Our Contemporary Color spectacular, which will be in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre and in New York at the Barclays Center this June, is a project that doesn’t just come together at the last minute. For more info on the shows click HERE. It’s a long process, and part of that process took place two weekends ago in Long Branch, NJ.

(Long Branch is part of the Jersey shore.)

A group of us travelled down in a van to watch the Eastern Regional Championships—where all 10 of our teams competed! Some of the Contemporary Color musicians came along to actually meet the teams they’ll be working with, and to experience the colorguard world up close. On this trip we were joined by Adam Horowitz (Ad-Rock) who, with Money Mark, who was also along, and will be working with Somerville HS. Dev Hynes who is paired with a team called Black Watch came along, as did Ira Glass and Nico Muhly who are working with Alter Ego… and myself, of course. My team is called Les Eclipses and they are based outside of Montreal.

In a nutshell, the teams are using audio collages of their own making during the season (which ends mid-April, at the WGI World Championships which take place at the Dayton Arena). After that, they will swap out those collages for new, original (!) music created by our musicians—it is this music, played live, that will be heard at our shows. The routines (they call them programs) will remain more or less unchanged from what they are doing now… though some adjustments will be inevitable and they’ll get tighter.

Here’s one that will need adjusting: Mechanicsburg High School’s program features a wall—through which the performers get snatched (!), but we realized it will obscure the view of the performing musicians. Don’t worry Kristy (the team’s director), we’ll figure it out.

Also along were Turner and Bill Ross, documentary filmmakers who have been documenting this process on and off for a feature (some elements of which will be included as part of the shows). Their most recent documentary, Western, was just screened at MoMA and Film Society Lincoln Center’s New Films/ New Directors series, after having done well at Sundance and SXSW (here is a review)—where the film (about a border area in Texas) got the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award—the same award that Boyhood received at SXSW in 2014! the previous year

All very exciting, as you can imagine. The Ross Bros captured some of the encounters between the teams and the musicians paired with them, but mostly they were off capturing stuff backstage. They told us about some of what they got afterwards. One moment involved a “coach” (they’re not really called coaches) talking to a team and asking them to realize that some of the team members present would age out of the colorguard world at the end of this summer and to imagine the team without them in it… it’s a very emotional world, so no surprise this imagination exercise was a bit cruel and elicited waves of tears that soon filled the room.

Here’s one from a team that is not part of Contemporary Color. Their theme is Scandal, and, as you can see by the names on their flags, Pee Wee and Polanski both get name checked!

Another moment was when an adult woman involved with one of the teams was interrupted by a team member, which elicited a rather abrupt and unexpected scolding. More tears ensued, which attracted the attention of other team members, who then gathered around the distraught girl and one of these, very quietly at first, began to sing ,“Why don’t you build me up, Buttercup…” until all the team members now surrounded the girl and all had joined in, “WHY DON’T YOU BUILD ME UP (BUILD ME UP) BUTTERCUP, BABY”.

Nico and Ira are working as a team. How does that work, you might wonder? Well, we think Nico will compose some instrumental music and Ira will create verbiage from interviews and his own self (he was recording some stuff during our visit). I saw his Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host show that involved playing back pre-recorded interview snippets live—so I can see where it’s going.

I watched my team, Les Eclipses, perform, and made some mental notes. The musical direction I had previously contemplated, I no longer think will work… but as I watched I began to imagine a new direction that I’m excited about.

It was quite the afternoon—next stop is Dayton in two weeks, where a lot more of the musicians will meet their partners.

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