Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Live-Blogging Adventure -or- Dispassionate Journalism is Overrated

Four years ago this evening, there was a little tiny competition in Indianapolis. It involved about a dozen groups of musicians who tooted and drummed and flagged and danced. Their whole summer had been full of this activity, and as they say, it all came down to this.

As it happened, I knew personally a few of the folks involved with one particular performing group from North Carolina; and was therefore kinda pullin’ for ’em.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet and technology and such, those of us who were not in Indianapolis still got to experience the evening’s festivities, from group #1 to group #12 and then the announcements of who scored how many points.

My own particular version of the Internet, not being the fastest in the world, didn’t allow me to actually see or hear it. Video streaming was just not happening. But I had a devious method or two up my sleeve. So, wishing to put my erstwhile journalism training to work (well… sorta), I set about becoming the “pool reporter” for this event, on behalf of a number of my friends who didn’t have the fastest version of the Internet either.

The plan was to pass along the scores as they were announced. Y’know, dispassionate chronicler of events.

When I was done, I realized I’d actually broken a sweat. I was pulling for that one group pretty hard; and the intensity of the “big reveal” of Drum Corps International Finals scores at the end of the evening was a lot greater than I was expecting.

So, here’s the 21st-century equivalent, I guess, of tuning in to the radio drama and letting your imagination do the heavy lifting: behold … my Facebook post activity (and a few resultant FB Comments) from the evening of August 10, 2013.


The various corps presented their shows…


R: “So, I’ve got the official DCI Finals live blog scrolling along in one browser window and FB in another. I think this must be what it was like when all you could do was gather around the family radio.”


R: “DCI finals live blog commenter, re: [Santa Clara Vanguard]: ‘tempo seems to be up from the last two nights…’ • …up?!”


R: “From the DCI live blog, a royal announcement: ‘Live presentation of the scores will be offered FREE on the homepage DCI.org.’ At which time, the website will do its annual crash.”


R: “DCI live blog commenter, ‘tween corps: ‘Hearing the Cadets play Medea is so weird, since Star [of Indiana] used that in 1993, and the Cadets beat them that year. Then again, they also played Malaguena, which I am sure galled the Madison [Scouts] fans.’ … By this logic, Madison fans were angry with: every marching band in America. Hm.”


A friend of mine from the UMass Alumni Band days, whose niece was in a particular drum corps that night: “Getting so nervous for [Niece]!!!! Switching over to the tunnel. I just saw you, [Niece]!!!”

R: “In for 4 … out for 4 … in for 4 … out for 8 … in for 4 … out for 16 …”


R: “DCI live blog commenter, as [Blue Devils] finishes: ‘This is going to be a bloodbath!!!’ • DCI live blog moderator, as [Carolina] Crown enters: “The chant of ‘Let’s go Crown!’ has started in the crowd.’ • All together now: ‘This… place… is… e-…’”


R: “Every so often one of my non-drum-corps-watching friends posts here, … and it’s jarring!”


R: “[Carolina] Crown horns play, DCI live blog moderator writes: ‘Wow…that horn run back and forth and the impact of the section following it when they lay it all on the line. I can’t write the phrase I want to really use to explain my reaction to that, as I do like my job.’”


R: “DCI live blog moderator: ‘The crowd goes nuts! And for good reasons. Regardless of the outcome, THAT was a championship caliber performance.’ @dcihouseguyhedginghisbets”


R: “Hey, [Friend-With-A-Niece]… you OK over there? ;)”

FRIEND WITH A NIECE: “I’m breathing….barely.”


As the various corps assembled on the field for the awards retreat…


R: “Lemme just say this BEFORE any scores get called: I didn’t actually SEE any corps tonight. If everybody took it up a notch from Thursday night at the movies, –whoa. Good luck to everyone. Everyone’s a winner. It’s all about the audience. If you did your best, that’s all we can ask. … … Okay? Good. … … For the next twenty minutes, I am such a card-carrying member of the Sisterhood of the Purple Pants, it hurts. Get ’em Crown.”


FRIEND FROM THE BU BAND DAYS: “And the DCI page has crashed!!”

R: “They should have gotten the DoD tech guys involved.)”

BU BAND FRIEND: “I blame Snowden.”

R: “<*spit-take*>


R: “As the DCI website has apparently just crashed … *shocker* … I stand ready to reprise my role from last year as the guy with the tin can and string, posting scores from the live blog. My journalism degree, at work.”

DRUM MAJOR ACADEMY STAFF FRIEND: “I’m counting on you Dr. Rob!”

R: “I feel like I need to limber up. Arm circles!”


R: “No scores yet, but the Live Blog guys are taking a beating for the connectivity issues. (I know noth-ink!)”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS: “Ahhh! SO frustrating! I’m yelling at my computer right now… but it’s not helping!”

R: “My little fingers are hovering over the keys.”

BU BAND FRIEND: “At least the live blog is up.”

R: “I will defend that open browser window with my life.”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS #2: “You’re our link to the inside!”


Well, scoring these competitions is a complex business. Takes time. …


R: “If it makes anyone feel better, the Live Blog guys are blathering on inanely just the same as [DCI broadcast announcers] Rondinaro and DeLucia probably are. … ‘They’re clapping. They’re still clapping. Lots of clapping.’ … ‘Oh look, corps are marching on.’ ‘More clapping.’ … (I paraphrase.)”


R: “Stand by. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. …”


R: “In 13th place: ‘America the Beautiful.’ … Oh. Sorry.”


R: “Now [in the stadium] they’re showing a video, apparently. … … They do this on purpose, you know. #frakkers”


FRIEND FROM THE UMASS BAND DAYS #1: [re: what the DCI live bloggers are posting links about while the scores aren’t being announced yet] “aardvarks…. … and barn swallows.”

R: “OMG.”


And, at long last, here we go… blood pressure gently rising… as scores are announced approximately 30 seconds apart…


R: “11th, 86.40 Spirit of Atlanta”


R: “10th, 87.75 Blue Knights.”


R: “Caption awards: George Zingali Award for Best Color Guard to Blue Devils.”


R: “9th, 90.10 Madison Scouts”


R: “The top nine are 90+. Whoa.”


R: “John Brazale Best Visual Performance to Crown.”


R: “8th place, 90.40 Boston Crusaders. … Nearly caught the Cavs.”


DMA STAFF FRIEND #2: “Rob Hammerton is about 10 seconds ahead of [the DCI Finals “Entrance Tunnel” YouTube channel] … refresh refresh refresh” (8/10/2013)


R: “Jim Ott Award for Best Brass Performance to Carolina Crown. No … kidding.”


R: “7th place, 90.50 The Cavaliers.”


R: “Best Percussion Performance (Sanford Award) The Cadets”


R: “6th place, 93.25 Bluecoats”


R: “Don Angelica Best Overall GE Carolina Crown”


R: “5th place, 93.35 Bluecoats”


R: “4th place, 96.85 SCV … A 3 point spread.”


R: “3rd place, 96.95 The Cadets … My God, that only gets them 3rd place.”

FRIEND FROM UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS #3: “.1 over SCV? Scoring is crazazazy!”


R: “2nd place … … 98.05 Blue Devils”


R: “1st place, 98.30 Carolina Crown”


R: “Hey, [Friend-With-A-Niece], you can go to bed now.”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS BAND DAYS #1: “She’s still screaming…”


R: “Yay performance. Yay instruction. Yay support. Not to forget, though: not for nothing are Messrs. Michael Klesch and Thom Hannum [Crown’s brass- and percussion-arrangers] in the Hall of Fame.”


R: “Okay, here’s a (not-) trivia question for DCI historians: Offhand, can you think of any other team of brass and percussion arrangers who have won world championships together … with two different corps? … in two different decades?”


R: “Hey, UMassers – this is what all the fuss was about.” [To this post, I attached My-Friend-With-A-Niece’s photo of Her Niece, who was a percussionist with Carolina Crown, along with a superimposed graphic of her corps’s final score, with a caption: “That’s my niece on the left, crying because she is a DCI WORLD CHAMPION!!!!!!!!!!”]


Granted, I didn’t put in the kind of physical and mental effort that any of the actual musicians did, that night … not remotely close … but I did sleep soundly.


August 10, 2017 Posted by | drum corps, Facebook, Internet, journalism, social media, technology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Upon the Wicked Stage

Last night, NBC ran the second in what, with luck, will continue to be their series of live televised broadcasts of classic American musicals. Last year, it was “The Sound of Music Live”. This year, “Peter Pan Live”.

Mild irony alert: I missed last night’s appearance of Christopher Walken as Captain Hook because … I was running a choir rehearsal.

Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, I guess.

Although in a way, I really didn’t miss it. When I got home from rehearsal, it was still in the process of wrapping up. I climbed onto the local computer and checked in on my online social media world – and got the idea of what had gone on. As I scrolled down in my News Feed, the News was very clear:

The production was lame.

It was also great.

It really depended on whose comments I was reading at any given moment.

It is … a puzzlement!”

I have been known to live-blog a televised event or two. The Super Bowl. The Presidential Inauguration. Spike TV’s holiday Star Wars marathon. The local Conservation Commission’s meeting on cable access.

Okay, that last one I made up. I went to that one live, before I had a mobile Internet device. And oh, the live-blogging that might have transpired. Good thing it didn’t, in retrospect.

Which, in an odd way, is the point here.

With live-blogging comes snark. Seemingly, with almost everything up to and including State of the Union addresses, comes snark.

Sometimes, the snark is great entertainment. Sometimes, it’s counterproductive only in that “look, that kid is trying hard to sing that song and we should encourage because for heaven’s sake, she’s four years old, cut her a break, hey?” way.

Why do you guys gotta act like there’s a war on?!”

Sometimes at the same time as being great punchlines, the snark is legitimate and honest critique: that was an unfortunate choice of wardrobe … does he know he’s addressing adults? … you cross-checked that guy four times and you didn’t think he’d come back at you? …

I saw a bit of “The Sound of Music Live” last year, and presenting the role of Maria was Carrie Underwood, who rose to fame via “American Idol” and seemed to be more of a publicity hire than a merit hire, at least to the various musical theater professionals who populate my Facebook news feed. She was striving mightily, and it’s true, there is both risk and reward in live television, never mind live televised musical theater where you cannot go back and run that tune again.

But I imagined a small legion of Carrie Underwood fans tuning in because they knew her, and ended up knowing that “The Sound of Music” was, you know, a thing.

I can’t criticize that strategy on the part of NBC. Let’s just say that as a kid, I discovered a few other worthy artistic projects strictly because they featured a certain guy who had previously played a pointy-eared Vulcan.

And this year, the word was that Captain Hook was going to be played by an actor whose range, as far as I know, is “a great Christopher Walken impression and exactly nothing else”. This weekend, I plan to scour YouTube for his performance from last night. As I posted when I first read that Mr. Walken was going to portray the good Captain:

‘… I–! … hate I hate I, hate Peter. PAN!’”

But I digress. And for all I know, Walken may have nailed it. Or “made it his own”. Or provided the audience with many great unintentional laughs. Either way, guaranteed someone experienced Neverland because they’d been a big fan of “The Deer Hunter” or “Pulp Fiction” or, dear heaven, “A View to a Kill”. And again, NBC was counting on that.

It has to be drummed in your dear little ear…”

True, the casting could have included an actor or two with some previous Broadway experience, to satisfy those of us who would prefer Great Performances full of bona fide tread-the-boards Skill Sets.

But if Chris Walken or Carrie Underwood or, hypothetically, Pee Wee Herman drags the viewers in, raises the ratings, and encourages NBC to do this sort of thing more than twice in a row … so be it.

This, from the fellow (me) who positively cringed when the Drum Corps International finals broadcast, in the early 1990s, featured color commentary by legendary sports broadcaster Curt Gowdy. To be perfectly honest, Gowdy suffered from a combined case of “didn’t do his homework regarding ‘what is this marching band (oi!) thing?’” and “talks about everything using professional sports cliches”. He was abysmal, and somehow DCI chose to keep him into the broadcast for what felt like seventeen summers in a row. (Actually just five.) But they did so hoping that average Americans might hear the voice and stick with the show for a while, and get sucked in.

To some, young man, my charms have far from waned.”

Because as happens when time passes and the current generation is, in a great many ways, far removed from the past. There are far too many American kids who have no idea what this means:

Liza! Where the devil are my slippers?”

Or this:

Shall I tell you what I think of you? You’re spoiled!”

Or this:

Tote dat barge! Lift that bale! Git a little drunk, an’ you land in jail…”

So, while I don’t know how “Peter Pan Live” went, last night, except that some of my friends thought it was an embarrassment and others posted pictures of their kids watching the broadcast in costume (I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one with friends like this, nationwide!) … and while I’m sure that a lot of Broadway professionals were probably rightly thinking, “who greenlit this casting decision, that lighting decision, this makeup job, that flying rig, this choice of scenes to cut,” etc. etc. … with any luck, NBC will get the opportunity to screw up many more classic American musicals.

[UPDATE: This just in, as of this very morning: NBC has announced that it’ll be “The Music Man Live” in 2015. Me? I’m lobbying for “The King and I Live”, but I have very little say in the matter. Somehow I don’t think “Cabaret Live” or “Hair Live” are in the pipeline anytime soon, which is a damn shame. Oh well…]

Because what American stage producers in the 1940s and 1950s did when they combined the concepts of operetta, vaudeville and gesamtkunstwerk is unique in the world, and some of the particular instances of that art form are among the truly towering works that humanity has ever come up with.

And more people need to know that “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific” exist, let alone what they say.

So, some of us need to take a deep breath, mutter, “okay then, Walken,” and know that if this morning, one kid went to elementary school and said to their teacher or friends, “did you SEE Peter Pan FLY last NIGHT?!”, it’ll have been worth it.

After all, “I’m Flying” is just a gateway to …

Life Upon the Wicked Stage” … “The Little Things You Do Together” …

You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” … “A Boy Like That” …

You Were Dead, You Know” … “It Ain’t Necessarily So” …

Children Will Listen” … “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” …

…I got a little more than dough ridin’ on this one.”

December 5, 2014 Posted by | arts, celebrity, music, social media, television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment