Pennsylvania DCI 2023

August 7, 2023Along the Lincoln Highway

It’s Monday of finals week. I am woefully behind in keeping you posted on the excellent drum corps shows I have witnessed in the past three days while in Pennsylvania. Today was another travel day after two days in Allentown and one in Pittsburgh. I am just outside Canton, Ohio, in this lovely park, not far from the Football Hall of Fame, the site of tonight’s home show for the Bluecoats. It’s time to get you up to speed with my tour. The Volvo is running great. I chose an alternate route from Pittsburgh than I had planned because Siri offered a route that was not in the tornado warning area. With some luck and help from Mother Nature, I hope to enjoy my last outdoor drum corps show this year. As unsettling as the weather has been lately, I have been blessed with three fine evenings in a row. 

Hans, founder of Jubal.

Day one at Allentown was just such an experience. I took my seat in section R at the 40-yard line. Next to me sat Donny Allan, brass instructor and drum corps legend from upstate New York, and brother Garry. We were surrounded by ardent and seasoned drum corps fans, each with their take on electronics, scoring, wow moments, etc. These opinions were generously shared throughout the evening. As we settled into the performances, we counted our blessings to be in that place at that time to witness the extraordinary magic of Allentown. I have written about this before. There is something about that place, and that time in the seasons, that gives the kids the incredible power of confidence and performance ability. The convergence of a dozen drum corps preparing for their performances in Cedar Creek Park has a synergistic effect that pays out on the field. 

The Crown appears.

A late arrival by the Seattle Cascades due to a transportation issue caused the schedule to be rearranged slightly, and the intermission was canceled to keep the show on schedule to end on time. This was the only hic-up in the otherwise flawless organization by the DCI team and the corps. It continues to amaze me how quickly each corps enters and exits the field with their regalia of props, instruments, speakers, consoles, mics; you name it, they bring it. Often, they are meshed and weaved together as they come and go, looking like a traffic jam. But, before you know it, the announcer breaks into our audience repartee, “Drum Major, is your Corps ready?”

Preshow dinner in Pittsburgh.

Day one culminated with a rare head-to-head between the final two corps, Blue Devils and Bluecoats. Blue Devils maintained a slim lead as they turned the energy dial to full. Bluecoats continued reaching out of the envelope with riffs and moves that fired synapses in my brain that I did not know I had. But before that, I want to shout out that the Troopers have finally positioned themselves to lasso the sun. My favorite show last year was Voracious. I am so happy that the Troopers Oil Corps has gone solar. 

The Crossmen.

A rousing back-and-forth commentary and score analysis ensued by those lingering in the parking lot behind the Ham Fam as we enjoyed the post-show merriment. Many of these folks’ opinions are well-founded by their years of experience as drum corps performers, instructors, and judges. I have opinions based on the sparks that fly off the back of my neck and the tears that run down my cheeks. This day was in the books. As my road-weary, overstimulated thalamus gland hit the mattress, the subconscious took over to process what I had just witnessed on the field – a chapel, a chapel…..

Blue Devils, WOW the Pittsburghers.

Day 2 Allentown would have the same energy and excitement but different characters and corps. This evening, the head-to-head match-up of two of the top four ranked corps was Boston Crusaders and Carolina Crown. But, before the show, I had the pleasure of hitting the Fox Hollow golf course a few miles from Allentown with friends. Since this was not a travel day, it was a pleasure to leisurely cruise around a beautifully landscaped environment in a golf cart rather than rocketing across the landscape on the concrete corridors at breakneck speed. Though my game has seen better days, this experience was pleasurable. Golf is a legitimate outdoor sport that offers an excellent opportunity for exercise without knowing it. Talent, time, and temperament are the ingredients for good golf. I have not been putting in the time so that that temperament can be challenging. When I return from my tour, I look forward to my fall gig – coaching our high school golf team. 

Food truck of another kind.

On Saturday in Allentown, drum corps excitement begins a little earlier. Following 18 holes, I headed directly to my parking spot at the HamFam Restaurant, where Garry had saved the spot. The pre-show merriment ensued, with several other folks stopping for the annual hellos and hugs. Once again, we ascended the hill and took our seats to be treated to one of the best drum corps shows ever. Each corps stepped up with sureness and confidence. Drills and riffs are honed and automatic, allowing each member to add that extra level of performance art. The marching movements snapped and blossomed perfectly to the various tempos and musical moments. The later corps wowed us with innumerable tosses and combinations of members doing crazy things together with rifles, sabers, flags, and each other bodies. Today’s color guards are more like gymnasts and dance troupes. At the end of the day, Boston edged out Carolina Crown, garnering the top color guard and percussion scores. Carolina Crown keeps the high honors in brass. The race in the middle of the pack was particularly tight, with Cadets edging out Mandarins and Phantom Regiment by 0.05 points. Of course, the post-show conversation lasted well into the wee hours back at the hotel.  All in all, we had another fine time in Allentown.

Onward to Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was established in 1940, making it America’s first superhighway. That was the route that I chose to head to Pittsburgh Sunday morning. At the time, they wrote: “An unbroken ribbon of concrete cutting through mountains and across valleys, bypassing towns. No stop signs, no intersections, no need to worry.” I often worried due to the narrow, shifty lanes through construction areas. A semi-truck is 109″ wide, which leaves scant room for me between the concrete wall on one side and the truck on the other. One does have to marvel at the engineering feats of building and maintaining this modern turnpike. With the many tunnels, hundreds of bridges, and culverts, it is a constant work in progress. 

Three hundred miles and five hours later, I hit the off-ramp toward Baldwin High School, but first, it was time for dinner. A stop for take-out at Primanti Bros. Restaurant located a couple of miles away, filled the bill. Oh, what a sandwich! Fully satiated after my tailgate session, I headed into the show for another fine evening of drum corps.

It was another perfect night for Drum Corps. The stadium was packed with fans on hand to observe some of the best kids in America entertain them to delight. And they showed their delight with frequent outbursts and cheers throughout each performance. This was another opportunity for Carolina Crown to nip at the Blue Devils, who ranked number one. Both corps once again performed their highly entertaining shows with precision and power. Before that, we all enjoyed the Cavaliers’ performing their show Where You’ll Find Me, Cavies style, with lots of hot percussions, powerful brass, and snappy drills. I also thoroughly enjoy the first three corps that set the tempo. Back from dormancy following COVID-19, Seattle Cascades stepped up first, with Spirit of Atlanta and Blue Knights to set the tone for this fine evening. 

A clash of corps. One entering, one exiting.

Following the show, I headed to the hotel my friend Jay, who works for DCI, recommended. We met in the lot before the show. We shared stories well into the morning, perhaps some to be retold later in this blog. After another day of driving, I am set to head to the mecca of NFL Football for one of the year’s best musical performing arts events – the Bluecoats DCI home show. Thunderstorms lurk about. I will make sure to keep you posted.

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