First Chance, FirstBEAT

Tomorrow evening, Megan and I are schlepping three hours south to Columbia, SC for my first live DCI show of the '09 season. My friends Joseph and Jim will be down there as well, and weather permitting (we got rained out last year) we'll be treated to drum corps courtesy of Alliance, Teal Sound, Crossmen, Boston Crusaders, Blue Stars, the Holy Name Cadets, and the host corps, Carolina Crown. It'll be my first live encounter with the much-cursed electronics, and my first peek at this year's installment of what may be a budding east coast rivalry.

Rivalry? Am I reporting or just stirring something up? Most corps--and even many corps fans--are too magnanimous to lend any credence to rivalry, because they're all great corps with amazing performers and we just try and do our best and yadda yadda yadda. But anyone who's been paying attention has seen that since around the middle of last year, Crown and Cadets' destinies have been linked, and they've traded the lead with one another quite a few times.

Because of geographic proximity and tour schedules, DCI is unofficially grouped into East, Central, and West divisions. Carolina Crown and the Holy Name Cadets have clearly been the beasts of the East recently; the other divisions are currently anchored by the Cavaliers and Phantom Regiment in the Central and Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard in the West. Carolina Crown defeated the Cadets in head-to-head competition for the first time last year in Orlando, and finished ahead of them in finals last year for the first time as well. This season, the Cadets started out strong, but Crown has been taking the most recent golds.

The rivalry may have a bit of traction among the respective fanbases as well. Through observation (and admittedly, being a Crown fan an often a Cadets hater) it seems that there's reason for each group to dislike the other. Crown fans think their corps is new and innovative, while the Cadets innovate in the wrong way with strange things like sets and narration. Cadets fans know their corps is a tried and true World Champion, while Crown is the impudent upstart trying to shine. But will you hear booing or jeers from either side? Of course not (well, maybe a little). Fans will be cordial, clap politely, and perhaps leave the smack for bulletin boards and discussion forums.

Regardless of whatever rivalry, real or perceived, I'm looking forward to seeing the two duke it out tomorrow at FirstBEAT. Both corps--not to mention the rest of the lineup--will give their very best; they may just push one another to do so.