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From 1976-1980, DCI fans experienced the first Reign of Terror by the Concord Blue Devils. They won four out of five championships, and despite placing third in 1978, they were a few mere tenths away from winning that one. Ditto to 1981 where their percussion hit an all-time low (comparable to 2008) yet still lost by only 0.3. After their monumental win in 1986, they entered their Dust Bowl years with seven consecutive losses, including an abysmal 5th place (oh, the horror!) in 1991. They lost by 3.2 that year yet were 3.0 behind the champion Star of Indiana in the three drum captions. New & Improved Reign #2 ran from 1994-1999 where they changed their look, slightly altered their identity, and won four out of six, including two ties, albeit with more popular co-winners.


The first half of the 2000s (dominated by the Cavaliers and Cadets) brought them just one title. Although BD settled for the Silver in 2004, their 98.55 still outscored most champions and holds the record for 2nd place points. Then came the Newer and More Improved identity of 2007.This was when Drum Corps International became “BD vs. Everyone Else.” From 2007-2022 (minus the Lockdown Era), their placements were: 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 1. And SIX of those were undefeated seasons! To understand their amazing dominance is to know this: of those five most recent 2nd place finishes, they averaged a losing spread of 0.48, which includes a 1.275 deficit to Santa Clara Vanguard in 2018, where they lost by more than the other 4 losses combined.

Social media has been rife with personal attacks. “They basically do the same thing every year”; “Why do they keep getting 20s when they park and play all the time?” Oh, they move. One of their strengths is knowing HOW and WHEN to move. Why is there so much hate out there? Well, Major League Baseball fans have been moaning “The Yankees? Again?” for years. (Personally, “The Braves? Again?” wouldn’t go amiss in October.) During the Tom Brady Revolution, it was blah, blah, I H8 the Patriots… Success envy comes for them all. Ask Elon Musk. Even Tiger Woods would have had detractors, if not for his now ex-wife and a rogue fire hydrant tending to that. If BD has a problem, it’s 20 wins. I realize that every year, they pick up many vets from other corps, but that can’t be all it takes. Their fortune rests upon the fact that the core staff has been together for years and years: Scott Chandler, TJ Doucette, Jay Murphy, Dave Glyde, John Meehan, Wayne Downey, Scott Johnson, and Patrick Seidling, who somehow keeps all those cats in the same bucket. The Cadets, Cavaliers, and SCV don’t have this luxury anymore. They used to; the Cavies’ smashed five wins in seven years before the staff emigration. There’s been a revolving door of staff and leadership in Bergen County/Allentown/Erie (and wherever they’re from next year). The Cadets had one corps director for 30+ years; now, they file them through like cartoon ants at a picnic.


Carolina Crown had some great odds in their favor when they won a decade ago. The drill was extraordinary; the Guard was jaw-dropping; the hornline nailed Finals’ first 20 (BD’s 20 was on Thursday in 2004). Percussion was CC’s weak link; Thom Hannum probably suffered the same heart palpitations he had with his 1984 Garfield Cadets Finals experience, but both corps still won — over BD, ironically. Yes, Ft. Mills saw a staff exodus after 2016 to Boston (Ka-CHING!). So? Build around the superstar, Matt Harloff. He’s living proof that Concord doesn’t get all the best brass recruits. Uh, HE gets them. However… I just saw their Muncie performance. All those stellar horn players, and they still pipe in singing. I will never understand the thinking on this.


It took the Boston Crusaders a few years, but they finally medaled in 2022. It’s been two decades since they cracked the Top Five, but they just couldn’t push to the next level until recently. Their current, hand-plucked staff has been in place long enough. Gino’s hornline finished 2nd last year while taking half the caption from Crown — quite a feat in most any year. Colin McNutt and Iain Moyer should be getting them prepared for the Sanford by now. I don’t know Leon May, but I assume he knows what he needs to do drill-wise. If anyone is poised to slay Goliath, it’s BAC. Plus, I’ve heard absolute raves about the entire 2023 program. As one chum said, “It’s a WHALE of a show!” Yeah, I groaned, too.

As usual, the Bluecoats have nothing to offer pre-season, but they’ve announced their production: “The Garden of Love,” a poem. A poem? How many times must I view the show to comprehend what’s going on? (This has been an issue for a while, DCI.) Regardless, they have a Gold Medal under their belts, so they know (knew?) the winning formula. They certainly won’t listen to me, but I’ll still recommend less skyscrapers on the football field and maybe more marching.


Speaking of buildings over 1,000 feet high, what will the Green Stars construct this year? That seems to be the Green Stars’ identity. If you don’t know who the Green Stars are by now, I’m not telling you. Seriously though. If there is a color in your name, shouldn’t we see it? Oh, and once…just ONCE I’d like to see the modern Mandarin wear a lovely paisley uniform and play music in the relative major key of their usual books. Cheer up, People!

I have friends who decidedly gave up the activity because of its many changes: electronics, the “band evolution,” the park-n-play-n-bend-the-knees, the insistence on having the most clever concept with puzzling design, and moving from identity-based uniforms to costumes (e.g. from blue to green). Another complaint they constantly carp is that DCI isn’t as competitive as it once was, given BD’s resume. A DCI buddy said the other day, “Until the sheets change, nothing will.” I’m not in 100% agreement with that. Everything the competition needs to know is in simple English on eight different sheets. Is something driving away membership? What AREN’T these corps doing to keep their musicians and dancers from aging out in Concord? There are a finite amount of spots available, yes? I know; DCI is a competition, and people want to win. The law of averages says GO WEST. Sometimes that misses, though. A certain horn sergeant from a certain former champion went west to age out and had to settle for a Silver. Ah, timing.

Should the Blue Devils win on August 12, would it officially be a threepeat? Again, my DCI buddies argue: ”No, with two years off, 2022 is a reboot.” ”Yes, it’s the very definition of three in a row. It wasn’t their fault that an outdoor activity was silenced by lockdowns.” I say yes. Sort of…



Featured Image: “Blue Devils Drumline” flickr photo by Indiana Public Media shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license