DCI Van Buren Review

Carolina Crown bass drums being tuned before the show
So I took a different approach to the DCI show in Van Buren after realizing last year that the location is not really conducive to running around with a camera. This year I decided it would be my goal to sit in the stands at this venue and actually enjoy some of the shows. Unfortunately, some of the drumlines were making it extremely difficult to stay focused on the goal. When I got out of my car, I was presented with this…


It was Carolina Crown just setting up for their warm up…

After hanging around a few minutes and realizing I needed to get back on track, I literally followed the railroad tracks towards the stadium. Again, I was presented with another roadblock luring me away, this time it was the Santa Clara Vanguard.


I stood there for about five minutes listening to the little devil sitting on my shoulder saying, “look at this primo location, with two outstanding drumlines warming up. You would be an idiot to pass this up”. Would I? I had to press on so back to following the tracks.
After negotiating for the best ticket left in the stack, I proceeded to head to the stands but I again started to doubt my decision as I read the sign on the gate, “No re-entry”….it was all or nothing at this point. I grimaced as I looked for my seat among the masses, listening to things such as “I can’t wait for the next band”….oh what had I gotten myself into? I was sitting in the epicenter among the grandmas, band moms, and the uninitiated! They didn’t know what they were missing in the parking lot, the whole other show, and I doubted they cared.
But then the first group came out, not the first group in the lineup – remember my loitering in the lot? So the first group to come out is Spirit which was an entertaining show. Not something I would normally go for, but it was satisfying in that it didn’t try to pose a deep question or tug at the heart strings. It was just a good old fashioned 11 minutes of drum corp. Hey maybe these people in the stands were on to something?


So next up was the Colts. Their show was well designed when it came to the music, but seemed to lack the visual polish of a Top 6 corp. Nonetheless, the total package came off strong and the drumline is much improved from years past. Everything seemed to have a better flow in the writing and playing…oh the playing, the roll quality was fantastic from the snareline. The Colts drumline had the perfect balance of musicality, demand, quality of sound and technique. My hat is off to them this year.


The Blue Knights were up next and they did not disappoint. This was actually the show that impressed me the most since I typically do not connect with Blue Knight shows. I’m not sure what it is, but their shows in the past have not grabbed me. 2009 is a different story. It’s hard to pull off a show that depicts “cold” when it’s almost 100 degrees but they did a fine job. The hornline was fantastic and just when you thought they had given you their all, they turned it up even more! I use to only think the elite groups were able to do that with the same quality of sound while raising the intensity level – not anymore! The drumline writing complimented the horn book well and never distracted the listener from the main musical themes. They were a strong drumline and had some very impressive drum exposures during the show.


Santa Clara Vanguard was next. It was a non stop “Best of” show containing classic Vanguard that hit all of the right notes. There were areas of serious playing, comedy, raw emotion, and nods to tradition all wrapped up in a package only SCV could produce. The drums looked sharp in the dark green stain and they played closer to the traditional SCV style than in recent years – I see this as an improvement. Why not go back to roots, the very thing that got you where you are in the first place? This is a show worth seeing again and again.


The last group of the night was Carolina Crown. I have to be honest and say that they were the primary reason for going to this particular show. It would be the one and only time I would get to see them this Summer so I jumped at the chance. “The Grass is Always Greener” as the show title gives the design team a lot of open-ended ideas to play with and they did a nice job exploring those. I can’t say I picked up everything on the first read, but the variations on what is on “the other side” proved to be enjoyable to watch. Hornline was strong like last year, up to the same level? Maybe, but the music is a different style so its hard to compare. The drumline? Smokin’. They have improved every year since Lee Beddis has taken the reins. This is the pinnacle of a multi-year build up and they are drumming for the trophy – it is non stop notes, yet still very musical. They are not hiding and they are in a way calling out to other groups to do the same (see visuals in show for explanation).

A few things to note about the drumline. The drum finish is outstanding with the green stain. The bass drums got new heads that look like the green stained wood grain, a neat effect. The other thing to note is the tuning of the snare drums. Up close, they sound midrange to on-the-slightly-low-side but from the stands it blends well as an ensemble (which is most important).


Overall, a great evening in the stands and I am actually glad I grabbed a seat for this one. Do I prefer the lot? Sure, it provides a much more intimate view of the drumline and the notes they are playing (and it’s free), but you have to take in the end result to see how it all fits together. This gives you better sense of where you can expect corps to finish at Championships. Carolina Crown? Top 3 in my book this year. Good luck to everyone for the remainder of the season.


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