August 2, 2022
Well, it was a night of mixed experience at the Truist Field Sunday night. Mother Nature provided a mixture of bright sky, alternated by passing waves of a layered variety of cloud types including cumulonimbus, resulting a passing rain showers replete with a rainbow. The stadium was temporarily dampened, but the performers on the field were truly fired up before that, including the Pacific Crest, my newly adopted favorite emerging California corps. We were welcomed to the Void and enjoyed the power of the maturing horn and drum lines. It was fun to guess the props that were arrayed around the field from drum corps past. How many do you recognize? A fun part of the show was the kneeling horns mimicking the Bluecoats note-bend from in their program Tilt. Will we see a ramp appear before finals?
The crowd favorite before the rain delay was the Troopers performance of Voracious. I am interpreting this show as a social commentary on the human condition for voracious consumption, most notably the black oil that has been turned into gold for many over the resent past decades. I really enjoyed the cello soloist upon the high derrick in the center that blended beautifully with the horns circling it on the field below. The sadness of this ballad portends our demise as we now know it because of our selfishness for wealth and power. Bravo to America’s corps for their creative depiction of this important social/pollical issue that we must address. I know that the kids (members) get it. I am ashamed of those in my generation that have not.
Rain, rain go away…. but alas, also for not. Steve Rondinaro, the perennial MC at NightBEAT and DCI World Championships, broke the news that our prayers to shift the storm cell west did not get answered by Mother Nature and that there would be a one-hour rain delay. This is a repeat event from the night before in Atlanta. And a peak at the long-range forecast for Allentown this weekend is similar. With rain, sometimes you get a rainbow. This evening, one blessed us harboring the clearing skies as the people returned to their dampened seats. Four more corps performed before a shortened intermission, each one ramping up the sound after the other a notch. The complexity of the shows also grew throughout the evening. Performance order is generally based on the previous score beginning with the lowest to highest. Obvious to some, subtle to others, such things as the musical book, drill movements, pace, power, and precision separate the corps ability and ranking in the scores. Content and proficiency are both considered equally. The subtleties of eight subjective categories can separate corps’ standing by .01 out of 100 total possible points. General Effect (GE) is my favorite scoring category. That is a generally a measure of the audience reaction to the show. The corps strive for GE moments of visual and sounds that cause the audience to react. This pushes the designers to come up with creative new things and ways to use the members musical and marching talents to impress us with, thereby moving the creative envelope forward and away from the traditional drum corps shows of the past, seemingly at a faster pace than some can accept.
During the first half of the show, I was privileged to spend time with friends in the Crown Club aloft at the 35. These are fine accommodations for the very generous donors and sponsors. I enjoyed sitting with a fellow guest and his daughter, a college freshman and drum major as we discussed and researched each corps’ theme. However, I was in my sweet-spot seat smack at the 50-yard line, row MM for the Bluecoats show Riffs and Revelations. What a vantage point to observe this very trippy show about a dream. Dennis Hopper’s face morphed into a flow of humans descending a ramp as if we were hallucinating along with the wavy gravy music. This show has so many cool moves and gyrations to it, including giant tinker-toy-like wheels that rolls over the horn line as they march, and large disc platforms zipping around the field representing the imaginary subconscious 1970’s taxi ride in mid-town Manhattan. Watch out man! This show has infinite creative possibilities. The Cadets followed with their equally nostalgically inspired show – Rear View Mirror. Recognizable by their uniform, stylistically altered but with the signature elements remaining such as the broad chevrons across their breasts, this corps portrayed their beatnik-inspired show to the agreeable audience. Love in the south translates to the corps on the field from start to finish at NightBEAT. The Cadets garnered their share with their well-developed and proficient performance.
Four more corps remained to perform including two more corps from California beginning with Santa Clara Vanguard. Finding Nirvana, their 2022 show ebbs and flows emotionally toward a final transcendental state. Elevated horns on steal structures, and drums intricately-struck swirling around them, pushed oscillating sound waves at me to massage my thalamus gland, as flags and humans in white and purple flashed, swarmed and disassembled in front of me mesmerizingly in the aging evening. A final moment of peace and tranquility was achieved as the structures lowered and the humans assembled into a slowly blossoming circle in the center of the field, producing soothing subconscious thoughts to ease us from the overstimulating evening that has progressed so far. You can blame those last two sentences on the influence of the Bluecoats show and my brothers up in the box.
But wait! The Boston Crusaders took the field with their steal conically-shaped structures to agitate us back once again to life. But what life? A life of temptation and despair (see Troopers). Paradise Lost depicts the epic poem of the same title by John Milton, and it is delivered with the power, passion, and poignancy equal to the epic story of genesis and the garden of Eden. Shock waves of excitement was elicited and delivered back to the corps as the fans erupted at the applause moments. Emotions swayed dynamically throughout the show. The soft ending seems to be growing on me as it is done with such delicacy and resolve. The pause between the final ding of the bell and the applause that slowly grows from the stands to intensity is precious. It was also precious to meet up with my BAC friends at the stadium and give them my congratulations and best wishes as they nip at the heals of the prolific champion corps ahead of them in the rankings. With the “We try harder” attitude, I know Boston will keep pushing. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be.
What was not precious was the announcement by our venerable host, Steve that the remaining two corps would not perform due to the impending storm cell approaching. The disappointment was palpable, especially the local fans for Carolina Crown the host and final corps. The reigning Champion and current leader in the rankings, the Blue Devils also did not perform. I am glad that I had the opportunity to see them in California at the Rose Bowl and in the lot in San Bernardino back in June. I was really hoping to see how they have ramped up their show since then. They always push to the end and earn their distinction. Unfortunately, it will be finals week before the top five corps come together again, so we will be further intrigued about what the order will be on the final Saturday night of the season. You can bet that Carolina Crown and Bluecoats will be in the thick of it. If all goes well, I will be there again at the 50 with the Drum Corps World staff on Thursday, Military Park warm up area on Friday, and the 35-yard line right, mid-high on Saturday in the oil can, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis.
It was a weekend of mixed experiences for sure. Maybe too much love jammed into one weekend because we have all missed each other. As life’s hiccups continue to plague us, we will probably be even more likely to wobble occasionally as we follow our paths toward the final destination. It will not be without having had the love of the DCI experience. I returned to the reality of my car problem with a glimmer of hope, salted with waves of anxiety that I will not make it on my planned auto tour. I will have to leave it here for now but will keep you posted, hopefully from the road. But if not, along the Mill Brook.