By Chris Weber With a steady drizzle on Friday in the early evening threatening the 2004 Festival of Brass in Oswego, Ill., by the time the first corps went on the sky had cleared to offer a beautiful pink sunset. And it wouldn't be surprising if it was the energy of the hundreds of drum corps hungry fans in attendance that drove the bad weather away, conveniently leaving a cool temperature perfect for the kickoff of the competition season. Everything from, "It's about time this season has gotten underway" to "I can't believe we are finally ready for the start. I have been waiting all fall and winter to get to the next drum corps show," could be heard from fans in the souvenir marketplace. Even an enthusiastic Brandt Crocker (longtime DCI finals announcer) showed up in Oswego as a guest announcer for the show. In the coming weeks he will be assisting at various contests as a show coordinator.
"I'm going to get to see a lot of the Midwest corps during this first tour and I'm excited about that. Every year I look forward to the start of the season just to be able to see what everyone is going to be playing, what they look like and how they sound," said Crocker who added, "It's 2004, its June 18, let's go! It's time!" Memphis Sound pulled away with the top honors in the Division II & III category scoring 51.35 with their blues show consisting of all original music. They were followed by Marion Glory Cadets scoring a 44.6 in their first effort of the season. Their show, "Terrestrial Journey," features selections from Gustav Holst's orchestral suite, "The Planets."    "This is the best first show this corps has ever had tonight. It's a really exciting show and the music is intense,' said Marion Glory member Mike Welch.
Capital Sound also came out strong and excited to be on the field after it became questionable over the winter whether or not the corps would field a group this year. "We never expected to be out here this season so being able to come out here and pull off a good show tonight is really exciting," said Capital Sound snare drummer Lee Plummer. "It's so good to perform again and everyone seems psyched up for it. I've been waiting to be out here again since last year." After a brief standstill performance by the Oswego High School Marching Band, whose members are preparing to perform at the 2005 Rose Bowl Parade, the Division I corps took the field. Scoring a 51.1, Pioneer dazzled the crowd with a return to their Irish musical roots presenting a mix of traditional and contemporary Irish tunes. Despite a wet and rainy preseason, the Glassmen were relieved to make their first performance of the season in front of an extremely appreciative crowd. Thick and luscious chords written in the brass book kept the audience on the edge of their seat guessing at what the color guard members, who make several costume changes throughout the production, would come out wearing next. "You could definitely feel the excitement from a lot of the members who are in this uniform for the first time and finally getting a chance to let it all out there," said Jeff Mlakar, Glassmen drum major. "It was definitely exciting to hear a big crowd go for it. I could see the excitement in the members and certainly when they came off the field it was very special for them, almost euphoric." The Cavaliers walked away as the evening's champions, scoring a 75.1. For the James Bond-inspired "007" production, the guard premiered new uniforms giving them the look of suave tuxedo clad "00" agents. Fast doubletonguing licks from the brass and a variety of tasty percussive attacks keep the music driving, while ensemble sections of finger snapping and whistling exemplify the mystique and charm of Agent 007. "The most exciting thing out there tonight had to be at the end during the 'gun fight' sequence. The whole corps comes together in a triangle and the guard and all of us jazz run and push together in a trickle down effect," said Andy Waldukat, Cavaliers horn sergeant. Many of the corps at the Oswego show will be seeing each other at shows within the next few days while others will be following different tour stops. Wherever the corps are headed in the near future though, the main focus for the rest of the season is all about getting better.