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“I-AM-SPARTACUS!” – DCI Finals, 2008

August 10, 2008

Well, they finally did it! After all the years of striving, hoping, more than a little resentful griping, and just plain hard work, last night the Phantom Regiment finally captured the gold at the Drum Corps International World Class Finals for the first time. (Back in 1996, they tied with the Blue Devils for first place – sparking controversies galore and a number of rules changes. This was their first solo win.)

I didn’t go to finals this year, even though it was relatively close, in Bloomington, Indiana. We had just returned from vacation on Friday, and turning around and going to Bloomington the next day just wasn’t in the cards. However, my daughter and I saw the Quarterfinals live broadcast at a Regal Theater in Royal Palm Beach on Thursday. I have to say the Phantom Regiment’s show even on video was so powerful it elicited a standing ovation from the theater audience – me included. My son an daughter were members of the Phantom Regiment Cadets back in the mid-1990s, so we have a certain affection for the Regiment organization. We’ve always loved the music, from back in the Jim Wren-scored days; this year the corps had the whole package. They beat the Blue Devils by only .025 points, which probably was only possible because of the scoring changes made this year. (I’ve not studied the recaps yet.)

A couple of other highlights: Carolina Crown in fourth, the best finish ever for that corps, with a show that was cleverly built around the endings of famous classical works. The Blue Stars, now a for-real World Class corps, doing a show built around the Tour de France and making it work, with a truly brilliant ending. The Bluecoats doing a show built around boxing, with a standstill brass chorale from Paul Simon’s “The Boxer” that was incredibly moving even on video. And, of course, the return of the Madison Scouts to the top 12…with a show I liked, but wasn’t knocked out by. Still it was good enough, and I hope this demonstrates the corps has it back together and will begin the climb back to the top. They have a great history and have done some magnificent work over the years, and I’d love to see them make it back into the top six.

Some serious shuffling in the top 12 from just a few years ago. The Boston Crusaders have never really thrilled me, but they are still firmly in the top 12, as are the Blue Knights, who never seem to have “that show” that is talked about at the end of the year. The Glassmen are hanging on, but the Colts missed the top 12 this year. Santa Clara is still strong but I can’t remember the last time I liked their show, and this was a good year for the Cavaliers – good enough for third place – but not their best.

The Cadets show was gutsy to put on the field. It went through a lot of changes. George Hopkins is truly an innovator and knows how to push the edge of the envelope, but as with any innovation, there will come failures as well as successes. This show just had a disconnect between the narration segments and the music that was very difficult to overcome. Still, it was an impressive attempt, one that took courage to spend the entire summer on, knowing the payoff may not be as great as the corps might hope.

This was a much more entertaining and musical year than we’ve seen for a while. I hope it points to better shows in the future. For a while the shows were getting incredibly complex but not very moving…now, maybe, the tide has turned. There certainly were some good examples of how to involve the audience this year. And once again, congratulations to the Phantom Regiment – you folks certainly deserved it!

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2 comments

  1. Yawn.
    BD was cheated out of the championship. Spartacus should have been in 3rd place.

    Oh, and Hoppy is the devil, destined to destroy drum corps.


  2. Always with the Regiment-haters. Sorry, can’t agree with you this time. There have been many years, dating back to the first time I saw the Devils in ’76, when they have knocked me on my butt. That’s happened less and less over the last 10 years. I appreciate their incredible finesse and ability; I just don’t always dig the show. Last year Phantom put together the total package, which is rare for them.

    As to Mr. Hopkins: I understand he is considered by many to be at the edge, pushing drum corps out of its traditions. On the other hand, his corps holds true to its tradition in many ways far more than many. I think he’s looking at a bigger picture than all of us, and farther down the road. He may be wrong or right, but he is trying to build drum corps, not kill it, of that I’m sure. I just don’t know if his ideas will do that or not.



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