2007: Looking back, looking forward

by Andrew Wheeler, DCW staff

Ever since the historically early announcing of the 2007 summer touring schedule, I’ve been looking forward to the coming season with eager anticipation. There are many things I’m   excited about this year. And yet, there are also some things I’ll miss from my brief six-year history as a drum corps fan. The 2007 season will be a bittersweet summer for me.

Looking back: At the top of the list of the things I’ll miss again this season is Drum Corps Midwest. As a fan who loves nothing more than going to drum corps shows, I lived in paradise for an all-too-brief two summers in 2002 and 2003. During each of those years, I went to between 20 and 25 shows (besides finals in 2002), with multiple shows every weekend and often shows during the week. Gone now are shows like Frankfort and Woodstock, Crown Point and Menasha. Of course, some of those shows probably had other issues than the breakup of DCM, but the fact remains that from 2003 (the last real year of DCM) to 2004, the number of shows within reasonable driving distance went down by about two-thirds. Summers just haven’t been the same since.

Looking forward: That said, DCI has done an amazing job of utilizing technology and media to fill in the blanks in the season and make me feel that I’m still enjoying a full summer of drum corps. From the “Classic Countdown” in April through the APDs and video streams over the summer, to the quarterfinals theater broadcast in August, I’m still living the drum corps dream. Gone are the days when I had to wait for the mid-season CDs (remember those?) in order to hear drum corps whenever I wanted. Now, I can hear nearly any division 1 corps (and some others as well) for much of the summer. DCI and Ipod — what a great combination. And the video streams, while sometimes a bit problematic, have still given me a chance to see corps that I otherwise would not see during the summer.

Looking back: The one show I miss the most is the DCM Championships in DeKalb. Probably the best weekend of my drum corps life was the first DCM championship I went to in 2001. Friday night, Saturday morning and then again Saturday night — what a way to spend a weekend! The DCM Marketplace was unique, too — in some ways even better than the one at finals because of the great concessions. Although DCM held championships at DeKalb in 2004 and 2005, it just wasn’t the same as the two-day fiesta we used to have. Now, for the second year in a row, the stadium I regard as the best in the Midwest for drum corps will lie vacant.

Looking forward: Michigan City is a perennial favorite show for me; last year, I was there twice — once for The Cavaliers’ show and once for the “Great Lakes Open.” Mike Pease really knows how to organize not just a show, but the whole experience. There’s only one show there this year, but I’ll be there. And this year, it looks like I’ll get to return to another favorite place that I haven’t been in a couple of years — Menomonie, WI. I’m hoping to finally get to meet Dan and Marilyn Tye, two of the best show promoters I’ve ever known. Menomonie is a great show with a wonderful venue, a bit of a drive for me, but well worth it.

Looking back: As is the case every summer, there are some corps I’ll miss. At the top of the list is the Bandettes, the first corps I ever saw perform. I continue to miss the Americanos, the Marion Glory Cadets and the Joliet Kingsmen. This year, I’ll be adding Magic of Orlando to the list. The one-year   history of Eklipse was way too brief. I’ll also miss seeing The Academy this year, since they won’t be coming to the Midwest. But then, I’m still living off the high of last year’s show.

Looking forward: I’m hoping to get a chance to see the Troopers this year as they come back from their brief hiatus. I’m also hoping to see Vision Elite, a new corps last year that really brought some excitement and a crowd-pleasing show to the field. They’re a great group, full of both respect and enthusiasm for the activity.

Looking back: Finals last year was such a treat, especially since they finally figured out how to organize the schedule so that there were no conflicts between the D2/3 shows and the D1 shows — an art that had somehow been lost for three years (coinciding with the time since the previous finals in Madison — hmmm). Although I missed the D2/3 prelims, I did get three intense days of shows every morning and every night — what a great time. I won’t be going to finals this year, too far away.

Looking forward: I’ll still get a bit of the finals experience, though, with the quarterfinals broadcast and whatever streaming they put in Season Pass. And Indianapolis starting next year? Do they have any 10-year ticket plans? I’m also hoping to attend the Kalamazoo show for the first time this summer.

Looking back: I have to say it, I miss the days when I didn’t have to listen to soliloquies, narration, poetry and other amped-voice “features.” I could handle the un-miked chants of the “old days” (SCV’s “New Era” or Boston’s “Shakata”), but nowadays I’m hearing way too much voice. I daresay that not even electronic instrumentation could damage the experience for me as much as amped voice has.

Looking forward: One significant change, especially in the last couple of years, is the increase in competitiveness at the top of division 1. I’d have to check back to know how many years in a row saw the same top four corps in one order or another. The rise of Phantom and Bluecoats last year has me really anticipating the competitive aspect of the activity this year.

So, there it is, my list of favorite bygone memories and top reasons to look forward to 2007. Would I go back to, say, 2001, 2002 or 2003 if I could? In a heartbeat (but I’d prefer it if I could take The Academy with me). But time moves on. Corps come and go, shows come and go, entire circuits come and go. Shows get faster, glitzier, more physically demanding, less precise and less visually coherent.

Music moves from the popular to the esoteric. Controversial design elements alienate many and performances become as much of a showcase for the show designers as for the kids performing them. But at the heart of it all is a great activity that still has the power to change the lives of its participants and enrich the lives of its fans. I wouldn’t miss the 2007 season for anything.

This article originally appeared in the April 2007 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 36, Number 1), mailed to subscribers on March 15.