Sunday, July 8, 2007

Once a band geek...

By the end of high school, I'd had enough of the whole marching band scene. But at one point I was interested enough to follow the Drum and Bugle Corps -- these are near-professional über-bands that do nothing but practice a 15 minute show 15 hours a day for 2-3 months every summer. Besides, at the time Bloomington had its own new ("corporate-sponsored") corps, Star of Indiana, and hosted a summer competition. Drum corps tapes were passed from walkman to walkman (remember those? -- they were new then) on band trips.

At some point, it all seemed a bit cult-ish. Or maybe it was just part of going off to college (one that didn't have a marching band, I might add). So, for twenty years I really hadn't thought much about drum lines, 8-to-5 steps, or how polyester is not breezy in August, but porous in November.

But now it's high school reunion time, which means you get some sort of Biological Condition that makes you remember these things. Problem now is that we have Google and You Tube, so in a matter of minutes I was watching old shows from the 80's and forwarding links to friends. Shortly after that, I was searching for the nearest show to NYC.

And so, last night we ended up in Allentown, Penn. at the DCI Eastern Classic, watching and listening to people who weren't even born the last time I'd seen a show. For those of you who haven't experienced 100+ drummers and buglers blasting away into your face, here's an excerpt of the Phantom Regiment's show:

After twenty years of abstinence, it was intoxicating. Even if we were sitting on the minus-ten yard line. That's right, we had a dead-on view of the goalposts; every high-school band student from 200 miles around must've bought tickets early.

For any fellow band geek out there, here's a brief review:

  • The Madison Scouts still seem to be all-male. And they were the only corps to take advantage of their chorale warm-up by warming up the crowd. Tricky, but good.
  • Santa Clara Vanguard, for me, remains high-performance but somehow not completely satisfying.
  • Carolina Crown (which I don't think existed "back then") was sweet and wonderful musically. They were the only ones that had the crowd leaping to their feet on the last note -- no cerebral delay due to high-brow music.
  • Phantom Regiment still rocks. Wow.
  • The Cadets (aka "Garfield"). Hmm. Being twenty years older, I now recognize the genotype: they are the FIJIs or Goldman Sachs of drum corps. Arrogant, but undeniably a fine machine. But this year it's their show that's annoying -- they've got some narration being amplified all throughout their show. It's full of clichés, self-satisfaction ("Excellent!" it shouts at one point) and has way too many over-aspirated Ps that Pop and Pound till all you want to say is "Puck off!". The anti-Cadets faction (which is probably most other corps) is putting out "Shut up and Play" tee shirts. That's pretty succinct and right on.

Sadly, the Cadets appear to have won, with Phantom Regiment finishing second. Just as well that we didn't stay for the scores, but then that was never the point for me anyway.