Take Me Back to Chicago for DCI

June 30, 2024 – Chicago, Illinois

I am whiling time away at the car rental complex at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, waiting for friends to arrive from afar. I just dropped off the rental that served me well on my two-state tour of Michigan and Indiana. Leaving Michigan Dunes, I headed westerly around the southern shore of Lake Michigan into the concrete jungle of Chicago, the Windy City. Traveling through the city on elevated highways gives one a dramatic view of the cityscape, which includes tall structures and twisting roadways. This was a different perspective than seeing the tiny silhouetted skyscrapers across the lake from the dunes yesterday. Wind is the theme of the day, as it was kicking up the surf this morning. Wouldn’t it be cool if a drum corps did McCoy Tyner’s Fly with the Wind as a theme repertoire?

It is a show day. The competition tonight includes seven World Class Corps in this order of performance: Madison Scouts, Blue Stars, Colts, Phantom Regiment, Boston Crusaders, Carolina Crown, and The Cavaliers. To start us off, there will be performances from Rosemont King Cobras, Eclipse, Sound of Sun Prairie, and Colts Cadets.

Tonight, the six of us will attend DCI’s Cavalcade of Brass. This part of my Midwest tour will be in the company of five other drum corps brothers. We are celebrating the life of Sandra Bertelle, a former performer and visual judge. Sandy paved the path for other women judges. She was known and loved by many in the activity, including her former colleagues in the judging world. I learned much from Sandy over the past 7 years. Our paths crossed when I met the Martins from Rochester, New York, her adopted brothers. Other members of this esteemed company include founding members of Carolina Crown. A rich drum corps legacy resides with these people that I would not have otherwise met if I hadn’t run away with the drum corps in 2017 as a volunteer and writer.

June 31, 2024 – Naperville, Illinois.

11:00 AM

Cooler temperatures prevailed last night at the Benedictine Stadium in Lisle, but this did not dissuade the corps from bringing the heat. Oh, how those horns melt the matter between my temples during the ballad part of the program. Precise movements in unison are sublime. Fast drills and high tosses combined with intense sounds excite the thalamus, sending sparks of body rushes. I will not dive into the show themes yet. There is more to sink in. For those who care about the scores, the top four placements from the Central Indiana show in Muncie did not change: Carolina Crown, Boston Crusaders, Phantom Regiment, and The Cavaliers. However, there was a swing in placement, with the Colts pulling ahead of the Blue Stars. Madison Scouts came in sixth. Having experienced three shows now, I can say with certainty that they are all getting better and better.

We are at a comfortable hotel in Naperville, Illinois. Everything we would need is within a few blocks. There is a constant din of traffic on the nearby highway, and the power equipment buzzing away on this active Monday morning mixes in with the few bird calls in the surrounding well-maintained landscape. They are resurfacing the parking lot, giving it a new black paint to absorb the sun and accelerate climate change. Signs dominate the viewshed. This is America. It stretches for 100s of miles in a radius from here south of Chicago. Observing the tall buildings of the Chicago skyscape from far across the lake yesterday was an interesting perspective. Seeing it up close and personal while wending through the city on the way to the Airport was quite another. This cityscape is relatively flat, with no more than 4-story buildings with thousands of acres of blacktop. We are about to head to Ohio. Six souls will rocket across the landscape in a seven-passenger minivan. I will be in the back seat. Wish me luck.

8:00 PM – Mason, Ohio

I am on a patio in Southwestern Ohio at a short-term rental, a 4-bedroom house Brother Garry rented for the six vagabond drum corps fans who have bonded together these past two days. I am the outlier, given the history and contribution to drum corps that these individuals represent. However, given their personalities, things got off to somewhat of a shambolic start yesterday as we assembled at the rental center and proceeded on our way to Lisle. Today, after a great evening of drum corps and a leisurely start, our travels went much smoother as the sextet began to find the common rhythm. Brother Tim skillfully guided the coach through the open roads and urban stretches of the Eisenhower spaghetti. With the help of Siri, we are now at a short-term rental 4-bedroom house somewhere north of Cincinnati.

I will try and recap what we experienced last night for fear of sounding redundant. First, I should explain that I have often observed that the scores are not necessarily a reflection of the reaction in the stands. That is, the highest-scoring corps is not always the one the crowd reacts most favorably toward. That was evident last night, in my humble opinion. I humbly add that I have no real critical judging experience and that is as far as I will go for now. I will keep you posted.

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