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Saturday, July 22, 2017

An Honor and a Privilege

This time last year, I was just wrapping an unsuccessful campaign to bring Scouts Honor to a theater near me. Now, a year later, I've finally seen the film.

The documentary follows the 2012 Madison Scouts through their season and focuses specifically on three members: a rookie trumpet, a returning snare, and a guard age out. The first sounded notes of the film set the tone: They are from MalagueƱa, a piece that Madison played in 2012 but has had other notable appearances in the corps' history, including their championship in 1988 and fan favorite A Drum Corps Fan's Dream Part Dos in 1996. This introduction sets the tone in more ways than one: Both musically, and by revealing that the film is, by design, as sonically true as one can be to a drum corps show without being present. While I'm certain my living room speakers didn't do it justice, I know it's something in which the directors took great pride.

For those of us already familiar with the activity, the beginning goes a bit heavy on the "what is drum corps?" which I understand is absolutely necessary for unfamiliar audiences, but feels a bit like your GPS directing you out of your own neighborhood. Still, it sets the stage for a documentary that, as the full title suggests, tells the story of the brotherhood the men in the corps share.

So is this the story of three young men and the 2012 season, or of the now nearly 80 year history of the corps? Yes.

While the story is told through the then-current season, the continued theme is the longitudinal brotherhood that the corps members share not just with their brothers at that moment in time, but the generations of Scouts that came before them. It even shows the transition as the 2012 ageouts join the ranks of the alumni, and implores them to continue the support of the men they leave behind who can return to the corps. In one scene that stood out given my professional and personal interests, it is clear that within this band of brothers are brothers of another sort: A member of Lambda Chi Alpha and a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, stand, arm in arm, bound by their Madison Scouts brotherhood. Moreover, the members of the corps - one of the young men featured in particular, learned, in the truest sense of the corps song, you'll never walk alone.

Another piece that I noticed due to my personal interests is that the film steered clear - whether by design or chance - of sports analogies. In describing the role of the center snare, for instance, a quarterback or point guard analogy may have been apropos, but it never came up. Whether intentional or not, it allowed the activity to stand on its own two feet. On another personal note, it dawned on my while watching this film that I actually didn't see Madison live during the 2012 season, so there was genuine, drum corps fan joy in watching their show come together.

I've waited quite some time to see this film, and it was worth every bit of it. I urge you to check it out as soon as you can; for Apple users, it's available for $0.99 rent of $9.99 purchase via the iTunes store.

Beer Review - Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale

Another summer, another beer review.

Along with drum corps, beer is my favorite summer sports-adjacent, and two of the last three years have brought some form of a review. While I made the annual trip to Delmarva that spawned the other two, I picked this one up locally, despite it also calling the Peninsula home.

Two years ago, I said that 3rd Wave's Sour Lime was what Bud Light Lime wanted to be when it grew up. Well, Dogfish Head's SeaQuench Ale has a steady career with a 401k and stock options. Released in 2016 and canned this year, SeaQuench Ale is a Kolsch/Berlinerweisse/Gose blend that calls itself a session sour but, in my opinion, drinks as a gose with its varied lime elements and sea salt. It's a great summer drink that in cans travels well to the beach of even early season tailgates.

It's also gotten a few bits of critical acclaim lately - some of which I care about more than others. Men's Health names it among the best light (lite?) beers, a stat that appeals to me simply on the basis of how filling it is. Both USA Today and Food and Wine note that while some beer may be refreshing, SeaQuench Ale actually quenches your thirst. And my Baltimore-Delaware dual consciousness is particularly pleased that Dogfish Head developed this in conjunction with the National Aquarium.

While I've long been a serial trier, you can expect SeaQuench Ale to be my summer go-to for the foreseeable future.

If you care that I care about beer, find me on Untappd.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Heating Up

This summer, throw the records out the window.

Whatever you know about DCI's pecking order, it's being shaken up this summer. Earlier this month, the Boston Crusaders beat The Cadets head to head for the first time in my lifetime. Six time DCI World Champion Santa Clara Vanguard has been on the climb as well. While the corps hasn't so much as medaled since their 1999 championship, they came within a point of their Baymate Blue Devils for the first time in a decade (damning with faint praise, I realize) and currently sit in second in DCI's ("for entertainment purposes only") standings. Both the Boston Crusaders and Blue Knights also crash the party of the self-segregated Tour of Champions corps, relegating The Cadets and Phantom Regiment to seventh and ninth, respectively.

The current standings also put me in an interesting place. While I've probably shouted Crown the loudest, Santa Clara and Carolina have long been my two favorite corps, with my love for SCV lasting the longest. So now, as SCV jockeys for position, it's at the expense of Crown. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing both corps continue to climb, and I'm particularly pleased to see Vanguard's resurgence. Next weekend, I'll get to see the Tour of Champions in action across the Triad in Winston-Salem.

Buckle up, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Monday, June 26, 2017


Skin is in.

There are only a few competitive or recreational summer activities where the players are traditionally clad head to toe, wrist to ankle. NASCAR, reenactments, and drum corps. In NASCAR, it's for safety; in reenactments it's for authenticity, and in DCI it's... well, we've always done it this way.

Both reenactments and drum corps owe the genesis to their military roots, and in drum corps, it's more closely tied to present-day marching bands. But despite the temperature difference, the summer activity has historically parted relatively little from their colder weather counterparts. This year may represent the largest departure from traditional uniforms, with short sleeves, no sleeves, and a variety of lighter weight materials being represented on the field. I'm certain current marching members think it's about time, and former marching members add another notch to their "back in my day..." belt. And, of course, it's probably no small coincidence that the Bluecoats just won a championship with nontraditional uniforms.

While I air musically on the traditional side, I mostly welcome this potential renaissance in uniform design. While I prefer corps pick a style and stick to it -uniformity across time, if you will - I've got no problem with them picking styles, lengths, and fabrics that will make the marching members' experience a little more pleasant.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It Is What It Is

It was Father's Day. That means I get to do what I want, right?

Instead of holding their preview show at Gardner Webb where they do spring training, Carolina Crown brought the show home, instead showcasing in Fort Mill, where they are headquartered.With about an hour shaved off of the round trip from Greensboro, I decided a couple of weeks ago to make the trip. So after brunch and with a twinge of parental guilt for heading out on Father's Day sans the kids, I made the trip south.

I made a couple of stops along the way: First Cabela's, because #rvftamademedoit, and then a planned stop at Full Spectrum Brewing, Fort Mill's first brewery, for a bit of beer tourism. I had a couple of brews I rather enjoyed at the latter, and brought home a six of their infrared IPA - a bit of a commitment for me as a serial trier. From there, it was on to Nation Ford High School for the show.

I settled into a spot in the shade of the press box and anxiously awaited the full corps while being treated to a pit feature. A few things were immediately evident: The color of the bibbers (matte and metallic gray) and the fact that Crown was re-incorporating purple, this time in the jacket.

On to their 2017 production, It Is. I'll give the key takeaways Ive provided in a couple of other venues:
1. Trying not to fly into a curmudgeonly rage over vocal soloist.
2. Trying not to curtail curmudgeonly rage just because it's Crown.
3. This brass. On preview day. With an entire season to mature? Good GAWD.

More specifically: With very little exception, I don't want any vocals in my drum corps. What made Crown's incorporation of the vocalist all the more egregious is that she sung through the ballad. Crown's brass alone has put together some beautiful ballads throughout the years, and it's a shame, in my opinion, that they saw fit to sing over it this year.

But to my last point: The only other time I've made it to CrownPREVIEW was the year of Inferno, and I found it refreshingly human that I was hearing bumps and flaws in the hornline that are typically absent from later season shows. This year, the corps seemed to already be firing on all cylinders, so I'm really excited to see what they become.

If you had any reason to doubt it, drum corps season us upon us.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Raise High the Black and Gold.

The College World Series gets underway today. Two weeks ago, I made a stop (and subsequently, an exit) on the Road to Omaha.

I headed a half hour to my west with my kids to see UMBC take on Maryland-College Park in the loser's bracket of the Winston-Salem regional. While I was gung-ho about catching both UMBC games, I allowed reason to get the better of me and didn't hightail it out there after work on Friday evening, knowing they were guaranteed a Saturday game.

While my wife didn't travel, I took both of the little double-legacies to cheer on the Retrievers at Wake Forest. We opted for the Bojangles tailgate as a way both to get something to eat before the game, and to pop up the flags. A fellow UMBC fan suggested I might confuse folks flying a Maryland flag and a UMBC flag; I reminded him that the flagship does not own the state flag. I also chatted with a College Park fan in the lot, and surprised myself with how much I was able to offer about the team's current events, despite not following regularly.

In the shade behind home plate that housed nearly all of the spectators on that hot early June day in the south, I watched the good guys get mollywhopped and end their season to the tune of 16-2. It wasn't anything I didn't expect, and it was great to see the ovation the team got as they left the field. Too bad I couldn't get anyone to join me in singing the alma mater.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Down Home

Anyone want to get an old dawg a new flag?
It's the end of a spring college sports season, so naturally I'm focused on... baseball?

While my spring sports attention is usually focused on lacrosse, I have a few dogs in the baseball postseason this year, not the least of which are my own Dawgs. From the moment UMBC won the America East Conference and with it an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, I became a pretty fast study on the college baseball postseason. Of the regional sites, I hoped - and knew I had a fighting chance - for one of two sites within an hour's drive: The Wake Forest-hosted Winston-Salem regional, and the UNC-hosted Chapel Hill regional. They made the most geographic sense for traveling fans and, selfishly, me. Turns out we're headed to Wake Forest, a half hour from my home and a campus I know well.

Living in North Carolina has certainly been good to me in terms of postseason play for both alma maters. Since moving here in 2005, I've gotten to see USF play twice in the Meineke Car Care (now Belk) bowl; UMBC men's basketball in our only NCAA basketball tournament appearance in Raleigh; UMBC men's lacrosse in the NCAA tournament in Chapel Hill; and both men's soccer programs at Wake Forest, the most recent of which was a victory that would ultimately bring UMBC back to the state for the Final Four in Cary. A combination of generally strong schools for the merit-based hosting sites, and attractive venues and location for the bidded sites (provided we don't continue to screw that up) means there's a good chance North Carolina will host, and proximity to the mid-Atlantic and southeast stands to bring either alma mater here.

I'm no stranger to Wake Forest either. In addition to the previous tournament trips, they've been a frequent football destination - for and against, and of course they now host DCI's NightBEAT. I'll just be adding one more of their athletics facilities to my visits.

So I'll be there, with my outdated logo flag and likely a Maryland flag courtesy of Amazon Prime. It just so happens College Park will be at this regional - can't let the flagship claim sole ownership over the flag. And if we go two and a 'cue, at least I know the barbecue's good here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Southern Hospitality

South Carolina is making big things happen from a tourism and hospitality standpoint.

I first saw it in action last month. While attending the Men of Color National Summit - hosted by Clemson in Greenville, SC - it was clear that the city of Greenville and Greenville County were fully committed to the conference, its mission, and the wellbeing of the guests to their region. The mayor and other public officials addressed conferencegoers, welcoming us. Many municipal agencies were showcasing in the hallways of the convention center. Greenville seemed fully committed to putting their best foot forward and meeting the needs of the conference, which they will host again next year.

Apparently that hospitality's not limited to the Upstate.

In the Marching Podcast's episode with National Collegiate Marching Band Championships and Festival founder Bob Lane, Lane spoke of the connections in Columbia that were committed not only to pulling off the first event, but to keeping it in Columbia as a point of pride and eventual destination for band fans nationwide. No less than the mayor are part of the team that is bringing this event to the Palmetto State's capital.

It's worth noting: With the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds in 2015, South Carolina only recently gained back the right to host NCAA postseason play. While I don't know what other embargos other industries may have placed on the state, I"m certain that bringing business into - or back into - SC has been a priority. Judging from at least these two events, they're committed to making it happen.

The 'Ship

If you're like me, you lost your mind when you learned of the National Collegiate Marching Band Championships and Festival coming this year to Columbia, SC in early December. Still, upon its initial announcement, I found myself with more questions than answers. I knew they'd be answered in time, and as luck would have it, Friend of the Program Joe Beard over at The Marching Podcast chopped it up with the event's founder, Bob Lane, and got the answers we've all been waiting for.

Check out the podcast here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Calvert & Crossland

Tomorrow's a big day in the Old Line State. In Baltimore alone, The Preakness Stakes will run its 142nd edition. Across town, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Orioles will celebrate Maryland their own way. with Maryland flag-inspired uniforms, including the iconic Calvert and Crossland patterns on the bill of their hat and on the jersey's script.

No sir, I don't like it.

This may come as a surprise to those who know I'm a Maryland flag apologist. But the reason this design annoys me is the same reason I have passed on any number of similarly patterned items in Ocean City each summer. The flag doesn't need to be tiled. Two instances each of Calvert and Crossland will suffice. Tiling makes an already busy pattern obnoxious, even to me.

And by the way, O's, with another team playing just outside the state's borders and claiming DMV loyalties, don't think I don't see what you're doing as you Celebrate Maryland.
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