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Drummer Notes from SoCal Tour
Dennis Mancini, Snare

It’s Friday mid afternoon and I’m working quietly in my cube flipping back and forth between real work checking Drum Corps Planet to see if is back up on the internet or stare at the second hand slowly turning every few minutes or so to see how much longer until 5:00.

In a few short hours I will be on my very first tour with the Renegades. My check list works like a charm keeping me relatively focused after being requested to follow random last minute directions from my wife just before I leave the house and give my three boys a hug and depart for the bus pick up zone.

The parking lot is a buzz with excitement in anticipation of the buses. Random smiles are darted about from everyone while unofficial member inventory is accounted for. While standing around I had a nice discussion with DCP celebrate and evil color guard member ‘Lesa Lesa Momeesa’ discussing withdrawal symptoms from not having access to DCP most of the week and other shared personal opinions about things activity related.

After the bus bays where filled I searched out an empty seat and soon was joined by a evil member second soprano, ‘JT’. Single people can skip this part. We had a great discussion about family and marriage balanced with drum corps. Mostly fueled by the tearful goodbye from his wife and kids as they followed along side the bus in their four wheel drive for about seven miles waving back to each other and wiping wet eyes as well phoning each other very often. Cool.

Just before the bus departs out our very short Italian bus driver informs us with a thick accent to use the bathroom only for emergencies or we would be sorry. Not to worry that the bus would be stopping every couple of hours all the way to San Diego. It’s the only time he used the microphone the entire weekend Somehow the bathroom door was mysteriously locked the next morning.

I probably slept a total of twenty minutes the entire night as my head vibrated against the window and forced air conditioning kept me chilled. Slept deprivation is something I specialize in, this being one of the more lengthy episodes became a prelude to the beginning of some less fortunate events.

About an hour before we arrived at our practice site somewhere around Rancho Bernardo in North San Diego County the buses randomly entered in and out of shopping center parking lots in search of a decent breakfast stop. We pulled into one particular smaller parking lot with a steep driveway. After the driver performed some fancy seven point turn he rocketed the bus up to the street unfortunately beaching the bus over the curb with a loud screech. After more twist and slow motion turns we finally found our way to a ‘IHop’ for some solid breakfast.

Morning rehearsal reminds me exactly what it was like my first show day on tour 25 years ago with SCV in ‘78. That particular day my knee was badly injured by a fellow snare who swung his drum up after tuning his head and struck me just below the knee cap. I was able to march that show but ended up missing the following two weeks of tour while standing buy on crutches. Today I was to relieve almost this same event but at twice the age.

During the first full corps run through the snare line shot off from the twenty yard line at 200 beats a minute crabbing full stride and forming a 45 degree block at the fifty yard line. After playing a cool feature we sprinted blindly supposedly on our toes backwards into the most chaotic part of the show where the battery section fuses into a circle rotating back and forth or as we like to say waxing on and off. As we hoofed it backwards I glance out the corner of my eye and thought ‘oh gimminy, am I out of step’? Not sure I decided to cleverly do a dosey-doe to get back in step. Unfortunately that tripped me catapulting me now up to warp speed around 400 beats a minute as I frantically tried to keep my legs under me.

This was all going on in slow motion in my head as I crashed hard into the dirt butt first with my hands sprawled outward with sticks playing every last note as clean as possible. Now in full crash dummy mode my snare drum swings up thumping off my chest and slammed down hard (close your eyes now) onto side of my kneecap. The corps keeps going with the drum line forming that circle I was talking about earlier but this time the surrounding circle is in motion around ME in the center as they march 200 beats a minute backwards while I lay on my back withering in pain. Fortunately the legendary Kent Cater sees I’m down from the sideline and fearlessly leaps into maelstrom rescuing me. He first pulls my snare off with one hand while blocking a tightening battery circle with his other hand screaming ‘are you ok’? I have know idea if I’m ok I just know I’m hurt. He carefully pulls me up off the ground and escorts me off the field through two fast moving crisscrossing files of horn players.

Behind the podium I pace back and forth to keep moving and feel my knee now in crunchy mode and swelling quickly. The only good thing about this is I get to check out the corps from the sideline for the first time and that the wonderful Kimela in the pit sees what’s going on and lends me her knee brace for the weekend. Very cool and just what I needed, pardon THAT pun, to keep me in action the rest of the weekend.

After rehearsal the corps heads a short distance away over too the hotel were we will be spending the night.. After changing into uniform we headed over to the show for a very short but intense warm up and an hiked about a mile in intense Africa heat to go on the field. The HS is one the nice facilities I have ever seen however the solid curving walls surrounding the field unexpectedly doubled the volume of the pit and warped tempos in random spots never heard before. The corps does their best to perform the show after taking a mid summer two week break. The cool thing was I was invited to join along during the post show critique and hear some very valuable top secret advice from the judges.

Out of all the corps that performed this evening one performance was exceptional in all areas and worth special mention. Every once in a while during the later part of the competitive we are occasionally treated to a performance that just shreds the field and smacks the audience with greatness and awe. Last year it was Magic of Orlando who did it to me at Division II finals in Madison last year. Tonight Esperanza did that same kind of thing. They just performed the heck out of their show with so much energy and emotion and excellent execution I was left stunned in disbelief at what I had just experienced. WOW!!! The rest of season is gonna be great for you guys as well as your future. Notable areas during the show, the holy smoking guard extremely well integrated into the show, sweat sounding pit and intense drill for the drum line, a horn soloist who plays sitting Indian style and levitates on his own back to a standing position somehow, ending of the show with a group power blast from the horn line bunched up on the front fifty yard line. The crowd went wild tossing babies onto the track. I also recall a judge throwing his clipboard from the box.

That night a group of us went to the bar at the hotel to hang out. Lee Rudnicki’s power light hanging from neck nearly started a riot as it glowed into the night. A small cluster stayed up past three A.M getting into an intense conversation over analyzing the drum line in front of the elevator lobby.

Next morning we had another pretty solid breakfast provided by the hotel then packed up and departed for West Covina. I hitched a ride with fellow snare Scott S. and I left early in his rental car. We had a small sectional with 5 of our 8 snares to clean up some problem areas then headed out to lunch for our recent tradition of finding a Subway sandwich shop.

Afternoon rehearsal was pretty much full corps on the thickest longest grass I have ever marched on. I was literally prancing as we came crabbing down the field in the opener. With the temps around 95 degrees lots of liquid was being consumed.

The corps headed over to the official competition in West Covina about half-hour away. The warm up was one of the most relaxed and musical days for us this year. A lot of people were checking us out. For me personally it was my favorite part of the day to watch people swaying and clapping as we performed the music under the shade of the trees in the school quad.

The corps performance was much improved from the night before. During the final push of Russian Christmas Music I had two major rushes of chills as the snare line locked into a fine swagger to the very end.

I watched the rest of corps perform their shows from the souvie area and came into the stands to watch Esperanza one more time before it was time to load up on the buses and head home.

After a few stops we arrived safely home around four AM leaving enough time to listen to the garbage man thunder outside my bedroom window and watch the sunrise while my wife talked filling me in on her weekend.

The tour was a lot of hard work but a ton of rewarding fun. A big-big thanks to the Renegades.

Dennis Mancini
AKA The Snapettes Mom
Dennis Mancini
AKA The Snapettes Mom
Renegades 03 Snare

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