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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Band Feedback...

Congratulations on your web page, its the best. I decided to play with Pulse 8 after a contentious DKrewe 08. I visited the mas camp, and decided on Flamin Sambuca because the costume matched my sneakers. I am of the older genre and put comfort before anything else. On collection day within thirty minutes, I paid and collected four costumes. I was impressed with the warmth and efficiency of the staff.

The costumes looked like the prototype, did not check the amount of feathers but the costumes were impressive. I know it is a choice of wearing whatever on Monday, but $80.00 for a t-shirt was too much, considering the price of the costumes. On the road, both days we had to look for the band because we were late, but when we did find the band, we had a great time. Drinks flowed literally like water, nothing ran out.

The bar staff should be given a bonus. The lunch on both days was delicious and plentiful, so were the snacks. Good choice of the doubles van. On the occasion that I used the wee-wee van, it was always clean and well stocked. Security reminded me of lock down, they were vigilant.

*Another Pulse 8 review can be found at the blog Obsessed Wit This

Dear Island People Mas,

I am writing this email to let you know about my carnival experience with hopes that no other masquerader will have to endure what I just endured for the grand cost of over $3000 TT.

As an overseas masquerader that has heard of the drama associated with carnival, my friends and I decided that we wanted to play in a REPUTABLE band, because we work too hard to be throwing away our money.

We chose Island People because they were assuring us GREAT SECURITY, HELPFUL STAFF and some really PRETTY COSTUMES. Basically, we were getting our money’s worth.

I should have known there would be drama from the get-go. Registration was a joke. As we are not in Trinidad, we asked someone to go to the mas camp and register three of us for Rays of Light. During the day, current went out and registration continued. When current returned, the administration for Island People realized that they had over-registered certain sections. Rather than asking the masqueraders what sections they would like to be switched into they arbitrarily put people in different sections. Catch the joke, they thought it was OK to split up our group putting, one person in Rays of Light, one person in Love and yours truly in Touch!

Did I mention that I am not a Trinidadian? This would mark my first time in Trinidad and my fist time playing mas in Trinidad. When we tried contacting your mas camp about the issue we were told that we could jump up together all we wanted; all we had to do was get in our sections before crossing the stage.

Another major issue with your camp was the lack of communication, for all the emails I sent to you, all I ever got was the automatic reply saying that “I will get a response within 48 hours.” If you do not intend on responding to people’s questions or concerns, don’t tell them you will. That only pisses them off. Why did I have to call the mas camp and get irate to finally get a receipt, several emails should have been sufficient.

Since, I’m on the communication tip, please inform/train your staff. I was growing really tired of calling the mas camp to ask questions, only to get “Well, I’m not too sure...” It seemed as if that was the only thing you trained your staff to say when people asked questions.

Your staff told us that we could do fast-track payments right up until costume collection. Why then do we call only to have no-one answer the phone? The voicemail says “the mas camp is open...” So if the mas camp is open, why is no-one answering the phone? Come to find out that the mas camp wasn’t actually open, you just forgot to change the voicemail. Suggestion: if are not going to be at the mas camp, forward the phone to a cell phone at the stadium so that someone can get in touch with staff to ask their questions. Oh wait, it seem you people don’t like being asked questions. Forget that!

Costume Collection
By the time costume collection came (Saturday before mas!), we were group four girls from Canada and the U.S., all playing in Rays of Light with the exception of yours truly, who chose to bypass the costume switching shenanigans and remain in Touch.

Fist let me say that the costume was beautiful! I loved the quality of the headpiece as well as the girl distributing my costume. She should have trained the other girls at the desk in the art of multitasking! Look into that next time.

Mind you, getting to the final stage of costume pick-up was not without issue. I fast-tracked; this means I don’t have to wait in line to pay. This also means that I should have a more seamless collection process. Psych!

Unfortunately, not all of us girls got a chance to do fast track (remember no one was answering the phone) so me being a true friend, waited with the others (to a certain point). Now, all the signs at the complex clearly state that if you have done fast-track you should proceed to the collection line and get your costume. So that is what I did. After waiting in the collection line for about 20 minutes, I showed the attendant my receipt. I was then informed that I needed to go to the cashiers and have them print me another receipt. Now I’m pissed, because I have to go into the line with all the other people that haven’t paid off their costume? She tells me I don’t have to wait in line “just go give this to the cashier and she will reprint it for you.”

Now I’m especially agitated at the girl working at the information desk, giving not one bit of information. If she had been doing her job instead of liming at her station with her friends, then fast track masqueraders would have known that the signs were not correct and we needed to take that additional step, before getting our costumes.

Another masquerader pointed out that she was pissed because there were heaps of people by-passing the line and just walking in and getting their costume, (While I am sure that kind of foolishness was going on for real), some of us were the brunt of un-necessary attitude. Why was I getting screw-face and steups from everyone in the line as I went to get my receipt re-printed? Even the security guard had the audacity to come and tell me that I couldn’t pass. I see with all those people, because if you had told people that the people by-passing them in line were fast-track masqueraders, the attitude might have been avoided. Better yet, if you had just taken my copy of the receipt, there would not have been a problem. What, my paper, from my printer wasn’t good enough for your standards?

Overall, my collection time was about 45 minutes (including the time to go re-print my receipt). I’ve learned that fast-track is the way to go. So after the fours hours of waiting for the other girls, I began thinking: Why are we picking up our costumes so late? It’s only 4 days before carnival. Shouldn’t we be focusing on alterations right now? Island People sold out of costumes within days of registration, so why did we have to wait until days before carnival to get our costumes?

Another problem at time of collection was people not getting their headpieces or their costumes at all. Why were the larger sized costumes for “Natural Mystic” not available at all? I don’t condone people getting irate and cussing out anybody...but if I come to collect my costume on the last day of collection and you tell me that my costume is not there AFTER waiting in line for better believe somebody is going to get told about themselves. Period.

To make matters worse, why were the goodie bags looking so hungry? Early in the week masqueraders mentioned that many things were yet to be delivered to the camp. We assumed that because we were collecting our costumes last that we would get the additional items that were missing from the beginning of the week. But no; our goodie bags were filled with COUPONS! Can you believe this, coupons? Not even a tube of sunscreen! We were expecting to get trial/sample sized items that would fit in our beautifully decorated bags! Because of this, we had to wear larger bags to hold the full sized sunscreen, etc. that we had brought to Trinidad.

Despite the whole costume mess, we left extra excited, big grins and all because our costumes were the bomb! They were beautiful and looked exactly like we expected. We had to make at-home alterations, because there was no way we were making it to the mas camp on Sunday; especially not after Insomnia. Once again, costume distribution should have been earlier. The only people that should be congesting the camp should have been the international masqueraders, who have little control over when they can pick up their costumes.

On the road
After our at-home make-up application, and our Monday outfits, we were ready and set for the road. Monday was amazing! The band left at 10:15 when they said to be there for 10:00. Great start to the day! The drinks flowed like water, and the people were amazing. One masquerader even took the time to give us carnival dos and don’ts to survive two days on the road.

After our day of getting on bad, we went home and got our rest, with preparations for our big day. In short, our Carnival Monday experience was wonderful! Good music, great drinks, amazing people (fellow masqueraders) and some wicked vibes. Unfortunately Carnival Tuesday wasn’t the same.

Once again we were leaving from the Jean Pierre complex. I loved my headpiece, but on Tuesday, I couldn’t help but notice that all costumes were not created equally. My girlfriend’s headpiece had one flimsy piece of elastic on the back and to make matters worse, it was too big. When we tried to tie the two ends together, it broke. She was almost in tears. To come all that way and spend all that money to play mas, only to have your headpiece break was traumatic. When we tried finding someone to help with last minute alterations; no one to be found. Luckily, we had some safety pins and worked some magic to hold it up for a while.

And if the phone conversations weren’t bad enough, when we asked a “marshal” on the road what was going on with the sections, we were told “I don’t really know, you will have to ask a marshal.” Please imagine the dumbfounded looks on our faces, because this girl was wearing a shirt that said “MARSHAL” on the back. These shirts must be the newest trend in street wear – because we incorrectly assumed she could answer some sort of questions.

For the rest of the day I will use bullets because the issues are just too much to note otherwise:

  • We were never in sections. To tell you the truth, I don’t know how many stages we crossed because I only remember crossing the first one. If we have a planned route, why must the marshals wait until we are at the foot of the stage to try and move us into sections? This should have been organized way better. No wonder everyone says that IP is always a mess crossing the stage. The jewelery we received in our accessory pack was great but after the rains we noticed that some metal pieces of jewelery were turning people’s skin black! In the future, you should think about skin allergies especially when providing key pieces such as the necklaces and arm pieces.
  • Cold, tasteless food on the GO. What happen to lunch breaks? And was I really supposed to enjoy the “tuff rice” pelau you tried feeding us? And can someone please explain why ALL the food trucks were at the back? Food trucks should have been dispersed throughout the band. Luckily, they had aloo and fruit to hold me over for the majority of the day Running out of non-alcoholic drink options. Not a good look especially for those of us that are actively trying not to get alcohol poisoning on the road. No water in wee-wee truck since noon! That’s nasty! Luckily, I walked with my sanitizer!
  • Poor security – they had no control over stormers whatsoever, and why were they more interested in bubbling on the masqueraders than protecting their backsides? Why did I get burned by a stormer’s cigarette and why did security stand back and watch as a vagrant made his way through the band trying to catch wine on everybody.
  • It was clear who was winning road march; and it was not Machel! Although the song grew on me throughout the day, I was really tired of crossing the stage like “wild ants”. I don’t care if Machel is part of IP. Unless he pays his money, puts on a costume and jumps up with the rest of us then his needs should not supersede those of the paying masquerader’s. The flow of the mas was not very good. We had periods on the route where we had to wait in the same spot for more than half and hour and then we had to literally run after the trucks after leaving the Savannah.
  • After another stop in the road for over 30 minutes on some residential street in St. James we heard the DJs bidding us goodnight! Goodnight? Where the hell were we? We expected that we would end in the same place that we started. I don’t know where St James is! Why would you leave people in the middle of nowhere knowing that there are newcomers to Trinidad in your band?….you’re going to leave them in the middle of nowhere given the state of crime in Trinidad? Luckily, one of my girlfriends is persistent and doesn’t take no for an answer and managed to get us a ride back to the stadium on the medic truck…so we could meet up with our ride!
NO AFTERPARTY!!! We spend $650-$700 CDN on costumes and no afterparty? Since we barely got any goodies, and it seems like you cut corners on staff, where did all the money go?

Care a little about what your masqueraders say, at the very least, please pretend to care!

Create a map of the planned route so that family members and friends can see us on the road in all our glory; and please try your best to stick to that route.

Get more people to deal with payment at time of collection – how are 5 cashiers going to deal with the hundreds of people that have to either pay or print receipts. Simple mathematics; it can’t work!

Pick somewhere else to distribute costumes. The bottleneck at the complex was frustrating and inefficient.

Have some form of “informed” admin working Monday and Tuesday to help organize masqueraders and answer their questions

Organize! Organize! Please try and look like the mas process was a year in the making and not a month in the making.

Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me! Island People will not be getting our hard earned money nor our endorsement in the future. We know that there are glitches with every band but IP’s oversights were not glitches; they were seriously playing with the safety of their masqueraders, and that is unacceptable.

With that, we say so long and good bye Island People and for the sake of future masqueraders, we really hope you get yourselves together.

Dear Tribe,

Just wanted to give you my review of Tribe 2009...all sent with good intentions.

1) I thought the band was going to be downsized this year? It certainly didn't feel like it; and at times felt very much AKA Poison..very scary indeed. To spend that kind of money and be claustrophobic at times is really something to think about.

2) Section line-up - Pheasant was a huge disappointment, and still lead the band? The color and execution was just blah...and so not fair to the several other spectacular sections that followed. I am well aware of the Max-factor but still??? Similar mind-set on Blue Tanger; although it looked better than I expected; it was far superseded by sections that followed. Brazilian Macaw deserved to be at least where it was, also Caged Canary; but Spangled Cotinga, the section which supposedly sold out b4 the band launched placed at #7?? I know it was a huge section, and couldn't lead the band, but in all fairness, it deserved to be in the top 3, if not top 5. Hummingbird up front was also not justifiable. Kiskadee also made sense in the top 5. Section line-up is a huge deal with the majority of your die-hard masqueraders; the same ones that are waiting on line for hours; or sitting at their computer terminals overseas, at point zero. It seems only fair that the hottest sections/first to sell out, should be placed accordingly.

3) Lunch stop - good food and service, however the bathrooms were a huge disappointment over last year. First of all, the facilities weren't enough for the crowd, and the lines were way too long. Also, what happened to the spray sunblock, wet wipes and spray deodorant, etc from last year?? I was actually shocked to see roll on deodorants on a few tables..who would dare to use that??? Also, the lunch stop seemed a bit too long both days. On a bright note, the timing of lunch on Monday and Tuesday, was a lot better than last year.

4) Overall, the food and beverage service on both days was outstanding. Drinks, snacks later in the day, pizza, sandwiches, etc, were on point. I was especially impressed by shark and bake being served after 7 p.m. on Tuesday; that was indeed awesome.

5) Security - overall, very good..felt very safe most of the time; which is a huge priority with everyone; especially lately; with the obvious state of the country.

6) The costumes overall this year were spectacular; best year that I remember, especially with the fantabulous front-lines.

7) Tribe still stands out as the leader among the band choices. I look forward to being a part of the Asian theme for C2K10, and I am confident that based on your attention to customer service and concerns; that Tribe will come even better next time around.

The Silk Road Versus the Spice Route!

Carnival 2010 is shaping up to be a very interesting one in terms of expectations from bands and their themes. As I announced yesterday TRIBE's presentation for 2010 is "The Silk Road" while Spice is doing "The Spice Route". Both themes explore the Asian continent however the Spice route and silk road extends to different countries; the Silk Road is highlighted below in RED while the Spice Route is in BLUE:

The Silk Road passes through China, India, Persia and touches Africa/Egypt while the Spice Route encompasses Italy, Greece, Africa, India and the Javanese Islands. I can so see the costumes for BOTH bands!

Add Island People in the mix because their theme is "Kuchela" which is an East Indian condiment in Trinidad, a peak in the mountain ranges of the Himalayas as well as there is a mythological Hindu story about Lord Krishna and his friend Kuchela. Knowing Island People that theme can be interpreted a host of different ways though I am hoping they do a very nice East Indian flavored mas!

2009 Carnival is barely behind us and it is full steam ahead for 2010!
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