Four corps are duking it out for the first place position, and four more are fighting for the final spot in the top 12. After a week of quietly closing in on the corps ahead of them, the Blue Devils took first Saturday, July 30 at the DCI Southeastern Championship in Atlanta, Ga. The California corps did it with its best score yet this season, 94.80. In their program, "The Beat My Heart Skipped," the Blue Devils perform the music of Burt Bacharach, creatively using props to construct a house in the final movement. The Blue Devils percussion section shot up to first Saturday with 19.4, three-tenths of a point ahead of the Cavaliers' second-place drum line. "To be honest, we're not doing anything different than we do every year," said Devils Percussion Caption Head Scott Johnson. "We have no control over anyone else's show, or the judges; all we have control over is our own show, so that's all we're concerned about: our performance."
The Cadets (2nd, 94.10) were the only corps within one point of the Blue Devils, after the two ensembles tied on Friday, July 29 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Their program, "Angels and Demons," drew standing ovations, and corps members remained optimistic of their success. "[Our show] was the culmination of a great week," said Cadets Drum Major Ben Pouncey. "The corps has put in a lot of hard work. We've really progressed the last few weeks and tonight was a great payoff for that." The Cavaliers (3rd, 93.45) dropped to third place despite increasing their score by more than one point from one day earlier in Murfreesboro. Their show, "XtraordinarY," features a number of attention-grabbers including bass drummers lying atop their drums and tenor drummers acrobatically playing upside-down. "On the field I thought the energy was great, tempos were up to par [and] when we got off the field everyone was smiling," said age-out bass drummer Kyle Miller. "We really try not to dwell on the numbers. In the end there's no defense; all we can do is put out our best and hopefully come out on top." Carolina Crown (4th, 92.60) might have drawn some of the loudest crowd response of the night with its program, "Rach Star," combining classic rock with classical music. The corps scored first in brass, but had mixed placements in other captions.
Phantom Regiment (5th, 90.50) broke the 90-point barrier with "Juliet," almost two points higher than on Friday in Murfreesboro. In sixth place, the Bluecoats (88.65) continued their steady improvement of "Brave New World," placing as high as third in percussion technique. They are in a close race with Santa Clara Vanguard (7th, 88.25), less than half of a point behind with "The Devil's Staircase." Boston Crusaders (8th, 87.55) and the Madison Scouts (9th, 86.2) could be engaged in more than one "rivalry" this summer. Besides placement, the two corps also completed their second "Old School Challenge" fundraiser, raking in more than $70,000 in just 10 days. Last year the Crusaders came out on top; but this season, the Scouts surpassed Boston in the final days of the contest. Adding levity to the friendly challenge, the director of the "losing" corps was forced to wear a shirt bearing the logo of his rival. The Blue Knights (10th, 84.75) entertained the crowd with "An English Folk Song Suite," with the 11th-place Blue Stars (84.35) performing their high-octane "ReBourne."
The battle for 12th place and a berth in the World Championship Finals has been as exciting as the race for first: Spirit of Atlanta, Troopers and Glassmen have traded places in this position all summer. On Saturday, Spirit of Atlanta landed the 12th spot with 82.45. Not far behind were the Troopers (13th, 81.00) and Glassmen (14th, 80.95) right on their heels. According to fourth-year Glassmen member Chelsey Curran, the corps recently changed all of the drill formations in the fourth-movement of its production "My Mortal Beloved." In doing so they've boosted the difficulty level as they seek to continue their streak of "Finals Night" showings. "Everyone coming out of the dome was full of energy and all hyped up," Curran said. "The past two weeks we've done some really good work and we're going to try to continue that for the last two weeks." After tying with the Troopers Thursday, July 28 in Gadsden, Ala., the corps fell somewhat in the standings Saturday. Though corps members say scores are never the focus, the Glassmen are not backing down anytime soon. "We just keep getting up every morning and keep pushing," Curran said. "Mentally, it's a lot, but we remind each other on and off the field. We get together after rehearsal and make sure everyone knows specifically what needs to happen and we review it on our own."
The Georgia Dome audience cheered extra loudly for Spirit of Atlanta on Saturday, who in 2011 changed their name back to the corps' original namesake. Drum major Trey Brunn, for one, is glad the corps has reclaimed its Atlanta identity. "It's been a long time coming, so it's nice to have a big reunion like this for sure," Brunn said. "[Our performance at the Georgia Dome], it was good. It had a lot of energy and everyone was really focused. It was a step in the right direction." Don't count out the Academy (15th, 79.40) either: the corps is on the brink of breaking 80 points, performing "(RE)," which stands for "REact, REverb, REpeat." Yet another surprise on the score sheets was the tie between the Crossmen and the Colts, who both took 16th with a score of 78.35. The Colts had a strong showing with the exciting show "Deception: The Jagged Edge." The Crossmen program, "Renewal," has been considered one of its most entertaining shows the last few years. Pacific Crest (18th, 75.85) saw its score decrease just slightly from Gadsden, Ala. on July 28, but nevertheless had a successful showing of "Push, Pull, Twist, Turn." The Mandarins (19th, 73.30) and their show "The Forty Thieves" topped Teal Sound (20th, 73.00) in a close match-up.
Teal Sound uses the seven deadly sins as the theme to "Sinvitation 7," consistently exploring the limits of instrumentation with electric bass, electric violin and electric woodwind controller, at specific moments of the show. Jersey Surf (21st, 71.65) re-joined World Class competitors in Gadsden for the first time since July 6, holding their own Saturday at the Southeastern Championship. Their program "Petal Tones" includes a mix of modern tunes ranging from "Bad Romance" to "Carmen" to "Kiss from a Rose" by Seal. Surf color guard member Kimmy Kinden has been with the corps for four years. She says members are achieving difficulty levels they've never reached before, adding a new pre-show and more demanding drill in a rifle feature with the horn line. "It's been really exciting," Kinden said. "I think right out of the gate it's just fantastic. [The show] is really high-energy throughout the entire field … I think we just want to put on a fantastic show the audience will love. I'm not that much of a 'hardcore' competitor but I think everyone, especially this corps, [enjoys] sharing the love with the audience and the love of this activity."
Finishing out the World Class competition were the Cascades (22nd, 71.2) and Pioneer (23rd, 68.55) Their scores may not tell the full story, as both corps have increased performance demand and talent levels as the competition around them also ramped up from 2010. World Class competition wasn't the only entertainment at the DCI Southeastern Championship which was presented by Lake Oconee and Greene County Georgia. Atlanta-based all-age groups Alliance (69.85) and CorpsVets (68.85) performed as part of the 25-corps lineup. After all-age performances, international corps Jubal performed. Jubal has made the trip to the DCI Tour all the way from Holland, having already explored the French Quarter in New Orleans and other destinations in between rehearsal time. They also performed in Ocean Springs, Miss. and Gadsden, Ala. this past week. "It's really great to see where the drum corps [emanates from] and it's really an honor to be here and to play in a dome like this," said Jubal Drum Major Ciska Trouw. Jubal celebrates a momentous occasion this year: the corps' 100th anniversary. All drum corps have a busy week ahead with performances leading up to the DCI Eastern Classic in Allentown, Pa., on Friday, Aug. 6 and Saturday, Aug. 7. View a recap of scores from Atlanta. Buy tickets to upcoming DCI Tour events. View the complete 2011 DCI Tour schedule. Contributing to this report: Johnny Gilbert, Dan Potter, Linda and Sid Unser.