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Friday, March 27, 2009

2009 Carnival - Bacchanal Wednesday

Greetings peeps, Kermit D. Frog here.

Over the past 10 plus years, Bacchanal Wednesday has evolved from a sweet party in the Oval in downtown Port-of-Spain to the massive fete that it is today and some say that this growth has taken away much of its charm and allure in order to cater to a high volume of attendees. While I understand that the growth of as good a party as Bacchanal Wednesday undoubtedly is cannot be stopped, there comes a point beyond which the original concept is lost and a new paradigm takes over. That may not necessarily be a bad thing, but those of us who remember its early days in the Oval can’t help but yearn just a little bit for those times and some of the conveniences we took for granted. Parking, for example, was much easier back in the day. For that matter, simply getting to the fete was considerably less taxing then than it is today which brings me to where I am now…on my way to Chaguaramas to see what’s what at Bacchanal Wednesday 2009.



In order to avoid the usual drama that ensues when more than 8,000 people try to drive to a party location which has only one road in and out, the crew decided to get there REAL early and get citrus in the car park outside the venue. This would serve two main purposes: firstly, we would not be stuck in traffic for hours and, secondly we would be able to get our drink on with our own stocks rather than paying a small fortune to the bars inside the fete. With this plan in mind, we set out nice and early with ample stocks in the back and made our way to Bowen Marine, the site of Bacchanal Wednesday. After cruising there at a nice pace we arrived without incident around 9:30 pm and parked in a spot adjacent to the main road and only a few hundred yards away from the fete. We broke out the drinks and settled in for a nice gape. Since all traffic passed us on the way into the car park, we were treated to a preview of what we would see later that night and it was all good.

One of the greatest things about Bacchanal Wednesday was the gape. The sheer volume of beautiful women that come to this party staggers the imagination and fortunately, that had not diminished in any way. By now, much of the paved parking where we were was filled and cars were being directed into a vast field. With all the rain that had fallen earlier in the day and week, although the field was not a swamp, most of it was mud yet these beauties, replete in heels and white pants (tight of course) were emerging from the field without so much as a smudge anywhere. Maybe they had some kind of car park levitation skill or something but while you could see some mud on the fellas shoes, the ladies feet were spotless. Naturally we took a drink in their honor and debated how this could be. After an hour or so, one of the crew got hungry so he volunteered to make a KFC run (it was only a ¼ mile away so it was more of a KFC small jog) and upon his return in a half hour or so, we devoured the fowl he brought back.

By this time, the rest of the lime arrived and after another few rounds of drinks we depleted our stocks and decided that we might as well go inside. The stagger down the road didn’t take us too long but the closer we got to the venue, the more disturbing the scene became. There was a line of people wrapping around the fete and disappearing at some entrance way off around a corner and out of sight. MERDE! At least we were all still solidly under the influence so maybe the wait would not seem too long….sigh…we joined the back of the line and trudged slowly forward. After about 10 minutes, some of the other members of the crew decided to check out another entrance we could see in order to try to mamaguy all of us in. Almost immediately they returned saying that the line we were in was in fact the VIP line and the entrance with no one in line was general admission. What de jail is dis? We all moved to the entrance in question and sure enough we passed through security and was ushered in in two two’s. Hmm, I thought, hard luck for those VIP people in the muddy line. We immediately headed straight for the bar, bought our chits (STEUPS), resumed consumption of alcohol, and looked around for the best area to serve as our base of operations for the night.

As I said before, the fete was huge and even though it was not yet midnight the venue was filling quickly. The centerpiece of the fete was the clamshell stage which was set up facing the middle of the field. This stage is truly one of, if not the best on the island so we knew that with the night’s scheduled performers we would be in for a treat not only aurally but visually as well. I decided to make an immediate lap around the fete because when filled, this fete will not be navigated easily especially if I maintain my current level of alcohol consumption. A leisurely circle around the party confirmed what I had been seeing while liming outside: the beauty and sheer quantity of the ladies present in the fete was astounding and I did my best to capture as many of these visions of loveliness as possible. Not long after my return to the lime’s base the live performers started up and quickly had the crowd mesmerized and obsessed with what was taking place onstage.

Three of the heaviest “T’s” you could ever want to see were on stage performing their big tune for 2009, Obsessive Winers. Picture this my peeps, Destra Garcia was up first and she, being the youngest of the T’s, gave a high-energy, low-wining demonstration and then handed the baton off to Allison Hinds who put on display a kind of slow Falumawine. After that, all that was left was for Denise “Tractor License” Belfon to display her considerable gyratory talents after which all three did a synchronized wine that made men’s hearts race and knees wobble. It was during this performance that I realized the limitations of my camera as the zoom was woefully inadequate. The anti-shake was working like a boss (see previous heart and knee comment) but the zoom peeps, the zoom let me down. I needed to capture every detail of their waist motions and I was unable to do them full justice. I made a vow to correct this for next year’s festivities and sealed it with a drink (of course).

After this display, we eagerly awaited Machel Montano’s arrival in the clamshell. I had heard that he was a little off in 2009 and his shows were not as mind blasting as in previous years but I knew this was Bacchanal Wednesday and if there was one show in which he would go all out, this was it. This was the performance that would set the pace for the upcoming carnival weekend and I was sure he would not disappoint. Although it was close to 5:00 am when he finally took the stage, true to form he started off with a bang. A parachuter swirled overhead, powerful lights transformed the stage into a cacophony of color while blasts of fog shot down into the crowd from overhead. WOW! Confetti filled the air and when Machel appeared, he didn’t just take the stage, he took it like it owed him money! He caroused the length and breath of the stage singing, dancing, jumping, wining, and whipping the crowd into such a frenzy that I found myself wondering how long could he keep it up? I mean, even Mr. HD himself has limits. This question was soon answered when after around 30 minutes he started the rave.

OOOOKKKK.

To be clear, I love the song “What is Love” (with accompanying head bob) popularized by the Saturday Night Live sketch but there is a time and place for everything. While I appreciate Machel trying new things and bringing new flavors to his music, it was clear that much of the crowd was unresponsive to the tune. The switch from high energy soca to this caught a lot of folks by surprise, including me. Now I don’t mind the song being used as a transition but after 15 minutes of head-bobbing, I had had enough and decided to leave. It took me another 15 minutes to get to my car and I could still hear “What is love” being played as I drove away. While Machel’s performance was as hot and dynamic as ever to start, the middle bogged down considerably which corroborated what I had been hearing so far this year. I had also heard about his marathon “Antz”closing set and I am not too sorry I missed it.

On the whole, Bacchanal Wednesday was a fine fete. True it was very large and somewhat troublesome to get to (and leave as I heard from my crew that stayed until the end of the fete) but the people that were there were there to party and have a good time and everyone I saw was certainly doing that. The bar was overpriced (as we have come to expect), the chit system archaic but, despite my disappointment with Machel, the entertainment was excellent. The stage was top notch and it definitely contributed in a major way to the prime-time production feel that was prevalent throughout the night.

Enjoy the pics, Break Biche is next……..



Kermit out.

2009 Carnival - A.W.O.L.

Greetings peeps, Kermit D. Frog here and it is now the Tuesday before Carnival and I am on my way to A.W.O.L., (Ah lime WithOut Limits). Now before I go any further, for the benefit of those readers who are not familiar with the term “lime”, I think I should define the concept and its application in Trinidad especially at Carnival time.

Lime

Origin: Trinidadian
meaning:
(verb) hanging out/socializing in an informal relaxing environment, especially with friends, for example at a party, or on the beach.
(noun) an event at which liming takes place, e.g. a party. A gathering of people engaged in activities associated with liming. Often qualified using an adjective e.g. big lime.

The above definition is pretty much self explanatory but the event I was heading to this night needs a bit more explanation. As I said before, the name of the party is A.W.O.L, Ah lime WithOut Limits, as you will see printed on some of the yellow t-shirts worn by some of the beautiful ladies hosting the party. The 2009 carnival events I have attended before this were fetes. The difference between a fete and a lime, to me, is pretty clear. A carnival fete is typically a very large affair with many people, bars, and foods. In a fete, the entertainment is usually varied and will contain several DJ’s, maybe a few live bands with some guest artistes, sometimes even a rhythm section, a steelband, or even a tassa group, while a lime is somewhat less involved. Music and drinks yes, but without much of the supplementary entertainments found at a fete. This however was billed as a lime without limits. What did they mean by “without limits”? Would the boundaries between lime and fete blur or be crossed tonight? Without “lime limits” to guide us would things go too far and create a rip in the social fabric that is so interwoven between all of us in Trinidad during carnival season. What an interesting concept or was I just reading too much into the name? Maybe it was simply a clever acronym and I was full of ta-ta. Whatever the case, I still owed it to you my peeps to go where potentially no lime has gone before and report my findings pictorially and leave it to you to decide if any lime protocols or Generally Accepted Liming Principles (GALP) were broken. (Yuh feel is only party promoters could make up acronyms or wha?)

A.W.O.L. was held poolside at the West Palm Hotel in Chaguaramas (just past Cruise Inn) and was scheduled from 5pm to 11pm. To me, an evening event by a pool really does sound very citrus and does indeed lead one to think lime as opposed to fete so I endeavored to get there fairly close to the stated start time as possible since the traffic heading down toward that side of Port-of-Spain after work can be quite heavy. I arrived at the gate a bit after 6pm and got to park directly in front of the venue which meant that the crowd was light. I know it was early but all signs were still definitely pointing lime-ward. As I entered the hotel grounds and after taking a picture with the “security team” in yellow (who refused to search me no matter how much I assured them it was OK) I passed the food tent (wasn’t ready to eat just yet but ah kill dem later though) and made my way poolside. The sun was now setting and it made for a beautiful backdrop to the scene I beheld.

Arranged around the pool were several different alcohol stations and the main bar. Being a vodka drinker, my eye was immediately caught by the Belvedere bar but as they were still setting up, I paused by the Green Label bar to finish my sno-cone and ponder my next move.

Oh did I forget to mention that I was given a welcome sno-cone once I cleared “security”? I thought it a nicely civilized touch since usually at fetes they try to ply you with liquor as soon as you walk in but this being a lime, albeit a lime without limits, I guess they decided to blaze a new trail. Good for them. I ordered a red and yellow syrup mix with condensed milk (Yes dammit, CONDENSED milk. That is how we do it in Trini, we like it, live with it.) When I got it, I bit into it with gusto and took a deep slurp through the straw. Ahhhh, how refreshing, but wait, this sno-cone tasting kinda strange. I’ve never felt a burning sensation down my throat and in my chest after eating some sno-cone. As I came to find out, the burning sensation was the rum and (I believe) tequila that had been added to the syrup used in the sno-cone. After a second deep sample of the cone, I saw my friend Pixi who is one of the organizers and she informed me that she had the idea to spike the syrup to jump start the lime and besides, since there were no limits here, anything goes. It was an interesting twist on such a simple refreshment and it left me wondering what the rest of the night had in store.

Back to the present, and here I am, getting tight off a sno-cone (I hope that was as bizarre to read as it was for me to type), wondering what to do next when I was approached by 2 Jagermeister girls who challenged me to come take a shot of Jager. Not one for backing down from a challenge involving liquor, I said no problem, where was the shot? They replied that it was on the other side of the pool and I had to take the shot off a huge block of ice. OOOOKKKKK. Since I had already committed, I followed them to their big-ass iceblock and after watching the pourer wash it down twice with some water, I took the shot. It was ice cold and not bad at all. By this time, I was ready for some Belvedere so I made my way to the bar and struck up a conversation with the bartenders. I introduced myself and told them that they would be seeing a lot of me this evening and they replied that they were looking forward to it. Sweet!

By now, the sun had set and the venue was filling up with nicely dressed, well behaved folk who were sipping their cocktails and eating food and doing a sort of chip to the music. I walked around the pool hailing out some of the DC crew that were there and taking pics of the pretty people all chatting and mixing and mingling and really enjoying the night. The sky was clear and you could even see the stars looking back at you. It was a fairly warm night with not much breeze which was a bit unusual considering we were only a few hundred feet from the sea but then again, maybe the alcohol had something to do with the heat. It was a tranquil, relaxed scene and I am not really certain about the exact point at which things deteriorated but I can tell you that it seemed like people went from sipping drinks and chipping, to doing shots and wining HARD!

I know I had been there for a few hours at least and that is more than enough time for folks to get twisted but people were there in hard shoes and heels. Surely they would not be getting on tusty up in de lime? WRONG! Maybe there was an announcement reminding the attendees that there was no limit on de lime but all of a sudden the DJs unleashed a wave of big chunes and the masses responded as only inebriated carnival revelers could. De people an dem wined, they wined, and they wined some more. Even with all this winery going on, it was still a lime; a fairly wild lime, but it was still a lime. It wasn’t even when a fellow decided that he had had enough of de heat and dove into the pool that the lime code was broken. GALP was broken when his pardnah BROUGHT HIM A DRINK AND GAVE IT TO HIM WHILE HE WAS IN DE POOL. I mean to say, he still in he nice jeans and shirt so just because he treading water in de pool doh mean he should be without liquor. I could hardly believe my eyes. It was as though someone blew a whistle and all the sociality left the area and it was on like socks! People wined by themselves, they wined in groups, they wined on the wall, they wined on the bar, they jumped on people and wined. It was quite a spectacle to behold.

After a few hours at this pace, the steelband side started up heralding the end of A.W.O.L. and as we followed them out to our cars we glanced furtively at each other, partners-in-crime because of our participation in the night’s complete disregard for proper lime protocol. We gave each other a nod and a smile which acknowledged our complicity and our resolve to never let it happen again….at least until A.W.O.L. 2010.

Enjoy the pics…..Bacchanal Wednesday...coming soon!

Kermit out.

2009 Carinval - Fatima All-Inclusive

So my peeps, we are back to the action. It is now Valentine’s Day and we are heading to Fatima’s All-Inclusive fete and being a Fatima Old Boy myself, it was a homecoming that was long overdue.

As I entered the school grounds and passed the Arima Boys Rhythm Band, I was welcomed with a glass of champagne and was immediately drawn to the smells emanating from the main hall wherein contained the grand ballroom. MMMMMMM, what I smelled was the Arabic dinner being served within but I didn’t want to commit myself to a heavy meal just yet. It is true that I had arrived 15 minutes after the gates had opened and had at least 6 more hours of feteing to do but I wanted to see what was available before settling down to some solid eating. I continued with the stream of people heading towards the main courtyard and there I discovered the “Event Map” or directory of the fete.

This was a giant chart listing all the food and drink areas within the party and it was exactly what I needed to plan my attack. There was a lot to list and everything was listed here. The foods available ranged from the staples such as Crab and Dumplings, Jerk Chicken, Shark and Bake, Doubles, Fajitas and Ribs to more exotic fare such as Bombay Duck, Peking Duck, Kebabs, Arabic Dinners and even Spit Roasted Suckling Pig and Spit Roasted Buffalypso. Where to begin? I started on the left (after taking a shot of Tequila to wake up the stomach) and ate my way in a clockwise manner around the fete. By the time I reached the Brew house an hour or so later I was nicely filled and ready to get my drink on. Since I am not really a whiskey drinker I ignored the Johnny Green area and headed to one of the main bars to begin my assault on the stocks of Gray Goose.

This was my first time attending the Fatima fete and so far I was very impressed with its organization. Most food lines were very short (less than 10 minutes) and the bar lines were nonexistent. While the different food stations were well spaced out, you never got the sense that the party was too large and scattered. There was a feeling of intimacy about the evening and this was compounded in my case by the several former schoolmates I saw, many of whom I had been out of touch with since I left Form VI in 1988. After catching up with old friends for a while, I noticed that the live entertainment was about to begin so the lime maneuvered closer to the stage to get a better view of the action and by action I mean the original Bajan Heavy-T herself, Allison Hinds!

The seemingly ageless wonder Allison Hinds gave us a rousing performance and despite her many years in the music business, her waist clearly had not slowed in either its intensity or power. As usual, she called for a volunteer from the crowd to come up on stage to test her skills. Some of my crew loudly suggested that I should go since I was big enough and athletic enough to challenge her and they looked like they were going to make noise and point me out to her. So naturally I cuffed them down (verbally of course) as I had witnessed this scene before and it ALWAYS ends up bad for the victim that accepts her challenge. Some poor guy didn’t realize what fate awaited him (or was too drunk to care) and he went up on stage to test her. Ha lawd! He did ok for a while but then she turned around and backed up on him and……well, you have to see his expression in the pics. He didn’t embarrass himself though (must’ve been a Fatima man) so it was all good.

While we waited for the next band to set up, the B-Mobile Girls made their way on stage and there was some sort of phone giveaway or something. The vibe was nice and the food was still plentiful despite being 3 hours or so into the party and we were having a great time. I guess the bar thought that we weren’t drinking enough because there were always lovely ladies bringing drinks for us to try and so as not to be rude, we tried them all. After a while the next band started jamming, the tempo picked up and people started to get a bit wilder in the fete. One of the wonderful things about the Fatima fete is that the attendees varied widely in age and despite that age gap, the senior partiers still kept pace with and sometimes outdid the younger patrons. I could definitely see myself in their shoes in a couple decades. Feteing is the real fountain of youth my peeps and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

After hours of happy partying, the final band came on later in the evening and still the crowd was hyped and energized and they enjoyed the performance to the max. Me, I was hungry; so I made my way to the Jerk Chicken area and stood there for around 30 minutes and ate the rest of the chicken. Yes, you read correctly. I ate the REST of the chicken. It was delicious and hot and I was hungry. Don’t judge me. It took 30 minutes because they served the chicken in small portions on small plates so I would eat my plate, join the line and repeat. There were a few of us doing the same thing so we kind of bonded there in that room with the smell of chicken in the air and the sound of vigorous chewing ringing in our ears. Ahhh the memories…..

Anyway, writing that has made me hungry so I will bring this installment to a close now and forage for some food. Needless to say the Fatima All-Inclusive got full marks from me. This is how a fete is supposed to be run and I hope that my first experience will be duplicated every time I attend.

Enjoy the pics, A.W.O.L is next.

Kermit out.

Carnival 2009 - VOODOO

Greetings peeps and welcome to Kermit D. Frog’s coverage of Trinidad Carnival 2009.

This year’s journey to Carnival Monday and Tuesday on the streets of Port-of-Spain begins on Friday, February 13th at a warm-up fete called VOODOO. This party was held at the Crews Inn in Chaguaramas and as this was the VOODOO’s inaugural year, I didn’t know quite what to expect. VOODOO’s promoters have an excellent track record after having developed Sunny Side Up to the powerhouse breakfast fete that it is today and also with their most recent creation, Break Biche which started in 2008. Consequently, I wasn’t too concerned about things but with fetes in Trinidad, one never knows for sure.

That night I dropped one of the promoters to the venue so I got down there quite early (around 10:00 pm) hence I arrived before most of the crowd. This was OK with me as I would be able to scope out the lie of the land and, since I had purchased the drinks-inclusive ticket, I could get my drink on in advance of the masses arrival.

Upon entering the fete and navigating through the impressive security screening, I passed through the Battery Tent said hi to the Battery Girls and came to the Absolut Lounge. Now this was not just a bar that featured Absolut drinks; oh no my peeps, this was a full blown lounge with several tall white tables and barstools (with feather centerpieces of course) as well as several low tables with beanbag seating all arranged in front of a full Absolut bar with uniformed bartenders (cap, suspenders, shirt, tie, with socks and shoes to match) serving a range of delicious Absolut cocktails. After weighing my seating options (with drink in hand of course) I decided that my best bet was the high table and barstool as although the beanbags looked extremely comfortable, once I get my 6’4”, 260 lb. self down there, I would ketch my ass to get up, and even though I would be able to stand up eventually, it would not be a graceful ascension at all. Besides, being perched on the barstool I would be able to survey the entire fete and plan my next move because there was a lot more to explore in VOODOO and I still had some time before things get all hot and Heavy-T up in this piece.

After imbibing a few of the Absolut drinks, I decided to move on to check out some of the other drink stations I could see. The next stop was the Jose Cuervo tent where the lovely Cuervo Girls were more than happy to hook me up with a shot and a nice mixed drink. I then passed by the one of the main bars to glance at the rest of the fare then went to gaze at the food area but since I had eaten a substantial meal in advance of the fete I was not very tempted.

It was at this point that I sensed that my movements were being watched from behind a tree. Using my patented Kermit photo-taker-outer skills, I furtively took a picture of where I felt the watching was coming from and when I checked the picture, imagine my surprise when I saw what I thought was a stray dog watching me. But what de jail is dis? A stray dog in de fete? What kind of party has stray dogs. I was about to go find one of the VOODOO people and ask them that very question when it occurred to me that what I was seeing could not possibly be a stray dog. I mean, the security was tight like a small shoes when I passed through in the front. They even had very menacing looking rottweilers in the parking lot and at the entrance. How could some random stray dog get past all that? It was then that I realized what was going on. This was no stray dog; this was an undercover K9 officer. It was one of the Special Tactical Undercover Dogs (S.T.U.D.) used to fight fete crime. BRILLIANT! This was another first for the VOODOO CREW. Everybody notices the rottweilers but nobody pays any attention to a STUD and would therefore be able to move through the party largely unobserved and able to report on bandit activity and fight crime as needed. Kudos, VOODOO crew, much kudos for thinking out of the box or kennel as the case may be. Needless to say, the party was incident free all night and I am sure that was due in no small part to S.T.U.D. vigilance.

By now, crowds were filling the venue, hot tunes were flowing almost as smoothly and quickly as the drinks and the vibe was heating up nicely. After chilling for a while in the Absolut Lounge and becoming good friends with the two Absolute Girls in white (de white pants TIGHT woah-e-ooey, de pants fit TIGHT yeah-e-eeaaehy) I saw that the live entertainment was setting up on-stage so we relocated the lime to a spot closer to stage side and prepared to be entertained. First, Shurwayne & You mashed up the place and then after a short intermission to change equipment, KES The Band finished the job. Both performances were full of energy and action and the crowd was kept hyped from beginning to end.

After the performances, the DJs took over and kept the crowd jamming until finally it was time to go. As far as first fetes go, this was an excellent start to what should be a new carnival tradition. The drinks were cold and plentiful, the women were hot and plentiful, and the music and entertainment was on point. What more could one ask for in a fete, new or otherwise? As I made my way to my car, I again sensed a pair of watchful eyes following me from about one foot off the ground and lo and behold, watching over the partygoers as we exited was another S.T.U.D. still on duty and still ever vigilant. So I took a picture of this exit S.T.U.D. and hoped that the rest of the carnival fetes were as well guarded and secure as VOODOO.

Enjoy the pics folks, Fatima All-Inclusive is next.

Kermit out.

Fete Friday Reviews

In the past I have shared "Kermit's" review of Taboo fete (DC Carnival) with my readers, and since he made it to many fetes for Trinidad Carnival 2009 (but I did not) this Friday I am going to feature his Fete Reviews thus far. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did!

Fetes being featured today:

Voodoo

Fatima All Inclusive

A.W.O.L.

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