William “Billy” Gaines died…he was gay…and black ….
After pointing out so eloquently that this writer was a “typical pretentious trumpet” (yes you read that correct dear reader, he think I’m a small-bore-earthworm-shooter!) Doug-E-Fresh would roll over in his grave. *Aaaaaaaaanywayz……*
A GS of his name revealed the commonly-named man had died in a freakish homo-erotic asphyxiation incident a few years back.1 For those who don’t know, I refer you to the TV show “Six Feet Under” starring Michael C. Hall. Whom this writer met (name drop alert) at a Ralphs near Hollywood & Highland. Myself and my lady-friend were absolutely starstruck.
Picture your fav TV show. Burn Notice, Mr. Robot, Better Call Saul, Big Little Lies, Orange is the new Black…..then picture yourself in line behind them at RALPHS. What do you say/do? Nothing? Well dear reader I could not. After he paid for his goods; I got his attention;
“Excuse m-m-m-me, Michael?”
“I just wanted to tell you [remember this is ca. 2006-7] that “Dexter” is BY FAR the most well-written, well directed and produced series on television right now. My friend and I wait with baited breathe for the debut of each and every next episode. We watch it live whenever it airs.”
[surprisingly, he said] “:You know, not many people take the time to come up to me and say that…I work hard at what I do, what you just said means a lot….thank you”
Then he shook my hand.
As are many A-list actors; he was really short but exceedingly handsome.
I digress. The man calling me out on G+ (YT) turned out to be a corpse; given life to troll the InterWebz. I found this damning article proving he died doing “weird sex stuff.” Sorry Billy Gain. Looks like you gained so much you popped.
1 notice. The story about MCH is real; the death of B. Gainer is not. It is as Mr. T would have it “fake news” you want fake? Ill spooned it to you; but it will be appropriately labeled as Editorial.
That is all; I could use your help so plz visit a link below. Are you BG? Take the SoCal Pick Challenge for enemies of the publication. 1)Get AIDs 2)Die 3)there is no step 3; rat. 1&2 till complete; thank you and merci beaucoup. -
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ALSO PLZ NOTE WE ARE UNDER CONSTRUCTION ONCE AGAIN AS WP MADE ANOTHER UPDATE
Michael “Mike” Braga 86’d from 2017 Santa Clara Vanguard Alumni Corps ….
*Breaking* LATER ASSHOLE! Space Park Management to violent coward: Thanks but NO THANKS -or- Wife-Beater Takes Beat-Down
Around about every five years; the most consistently prgressive, entertaining, competitive and downright bad-ass drum & bugle corps* in the kh2own universe puts together an Alumni Corps….for fun, for old times sake, cuz life starts to suck after age 21, cuz playingin a large group of talented men & women is better than (sex * drugs + rockNroll) ….. to get easily-explainable time off from work/family/friends/poker/kids/your dog/home [all the things that society INSISTS you take part in and enjoy……So we’re all cut out on what-the-world-expects-of-us and why not? If that’s all we did, [musicians especially] it would make for a rough world. (did you know Hitler was a band-geek? yeah-Basson —God I would knock him out just for THAT! AAAAANYHoooooo……)
WHO IS MIKE BRAGA?
I’ll tell the story as it unfolded for this writer in 2007. The timeline is quite jagged; so put on your “Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul/Star Wars/Pulp Fiction/Memento style plot hats cuz the timeline here zigs, zags and jumps…
That year I ran two assembly lines for Metagenics (fmr. makers of professional quality dietary supplements, protein powders & functional foods; my lines always packed that finished-goods, and pills from horse tablets to the barely visible. I digress. I’m running line 4– the phone rings. It’s Joe Rybus, a heavy in Kingsmen Organization and a head-hunter for the hornline. Someone fronted me off to the guy — he knew my name & cell….at least it was a welcome call.
“Am I interrupting” (he is; but…take a guess how many fucks I gave…)
“This is Joe Rybus, did you know The Anaheim Kingmen are putting togther an Alumni Corps this year? This is the first time DCI will be held at the Rose Bowl to commerate our innaugural victory at Whitewater in 1971…anyway you wanna join?”
“I never marched Kingsmen”
“Yeah … well see we want to have as big a hornline as possible; so we waved that requirement; in fact; so far most of the members are alums from up north; like yourself!”
“Are you guys gonna play cool shit?”
“Yeah, Mambo, Folk Song Suite, So Very Hard To Go….Firebird...”
“That sounds cool…cant go wrong with Mambo, Williams, ToP or Stravinsky…. how many horns?”
“We have nearly 80; shooting for 120….” (now my crew knows im , not evem trying to work so they take over; a good crew…)
“So you wanna fill the rest with ringers right?”
“Yeah Chris; get it now?”
“….Practice? How do we not get the cops called?”
“One of the members is a principal at school in Anaslime [Joe didnt really say that, but u get the idea] He says we can use the band room and that no one will call for noise if we pack it in by sundown…and its just 30 miles north.”
“Joe I wanna do this, but $ is tight, I can’t tale time off work …..”
“We’re camping at Long Beach State for about 3 weeks before Semis [our last show] all you need is 1 weekend a month till summer, then every weekend, then get most of august.”
–NOTE: Joe’d made this call in 2006 so I had plenty of time to arrange this; plus my work OWED me a decent VAYCAY; I’d never taken even a sick day three years in ….
“$ is tight Joe….I can squeeze the time but I need rides, a uniform, theres no way I can pay fees. I want to help…really is th-
“[cutting me off] “look it’s free; if you need a ride ill get you one….”
“I can drive dude; just one more thing; now that im older? 2nd Barry? Lower Lead? ….my chops are in pro-condition so …”
“Got it; Upper Lead Baritione, comped…the next camp is at….”
The rest is history. Sops like legendary sops like Ralphie, Jim Sobacki, Phil Norris and a few other (not Ray!) along with many Big Bore idols, Carl Allison (Freelancers), Doug “Pooh Bear” Kenyon (BD, Colts), Tony Pon (SCV), Charlie Groh(1st Marines, 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment, Item Company, WWI/WW2/Korea)…..they really made it all worth it. Ther all could mop the floor with me; talent-wisae especially. *Fun Fact* – It would be Pooh’s last DC performance – he joined to surpise his daughter at DCI who was in the Colts – a rookie CG (coolest dad ever – RIP ol’ buddy!)
There were about 200 people in the Kingsmen that year; we rocked an honor guard with a full Color Presentation so of those 200, lets say 140 were holding an instrument. Here is a rough estimate of how they broke down:
- Kingsmen Alumni = 22 percent
- Freelancers Alumni = eight percent
- VK Alumni = 10 percent
- Concord Alumni = 25 percent
- Santa Clara Alumni = 25 percent
- Other or band-geeks living out their childhood fantasies 10 percent
Note there would be LOTS of crossover here: SCV/BD, VK/BD, Freelancers/BD, Kmen/BD …etc. Only Marty Jo Basset, Bill Varju and Tim Meehan having marched “the cycle” (VK, Freelancers, SCV & BD; with ho iarble mention that Tim SOLOED in ALL FOUR, Marty “The One Man Party” played upper lead sop in all four; and Bill Marched Contra, Barry (@VK in 95), Mello (BD, yr unknown) and Soprano – A DOUBLE CYCLE!!!!! Credit to Scott Steward as well for marching, though in just two that I know of; check out his 1990 semis solo when he’s like….a fucking 13 year old. (will add YT link if it still exists) Credit also to Jack M. for TEACHING VK/SCV/BD/Troopers and possibly Sac.
*sigh* better get to the meat here …. so we’re camping at LBSU and it’s like a biunch of adults with families/jobs/responsibilities are kids again (we were; well we felt like it; my room Anthony; whom partied 1000th as muvh as I did at that time – we got along famously and are still friends; having marched Renegades & Kingsmen Alumni together (links to follow). Each day we hit a practice field about 500 yrds from the dorms. Stretch. chat, plan, apply sunblock and Gold Bond, sectionals, lunch, ensemble, dinner, then either a show or more ensemble….then party, pass out, rinse & repeat. For us age-outs WE ARE ON CLOUD NINE; praying September never comes.
One week before Our final show (sniff…) at DCI I hear a rumbling that the cymbal section wants to quit en masse. Why? Apparently [to paraphrase] – WE CANT TAKE ONE MORE SECOND OF [MIKE’S] ABUSIVE BULLSHIT. CHOOSE. HIM. OR US. Our Fearless leader and DM Gary Kean investoigated, to find that Braga was running the cymbal line as though this were 1987 and THIS was the 1987 SCV Cymbal line. Lets start with some definitions.
A drum corps cymbal line – an extremely physical job from high school level up to division one (World Class) the cymbal line marches, attempts crazy difficult drill, accentuates the visual feel of the program. Musically all sorts of sounds can be made via scrapes, crashes, “shings” and tastefully marching in front of the battery so they have a crash or ride or (???) cymbal to use on the fly. Cyms are part expert dancers, military-precesion-marchers, elegant musicians and marching masters.
The SCV Cymbal Line – These guys are famous for being “so far over the top as to be obscene. Every time I saw them; they did everything together: they sit together on the drum bus. When the direcgtor (or any staff address them) they stand in a perfect rank, side-toe-contact. They rarely if ever make mistakes. Holes in this line are filled by an audition of 1000 competing for one spot. They eat togther – yes, in a rank. At night, they stack their bunks adjacent, in a rank. Every SCV member busts their ass; but NO ONE works as hard as the cyms. Finally; no one in their right mind would mess with them while on tour; they are tougher than any d-line for any college football team and were they soldiers? They’d return from combat HEAVILY decorated …. pardon the expression but you ever met a group of guys so tight they’s “eat each others’ sh!%?” —ok that’s the SCV Cymbal line for the past 30 years at least.
So Braga, even though, this ostensibly laid-back “Senior Corps” that only rehearses weekends (9-5 in stead of 9-sunup the next day, ‘EIGHT days a week’) and will not receive a score (Sr. Corps are usually exhibition at DCI shows) …Braga is not only acting like he is back in an SCV-hardcore-as-fuck-hand-me-that-bowl-of-shit Cymbal line….he is making threats, making some of his fellow Cym CRY. Doing the opposite of why we took off work and pissed off our kids & significant others – to make visually pleasing, aethetically beutiful, sonically sonorous, loud music – for us, for the fans, for everyone. The sxn reported; AND BRAGA (on the field of honor**) says [PARAPHRASED]
NO, FUCK YOU GARY IM NOT GOING ANYWHERE
…again WIP this mess is about a quarter done. Sorry to put you blast Mike….no I’m not sorry….You suck….I’m ashamed to call my self any sort of “alumni” list that beats both our names. You are a disgrace to the Silver Star, The Green Shield and the memory of Gail & Myron. Start my NEVER HITTING ANOTHER WOMAN EVER. If you eant to hit someone….the comment section is below. -c
Braga decided (at some point) that as de facto Cym section leader of Kingmen Alumni; the best way to run the line was to act like a fascist white-power-prison-gang “grand-intimidator – thinking that excellence could be achieved via anger, cursing, threats, yelling and general douchery. If you’ve been incarverated or not; pictire that Napoleonic psychopath you pray never crosses your path. “I just want to do my time & get out with most of my teeth. Then you meet Braga. He wants to know “who you are, where youre from, what your deal is….are you a narc? He makes comments about your manhood to compensate for his lack of. I mean, what kind of man has two violent strikes for beating his wife? Usually the kind to scared to hit a dude.
Braga created an atmosphere of misery for the other Cymbal players in 2007, thinking this was the right thing to do …. One afternoon at Long Beach State; the Cyms had a meeting w/o their fear[full] leader; they decided marching in the Kmen Alumni no longer fell into the “fun” category. It would be fun if not for Braga; so they took the issue to Kean and said “Him or us.”
Simple, lose the douche. That’s where the story should end. With lightning-strike exceptions; an SCV member or alum obeys on0field orders from staff, section leaders, the Horn Sgt., all techs, consultants, caption heads and the director without question, so with my 1991 Kanstul 3v G Baritone at a pistol; I was shocked to hear Braga ARGUING with the fucking Drum Major!!! He was refusing to leave, saying he did nothing wrong. Kean is a smart, shrewd and peaceful man. He was not about to risk a figth with this hulking ,ass clearly looking for a violent outlet for his maniacy. The KAC rented dorms, a parking structire and a practice field; making the field (thank God) corps property. Member or no; the director/DM asks you to leave its not up for discyssion. NEVER on the field of honor. Before Kean could finish rationalizing “leave no you sciopath. Please leave and dont ever come back.” —several members hit 911 on their cells. The LBSU PD and LBPD showed up quickly. Braga was dragged off the field by them snarling and shooting red daggers out of his eyes, blaming the staff, the corps, the Cyms, Kean, the members, using words I woulnt place in a artice ABOUT the field of honor.
Not Familiar? Any field is a sacred place. Treat it that way if you ever want to march on Game (Saturday) Night. Since the 70s (60s?) Guards say a prayer to field before entering it. Batteries & Hornlines dress as nice as weather allows on the Field of Honor, they don’t swear on it, the NEVER sit on it, They use G-rated language on the field, they act professional; because they ARE. Only the teachers, leaders and technicians talk betweenn takes. Rehearsals are done with a purpose, memberws run back to their sets. Breaks only exist to keep memebers hydrated. We keep out ears open and our eyes up. We treat a painted field better than a board room in our chosen professions. To disobey chain of command, to shout vilent threats, to force law enforcement to drag you pff the field and worst of all; to stalk the corps after like a NeckBeard whose My Little Pony collection came to life…is deplorable.
—–next—–part III. Deep Background & Diane Feinstein….
Breaking; Orange County Fire Capt. Does ‘Gayner’ off Crown Valley into The 5 ….
We here at the SoCal Pick talk lots of smack about local authorities…especially the OCSD & OCDA. With few exceptions; they really are racist, violent, sociopathic assholes that accomplish zilch. Unless you count eating doughnuts and trampling on the Bill of Rights “work.”
Not so for the Orange County Fire Authority. This writer volunteered at their beer booth across many years; to raise $ for worthwhile charities (and pound unlimited free beer), when I worked at the Starbucks off El Camino Real (back before “taxes on tips” and “cameras above every till”) we used to comp anyone in uniform… for cops, from SCPD (now defunct) to CHP, to Staties, to the BP (now called ICE) to the Secret Service. Why? –> Managers’ orders. Why was it a common practice? Free drinks for cops keeps them nearby. We simply were never paid enough to deal with the oxygen thieves that hung around all year… and the goddamn 909ers — out to flood our beaches with their nasty, deplorable bodies; faces, behavior… even their dope was awful which tore them back even further … in worst case; the 909 culture + a beach + booze + biker meth = more dangerous. -ahem….comp, yeah…same deal for first responders (EMTs) but especially and most often the OCFA. They’d come in groups of four to six, order Venti Fraps (Carmel & Mocha most often) even in 1999 four big ass Fraps went for a dub ($20), if you’re not familiar with comping; that means gratis — I don’t even look at the cash register; nor did I care if they walked out having paid zilch…what do I REALLY CARE? I made <$7/hr at that time; on a busy summer day; just my till alone had $4,000 in it — there were four tills. In real dollars a Venti Carmal Frap costs them…a fraction of a penny…-sigh- that was the good ol’ days when working the espresso bar was an ART – now espresso comes out of an idiot-proof box…and mgmt let us work the tips cuz they knew we busted our asses for nickels; needless to say, any firefighter in or out of uniform–> I didn’t ring them up. To say thanks, more than any other first respos… the firemen would cram twenties into the tip jar. I’ve a good friend who is a retired chief; there’s no one more fun, interesting and entertaining to have a beer with than Chief.
So when I heard on the street that someone took a dive off Oso, it was at first both shocking and suspect. A sadness loomed over this writer after the wtf-part subsided. Also; did this person die?* What if you did that and fucked it up? Be a quad? Now unable to finish the job? We hate to admit it, but we prayed he died quickly and painlessly. Further fact checking found that an OCFA captain scaled the mesh link over the 5 on Crown Valley Parkway (not Oso), early yesterday afternoon; then bailed into southbound traffic. We’ve opted not to release his name as we cannot confirm family notification at press time. Authorities said the veteran firefighter was plowed by a big rig, then further obliterated by at least two other vehicles. Again, we like to think the man died instantly and sans pain. We also send prayers to the OCFA, the family of the deceased and anyone effected by this strange and fascinating tragedy.
Kind of puts YOUR holiday whiny bullshit in perspective, nu? What’s wrong, too much work? Lost someone close –“not sure how to get through the holidays without [close relationship person X]? Don’t have the moola to make Xmas happen? Back hurts? Not getting enough sleep? Well boo fucking hoo. Your life, your world, our world, The United States of America, our NATO allies. We are going to be fine. There is no reason to ever throw away the most precious gift a most precious universe can give; conscious life. You have that. Don’t ever take this for granted. when shit gets bad, phone a friend, hit up your neighbor, go to Starbucks, go to a bar, get drunk, get high, take a trip, bail out of OC… do something, do nothing, do anything, hurt yourself if you want– just don’t KILL yourself. It’s a selfish act. This individual had a family; now they have to shoulder the burdens he left in a pile of guts all over the freeway – morbid I know but this is a wake up call to all you sad sacks and grumpy gus’ out there; enough with your problems! They aren’t a 10th as bad as YOU see them to be in YOUR HEAD…. if it comes to “I guess I’ll just check out for good,” then call a suicide hotline, dial at random, prank call a big-box store; where whomever takes the call is already at the end oif their rope….s#!t–call phone sex, call your mommy, really ….who gives a fuck? Well, I do, we do, you do. Readers can get at me anytime via social media or in the comments. I’ll get back to you. SSStudios, Tapper, Cdub and Bill Feynman are perennially available. Things aren’t as bad as they seem now, not for you, not for me [I admit it]. Take a deep breathe, relax those shoulders and say, “my life sucks d!*k but its MY life....2017 will be better and I can get through the holidays without giving my .45 a blow job.” 
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*Note–under the circumstances; by all accounts the instigator of this mess died instantaneously when struck by the tractor trailer and in all probability — felt nothing, he left that for you and I to mull over
Canton’s secret weapon; Dean Westman; the brass-performance miracle worker—a savant ….a genius music teacher if there ever was one….
Checking scores of late (not that they matter!) we see that BC is a hair in front of BD, with Crown’s tribute to 93 Star down about a point-and-a-half. Santa Clara, Garfield and Rosemont round out the top six (w/ the recent-rise of BC/CC we see that Boston, Rockford & Crossmen are out of the top6 – this writer doesn’t see enough time left for significant place-changes, time is short on re-writing shows (but they will! Drill & music!) as it is on time to rearrange the placements much. This means that semi-local corps The Academy is likely to retain 12th and march Finals. Well-deserved! The $ you’ll earn and the possibility of making finals in 2017 will attract more-better performers. More corps = more-gooder.
Prediction, SCV in 4th with a score in low 90s. CC pegs the bronze (no love for Bartok’s ‘Medea’ – then all that’s left is a shootout for the ring between BD and BC. Music, viz and GE, they are neck and neck in all 3 categories, so let’s assume the winner will be decided by ONE CAPTION. To me, both corps are evenly matched in CG, drill, ensemble viz, battery, front ensemble and GE, where I see ‘potential difference’ is in music performance [particularly brass]. Brass…that’s BD’s caption is it not? Absolutely, lets take a look at why p0wnage of this caption leaves them vulnerable …..
To explain the vulnerability, we must travel back to 1997. The year prior, I was a rookie in the Velvet Knights. At the 2nd camp (I missed the 1st one…) then brass caption head Greg Flores sent his adjutant (Bill Varju, who’d marched SCV, Freelancers, BD and aged out at VK in 1995 as a Barry soloist, take note Varju not only marched the “west-coast cycle,” he’d marched Contra, Barry, Mellophone and Soprano – he’s equally competent on all instruments)–to audition me in some locker room at some HS in Ana-slime. He asked me to play a few scales, chromatic & major, I then layed down some Arban’s Carnival of Venice (and the triplet + 16th-note variation) which I’d committed to memory. I’d also only been using valves for about 2 months, borrowing a concert euphonium from Olinger – this had many problems for learning on the fly….the euph was “upright” (not bell-front like a bugle, so it didn’t train any of the muscles i’d need) it was in “C” (which we can equivalently call “in Bb”) the bugle I’d soon audition on was also in G, making it a)heavier and b)a minor-3rd LOWER, so if I see a “Bb” written, but I don’t hear a G in my head before the attack – I will buzz way sharp and that will lead to a frack. I knew so little music theory in 1995-6 that it took months for me to realize I had to “hear Down” AND learn Bb Treble Clef (I was told by many that drum corps don’t call out “notes” – EVERYONE MUST READ TREBLE. Especially me so im learning a new clef, valves, preparing to re-learn soon in a new key and I desperately hoped I’d make the corps. Coming from 4 years straight of honor band and 4 years straight of full scholarship to music camp, plus the heavy-hitter music pgm. I’d joined (invoking ‘schools of choice’ to ditch SCHS). The first time I heard Capo Jazz was 1992, by 1993 it was a given that going to Capo was as obvious a choice as marching a div1-caliber corps.
After I busted out some etudes for Bill, he said, “can you start on an “F” [double-transpose – know that he’s asking for a concert Eb and that on the bugle, the note coming out will be a concert low-C…]…”just go up the scale and keep going till you can’t play any higher?” “Sure” so all 100 lbs of 16-yr-old-hack-self proceeded to take it up two octaves SOLIDLY, then extending up to the doubleC. Bill was more impressed than I’d expected, apparently no one else in the low brass was good above a high C, so I had an octave 8va on all the vets. When we returned to the arc, GREG said, “Chris, you stand on the end of the arc now, you can’t be section leader because you are new, but you are now 1st chair. If there are any small or mixed-ensembles you will play the upper-lead part, if the show has any solos they default to you, cool with that? …cool? Fuck yeah. I guess my range, volume, lack-of-fracks and willingness to learn a new instrument from scratch payed off! As 1st chair, this put me solidly in the top 20 low-brass players in HS or College in North America.
As much as I learned on tour that year, nothing could prepare me for 1997, or what would be asked, expected of me…and how far I’d go to do it **this story is key to why/how BC could win it all next month**
I went to the 1st camp, having been the lead player in a small-ensemble of one other barry (Ryan; who was equally-talented but didn’t have my range by a sight….) and two flugel-bugle’s – my part began an abrupt shift to swing on beat 2 during our 2nd production and my part would be most audible on the recording (though not “technically a solo” I had plenty as one of three Barry’s in our Mixed Ensemble (“The Music of 1970s TV,” including ChiPs and The Love Boat; arr. Brian Belski….and yes we beat BD!!!!!) the show was also so heavily “hosed” that there were lots of runs, turns, high notes and licks where I was the only person playing. The G chromatic-triplet scale from middle to top-of-staff in one bar at 170bpm comes to mind, so does the lead line to “the right stuff” (upper-register, Ryan and I were only ones pumping that out…same for a bit of higher-reg improv writtten into the ballad, closer,”Concierto” “America o’Canada” (double F last bar–> bury entire low brass section, some of the HB AND whatever corps was posted next to us at retreat. Greg wrote lots of other fun warmups, etudes, marches and ditties for us to play BESIDES the damn show, he would give me a lead-sheet to those and clue me in on the chords so I could “improv if I wanted to ….fuck it.”
At this 97-camp, we met a new viz caption head whom you all know – Dave Weinberg, he’d arranged, designed and drilled out a whole show with a “Monty Python & the Holy Grail Theme.” I was to be now not only 1st chair but big bore section leader now and I was excited. My intention was to suggest to Dave that a “baritone solo, or solos might be a good idea.”
Never got that far though …. a week after the camp, I got a call from Glen. Who’d also marched as a rookie with me in 96. He said that the IRS audited the bingo hall (fmrly at Knott & Ball….*sniff*), found that Dir. Tom Hixon and possibly others were pilfering the funds and worst of all, we were way out of compliance for a 501c3 nonprofit youth organization. Vk owed more to the IRS than it was worth, so the gov’t seized all assets and the corps folded. Glen said he was calling because he thought I should think about where I might want to march….he said, “The other corps know you, they heard you on tour, at retreat & at I&E, they know you’re 1st chair/sxn leader. Any corps with a Barry hole is going to hit you up, some corps that are full might boot a lower-lead just to make room for you.”
I was sad. That Hixon, what a dick-bag! We never had enough food or fuel or $ on tour, we were always getting stranded, getting to shows late and when the cook mentioned “VK surprise” we knew that means he would take all remaining food, mix it into a stew and serve it, this was often cereal mixed with hot water, ramen noodles and maybe some cheap beans or rice. I was sad that the next-nearest corps was a 1000 miles away, that i’d have to be a “rook pos” all over again and that whatever corps I joined was not as likely to hand over 1st chair so easy, my chances at a solo were dwindling unless I intended to march in a lesser-corps.
The next night a woman called from The Crossmen, she identified me as “VK’s star baritone” and that if I marched, I would only have to attend camps until school was out, I would not have to work any bingo and (as it had been the yr b4) as a “ringer”the tour fee would be $0.00. I told her it sounded great, I had serious respect for the Xmen and that other than my parents hating me; marching was very doable. She wanted me to commit. I told her to wait a few weeks per Glen’s warning. She said 1st-chair was again mine if I went and that they’d hold the drill spot indefinitely.
Two nights later Glen called again. “Dude, you wanna march Vanguard?” Not particularly, but it was the closest div1 corps, all my viz techs marched there so I knew what to expect in terms of physical torture during basics block and physical warm-ups. I also liked Santa Clara, I also liked the idea of being the one Capo-hack that moves across the bay. Capo’s brass-hack MO is to march one year of VK, (or zero…) then audition, march BD and show off your ring after tour. “How do I get there for camps Glen? I have no $, my family hates drum corps, I can’t work bingo….how do we do this?”
“I just heard from their brass staff, all the orphaned VK players [that dont suck] get a free-ride [comped tour fee-again] no audition, no bingo….” “yeah but how do we get there?”
“thats the best part, SCV’s hornline is short about 20, so the corps is chartering a bus that will take us up from south-coast plaza every Friday and BACK on Sunday night!” Ok….a former Vk-now SCV hornline-member called the next night and made the offer, I’d already offended my parents by affirming that drum corps would continue despite having no drum corps nearby…so I said I would be on the bus next weekend and every weekend till post-memorial-day……
Now lets’s get into BC’s secret weapon. After the 1st camp, mgmt announced a change in brass-caption-head. His name was Dean Westman, he’d marched 1992-1993 (????) Contra at Rosemont. He had a teaching credential and lead a school in Texas where they take football so srsly that he led a fresh-soph MB, a JV MB and a Varsity MB (this along with the usual band dir. Stuff, beginning band, wind ensemble, jazz, commercial music, advanced band, orchestra, spring musical…..) he’d been teching Rosemont since aging out; our arranger Gordon Henderson was quite close to the staff there (he arranged 1995’s championship program “The Planets,” where in 95 there was 3-way tie for high-brass!)
Dean had shown himself to be adequate to be promoted from adjutant to caption head, albeit at a new corps….I won’t name cuz he’s a friend and deserves privacy, but SCV told Gordon to find a new head so they could fire the old one.
You have to understand that SCV lost it’s compass in 1992 with the death its longtime dir. & founder, Gail Royer. “Dr. Len Kyryzeki (sp?” took over in 1993….94, 95 & 96 were not banner years 7th, 5th, 5th then 6th place ….longtime friends, fans, family and alumni feared the worst, that we’d continue to slide and go the way of other corps that slipped out of Finals, never to be heard from again. Unlike BD, SCV didn’t have the luxury of holding auditions and selecting the best 66 out of 1000s…in fact, when I joined, we still had about 5 or 6 more holes, we patched them using the div 2 corps b4 leaving Calli, you need to understand that the average age in the hornline was 17 ½!!! The battery and front ensemble were filled with the absurdly-talented from day one,, not so the bugles; we’d have to learn. Think of Dean’s job as being to bring a bunch of high-school kids (with an average of just over 1 year of division 1 drum corps) up to a professional level. Dean introduced some neat listening exercises and etudes, but as much as the viz staff beat us to shit (not as bad as wanna-be VK viz guys…) Dean was always smiling, always nice, always happy to be there, never angry, rare to chew anyone out…and he ran horn-arc as BD would, lax….few viz standards enforced, much to the chagrin of vets and staff…..I could see what he was getting at. HE was explaining the technical aspects on the one hand…and he was priming us for “professional level” live performance on the other. If your show is 100 percent clean, you will get an 89/100 in brass performance; to break 90…and to crack 95, or 96….it takes something far more important than perfection; but lets not worry ourselves wit that yet. Rosemont came out to NorCal that year; at the first show we got p0wned by them and BD was over 10 points ahead of us.
Dean drilled & drilled and drilled us, rewriting the book 100+ times, hosing the players who couldn’t nail the hard stuff (or the easy stuff) and the viz staff did there thing so we could jazz run at 180 bpm and pass-thru Contra’s at “one” (yes one…) intervals whilst keeping the feet out of the sound. Three hornlines set out from CA, all completely full, one had just tied with PR for the win in 96, the other, a solid winner the year prior, a males-only corps full of “men”…like BD at close glance there were two hornlines full of men and one mostly kids….US. DCP even scouted us out of the top6, perhaps dropping to its lowest finish ever….how could we possibly compete with these two powerhouses that attracted the cream of the crop, internationally? Well, for one thing we had a cool show design (music, cg & drill), we had the most devoted drill-writer and viz caption head in all space-time; Myron Rosander….and…though he’d marched div 1 the same year as our super-vet (7-yr), we had perhaps the universe’s best music teacher, not a day over 25. We’d never been taught to or allowed to consider the score as a gauge for “how good we were doing,” but we did know that we could not continue to slide in placement, we are after all, the only corps to make Finals every year, not even BD can say that! Since 1989, we’d not defeated either corps. Gail’s last year was a massive crowd-pleaser with “Fiddler” but even the loaded hornline and baby-chucking fans, the adjudication community saw it as another re-hash and they panned it, sending Santa Clara from 1st to 8th in three years. 1990’s “Carmen” was also panned, as many of the members who’s just won came back for another ring….not only did they not win they did not medal; coming in 5th; 1991 continued Gail’s love of the theatre with a strikingly artistic rendition of “Miss Saigon,” still, the judges only “allowed” the corps to recover to 4th.
Could the corps survive many more years without its heart & soul? No one knew. In 97 it wasn’t looking good.
Then we changed back to the xmas-tree uniform.
Then Dean came up with an idea for the flattest part of our show…an up-tempo d-a-c-ray pattern from Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety. BEFORE DRUMS ALONG THE ROCKIES THIS PRODUCTION WAS TECHNICALLY PERFECT. NO phasing, no fracks, no bad intervals or bad drill. It was a machine firing on all pistons, we’d added tons of visuals and re-written it, hosed the weaker players off chromatics/melodies/licks and other ‘hard’ stuff. WE moved and played together, the ensemble blend was nice, great dynamic contrast…… The DoD was all-Vanguard….so why did the audience sit on their hands during&after? They didn’t during the intro, they stood up plenty of times during “On The Waterfront.” If we didn’t run out of O2 in that thin mtn air…we’d get a standing O as we trooped the line off the field, but ….I was already thinking that if we could make the 4th production pop…. we’d at least be close to Rosemont, within 7.5 of BD and DCP would maybe at least put us back in the top6……..
The hell if I knew how, but Dean did; I believe he knew the whole time….he’d already begun to explain that reading music perfectly the 1st time was a given for professional players. It’s an expert that can accomplish that. A “pro” makes the audience feel something REAL. As all art should, when I look at Picasso’s “Guernica” I feel the pain and strife, I FEEL the beauty Van Gogh saw when he painted “Starry Night.” Our opener had a soft, lilting, pretty, easy-going, early-morning-feel. On-the-Waterfront had tension, power and mayhem/dissonance built in, like rush-hour on the 680.The ballad was all love, so was the closer and the “park” sequence had a playful feel built into it…but what was this weird-dissonant-chord-repeated-at-high-speed supposed to mean? What should the fans feel? How do we project a feeling if I we dont know wtf its supposed to be?
“Ok so bring it in….everyone…” 120 “kids” surrounded Dean and he described the problem above. He’d been racking his brain to explain the feelings to emote in our flat-production.
“Did any of you see “Sleeping with the Enemy?” [nope]”ok well, in the movie, Julia Roberts is abused by her husband…I thought of it because the chords we repeat over and over are the same ones the evil husband plays on his record player, …every day, when he gets home from work, he puts on the d-a-c-ray, then he slowly tromps upstairs to beat his wife….when we reset, I want you to BE that character; especially if you play the repeated theme. Don’t feel her fear of getting beat, feel HIS RAGE, HIS ANGER, HIS FURY….consider that if you were out of uniform, off the field, you’d be about to beat the shit out someone you cared about. GET ANGRY, how pissed does this character have to get to do something so evil? So lets set up at the top, everybody’s in-full out!…and send all that evil rage up to the BOX!”
I’d seen the movie. I remembered that the music I was about to play was the same as Kevin Kline’s evil record player, meant to foreshadow despicable acts of terror. When I set; I pictured myself in his black raincoat and turtleneck, I could see stairs off behind the track where I’d go to “beat my wife” afterward. I furrowed my brow, for the 1st time I got into character. I always thought the music speaks for itself but no! You have to BE a character to express a particular emotion, even if it’s a continent away from being politically correct*
….In addition to support staff there were about 30 fans milling about. We ran the prod thru, top to bottom, we tore, I spread tone a few times, some of the sets and horn visuals didnt snap as you’d expect them to in July, but at the end of this production, the staff, fans and ourselves sat in a state of shock as we dressed-center; then the millers & staff erupted into cheers, applause, jumping up and down….and I felt it. This was a NEW PRODUCTION! I simply couldn’t wait to do it at a show (it had previously been my least fav production)…I knew we could get two more standing o’s…maybe more?
All Dean did was place a thought in our heads, that’s it! Then….magic. There are so many more examples but this post is long enough so let’s leave it at this. That night we got a standing O at the first impact-point in that production, also a loooong one at the end of it (shit we hadn’t even done the closer yet!) That put us at somewhere around 10 times the fans would rise & lose their shit. So did the judges take note of that? You decide.
At the second regional “Drums” at Mile High, we beat Rosemont and did not lose to them again till their three-peat in early 2000s. We had a ceremony in Colorado where we gave back “the noose” which had been at the corps hall since 1990. Cavs and SCV are rivals so the noose is what you get if you lose so “go hang yourself with it!” We NEVER lost to Rockford or Madison, we beat Garfield and at q’s we tied BD….we dropped to 3rd at semi’s but on the night of the live PBS broadcast, we were the “reliable Rondo”-pick to win it all.
We didn’t win-win, but in Vanguard terms we won. We peaked at Finals. Sans minor side 1 to side 2 phasing for a bar that locks back in before the 1st impact in the opener, show = tech perfection.
Emotionally, we took 50k denizens of east-Florida on a ride through human feelings, ours, theirs, their fears, their wants, their hates, their anger, their tension, their joy mainly …. their nostalgia; that warm place you go before tears of joy leak out.
Point-Dean did that in one year, three yrs after teching for his alma mater they win. 98 SCV get silver, 99-gold. Then he drops out to be w/ fam, work his other job and pick up a lil extra w/ the on-broadway production of Blast! Then he drops off-radar. Now we find him 4 years in leading Canton’s ensemble music. They are a c— hair behind BD ….so here it is the tap-prediction as of august 1 folks;
1. BC >97.0
2. BD >95.5
3. CC >95.0
4. SCV >93.0
5. Gar >92.5
6. Cavs >91.0
….12th = TA w/ > 81.0
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*note – The SoCal Pic in no way shape or form supports violence against women. What we DO support is invoking the psyche of a fictional character in order to express such emotions as anger, cruelty and madness. It is the ability to transcend technique and project ANY & ALL emotions that separates expert artists from professionals. This writer credits Dean Westman and Myron Rosander primarily for teaching me the difference AND how to ACTUALLY DO IT IN FRONT OF A LIVE AUDIENCE! Sadly, no one will benefit (directly) from Rosander at DCI this year [Rest in peace, ol’ buddy….] but the COATS, the COPS have DW and his leadership will make the diff under those Saturday Night Lights. SEE YOU SEEING ME THERE, IN THE FLESH, -T August, 2016.
A rough (and heavily exaggerated) Yelp! review posted here instead for now ….
Called to make inquiry regarding poss. gold investment. ‘Frank’ at first put me on hold…no problem. He gets back to me a minute later and I proceed to give him 15, maybe 20 seconds of background explaining what kind of business I wanted to do and why, but before I could ask any questions he said he had “like three other calls” and “could I hold again?’ ok. the third time I started to explain that I wanted to add gold to my portfolio, then he became annoyed, again complaining that there were lines on hold, this time I said, “So are all these other callers more important than me, bacause I’m considering a fairly significant investment with you,” to which he snubbed off, saying that “I was taking to long to get to the point [total of 30 seconds, tops? I’m not ordering pizza…]” and that “The amount I quoted wasnt that much [$50K] and that he “did deals like that all the time.” I call bull$#!t, shenanigans and from his cavalier attitude on the phone I wouldn’t buy a Timex off that asshole, let alone gold bullion. All he had to do was not be a full bore douche & I’d be on my way to thew bank to take out a hefty cashier’s check…instead I’m back to square one on the entire investment idea that I had. He destroyed my confidence in the gold market; at least for now — nice work there …I guess it’s not a problem though cuz “he has other people buying millions of dollars of gold [from him] later today.” Well good luck with that; the $ that actually exists in the real world; not fantasy-land will be staying in my savings account. Customer service is extremely important from your morning latte to your mortgage so ‘frankly’ I was shocked that he’d treat a potential 5-figure customer so poorly. Maybe he had a bad morning but there is NO EXCUSE, even if I called …say…see if I could SELL $20 in silver. Let this be a lesson to shopkeepers in OC; we all know you are broke and your sales are in the toilet; so at least pretend like you give a shit.
Business in question is “Irvine Gold” I think. Fuck that guy I will never do business there and I urge my readers not to either; shady shady sheister written all over him; it bled thru the phone. I don’t want to actually sign up for yelp! so I cut&pasted the review here. I had to blow off some steam this guy really pissed me off and maybe cost me money. Time will tell. I exxagerated the amount I intended to invest by a great deal btw….