On Saturday, July 15th 2017, two Open Class and eight World Class Drum Corps braved weather and elevation to perform in Denver's Mile High Stadium. Fans from across the nation gathered to witness the product of months of hard work – and it's not over yet.
The 54th Annual Drums Along The Rockies is hosted by Ascend Performing Arts and the Blue Knights, Colorado's own corps. This year, it would be the first time that two defending champions – The Blue Devils, hailing from Concord, CA and The Bluecoats from Canton, OH – would face off head to head. This battle of Blue would give a little foresight into which corps might take the trophy home from Lucas Oil Stadium in August.
The night started a little "rockie"(pun absolutely intended) with imminent weather conditions threatening cancellation. The sky warned of rain, and high winds caused issues for color guard members.
However, Drum Corps are nothing but resilient, and so the show went on. Fans and members alike braved the rain to witness the live event. For their reward, the rain cleared just in time to start.
First to perform were the Bronco Stampede and Brass alongside BKXperience clinic participants – a bit of a pre-show event where students of all ages are encouraged to learn various performance techniques.
They charged the field with all the energy of youth and performance jitters. They performed a lively rendition of "Happy" by Pharrel. The middle aged Bronco Stampede and Brass clearly had the most fun.
The group on field was then joined by the Colorado HIKE (Hearing Impaired Kids Endowment) Choir, which featured a diverse group of women who helped perform the national anthem in sign language.
Finally, the corps were announced in order of performance and were greeted with cheers from enthusiastic fans. Drums Along The Rockies at Mile High was on.
The first corps to perform were the Columbians with their 2017 production, "Do Not Go Gentle". As beautiful as it sounded, it was endlessly creepy thanks to the color guard. Rigid movements accompanied by an echoey reading of Dylan Thomas's famous poem and underscored by the corps gave every crowd member goosebumps. Overall, the Columbians finished 2nd in Open Class with a score of 57.10.
Next up were The Battalion with their production, "Listen To The Silence". As the title suggests, the corps creatively used silence as a part of their production, emphasizing their excellent cutoffs and superior performance-ship.
As any musician will tell you, silence is remarkably harder to play than notes. The hits were always bigger than the last one, ending in a final push that pulled people out of their seats. The Battalion finished 1st in Open Class with a score of 59.10.
The Seattle Cascades followed The Battalion with their production, "Set Free". The most memorable part of the show was the use of a massive bird cage that contained soloists and dancers. However, the most impactful moment was a flawlessly executed rifle catch following the cry of "he sings of freedom!" The Cascades finished 8th in World Class with a score of 65.90.
The Mandarins brought everything they had this year with their production of "Inside The Ink". It started with two incredible solo dancers who flowed around each other like, well, ink! The buildup to the first chord was slow, but worth it.
Soon, colors began emerging from what was once a very bland field. By the end, there were multicolored flags and a rainbow of rifles on the field. It ended rather chaotically, earning the corps a standing ovation. The underdog Mandarins finished 4th in World Class with a score of 74.55.
The Oregon Crusaders presented their 2017 program, "Encompass". As can be imagined, they used large wooden field props to slowly construct compasses throughout the show. One of my favorite moments was a call and response melody between a mellophone and trumpet player.
Although the color scheme was fairly monochromatic, a huge splash of color at the end tied the whole thing together nicely. The Oregon Crusaders finished 7th in World Class with a score of 68.80.
Pacific Crest performed after intermission with their program, "Golden State of Mind". The warm colors on field matched the warm tones produced by the corps. Each flag that was presented matched an item of clothing on the guard members, making it seem less conflicting and more pulled together.
The whole production was just very cute and fun, with all the members playing around with each other while remaining in sync. Pacific Crest finished with a score of 69.00, landing them in 6th in World Class.
The Troopers retold Romeo and Juliet with their 2017 program, "Duels and Duets". What I loved about this production was how wonderfully simple it was. There was little to no use of props, and yet you still understood the storyline. The saber fights at the beginning were all uniquely choreographed, giving a sense of realism.
And, of course, the dance break in the middle had everyone grooving – even the drum major! All in all, the Troopers finished the night with a placement of 5th in World Class with a score of 70.25.
Next up came crowd favorite (or at the very least my favorite), the Bluecoats. Their 2017 production of "Jagged Line" did not disappoint antsy fans. The massive field prop of a physical jagged line complete with curtains and stairs was used to play with levels and motion.
Even the pit got into the jagged mood! The Bluecoats channeled their inner jazz moguls as the danced around the field with wide grins. My absolute favorite moment was the trombone solo – it was so energetic, yet sultry.
I started crying before they had even performed and didn't stop until it was well over. Keep an eye on the Bluecoats, who finished 2nd in World Class with a score of 83.85!
The Blue Devils brought their 2017 production, "Metamorph", to Mile High on Saturday. Their uniforms were not only endlessly beautiful, but versatile. Each turn revealed a new part of the puzzle and brought out more colors. The beginning felt like it was very much "back to basics", with straight line marching and rifles warming up.
However, things soon began to dissolve into chaos, until even the Drum Major had changed his uniform, and the corps evolved into a refined production. The Blue Devils finished 1st in World Class with a score of 85.00.
The home team, Blue Knights, present their program, "i". For the past few years, the Blue Knights have been getting more and more eclectic, with ethereal shows that push the bounds of what you can absorb.
Instead of the drum majors starting on the podium, two colorguard members performed a mini dance (approximately 8 feet above the ground, I'll remind you). From there, things got weirder, with the corps hypnotizing the audience and drum majors.
You could watch the show 1000 times and still never see all of it. Blue Knights finished up in 3rd place with a score of 79.10.
In between their performance and the announcement of scores, the Blue Knights treated the crowd to a standstill encore performance that wowed and amazed yet again.
They also serenaded the crowd with "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You". The high energy never left the stadium until they did. Everyone had a wonderful time singing, clapping, and laughing along.
All in all, I would consider the 54th Annual Drums Along The Rockies a massive success. Here's to an amazing drum corps season, and many more to come!