April 19th, 2018 11:58am
Ladies and gentlemen of FMA, Finals week is at last upon us. We are going to see some great corps today at Lucas Oil Stadium. Division 1 Drum Corps is still very competitive, and the fight for the gold is a fierce one this season. After many twists and turns, expected and unexpected wins and losses, and of course all of the league championships, we are finally at that point in the season that never disappoints. The FMA World Championship is here!
Tuesday we saw some amazing performances as the major leagues in FMA held their championships. The CLASS Championship, held at the University of Dayton's home football field in Ohio, was by far the largest in FMA history with a staggering 12,721 in attendance. League officials actually had to provide 1,000 additional seats for the large crowd, making the atmosphere that much more amazing. It felt like FMA finals, which isn't all that surprising since CLASS in total has 9 D1 drum corps in the top 12, by far the most of any league in FMA. It is often said that whoever wins CLASS wins FMA, and that may very well be the case again this season.
Nemesis picked up yet another CLASS Championship with a resounding score of 98.190. Their show, "La Boutique fantasque" is a technical marvel that has impressed judges all season. Nemesis has yet to lose this season and sit at 20 straight FMA sanctioned victories. With that being said, as amazing as the show has been, many fans are surprisingly rooting against Nemesis. There is a clear case of fatigue, even though the corps has not won a championship since season 61. Regardless, they are in a prime position to take home the crown once again. The show itself is a visual masterpiece, and the guard like always has been working extremely hard to please audiences around the league. And of course, we can't mention Nemesis without talking about that amazing hornline. They have been phenomenal this season, and the drumline has also done a very good job complimenting them.
In second place, Carolina Royals impressed yet again with their show "V". However, similarly to Nemesis, the Royals are being rooted against by many fans. I interviewed one such fan who had this to say; "Listen, that hornline is always amazing, but how many darn shows are we going to get that are about keys on a computer? Carolina Royals could make hot cross buns sound good, but at some point they've got to give us something out of this world." While I understand this fan's concerns, I must also point out that the Royals are 15 time D1 World Champions, and their formula is a proven one. Why fix something that isn't broken? The corps got a 96.680, good enough for a silver medal and a nice ovation from their fans. The show is technically sound, but I'm not sure they can catch up to Nemesis. A stagnant point in the season between April 1st and April 4th due to a major storm in North Carolina definitely hurt the corps and caused them to slide in the rankings. Some hard work has brought the Royals back, but Nemesis is already on a roll. We will see if finals week will be the turning of the tide.
Before we get to the third place winner, I want to highlight some of the other corps in CLASS and in FMA for their great performances. I also want to discuss the great battle for 5th place between two old rivals, Pride of Peachtree and The Panthers.
Falcon Regiment has been soaring to great heights all season with their show, "Falcon Ascending". The reigning silver medalists have been so close to FMA gold since their comeback in season 57, but they have barely missed their target on numerous occasions. Last season was the most heartbreaking finish for the corps, as they barely lost to Carolina Royals. Corps members were crying and embracing on the field, vowing to come back even stronger. Well folks, they definitely came back stronger. Unfortunately, their brilliant show has been lost in the sea of amazing content this season in FMA. Falcon Regiment currently holds the 4th place position in FMA D1, barely behind the SIA Cadets. Of course, the corps would love to medal yet again, but their ultimate goal is to win the championship. I don't think they will be able to catch up to Nemesis, but the fight for third and even second should be a good one. There is also the potential that the corps falls in the rankings, but I just don't see that happening. At this point the show is too refined for any other corps to overtake Falcon Regiment, and the judges always appreciate a show that is clean. The closer is also among the best within the top 12, as "Birds Set Free" is a powerful and symbolic piece that makes you feel as if you can actually fly. Watch this corps very closely, as they may rise up in the rankings by the end of finals.
There are some other CLASS corps that have done well this season. Vivace Brass and Vincent Storm have been duking it out all season long, and I expect both to move up the rankings during finals. The two corps are currently separated by only .30 of a point, and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. The corps are trying to fight for the 9th place spot that is currently held by the Blue Demons, but shouldn't be once finals are over. The Blue Demons started out really hot this season, and to be quite frank, nobody is sure what happened. The corps has not been able to break an 86 for weeks now, and it seems like very little progress has been made. A corps that started out as a championship contender has fallen off the edge of the map in what will surely be remembered as one of the most bizarre collapses in FMA history. If the bottom three corps play their cards right, they can potentially swoop up to 9th place. The third corps at the bottom, Aftershock NZ, is the only FAME representative in the top 12 besides The Panthers and is also in the running with the CLASS corps. Aftershock has held down the 12th place position for a few weeks now, and it doesn't look like there are any viable contenders that can potentially take them out. A lot of eyes will be on that 9th place position in what is one of the more overlooked battles this season.
The battle for 7th is also intriguing. Nashville Sound, currently in 8th place, started out the season in 2nd place, only behind Nemesis. This led many to speculate whether or not the corps would be on a serious push for 1st come finals week. This ended up not being the case, as the pressure got to the old fan favorites and the corps fell out of the top 5. Despite this, Nashville Sound has still performed amazingly this season and are fighting hard to finish strong. Bluegrass Regiment stands in their way currently after they scored a 90.295 at the CLASS Championship. The corps has been fairly consistent over the course of the season, although at their peak they held the 6th place position. After being jumped by a few corps and falling down in the standings, the corps from Kentucky is also fighting to finish strong. The corps has never medaled, and it most likely won't medal this season, but the Bluegrass Regiment is definitely getting better by the day, and their time will come soon. I predict that the corps will lock up the 7th position and hold off Nashville Sound.
And of course, one of the best battles heading into finals is the fight for 5th place between two rival southern corps, Pride of Peachtree and The Panthers. Both corps know each other quite well, as they have competed against each other on numerous occasions over the years. Although the two corps have a rivalry, both corps directors and their members have a mutual respect for each other. Bailey and Alex have worked together in PERC, FLAG, and on the FMA Hall of Fame Committee, co-founding it together. It is rumored that Pride of Peachtree was even slated to join FAME during its early days, but the corps instead chose CLASS and the rest is history. The respect and friendship is there, but on the field, the corps are fierce competitors. Peachtree's show, "The Fragile Oasis", is a technically sound show that has only gotten better with time. The corps has done very well this season, looking to win another medal. While it is looking more and more like Peachtree will not jump into the top 3, the corps still wants to end their run by at least holding on to their 5th place position. The Panthers meanwhile have been on a mission all season long. Not only has the corps never medaled in D1, they have never even made it to the top 5. With a change in approach regarding rehearsals, corps director Alexander Morales has never been so close to a top 5 finish. The show, "For The Common Good", contains the most daring music the corps has ever attempted to put on the field, and although they started out rocky, all of FMA knew that The Panthers would finish strong and be in the mix. The corps managed to win its first FAME Championship in D1, and it achieved its highest ever regular season score while doing so. With hard work and dedication, the corps is on the verge of meeting all of its preseason goals, but Pride of Peachtree is still standing in the way. We will see tonight who comes out on top.
And now, the story you have all been waiting for.
The SIA Cadets have THE show. This is what FMA fans have been talking about since the start of the season. Since the corps' return in season 62, they have yet to capture FMA D1 gold, but they have captured the attention of everyone in the sport. Their show this season, "Altered State of Mind: When Reality Becomes Blurre", is as innovative as a drum corps can get. The premise of entering the mind of a schizophrenic is the most original concept in a long time from a drum corps, and the music is otherworldly. It is a blend of classical themes and modern sound amplification and distortion. This combination has proven to be quite amazing, and fans are in love with the concept. However, judges have been torn all season. While the concept is amazing, the Cadets haven't had the greatest runs in terms of technical proficiency. While the show is by no means a mess, it isn't as clean as other shows. One can argue that this is because the corps is playing at a degree of difficulty that surpasses its counterparts, but the judges are remaining firm in their positions. I have a feeling that the corps will put on one of the most memorable performances of all time at FMA Finals, but they may not capture the gold. One fan had this to say; "If the SIA Cadets don't win this season, it would be a travesty! This show is amazing, and it deserves to be recognized. I don't care what the judges have to say, the Cadets are pushing boundaries that others haven't dared to cross." Regardless of what happens, Altered State will clearly be remembered as one of the greatest shows in FMA history. The CLASS crowd gave the corps a standing ovation, a true sight to behold. The corps has to feel good about what they have put together this season.
Regardless of who wins or loses, this season's World Championship is set to be one of the best on record, and there are bound to be some twists and turns along the way. Below are MY predictions for the eventual outcome of the top 12. Good luck to all corps tonight, and if you aren't happy with where I put you on this list, prove me wrong on the field!
Alex's Final Top 12
2. SIA Cadets
3. Carolina Royals
4. Falcon Regiment
5. The Panthers
6. Pride of Peachtree
7. Bluegrass Regiment
8. Nashville Sound
9. Vivace Brass
10. Vincent Storm
11. Aftershock NZ
12. Blue Demons
Again, best of luck to all competitors!