Down the Stretch: Championship Eve

With all due respect to the Open Class competitors, who began their championship series today, tonight is the eve of DCI's championship series in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. This time last year, Megan and I were in Bloomington taking it all in; this year, we'll be keeping tabs from home, or more accurately, from the road, as we're in Maryland and Delaware visiting family this week.

I went on a mini-drum corps bender about a week and a half ago and got to see some great shows. While two friends of mine got the jump on me by traveling down to Atlanta for the Southeastern Championship, I joined the fray in Rock Hill, SC, the new home of Carolina Crown's NightBEAT. We had a sizable crowd for the pre-show tailgate (or TailGATE, as I cleverly called it, mimicking the style of CrownEVENTS)--eight of us, including me, Megan, the aforementioned two friends, and another colleague of mine's family of four met beforehand and set up the grill, canopy, and drinks for some lot action. Once inside the show, we found that Rock Hill District 3 Stadium is a good deal smaller than American Legion Memorial Stadium, the show's previous Charlotte home. It meant a sellout, which was good news for the corps, and it gave Crown a chance to give back to their York County, SC home, but I really loved that show in Charlotte. Stadium construction kept it away this year, but the way folks were talking gave me the impression that they are looking to make Rock Hill a little more permanent. I'll support it either way, but I will note that this means there's no longer a competition within the friendly confines of the Old North State.

After heading about two hours down the road for NightBEAT, I headed about 2 hours up the road for the Summer Music Games of Southwest VA in Salem. Despite thinking about it for several years, I had never made it to this show, nestled in the mountains of SW VA near Roanoke. It gave me a chance to catch a few corps I hadn't seen at either FirstBEAT or NightBEAT as well, namely Spirit, the Madison Scouts, and the Cavaliers.

Salem also brought forth a new seating experience for me. Usually when selecting show tickets, I like to sit up high, to see drill unfold. This, of course, makes the instrumentalists work a little harder to reach me, but clearly they have no problem with that. For Salem, we were about three rows from the front at about the 40 yard line. It's a whole new show, even for the corps I had seen before. While it's harder to see drill formations, there's a new level of the passion of performance you can see up close that I hadn't experienced. And of course, musically you're right in the blast zone! I think I'll have to make it a point to get both up high and down low for at least one show each year.

On to championships! A change in plans (basically, a threat of rain in what might otherwise have been a day at the amusement park) means I'll be seeing Big, Loud, & Live! - DCI's theatre broadcast of championship quarterfinals - in a theatre near me tomorrow evening. So who's got the competitive edge going into quarterfinals? It depends on who you ask. While the undefeatd Blue Devils are the consensus number one, who comes next is up for debate. The rankings at - which the league stresses are for entertainment value only - have Carolina Crown, Holy Name Cadets, The Cavaliers, and Santa Clara Vanguard rounding out positions 2-5, respectively. The folks are tell a different story, slating, in order, the Cadets, Vanguard, Crown, and the Cavaliers as the runners-up. It's like major college football, although all of these corps will settle it on the field on Saturday night. As competition continues to heat up, the Blue Devils, who are vying for their 13th world championship, would do well to remember the plight of the 2007 New England Patriots.