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July 11 San Diego, CA
DCI Pacific
Score Placement
Div I
Blue Devils   86.25
Santa Clara Vanguard   84.65
The Cadets   84.40
Pacific Crest   70.55
Div II
Seattle Cascades   76.65
Esperanza   66.45
Impulse   66.25
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July 11 Review: San Diego, CA
DCI - Pacific
Thanks to Mike Margraf Margraf@NetHere.com for emailing his review to reviews@scorpsboard.com!

Well, it looks like everyone else will be writing their reviews tomorrow (none
posted as of 3am PST) so I might be able to do the 1st So Cal review of the
week. There's sure to be more with the great turnout and 3 LA area shows coming
up in the next 4 days.

Show site - good. Plenty of parking only a 2-3 min walk from gate. Stadium set
down in the ground a little bit so backfield playing had a little resonance.
Bleachers crowded, but not bad. Nobody wandering around during shows, but they
let you in till the last min & gave plenty of warnings so no one was left
standing outside because a corps was just starting to walk on the field (as has
happened to me at other shows)

Good starting time. Last performance done about 9:30, so time for a fast dm only
retreat, and then an "audience appreciation" concert w/o it being late when all
was done. Weather - pretty much ideal temp. Nice and warm at beginning, nice &
cool at end. Maybe just a little humid as there was a tiny bit of haze if you
looked all the way to the back of the field.

Our seats - near the 50, 5 rows up. Pretty good, seats and we got great sound.
Too low to see much drill. I'll be higher up this weekend and hope to have more
drill comments when I return Mon. Audience was pretty good overall. I only
heard 1 cell phone ring all night, and it was stopped right away. There was
quite a bit of infant and toddler noise directly behind me, but hey, they're
kids, and I support bringing them to shows (get 'em started young I say!) It
was annoying at the time, but I don't think it got on the recording much if at

People working the show from tix to gate control were all very nice. Ryan
Turner continues to do a fun & entertaining job as announcer. Good job Bob
James & your team!

NOTE 1: Many people may not have realized it, but San Diego Channel 10 had a
BIG (for drum corps) segment on drum corps and the show on the 5:00 broadcast -
it aired about 5:45, and was at least 5 min long. They had coverage of a
concert given by BD & SCV earlier in the week, plus plenty of clips from DCI
broadcasts, and the reporter on site had actually marched Sr. Corps out east,
and they had a pic of her with the corps during a show (It looked to be from
perhaps early 80s.) They invited people to come see the show (starting in 45
min) and I'm sure this literally MASSIVE coverage, timed so perfectly helped
tonight's record turnout. KPBS finally showed the DCI broadcast last year, and
now this?? Someone better check to see when hell froze over...

Marine Band - started around 6:15 & I grabbed the wrong tickets so had to run
back to the car. Pretty much missed them, but sounded like they did a nice job
and the crowd liked them.
On to the competing units.

NOTE 2: If an ensemble plays drum & bugle corps instrumentation (G bugles) I
identify it as such. If it plays marching band instrumentation (trumpets,
tubas, etc.), I identify it as a brass band. This is not to imply such groups
have officially adopted this into their names yet, but a recognition of their

NOTE 3: Highly opinionated review follows. My biases are towards what I like
and dislike. I call 'em as I see 'em, and do not slavishly praise or damn any
corps just because of who they are. What you do this year, or tonight in
particular, is all I care about. It's all MO. Feel free to disagree, but don't
get mad, 'cause my opinion isn't going to change anything out there.

Div 3
Alliance - 53.95
They sound much better than they did just a couple weeks ago in La Mesa. While
staff told me they are actually smaller than they were then, they look more
confident, which made them seem larger. I believe 7 guard now. However, brass
still sounds ragged in spots. Mello solo in "I Don Quixote" needs to be
enhanced somehow. Played correctly, but still with only a little pit support,
it seems like a week spot. Generally intonation somewhat better now too. Drum
solo shows improvement as they've fixed the very repetitive dead spot in the
middle. Audible dhutting is a detraction though. Nice addition of a backfield
section in the closer. Works well. Show ending seems tagged on, (you can tell
where... the drum line yells the obligatory DUT DUT DUT DUT) and it doesn't make
much musical sense yet. (very disjointed) Still, it's an improvement over the
non-ending they had 3 weeks ago. They got a good crowd reaction.

Div 2
Impulse - 3rd - 66.25
Most improved corps over 6/23. The props are now painted and help the show's
"island" theme. This is the showiest corps of the night. They have fun, and
the audience does too. Lot's of changes and additions... way too many for me to
catch all of them. The show starts with a volcano acting up, and only being
calmed when Wilson the volleyball (from Castaway) is offered as a sacrifice.
Gilligan's Island intro continues to get laughs. Fun horn line. Loud &
entertaining, which I like, but as far as judging goes, too many times where
individuals stick out of the ensemble (like sops in fanfare right after Gilligan
solo). I hardly believe it's me saying this, but perhaps lead sops could back
off just a little. You have quality moments, but scores will go up if you can
do that more consistently.

Crowd really reacted to the fish flags in the ballad. (Big fish windsocks for
those of you who haven't or won't see them.) Ballad loses me a little bit.. but
then there's another threatened eruption... till Wilson's returned. GREAT BIG
drum feature. For a non-drummer, this was the most fun drumline of the night to
watch. Big fat exposed tenor feature with 6 great players moving around the
drums like crazy. Nice small ensemble leads into closer. Closer really rocks.
Totally an audience piece. It builds into a very long & powerful park & blow at
the very end. A screamer sop climbs up on the podium with the DM.
Unfortunately, with the corps playing so loud, I couldn't hear him playing
anything in particular. If he nails something, perhaps a tasty hangover might
be just the ticket here.

Most fun show of the night. Keep it up Impulse.

Seattle Cascades - 1st - 76.65
After years of reading about them, this was my first chance to ever see this
corps. They are truly excellent... a bit like Pacific Crest. The uniforms are
sharp, but there's too much black, which makes them less interesting. Guard
unis are green and black, but though the green is shiny, it's kind of a drab
color, which blends into the turf too much. Again, there's too much black.
Against a white wall these unis are likely striking, but against a green field,
they are just too dark.

The drill is very expansive, filling the field & is quite sharp. The music is
quite modern, and while it's arranged and performed powerfully with lots of
impacts, it's not melodic, and consequently not very accessible. Big pretty
green flags in 2nd number. Nice "screeching" pit sounds intro 3rd piece.
(reminiscent of some of the opening sounds of BD's show last year) There is a
difficult & odd backfield sop solo. There is a turn from backfield to frontside
which gives a nice impact. Following 2 sets of flags are nice as well.
My overall impression is that it is a show of the "modern wind ensemble" genre
which has come into vogue in the last few years. The result is that you have a
remarkably well performed show, which the kids really put their heart into, and
the staff is polishing into a quality piece of work, which left the audience
mostly sitting on their hands, except for tepid applause between tunes. A
friend of mine noted "This is not the type of Holsinger you can hum afterwards.
The horn line seemed strong, but I was not impressed with the drumline or the
musical book at all. Marching and drill was good, but entertainment value

This is a judges' show, not to say there aren't audience members who will like
it, but there won't be as many as there could have been with more accessible
selections. These kids are great. Give them stuff that will reach their
audiences better. A performance with this much power and energy deserves a
better vehicle. (Unless their priority is winning rather than entertaining, in
which case, they've hit a bulls eye.)

Esperanza brass band - 2nd - 66.45
This was the first brass band of the night. They did a decent job, but
honestly, I did not notice as much improvement from the 6/23 show as I had with
the previous groups. Intonation, volume, confidence all seemed about the same.
I actually like their selections. I didn't really realize that till thought
about how many times I've listened to recordings of them compared to other
groups (even ones I like more).
The instrumentation hurts this band. They were nowhere near as powerful as the
groups that preceded or followed them. It's not just that. Their horns are a
mix of silver and dark brass band instruments. This combined with the (I'm
told) recycled marching band unis, makes them look out of place in a drum corps
show. I believe it is simply a case of the $$ not being there to equip them as
they would like. Alan Cox once told me that if I could provide the money to buy
G bugles he'd do it. While this is not something I have the means to do, I
sincerely hope their continued success enables them to raise enough money to do
this soon.

The colorguard uniforms are not outstanding, but were among the more attractive
ones on the field tonight. The colorguard is fairly large for a group of this
size, and to the limited extent that I watch guards, they seemed to be pretty
good. In terms of drill, the band gets fairly good field coverage, but there
is a lot of time where there is slow or no movement. The backfield section at
the end of the ballad was pretty good, but where they would have some very
effective silent drill, they spoil the effect with an audible "DUT DUT DUT DUT".
In the closer, there's another backfield section which comes around to a "big"
hit. Good design idea, but the hit has to be a lot bigger for it to have the
intended effect. They also have a pretty cool section where the corps is
marching split tempos. (fast feet & half-time feet) Only thing is for the
people who have the fast feet movement, it's all pretty small steps, so they
don't move fast. It would be more effective if they had the people who's feet
are moving fast doing some faster (larger) drill movement, to enhance the
contrast. Since their design staff does a pretty good job overall, this may be
in the works for all I know. Another note - my percussion instructor friend
said they had the best tenors of all the Div 2/3 corps. As impressed as I was
by Impulse's feature, if Esp. is better, they must be pretty damn good.
Despite myself, I am liking a lot about this band. Someone help them find a big
sponsor so they can become a drum & bugle corps & fulfill their potential.

- Intermission -

Div 1
Pacific Crest
- 4th - 70.55
This is a great show that strikes a good balance between esoteric music and
audience accessibility. I like it better than last year's Joan of Arc show, and
about as much as their Dracula show. Scythian Suite is a good arrangement.
Some of the faster runs are kind of swallowed by the different sections and come
across as weak. They might want to sit those who have those runs down with a
recording of 84 Regiment so they can hear how effective those runs are when
projected confidently. There's a lot of body posing in the horn line at the
beginning of the 2nd number. The 3rd piece has a very spartan (small "s"),
almost percussive feel to it. The guard uses feather fans here. I'll note that
the guard uniforms evolve nicely throughout the show. They're never really very
attractive, but they're always appropriate to what they're conveying. I believe
it's the 3rd # where a mello feature was attempted, but was not clean at all
tonight. It was followed by a sop feature that likewise didn't hit "just
right". Then there's a very nice big hit / jam session. The guard has some
nice flame-colored flags in the closer.

This show is abstract, but approachable. I think its what Seattle Cascades want
to be. I must apologize, but I never noticed the drums. My friend said their
bass line was incredible... approaching or matching the lines of the "big 3".

Blue Devils brass band - 1st - 86.25
I didn't write as many notes about BD (or Garfield). I think perhaps I was busy
watching them a little more. Having had a mp3 of their 6/26 show to listen to
for the last week or so, I was a little more familiar with the program.
The drum shells are quite, well, pretty. Also, under the lights, the jackets
seemed brighter than I remembered. Overall, they looked sharp taking the field
(though I've never been a fan of their new look). The guard unis looked better
than I'd expected from the description. I didn't know what people were talking
about when they were talking about "the hats", but now I do. If anyone else out
there didn't know, they use straw hats, and do a LOT of Gene Kelly styled dance.
Specifically, it seems to be from the number (I think it's in "Singing in The
Rain") where he's a young hoofer coming to Broadway and opens singing "Gotta
Dance!..." Anyhow, picture that production number and you can picture what the
guard looks like. I only wish the music were also from this musical. I really
didn't get the connect between what the band's playing (Awayday) and the "great
musicals which inspired it".

The colorguard spends an inordinate amount of time just dancing with the hats.
I wish they did more equipment work, but did note that at some point in the show
they use large, attractive fuscia flags.

The horns have a big balanced sound, but there isn't quite the power there used
to be. Not to say they aren't loud, but it doesn't carry as well. One thing I
noticed that really surprised me. You can hear the difference when they move
backfield. There's a number of times when a large part of the horn line is
around the back hash, and they really sound like they're a hundred feet farther
away. I stand by my assessment from seeing them several times last year. The
move to band instrumentation has weakened this horn line. I was wondering how
they can fill one of the mega stadiums when they only just managed to fill this
small one. They are no longer the tidal wave of power they were just 2 years

Of note during the show, they did have a good soloist. This corps used to be
known for providing many remarkable soloists. It would be nice if they featured
more individuals this year. They also had a nice segment where they divide the
horn line into 2 groups (front & backfield). Drill was a big surprise. From
where I was sitting, it seemed like they had an awful lot of park and blow, and
not much tough or fast movement. I'm not Mr. Drill, but it seemed more like 80s
drill to me than modern stuff. I don't think any corps could be this
competitive with so little drill and I had similar feelings about Garfield, so I
suspect it will look totally different from a higher perspective this weekend.

(Garfield) Cadets brass band - 3rd - 84.40
I have not seen Garfield live in probably 5-7 years. They have been a corps
that I appreciate, but haven't really "gotten into" since '87. (Perhaps I would
have last year.) I am not what you would call one of their biggest fans.
They are also my favorite band/corps (that I've seen or heard mp3s of) this year.
Despite all I've read about their show being disjointed and lacking theme, etc.,
I have no problems with it. It's just like drum corps shows used to be 20 years
ago in this respect: Play a bunch of tunes that the audience likes, have cool
arrangements, play the snot out of them, and march some drill. YOU DON'T NEED A
"THEME" TO BE ENTERTAINING!! As much as I've enjoyed listening to '81 SCV play
"Young Person's Guide" for 20 years, Garfield's arrangement is even better.
Moondance is fun. People next to me started singing along with it. When was
the last time that happened to any corps you've seen on the field? Farandole is
catchy and they way they do it, frankly amazing. Of course, they have the
obligatory cool sh*t going on in the drum line as well. It's just fun and
powerful to listen to all the way through.

What's more... As one of the groups that has turned it's back on G bugles, the
way I understand it, they took a different approach than BD. I've read that BD
worked with DEG to create Bb & F "bugles" with traditional bugle
characteristics, whereas Garfield just went to Yamaha, pointed to a line of
marching band horns and said "We'll take those." (I'm sure I'm oversimplifying,
but the idea is they're playing off-the-rack horns)

Naturally, I'd expect the custom-designed multi-key "bugles" to be better in
this venue than off-the-rack m.b. horns. Well, that isn't the case. I'm sure
the level of brass instruction in BD is as high as it's ever been. (Which means
it's as good as it gets in this activity.) Still, Garfield's brass was more
full and powerful and the sound projected much farther. When they play from the
backfield, there isn't the noticeable drop in sound that you get with BD.
Note - This goes against my biases & expectations. It's just what I heard this
evening. Make of it what you will.

Some more show comments from my notes -
They enter the field in a well disciplined block. 5 drum sets on front sideline
on right side of field. Unis look great (as they always have) under the lights.
Guard uniforms are a drab mustard color - not pleasing to look at. Just short
of "ugh."

Moondance - Guard, nice dancing. Now please pick up some equipment and do
something with it. This is drum corps. We want to see equipment work. Some
dancing may be ok, but you go overboard. Nice drum feature. Big hit following
is louder than big hits from BD. Drill - I've always heard that Garfield is
about drill and pushing the boundaries of what can be done. I saw none of that
from my perspective tonight. WAY too much strolling around and standing around
casually. March, or do a concert number, but don't wander. Musically, nice
transition from Moondance to next number.

The part where the horn line lies down / sits / squats / kneels while playing
must be hell on wet or muddy fields.

Next big hit - pretty fuscia flags. Somewhere in the show I mentally noted that
their guard seems to have more rifle work (do they use rifles too, or just the
curvy things) and "hits" than BD. One of those passing moments, where I noticed
the guard and thought, "Yeah. I like that."

Farandole - the long thousand note run has been extended. Must've been this
week because it's different from the mp3 I got dated 7/3. They threw in another
thousand notes, and it already sounds good. WOO HOO!! Only thing is I pictured
them moving all over the place while playing it. They stand in a big line and
the moving parts move up & down the line. No problem with it, it's just not how
I pictured it.

While I don't expect a single person on RAMD to agree with me, personally, I
thought their brass was better than BD's. It was technically as proficient,
balanced, in tune, had good tone quality, etc. BD is all those things but I
thought Garfield did it even better. Very much a IMHO thing, and as I'm going
to see them 3 more times this weekend, if someone wants to give me something to
look for to change my opinion (though I'm leaving noon Fri and won't have
internet again till Mon.) go for it. I'm open.

SCV brass band - 2nd - 84.65
The pit keyboard work in the opener starts when the warm up ends, before asking
if the judges or the corps is ready. It continues right thru the salute and
everything. I'm glad the program / Ryan explained what the opening signifies,
or I'd have been confused (and startled) as hell.

>From the start of SCV's show, I saw the kind of precise, fast moving drill that
I'd come expecting to see from all the top 3 corps. Not high enough to comment
on the forms, but it looked like drill.

Now another big surprise for me - When they hit their big hit, the sound was
just as big, full, rich, and powerful as a G line. If I hadn't been told they
were playing multi-key, I would've thought it was a G line. I don't know what
horns they're playing, though I recall reading they have no baris, but an all
euphoniums, which may contribute to this. All I know is I still don't like the
move away from G bugles on the principle it's moving away from our traditions
and roots, and something important which made the activity distinct from band...
but if all the brass band lines had this sound, I could not base my opposition
on the quality difference (which I can clearly do with the BD line.)

I made few specific notes during the SCV show. In general, I find this show to
be closer to the Seattle Cascades "wind ensemble" approach, but is somewhat more
accessible. I don't think it will grow on me like the show 2 years ago did.
It's a bunch of modern music, with melody here and there, but not much, & not
consistently. It's far from hummable (at least on 5 or less listening) In
terms of 1st listening / Joe Audience accessability, I'd put it even on par with
the BD show (both about 8 steps down from Garfield).

The guard wears all-black "don't notice me" uniforms, except for a strange
double headed arrow on the front that points to their face and their crotch. I
don't get it. I'd bet most in the audience who notice it don't get it. But
they can "explain" it to some visual judge and get points for it. That's
something I don't like. If the audience can't get it, I don't think it should
be. Maybe it's been on RAMD (I'm many posts behind) but is there a reason they
have an arrow that points to their face and crotch? One nice guard hit (10
white rifles toss & catch along front sideline) somewhere in the 2nd half of the
show was good, and made me realize that stuff had been missing up to that point
(& that Garfield had a lot more of it.)

Closer flags - brilliant purple and green, are very eye catching & look nice.

New Era Chant - I didn't think it would be possible, but it looks even dumber
being performed than it sounds on the recordings. This isn't a short, "Amen",
grunt, or even "Live from Sacramento, the Freelancers...". No this chant thing
goes on and on and on for about half a minute. I don't come to a drum corps
show to hear extended vocals or raps. It's dumb and it's annoying. It sounds
like some big 10 college band chanting out V-I-C-T-O-R-Y or something. I expect
them to break out into "BOOM-chugga-lugga-lugga, BOOM-chugga-lugga-lugga,
BOOM-chugga-lugga-lugga, BOOM!" any second. (What's funny is if you get a
recording, put that in there & it fits fine.) And they start out very stiff,
then as they "get into it" they "relax" and start to bob and weave. It sounds
cheezy. It looks juvenile. It is a big blot on an otherwise sophisticated
show. If the is the "New Era", it's time to pull out the CDs and go back to the
old one. (Not the whole show mind you, just this part.)

After they're done with that crap, they go back to playing and sounding like the
Santa Clara Vanguard again. Big powerful exciting ending which generates a
terrific audience response.

My friend watched them practice all week, and thinks this show is the best thing
since sliced bread. Loves the corps chanting. Thinks the music is accessible
for the first time listener. He's a big guy and I shouldn't have too much
trouble finding the pod. (If you don't get that comment, rent Invasion of the
Body Snatchers)

Following SCV was a dm only retreat, without too much delay, and it seemed like
everyone stayed. My feeling is the scores of all top 3 were too high. I don't
think any of the shows I saw tonight was above an 82. I also don't get why BD
is beating the stuffing out of the other 2 corps, but then again I freely admit
I don't know beans about drums, only sporadically notice them and colorguard,
and I had a poor vantage point for seeing drill. Maybe BD deserves to be
winning, but no one dominated IMO. I could see the top 3 in any order and see
the judges make a convincing argument to support it.

In Div 2, I have no idea how Esperanza is competing with Impulse much less
beating them. I guess the story's in the recaps. Maybe they make up a lot of
ground in percussion and colorguard. In terms of horn sound and entertainment
value, even though Esp. has both, they're just not in the same league as
Impulse. Other audience members around me felt the same way.
BD didn't do a victory concert. I don't know why. They didn't explain. Maybe
the 3 big corps are rotating it so the So. Cal crowds will get to see all of
them do an arc. That's a nice thought. Whatever the reason, we did get an
"audience appreciation" concert from SCV. It was announced right away, & as it
wasn't late at all, it seemed like most of the audience stayed for this. My
seat was ideal for a standstill arc, and I'll tell you, it was DAMN LOUD. So
loud my right ear (the side the euph line was on) was hurting. This brass band
was playing Drum Corps loud. I don't know what they play on, but BD could do
itself a big favor by getting themselves a set, yesterday. A run thru of the
show was followed by a beautiful rendition of Send In the Clowns. And all was
done well before 10:30.

A great evening, a well run show, and a night with no sleep typing this.

Thanks for reading.
Mike Margraf - The San Diego Mike

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