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Finally! Another full season, complete with scores, is in the books. I spent Thursday in my local theatre sparingly taking notes on my iPhone and emailing them to myself. “Big, Loud & Live” takes me back to my Boomer days of the live PBS broadcasts which I still have (reformatted for this century).

As I collated my thoughts, I received an unexpected phone call from a dear colleague who has forgotten more DCI than most of us will ever know. When we agree, I feel deeply complimented. When we don’t, I‘m usually more educated as the result. No, you needn’t know; I wouldn’t divulge his/her name anyway, so hereafter, s/he’ll be known as Muse.

Sigh. Madison. I’ll forgive the integration but not the complete loss of tradition. Who are they now other than ever so slightly better than ‘19? Give me something — ANYTHING to let me know that the Scouts are indeed on the field.

The Troopers’ appearance was terrific. If you didn’t love, love, LOVE the hats, your soul is as black as the imaginary oil from their prop rig. I’m the only anti-cello DCI fan in existence, so the less said about that the better. Did they deserve more tenths than BK/XMen? Who cares at this point. DCI’s 50th made room for them, bridging the past with the present.

Speaking of the Blue Knights, they were right up there with Troop in appearance. Shakos? Plumes? Jackets? Who ARE these people? Beautiful stuff. Obscure yet groovy music was their bag, but why in such a hurry? Let that ballad grow! I wanted to like the show more, especially since my friend’s daughter aged out with them. He being the person who took me to my first drum corps show 37 years ago. He’s to blame.

My notes re the Colts included “more cowbell, less pre-show.” I also wanted more field coverage and less color guard “larvae.” I’m sure that costuming was all part of the greater good, but nope. The bari quartet rocked!

Crossmen: another great look and a much better version of themselves from June. Innovative concepts are fine, but let’s remember that our horns and feet count, too.

Ah, Phantom Regiment. Usually, when the crowds are behind them, I’m not (Harmonic Journey, e.g.). This year, I lapped up the Kool-Aid. I loved this from front to back! The beautiful look was fresh, yet WE KNEW WHO THEY WERE (did they hear me in Wisconsin?). No helmets, save the DM. When she pulled it off, I thought her an errant BD guard member with all that hair. It was so worth the wait for “The Kick.” Thank you, Rockford.

Congrats to Mandarins for scoring the first 10th place 90+ in Finals! (Yes, ‘88 Suncoast did it in semis — that 6-panel judging system was garbage, though that show was amazing.) I loved the Emo minor keys abounding as well as the confidence of the guard. Singing though? Yuck. I like the vocals of ’84 Garfield and ‘85 Freelancers/Indiana, but not this. Not ever. Y’all spend too much money on horns for that. I’m STILL mad at Crown.

The Cavaliers are a dichotomy. I love the look and the integration of the Bach. It’s a love/hate show. It really bugged me as I was liking it. Perhaps it’s more my mental state than it is them, but I’ve not been (formally) diagnosed as schizophrenic, so I stand by my critique. Somebody save that guard!

Blue Stars’ scullery maids were a bit of an eyesore, and the music was bland. Were they really 92+? Rumor has it that there was a major show change from something more Russian (read: Putin). They’re always very theme-heavy, and I admire the stick-to-it-ivness. Costumes aside, I’ll watch that guard anytime.

Cadets, I thought we were done with the over-the-top narration? Regardless, they played their horns right off the bat — what’s with so many drum solos opening shows these days? This was one of those 2nd/3rd place Cadet shows but with a very young corps. It moved, it rocked and the crowds dug it. I told Muse I was starting to OD on Z-pulls: “Well, do you want tradition or not?” Touché. Hopefully, this is the shape of things to come. By the way, lose the pant stripe. Tradition, yes, but you’re not passing in review anymore, and M. Sylvester isn’t cleaning you.

SCV searching for clarity. So was I. I haven’t “gotten” them in a few years; would it kill them to add a sparkle of red and green somewhere? The music didn’t speak to me. My problem is that they gave me one of my favorite shows ever in 1999, and I’m hoping to rekindle those emotions.

Carolina Crown, once again, gave us a brass clinic. Sage asked, “Do we need a lecture on music?” Yes, that’s what it felt like. Plus the QR-reading interaction told me to look at my phone rather than at them. What exactly was the payoff to that? Still, they fixed their guard issues—nice! Now would be the time to register a complaint: can we stop the averaging to get caption awards? They never used to do that. I understand that one number would decide the trophy, but so what? The final placements only come from Saturday’s judging. Yes, BD would have won the Zingali and Crown the Ott. Remember 2016? CC won 3 out of 5 captions and still landed in 3rd. It’s a false sense of suspense. Plus, I sincerely doubt that any judge is walking or sitting around thinking, “If I score Corps X first, they’ll get the trophy! Please.

The Bluecoats have become masters of owning their audience. They know just how to grab and not let go. As much as I loathe electronics (generally), the keytarist brought so much to the table. His talented fingers, infectious smile and field presence were a joy. Muse and I weren’t sure about the Hunter S. Thompson vibe, though. That’s not the example that should be set.

The Bluecoats

When I saw the Boston Crusaders in Detroit, I had the same feeling as I did re Bloo ‘16: “Hey! Watch out for them!” At last, siphoning all those designers/staffers from other corps is paying off (literally). They were truly enjoyable. I made a judge chuckle when I reported “Rifle tosses, even when nobody asked.” My only problem was that, more than others, I scrutinized their performances too much (Ala 1987 SCV/Garfield). I focus less on entertainment and more on analysis. Ticks are long gone, but we amateurs still depend on them. In the “Anybody but BD” category, they seemed poised to be The One. Muse and I agree: they’re most likely to win next (read: when BD doesn’t—not necessarily next year).

The Boston Crusaders

Ah, the Blue Devils: hated as much as the NY Yankees and Alabama Crimson Tide footballers. Well? As I tell my fellow Ohio State fans, ‘Bama has the formula; it’s not difficult to see. They play the same game as everyone else. Many say BD “just follows the sheets.” They aren’t the only ones reading said criteria. I just said: it’s all right there. There isn’t a revolving door when it comes to staff and management. We were told that 87% were rookies. How many of those left other corps? Memo to the rest: if you’re going to beat Concord, figure out how to clean the feet, the drum line, the horns. Cadets, Crown and Bloo have outscored them in feet (The Roaring Teens). SCV and Bloo have out-drummed them. Crown often played horns better, and Bloo smoked them in GE (‘16). See? The parts work. Now work on the sum of the parts. Until next time.