Colorado High – Drums Along the Rockies 2023

The Cut Outs taking the field.

July 16, 2023

I want to add to the list of drum corps on the rise. Last night many world-class corps achieved their highest scores in relation to this point in the season, including Pacific Crest, now ranked in the top twelve. Their program is well-conceived, the kids look great, and they perform like a championship night corps. The fans showed their appreciation with a standing ovation. Observing their warm-up in the open field outside the stadium, I observed a certain strive in their approach. Keep pushing, PC, for that Saturday night slot! Another evening standout was the Troopers, garnering a crowd-favorite show again with Lasso the Sun, a logical step in the evolution from their 2022 show Voracious. We were reminded, admonished, and shamed into action by the drum major, who vociferously implored us to kick the carbon habit. The corps strives to conquer the problem, inching closer to the goal of lassoing the sun with each performance. Bravo!

Water, water!

It is an absolutely perfect day in Fort Collins. After a hearty Mexican breakfast of Huevos Rancheros, I found the Mason Trail. It is a busy Sunday morning with bikers, runners, and walkers. Looking at the map of trails and bike paths for the Fort Collins area, it is extensive. This comfortable bench will allow me to continue the story, watch the people wiz, and stride by. I observe many seniors riding this morning.

Steinway, just like mine, only longer.

Yesterday, I logged about 7 miles of walking. Today will exceed that. I have slowed down; no more pounding the knees running. Running is what many of the current drill movements include. 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, off beat to reach their next spot, is what every marcher strives for. These are the moves that matter. Yesterday morning while on the way to Fort Collins from Greeley, I stopped in on the BAC morning block. 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. During lunch, I recharged at the Eaton Community Center next to the school, hogging up their air-conditioning, water, bathroom, electricity, and WIFI. 

Another one!

At the appointed hour of 1:00 pm, I returned to the stadium lot 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 largely teenagers surrounding him. When he completed the last chord, he turned to us and smiled. 

These are the afternoons that matter.

The arc in the hot lot.

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 does not quit. Our valleys are small and narrow, with a vertical landscape behind our views. Here the landscape and sky are larger than life.

Drill Captain, Aaron.

I arrived at the honorable hotel in time for another hearty through the grounds of Colorado State University, another sprawling campus. On the way to the stadium, I serendipitously met John from KHS America, a provider of instruments to several corps. Thank you, John, for your support of youth music education. The stadium announcer warned everyone to move inside as a storm cell approached. Thunder in the distance confirmed his concern, so I headed directly to my destination at a pace, the Lory Student Center, where I hoped to find a piano for play. I found two and gave each a college try. Kudos to CSU for making these accessible to the students and visitors. 

Look familiar?

Now it was time for drum corps. But first, a little tailgate session to gather with some BAC board members and alums outside in lot 210. Thanks, Jeff, for the cold hoppy beverage and nosh. I am happy to be a BAC interloper/groupie, especially while traveling alone in a foreign land. Comfortably in my seat at the 50-yard line second row on the second tier well above the field, I settled in for an awesome night of drum corps; regrettably, I missed the Battalion. Kudos to DCI and the corps for their excellent managed show that ran without a hitch from mother nature or electronic issues. Large-scale props, tarps, copious speaker arrays, and trains of percussion instruments wend their way on and off the field. It takes a whole corps to move all that regalia. The appreciative crowd recognized the return of Seattle Cascades. This started my evening of rare entertainment I had traveled so far to enjoy. The Academy, Pacific Crest, and Troopers preceded a needed intermission. Each show gains clarity and recognizability every time it is performed. Departing from their studious look, the Academy paints a pleasing blue picture that soothes the eyeballs. This show will grow on me, and I will begin to understand its meaning. The Troopers, brown and black, evoke the swagger and cocksureness of the Western ethos. 

Avast, a ship approaches.

The day turns to night as the stadium lights highlight the colorful and sparkly uniforms on the field. Mandarins’ red and white marchers meld and separate, standing out clearly against the green field. The Sinnermanportrays the underside of society with edge and power. They set us up perfectly for the Blue Devils. I can describe BD’s style as powerful sublime, two seemingly opposed concepts. That unique horn sound is captivating. The chronic energy of the marchers and color guard draws you in and takes you for a 13-minute ride that leaves you spent. But, lo. Avast, a ship, is coming in. Its crew is on a quest for the prize. Be it the White Whale or a metallic bauble, no one quite yet knows. 

What’s in a logo? Lawson’s Finest in Colorado.

Boston Crusaders performed the show that everyone knew they had in them. The crowd around me responded with excitement and showed their appreciation at several points throughout the show, beginning with their introduction to the field and ending with everyone standing. To my pleasure, Aaron, the drill instructor, joined me for their performance. Having him next to me after observing his rehearsal today was a treat. I could clearly see the results of their work, and he confirmed it with his continuous applause. The maturity of the BAC instructional team is paying off with steady incremental improvements across all captions. 

Double company wave.

Time to check out and figure out what my free day in Colorado will be like. I will keep you posted later. 

Peace out for now.

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