It was the first showdown of the 1999 season between two of the top three giants of the drum corps world --The Blue Devils vs. the Santa Clara Vanguard. These two powerhouses have met on the field of battle countless times throughout the years, and always leave the crowd exhausted and satisfied with a night of breath-taking competition. Anticipation grew to a feverish pitch as the two titans honed a fine edge to their chops, talked through the pending battle, and mentally focused on the challenge that stood before them. Within the canyons of Diablo Valley College members of both forces impatiently waited for their moment under the lights - their 12 minutes to show the world who would walk away with all . . . or nothing.
But from the shadows of the left end of the field stepped a force the two warriors had not considered. Weighing in with a combined weight of approximately two hundred pounds, the Blue Devils C Corps stepped onto the field with the courage and pride of a Roman legion. With the precision of a determined combatant they bring themselves into position on the field and stand at attention to await the signal for their warm-up. Or at least as much as a group of seven to thirteen year old performers can muster.
Tonight this corps knows they are special. Only the best can march in the same time block as the Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard. It's not the Champion Mandarins or the Pacific Crest that stands here with the Vanguard in the wings. To these kids its all on the line, their determined faces are manned with a game face that would frighten an NFL team.
With a snappy "We Bad" salute from the drum major, the young warriors launch their assault with a commanding version of the "Flintstones" that sweeps the crowd to their feet - at least the small crowd of moms around me. The number comes to a close with a full company front that would turn a number of last year's DCI finalists green with envy. The crowd now takes notice that this might really be a night to remember. I mean how is SCV's modern dance routine to Barber's Symphony #1 going to stand up against the kick line we are now watching at the end of the "Flintstones?"
These kids are out for blood. I wonder if anyone had the courage to tell these kids they are not being scored?
"Bullwinkle" features the battery and pit in an emotional display of talent by these young musicians. The tenacity and boldness displayed in this performance brought back fond memories of watching drum lines led by Larry McCormick and Frank Arsenault. And in the background, the full field drill met the challenge left by the corps before them. Furthermore, the multi-flag changes by the color guard were made with a grace and flow seldom seen earlier in the evening.
If the "Flintstones" didn't win you over, the full court press of the "Pink Panther" did the trick. My God, is there no stopping them? The dance steps and flag work of the color guard came together in tight concert with the drill of the musicians. Even three young color guard members who sat out this routine mimed the panther (or was it the snare line?) in an avant garde counterpoint - a nice Star of Indiana touch to the drill. No longer did I need the passionate rhythms of the Blue Devils' "Malambo" to make it the perfect night. These kids here are what drum corps is all about!
Just when you thought you couldn't take anymore excitement, the corps flowed into "Linus and Lucy" and finally bringing their performance to a close with the take-no-prisoners version of "George of the Jungle." With this finale came the culmination of the young corps' talent and determination. The crowd was now out of control! Those that weren't singing along with "George of the Jungle" were whispering words like "upset" and "this can't really be happening."
I do want it recorded that though my assigned seating was at ground zero in the mist of the BDC moms, I am not writing this under duress, nor the threat there of.
Did I exaggerate? All right, maybe just a little - the song I was actually looking forward to was Koehne's "Unchained Melody." But the point I am trying to make is the fact that these kids really did play their hearts and souls out. They were very professional and proud of what they were doing tonight. Unfortunately, corps like the Blue Devils C are often forgotten in performance write-ups and, more embarrassing, they are ignored from the stands. To many of those in the audience, corps of this level are considered background noise for an extended intermission. Why is this? The level of talent is beneath you? The repertoire too accessible for drum corps connoisseurs? Such snobbery stabs at the soul of our activity. Those that are guilty take a moment to remember your beginnings. Did you make your way down the birth canal with a pair of sticks, a mouthpiece or wrapped in silk? Corps like this are the future of the activity. Where will be the breeding grounds for future Fred Sanfords and Jim Otts? These corps attract younger kids NOW, and train them to our way of life for future DCI and DCA Champion corps. To me, the Blue Devil C rock!! And all corps like them need the same caliber of support we give generously to the National Champions.
So, how did the night end for these valiant performers?
To these young kids this was a show to remember - they came, they played, they kicked booty! You don't believe me, huh? Check it out - forever etched in the annals of drum corps history is the fact that tonight's David did tie the two Goliaths. In the scoring category, recorded beside the names of all three, will always be the tying score: Exhibition.