Drum Corps Love and Documentary About Them That Needs You

A month ago my friend Caryle posted a call on Facebook wanting to know if anyone wanted to go to Celebration in Brass. It had been forever since I’d been to a drum & bugle corps show, so I said, “Sure, I’m in!” Dan had originally planned to go to see Grease on the big screen at our local theater, but he found out it would be a sing-along and decided no. So all three of us piled in the car, picked up Caryle, and headed over to Waukee.

IMG_1163The weather, for once, was wonderful, and as I milled in the lines and took my seat, I got lost in memories. You see, a million years ago when I was fourteen, I was in the Americanos drum & bugle corps out of Menasha, Wisconsin. I played pit, because my usual instrument trade was piano and flute, and there was no way in hell I was coordinated enough for a flag. I toured all over the country, dipping once into Canada, and slept on gym floors with the rest of them. I remember endless hours on coach buses, constant bickering and support from my corps mates, and the comforting thrum of the drum line as we rehearsed. I remember sitting next to the snares and toms, feeling the kind of excitement from their rhythm and resonance that I have elsewhere found in writing and good sex. I remember wearing polyester uniforms in parades with volunteers squirting water into our mouths and standing ready to pull us if we passed out from heat exhaustion.

Mostly, though, I remember the Madison Scouts.

When I was a corps member, the Scouts were mostly too old for me, but they are my first memory of openly, shamelessly admiring sharp, sleek male form. They were clean-cut, fully at attention, more regimented than any other corps. When our drum majors told us to keep in time, the Scouts were what I thought of as the ultimate example of Doing It Right. I remember one night being able to stand to the side as they marched by onto the field, and I remember my heart pounding, my senses alive in something so much deeper and complicated than sexual attraction. I remember drinking them in, savoring each crisp line of their uniforms, hard line of their jaw. I never noticed one as an individual, only the whole unit.

Last night the Madison Scouts were there, to my great delight. When the show was over, we were all discussing our favorite performances, and Anna asked me mine. “The Scouts,” I said, which surprised her because so many were showy and full of props and flash. The thing was, while Santa Clara Vanguard was great, I’m old school, and I didn’t like how they didn’t walk out to the beat because they were busy screwing with those building parts in the back. It was cute how The Academy had that guy vamping in the front with whatever his accent was, but it was a little too cute if you know what I mean.

IMG_1167The Scouts came out in a militant line, did their thing where they turned in unison, pivoting and expanding at once, and as I remembered everything they did was so precise you could set your watch by it. And yeah, there’s something about them being all-male. I really loved a lot of the female performances in the other corps, or at least the females one could identify (everyone looks the same under those plumey hats). Some of the color guards were ballets, and they were beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the Colts: they felt like the old school corps I remembered, and they radiated family in a way that made me nostaglic. The Scouts, though—God Almighty.

I admit, I had the same reaction last night I did when I was fourteen, except this time the wistfulness was different. Back then I thought I was yearning for a boyfriend, but I think what I really was after was that strong sense of sexuality: as in, “this is what masculinity is, watch this. This is what behaving is, this is what order and form is.” Because then as now, I was never a person who understood who she was. I’ve been a member of many borrowed families like the corps, but I’ve always felt off to the side.  Now I know how to play that—now I wouldn’t trade that for anything, because that distance is what lets me see so I can write. It felt like beautiful closure to see that and acknowledge it, and well worth the price of admission.

The other thing last night that got me was while I watched each core that statistically, a lot of gay men and women were out there, some who knew who they were, some who were out, some who were as conflicted as they could be. Anything artistic I swear raises the odds, and there were a few pit crew and flag corps members with the kind of swish which, if they weren’t gay, were even more beautiful because they were part of that lovely line-blending the younger generations are serving up. I even spied a few women who, I knew now, had I been a little less shuttered when I was young, I’d have been attracted to as well. I loved the idea that these young people have more acceptance and permission to be whatever orientation they want to be.

Naturally, while I was doing all this musing, a plot bunny happened.

Actually it wasn’t so much a plot bunny as the decision that I would make a garden for a plot bunny to call home, and the garden would be corps-themed. Because tell me there aren’t gay romances happening in these coach buses crammed with young and new adults. When they aren’t happening, someone is wishing they would. I sat watching the show, I realized how much inside info I had on a corps, and I knew it had to happen. So I tweeted about it. Many, many people on twitter went BANANAS at the idea, and those who had no idea what I was talking about looked it up and then went, “Oh, god yeah.” I posted pics, confessed I was perving and slashing, particularly the Scouts. It was a great time.

This morning I woke up and my phone told me @ScoutsHonorDoc was following me, and that they’d favorited the tweet about writing a gay romance set in a drum & bugle corps. I peeked at their info, and then I ran to my computer. A documentary about the Madison Scouts.

Hello, bunnies. Look at this goddamned garden.

It’s the Scouts’s 75th anniversary, and to celebrate they’re trying to put the documentary out this year to match it. But movies cost a lot to make, and as you can see, they’re $8,505 short just now. I did my best to send them forward, but I don’t have ten grand to spare. I do, though, have a crapton of you following this blog, another lump on twitter, and all the other social media. And you have friends, etc.

Ten bucks counts. Ten bucks is a deli sandwich, chips, and a soda. Ten bucks is a Chipolte burrito with guacamole and a drink. Ten bucks is a Cullinan Starbucks order. Ten bucks from ten people is one hundred dollars, and takes the Scouts from $8,505 to $8,405 short. Ten bucks from one hundred people is a grand, and that would mean they’re only down $7,505.

If you have ten bucks or more to spare, please send it their way. Think of it as supporting great art, amazing young men, and budding filmmakers. Think of it as making it so I can get that DVD that much faster.

In the meantime, watch their trailer. Check out their website. Follow their Facebook and Twitter. And if you ever hear that a drum & bugle corps show will be in your area, check it out. You won’t be sorry.

(If you want to see if one will be, check this schedule.)

Here’s a great mashup of their greatest hits:

Show I saw last night:

4 Comments on “Drum Corps Love and Documentary About Them That Needs You

  1. I have a soft spot in my heart for Vanguard. When I was 14 they won the World Championships with a Phantom show that will always be my favorite, amen. I don’t really follow DCI these days, but I still get a little nostalgic when I hear the drum line practicing at the high school down the street.

  2. Whoot! Another drum corps nut! I marched with the Troopers back when the Kilties were a junior corps. They and the Scouts, oh yeah. **is lost in memories**

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