landscape and sky are larger than life.

The morning block breaks for water.

I arrived at this honorable hotel in time for another hearty walk through the grounds of Colorado State University, another sprawling campus. I found the Lory Student Center, where I discovered two pianos and gave each a college try. Kudos to CSU for making these accessible to the students and visitors. So far today, I have logged about 7 miles of walking. I have slowed down; no more pounding the knees running. Running is what many of the current drill movements include. I stopped in on the BAC morning block while on the way to Fort Collins from Greeley. Drill Captain Aaron was up high, leading the brass and color guard ensemble through many pages of the book. With the met, on air. The member’s attention rewards his witty, sarcastic, leading style and focus while he coaxes the finer points of the drills. The brass kids are highly accomplished horn players, but that is not enough. They must also become highly skilled at body movements that mimic dance, ballet, and gymnastics – together, in unison. These are the mornings that matter. There are some parts of a show when one might see a mellophone player sprinting to the next dot to form that unique structure with many others in a snap or beat. The discipline necessary to perform a piece in perfect time, keeping the upper body quiet while the lower body is moving in step, offbeat to the music, to reach their next spot, is what every marcher strives for. These are the moves that matter.

BAC horns in the arc.

After recharging at the Eaton Community Center next to the school, hogging up their air-conditioning, water, bathroom, electricity, and WIFI, I returned to the stadium to observe and hear the horn line warm-up with the indomitable Captain Cipriano leading his crew of trumpets, mellophones, baritones, euphoniums, and tubas arrayed in the arc in front of us. Instructors Steve and Jarrod and others stood with me as we soaked in the audio bliss. Gino said little; his hands spoke most as he took the shipmates through the well-known prescribed sequence, each time with a nuanced emphasis on a section and variation on volume and duration. The met was the constant driver of the tempo perfectly matched by Gino as his hands and arms directed the corps with emotion, poignancy, and passion throughout the sequences. He, too, toils in the hot sun daily with the primarily teenagers surrounding him. When they completed the last chord, he turned to us and smiled. These are the afternoons that matter.

It’s time to make my way across campus for the show. There is thunder in the distance. I’ll catch up with you later. 

Comments are closed.