Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spartacus on the Screen

Tonight was the DCI Countdown, which has become the starting point of all of the events of the Drum Corps International Summer Music Games.

This year, online voters chose their favorite 6 corps for 2004-2008.  The lineup, from fewest to most votes in the last round:

2007 Bluecoats ("Smooth Criminal")
2006 Blue Devils ("The Godfather Part Blue")
2004 Santa Clara Vanguard ("Scheherazade")
2007 Carolina Crown ("Triple Crown")
2004 Cavaliers ("007")
2008 Phantom Regiment ("Spartacus")

It was difficult for me to choose between many of those in contention.  Yes, I knew that I'd vote for 2004 SCV and 2008 Phregiment, as well as Crown's 2007 show, but the other 3 were more difficult.  I was pleased with the final choices, particularly because my "hot dog corps" did not make it to the final 6.

The event was a special event shown on theatres nationwide.  I went to the AMC at Santa Anita.  The theater wasn't full, but that's to be expected when all of these performances are available on DVD, and there are other theaters nearby that were screening the show.

The video started, but all we could hear was instrumental music (not drum corps instrumental).  We all realized after about a minute that the sound and video were not looped correctly or in sync or whatever.  Somebody went to talk to the manager.  He came back with the answer that it was a satellite problem.  Then we saw the TiVo pause the show, but it was still off.  So the guy left again, and so did a few other people.  Other audience members asked them to also request that the sound be turned up.  They came back and said that management was going to fix it.  But instead of going back to the beginning (which would have been ideal), they just paused the video long enough for the sound to catch up, and we were about 75% through the Bluecoats performance by the time everything was playing correctly together.

Fine, but it still wasn't loud.

You see, to a drum corps fan, one of the wonderful things about the live performance is how LOUD the people can play when it is called for.  Trying to emulate a live performance with the sound turned down is not good.  The guy again left to ask about the volume.  It was finally turned up before Crown's performance, but it still wasn't really as loud as it should have been.  The video also left something to be desired, but that's due to the technology of the older video not really matching the digital quality in the theater.  

Anyway, I was impressed with one of the guys that had arrived late (or had left to get popcorn during the sound issues, I don't know).  He came back with his concessions during a corps' performance, and, just like they ask you to do at the live events, he stood to the side until the corps was done, so as not to disturb the other audience members.  Isn't that nice?  We had been having issue after issue, and he still didn't want to disturb us. 

Bookending and between each performance, DCI commentators Steve Rondinaro and Dennis DeLucia talked about the corps, and also talked to some people that were watching with them at Lucas Oil Stadium (site of DCI World Championships).  One of the guys was wearing a Colts 2009 Inaugural shirt, and I wondered if he was one of the people that I accidentally pushed at the Intersection from Hell.  I laughed when I saw that Rondinaro was talking to the 2007 Crown Drum Major, and I actually recognized him as such before he introduced himself.  OMG, I'm such the drum corps geek!  At least I didn't know the name, right?

They were joined by last year's Phregiment DM, Will Pitts, now a staff member with DCI.  He gave us previews from the winter camps of Madison Scouts, Jersey Surf, and Phregiment.  It was funny when he was interviewing Phregiment Executive Director Rick Valenzuela, and Rick said that they had to kill the DM at the end of "Spartacus" because the DM couldn't close the show well, so it was good that they had the second one to take his place at the end.  

Will also gave a little tour of Indianapolis.  At first, I was thinking, "Why didn't I see that?" to a bunch of stuff, then I realized that although Bro and I stayed in Indy, we actually watched the shows in Bloomington, so we didn't spend much time in the city.  I guess we'll have stuff to see this year, as they're going to be having stuff for the fans all over the State Park or whatever, so that should be interesting.

The audience reacted just like I prefer for DCI:  they clapped when they liked certain sections, they laughed when funny things happened, and they yelled "VANGUARD" in the correct place.  (Yes, I remembered!).  

I found myself thinking of what happened in whatever year's corps they were showing at the time.  Who won?  Where were we sitting?  I really liked it when Finals was out here in Pasadena, but Denver was the best! But the feeling that I relived with the most impact was seeing Phregiment take the field on finals night in 2008.  I got all excited again, and so did the rest of the audience.  One guy said at the beginning of the evening that Spartacus got a standing ovation in this theater on Quarterfinals Live night.  Too cool. We didn't stand tonight, but I'm telling you, it needed to be LOUDER.

Rondinaro & DeLucia commented that that the voters chose shows that were melodic and told a story.  That is interesting, actually.  The psychologist in me says that it's because the country is going through a tough time, and it needs the comfort of storytelling and familiarity.  The DCI Fan in me says that the Old School corps folk do not like the newer, more avant-garde, atonal, minimalist stuff.  I'm entertained by both types of performances, but I think that's the musician in me. ;)

Of the 3 corps they previewed, I was most excited about Phregiment.  Their show this year is "The Red Violin."  I really enjoyed the movie as well as the score, and they played the main theme, which made me happy.  The show will also include works by Paganini, probably the ultimate composer for a solo violinist.  So the violinist in me is WAY excited.

I look forward to this year's tour, although I probably won't see much of it due to scheduling conflicts.  I'm wondering, though, if maybe I should take a couple of my furlough days to fly out and see that Phregiment show sometime before Finals week, because I'm sure I'll want to see it more than 3 times.  I mean, I know that they'll have broadcasts online, but it won't be LIVE.  Isn't that the point?  Because then I won't have to ask people to go and ask management to turn up the volume.  It will already be at the max.

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