August 6, 2019
I am on the campus of Bluffton University in Buffton, Ohio. This campus is under siege by the Boston Crusaders whose ranks are spread out among the many fine campus halls under the welcome shade trees. The sopranos are in one quad, the baritone in another. Tubas are in a field behind the stadium and the mellophones are somewhere. The percussion battery and pit are on the stadium field, tirelessly working on their challenging musical book. This is crunch time with two days of rehearsal at this temporary sanctuary in the middle of the vast cornfields of western Ohio before the DCI World Championship in Indianapolis. Being the groupie that I have become and since I have no better place to kill time, I have hooked my wagon on with them again. The corps arrived last night after the show in Akron. I took respite at the Hampton, taking the time this morning to work on my blog posts. On the way here to Bluffton this afternoon, I discovered a five-star laundry mat in Madison, Ohio where I washed a weeks worth of clothes that I retrieved from the cargo box on top of the Silver Bullet, my Volvo wagon. Yay, clean clothes again!
The Tour of Champions in Akron did not disappoint. Once again, I was blessed with a perfect night for outdoor drum corps. The stadium was larger than the Tiger Stadium in Massillon with most of the seats filled. I met a father and son who were very happy to purchase my extra tickets and we all enjoyed the fusillade of one fine drum corps after another in the best seats in the house at row 1 of the middle section, between the 45s. Having been in the stands at several shows so far talking with fellow fans, I have heard a consistent din about the impact of electronics such as mic’ing of individuals as well as blanketing the sideline with mics to pick up the field sound and pushing it through the sound system. And, the amount of the music coming from the sound systems compared to live performers on the field. Some would ask, to what extent is this faking it if 30% of the audio entertainment that the fan experiences is pre-recorded. When I hear a soloist sing, I look for that person only to realize that those pipes were recorded long ago. When I hear a live horn soloist on the field, I am constantly looking around to make visual contact, much to my frustration sometimes not actually locating that person. Are the corps hearing what I am hearing from the audience? Many have groused that the electronics steps on the live performers and is annoying when it overwhelms them. Will this cycle through and get dialed back so once again we judge the show based on the musical skill of those on the field, or has this train left the station? I have mixed feelings about it like the variety of opinions that I have heard. I will be in the sound-zone in Indianapolis at a low stadium row 15. I expect to be more assaulted by the woofers and tweeters than the natural wind of the members.
I am sitting in the Bluffton University Stadium watching the evening ensemble rehearsal of the Boston Crusaders who are working just as hard as the early rehearsals in May back in Castleton University. With the final competitions to begin in just two days, everyone is intently ironing out the imperfections and cleaning the sound. Gino is working the entire brass ensemble through the book from up high and the rest of the brass staff is on the field giving direct feedback. Earlier, I procured a half-bushel of vine-ripened tomatoes and dropped them off to the food trailer. I was planning on having dinner with the staff and volunteers but my extended run in the local park and preserve went overtime due to the great wooded, unpaved trail system the kept luring me in for another short loop on a different trail. I have had so many great runs since I have been on tour with drum corps shows this year.