Carolina Crown
Fresh off of last Saturday's tornado induced cancelation in Minnesota, some were filled with dread when yet another barrage of dark clouds and thunder filled the Berry Center in Cypress, Texas. The dread grew when lightning stuck right when the evening's first corps, Cascades, struck a chord in the closing movement. A rain delay was called. At 8:03 p.m., it poured. Then at 8:07 p.m., the rain stopped, and by 8:30 p.m., the worst of the storm had passed, and blue skies were once again visible in the skies of the Houston suburbs. Thankfully, the show went on, and Carolina Crown (89.350) took the top spot at the Thursday edition of the two-day DCI Houston Premier Event presented by THE exSIGHTment OF SOUND. It's been a back-and-forth game between Carolina Crown and Bluecoats (2nd, 89.050) during many events this season, but Crown just barely edged out the corps from Canton, Ohio on Thursday. The Bluecoats' drum line was on fire in Houston, taking first in the percussion caption. With Carolina Crown currently leading by a mere three tenths of a point, it remains to be seen how the two corps will fare as they continue to make their way to Indianapolis for the DCI World Championships. Coming in third was Santa Clara Vanguard (86.300), performing its classical "Bartok" program. The corps spent the entire first leg of its 2010 summer tour on the West Coast before heading east.

Santa Clara Vanguard
"It was so nice in Northern California," said Vanguard color guard member Adam Selby. "It was cool there, so we were able to get a lot done without working ourselves to death in the heat. Ever since we've left California, we've been rehearsing here, there, and everywhere, traveling a lot, so our rehearsal time has been a little less. But we've been rehearsing a lot smarter as a drum corps." Selby said Vanguard members were faced with two disappointing rained-out shows last week, but as the tour has continued on, they are remaining patient. "I've learned this year not to let the little things get to you," said Selby. "It's never going to be perfect right away. It's a process through the entire summer taking all the way to August 14 to do it right." Another corps that lit up the field Thursday was the Blue Stars (4th, 84.600), continuing to mystify audiences with a production about the life of escapologist Harry Houdini. Members of Glassmen (5th, 80.700) also seem to be hitting their stride, continuing to improve after breaking 80 points for the first time Tuesday in Edmond, Okla. The Academy (6th, 78.100) has had a decent start this season performing its "Strangers in Paradise" program. Just starting their summer tour beyond the Pacific region, the Tempe, Ariz. corps is starting to fire on all cylinders, improving by several points in the last week alone. Though their score decreased slightly from their last performance, members of the Academy were feeling good about their Houston showing and are happy to be on the road as part of the national tour.

The Academy
"We're from Arizona, so our last all-day rehearsal was 118 degrees outside," said Academy drum major Travis Whalen about adjusting to the Texas heat. "We had some really good shows and got our performance 'legs' under us and now things are going really well. It started off a little rocky just like every tour, but now we're gaining momentum and good things are starting to happen." As a drum major in a leadership position, one of Whalen's goals is to help keep everything running as smoothly off the field as on. For the corps overall, he hopes to keep the positive momentum going: "I think my goals are to just keep doing what we're doing, rehearse as much as we can, and still be a family while we do it." In a tie for sixth place with the Academy were the Troopers (78.100), making big strides forward while unveiling a new ending to their show "Wanted." Coming in at 8th place was Spirit (76.150), showcasing "Forging an Icon" to an excited Texas crowd. Pacific Crest (9th, 73.950) also performed one of its first shows outside the West Coast Thursday, coming back as the first corps on after the storm delay. The Mandarins (10th, 72.350) had a successful run in Houston, with its performance of "To Dream of Faraway Lands." The corps has stayed true to its history with this program while incorporating modern elements including vocal supplements with a high visual demand and energetic music.

After previously performing in Odessa, Texas on July 20, Cascades (11th, 68.950) saw a drop in score in Houston, but members aren't too concerned about the numbers. First-year brass section member Harrison Jones said he's been enjoying what he's learned while touring with the corps, and has grown not only as a musician, but as a person. "I've learned to push where the limit is. You run into the limit one day, and the next day you find that the limit is a little bit further. It's what you can accomplish if you're willing to push yourself and you're willing to be pushed." "I just want to have 'the one,'" Harrison said about the corps' performance goals. "I want to have that show where you come off the field and you're completely spent, and everything happens. We just now had a really great performance, but it still didn't feel like that 'lightning in the bottle,' that ridiculous show." As part of the DCI Southwestern Series presented by Jupiter and Mapex, all corps competing in Houston on Thursday will perform in Dallas on Friday and vice versa, before making their way to San Antonio for a two-day event on Saturday and Sunday. View a complete recap of scores from Thursday in Houston.