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DCI committed another championship to its annals. Per usual, the Internet reacted from all sides of the dodecagon (one side for every finalist). Who let Judge A work Finals? Corps B was CLEARLY better; everybody on Drum Corps Planet SAID so! Park and bark! What are they wearing? Too many props! Not enough props! The Whale lived! Frankly, I’ll read these artistic disagreements over political vitriol any hour of any day of the week. The passions are similar; the venom spewed from drum corps is less harmful.

Before I prattle on about this year’s top-12, I’ll mention three who did not appear on Saturday. Academy: For the love of all goodness, revisit your whimsy. Yes, it’s difficult to pull off; so is great cinematic comedy. What makes the latter work is taking comedy seriously. So, find a Corps Bride II (with no hint of repetition), and make it work! Crossmen: There was far too much talent in all sections of that corps for them to have that poorly designed vehicle. Shame! I truly believe that some people are just wrong for the job. The Board of Directors needs to put everyone on notice. And Santa Clara Vanguard: Only once were you my favorite corps of the year (1999). Still, you were sorely missed — not just because you soiled your DCI Finals Perfect Attendance record, but that you’re “family.” Get well soon. Oh, and I’d really like to know how many SCV vets went to other corps (especially BD). Who has the numbers?



When it comes to identity, I now believe that the Blue Knights’ is an enigma. We never know what’s coming next, and when it does, too many of us scratch our heads. They are an excellent high school band with pretty, confusing costumes. But hey, they rejoined the finalist elite, so something worked. Please send a donation to Santa Clara, CA for the twelfth* place finish.

Blue Stars: In my annual report to friends and associates much higher in whatever drum corps echelon they occupy, I merely wrote: “Huh? What? Better yet: Why?” I think it was Benny Hill who quipped “Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.” I’m sure a comedian or two has done material on crack spoons, but I’ll leave that to your own internet search. Their color guard reminded me of the 1987 (winning) Spirit of Atlanta troupe. They should be on a much better team.



Dear Troopers, I drop to one knee, pull out a ring, and ask your ballad to marry me. The musicianship was impeccable; the emotion radiated warm gooeyness. That was my absolute favorite moment of 2023. I either loved or hated the mesmerizing prop; I haven’t yet decided. Did it add effect? The Color Guard needs immediate attention. 17th in semifinals? Yikes.



(I really can’t believe I’m admitting this.) The Colts were my favorite corps this year. The use of color bathed the eyes in strong appeal; the Guard was enjoyable; the visual program was FUN to watch. They presented a populist show without schmaltz and looked strong and tall doing it. I only wish they had a stronger sense of who they are. They show up on Saturday every so often. Given this, their first 90+ score, they could make a nice fixture in Finals.



I personally thanked Michael Cesario for bringing back the Cavaliers’ uniform, which was always my favorite. I can’t add anything regarding percussion about which everyone else has gushed. Without the Sanford, what was it? I found the Judy Garland and Elvis Presley or Bing Crosby (anyone?) crooning too anachronistic. Plus, I always associated that tune with the Sky Ryders, who I hear might possibly return? Pardon my drool. Anyway, if this was a “Best Of,” they should have given us a taste of Holst, Stravinsky or James Bond. Where were the memories of Steve Brubaker and Michael Gaines? If there were tributes, Visual Analysis missed them like I did.



Phantom Regiment, your spine-tingling “kick” covers up any issues you had. Your feet looked great — fix those drums! Another thanks to MC for the costuming. Precious. One more thing: “Exogenesis?” My computer autocorrected that word three times. Again, we peons don’t get a libretto to figure out what you’re trying to tell us through your performance. I may have recognized some Rachmaninoff somewhere in there, but that’s about it. I miss their Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak. Bring Old School into the 2020s!



Mandarins, the audience Flavor of the Year. When I saw the show, I found myself muttering, “Well, I didn’t NOT like it.” They were another team that made great use of palette. Why are they always mean for the sake of mean? Lighten up! If Academy won’t reclaim whimsy, this corps can. A tiny, nasty part of me looked for projectile vomiting during the spinning props. And a happy 38th birthday to that member of the trombone line.

I’ve no idea what the Cadets did, really. I’ve not been a fan of their musical choices in a long time, save the Shostakovich 10th from 2015 (but with “Mulholland Drive?” Really?). Yes, they move, move, move. To what exactly DO they move? A friend close to the program compared them to their 1981 selves. Musically strong but stuck in the old identity rut. They are in serious need of someone to coordinate the next program and someone to recharge their visual program. (That’s exactly what led to DCI’s only threepeat in three years with no ties.) Re the Guard, although they gave their best performance on Saturday, I guess I’ll reminisce to those eye-popping teams from the 1990s. And speaking of eye-popping (or gouging), I’ll never accept those gym shorts. Good Lord, everyone appeared in the traditional uniform at retreat. Why not wear that?



The Boston Crusaders put on the best BOA show in the history of DCI (and I include 1987 SCV in that hyperbole). It’s great to be populist: Crown 2013 and (yes) BD 2014 made it work for gold medals. There is a missing link here. It’s all very good, given the sum of its parts, but stirring in some more intellectualism might be the solution. There’s nothing wrong with letting people know you’re smart — as long as you don’t make them feel dumb. Of the six people I asked, half thought their guard should have won. As I wrote to a friend: “That rifle line: Holy Mary Mother of GOD!” Come on, BAC. We are counting on you to reach for that Gold!



Oh, Carolina Crown, I could listen to your hornline every day. The training, teaching, and reinforcing are as great as anything from anyone in DCI. That said, why aren’t you marching like you did when you won? I know…your drill writer left for greener pastures (where he’s beaten you only once in five finishes). You’re like a great big epic movie shown on an old 27-inch television: not as pleasing to the eye and less of an overall impact. You’re better than that.



The Bluecoats accomplished something that only two other corps have been able to do in 16 years: outscore the Blue Devils in Visual Analysis. Crown did it in 2013 (see?) and SCV buried them in 2018. But it wasn’t enough. Quirkiness for quirk’s sake has been their identity since it won the championship 7 years (5 seasons) ago. It’s a fresh niche, and they make it work. The “Costume” people I know concurred that their look might hurt them visually, but it didn’t on the sheets. Every caption makes them medal-worthy; they need a little more “oomph” to get back to the top.

To paraphrase an online jokester: Congratulations to the Blue Devils on finally achieving a threepeat; it only took five years! (I’m not getting paid for this, so I don’t feel the need to attribute.) Look, if you’re a BD fan, you get all this. If you aren’t, you’re tired of it. At this point, I’m indifferent. I’ve preached before: these other teams know what they have to do. Nobody sets out to make a flop (credit Marc Sylvester), nor do the others take the competitive aspects any less seriously. With Concord’s staff’s longevity and their ability to handpick the best of the best of the best performers year after year, it will be them vs everyone else for the near future. They are the “Citizen Kane” of DCI. That movie is regarded by the American Film Institute as the best ever made. Breaking it apart, the acting is as good as anything; Orson Welles’ direction approaches perfection (yes, that was his FIRST film!); editing (West Side Story’s Robert Wise), cinematography, costumes, sets, and especially writing are all without peers. My problem with it is that I just don’t care about the sterile story of Charles Foster Kane. It’s not interesting to me. Born during the Cretaceous Era, I own the Blu-ray and revisit it once a year to marvel at the film’s process. That is the Blue Devils post-2008 in a nutshell (with some exceptions: ‘14 and ‘17 are two). I marvel at their 1997 performance like I do “The Godfather”— both exhibit absolute perfection while completely devoid of emotion. They are just very cold. The detractors pick the corps apart: “Nobody deserves a 20 on the field!” “WHAT Visual Analysis? They don’t move!” Oh, they move. They play well, they drum well, they spin and toss like savant, expressive robots. Tell me WHY Bloo, CC or BAC should have won using the sheets assigned to everyone.

The Lucas Oil reaction to their announcement was tepid. If the USA were a true democracy (an argument I lost in Ohio recently), we’d vote: Should the Blue Devils win in 2024? That’s a “NO” by 30 Drum Corps Planet percentage points, I’m guessing. But if they do win next year, we can congratulate them on taking six years to win a fourpeat*.

And by the way, it’s asterISK — not asterIX.