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Friday, July 10, 2009

DV8 DC 2009

Greetings peeps, Kermit here bringing you the word from DC Carnival 2009. It is now the night before the big event on Georgia Avenue and, naturally, all roads lead to DV8 DC.

Taboo, as this fete was formerly known, had become a signature event for DC Carnival and despite several recurring issues over the past couple of years, it remained one of the most highly anticipated events for the weekend. A couple years ago, the folks responsible for Taboo decided to expand to Miami Carnival and thus was born DV8. I was present for its first year and it was an excellent affair. Patrons were directed to park in a parking lot and we were shuttled to the venue and everything went as smooth as silk. The venue was beautiful, the food was tasty and everything went like clockwork. 2008 was their second year having DV8 in Miami and while I did not attend, I heard nothing but superlatives being used to describe the experience. It was bigger and better than before and I vowed not to miss it in 2009. DV8 even expanded to include Atlanta as a site and again, from what I heard, all went well there also. So when I heard that Taboo was to be re-branded as DV8 DC, I was immediately hyped. In my opinion, comparing the Taboo experience to the DV8 experience is akin to riding in a taxicab vs. riding in a limousine; while the taxi is clean and convenient and got you to your destination on time, the limousine would do the same except with more luxury and style. I could hardly wait for Friday night!

The process for obtaining DV8 DC tickets involved submitting an electronic reservation and then waiting for word on the ticket price and payment and pickup information and since the number of attendees were being greatly reduced, it would be first come first served. When the e-mails went out providing the details, some people had trouble with the payment link (it was not working) and many people did not even receive an e-mail. Inquiries were made, those issues were eventually resolved, ticket sales proceeded and anticipation grew especially since the location of DV8 DC was not publicized. Apparently patrons would be directed to a shuttle pick-up spot and taken to the venue. Having experienced this already in DV8 Miami, I knew that if done right, this would not be a problem and since the organizers have experience with shuttles, it should be fine. I knew that I would need to get there earlier than I normally would because, as I learned from past experience, the crowds usually peak around 12:00 am to 1:00 am and I would prefer to spend my time in the party rather that in a shuttle line so when word was released that the shuttles would be leaving from the Bowie Baysox Stadium and would begin running at 10:00pm, I decided that I would be there no later than 11:00pm and man was I right.

Before I go any further, I feel I should clarify something concerning my commentaries. I have been writing these observations since 2004 and in all of my writings, I’ve described events and happenings as I saw them unfold. Many people will have different perspectives on the same events and my intent is not to try to capture everyone’s experiences but rather depict my own. I have heard from many people about DV8 DC and their views of the night vary widely however what I am going to write about is what I myself witnessed and what I myself experienced. As always, I call it like I see it so off we go to DV8 DC: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

DV8 DC: The Good

My crew got to the Bowie Baysox Stadium around 11:00 pm and as we drove in and were directed to our parking spot, we saw 5 shuttle buses lined up waiting to go and a tent with a small line next to it. We parked and made our way to the tent and after having our ID’s and tickets checked, we were wristbanded, searched by security and ushered into the line. The line was clearly marked by ropes and we took our place and waited to board the shuttles. The process was smooth and without incident and within 10 minutes we found ourselves on a shuttle heading for the venue. The shuttles seated approximately 40 and were the type that you would catch to pick up a rental car at the airport. It was full but everyone had a seat and we were on our way so we were happy. After the first 10 minutes, we began to wonder where exactly this place would be, I mean, this was kind of far for a shuttle trip. After a 20 minute ride, we finally turned off the road and into the Broadwater Estate which was the original Taboo site. This was definitely a surprise because we had all heard that DV8 was at a new venue yet here we were back at the same old same old. Ah well, no big deal, fete is fete and we are here to fete no matter where here is so we disembarked eager to get our Jai Ho on but first we had to go through security. Yes peeps, security again. Immediately as we exited the shuttle, we were searched thoroughly a second time. What did they think they would find? At the Baysox Stadium after we were searched we were immediately put in the line so we had no opportunity to procure any “contraband” (what that could be, I have no idea).

Anyway, after the second search we entered the grounds and the fete was spread out before us. Instead of being anchored at the main house as it has been in the past, the party was being held in a hollow of sorts with the main dance floor in the middle, bar on the right, food on the left, and restroom area behind. Much of the surface was grass except for the dance floor which was assembled on a relatively flat portion of the field. The actual surface looked like a big jigsaw puzzle that was put together by interlocking the edges of the individual blocks. This would have been fine if not for the fact that the ground was very soft and somewhat unstable due to the rain that had fallen earlier that afternoon. This instability caused the interlocking edges of several of the blocks to come loose and allowed mud to seep through on to the floor which got worse as the night went on.

Since I had not had a drink in many hours, I made my way to the bar to see what options there were. The drinks were located behind a long bar and it seemed to be well stocked with the various spirits that one would expect to see at a fete. I ordered an Absolute, OJ, and Monster and when it arrived 2 minutes later, it was strong and cold. This was a good start indeed. I headed to the food to begin my customary hour of pre-fete eating and was pleasantly surprised by the variety and quantity that was available (the Chinese stir-fry was particularly spicy and tasty). After eating my fill, I decided to start taking pics because, as usual, the ladies present were looking as delicious as the food. By this time, it was approaching 12:30pm and the party was in full swing as I picked my way carefully around the field which was rapidly becoming more mud than grass. After a short set on what was rapidly becoming the dance pit, I eventually I found my way back to the bar where I decided to hold strain for a while and do my stalkerrazzi thing from an elevated vantage point. Sadly, there endeth the good portion of the night and in rolled the bad.

DV8 DC: The Bad

After liming around the bar for a while I noticed that the crowd at the bar had grown tremendously and they seemed to be somewhat agitated. As it turns out, the bar was running very slowly and it was taking people 15-20 minutes to get their drinks. When I first arrived, the bartenders were in a lively mood. They were making jokes and seemed to be enjoying the scenes almost as much as the patrons were. By this time however, the party was full and the bar was packed with people who needed to drink and clearly the bartenders were overwhelmed by the sheer volume. I felt their pain because there is no way 10-15 bartenders could keep up with the crowd that was 4-5 people deep around the entire bar. Then the bar ran out! RAN TO HELL OUT! How can this happen? Was nothing learned from past fetes regarding how much people drink? The bar was closed for “restocking” and while it did reopen later in the night, the crowd around the bar did not dissipate and in fact grew in size so that upon reopening, the wait was even longer.

The music, when it could be heard, was also a source of some disappointment. When one attends a carnival fete the night before carnival, one expects to hear an abundance of hot, current soca. The occasional change of pace is welcomed but the music selection should be predominantly current soca. Clearly the DJ’s present didn’t believe in this at all. While they did play the current soca hits there was far too much reggae, back-in-times dance, and Michael Jackson for my liking. One love is one love but I was there to get my carnival juices flowing and while the quality of the mixing was good, their choice of selections left much to be desired. Now I am not meaning to say that the music was bad ALL night because for some parts of the night we couldn’t tell that music was playing at all! As has become customary at this venue, at various times during the night partygoers were subjected to volume levels so low that the ice clinking in your plastic cup drowned out the music. The DJ would make an announcement that due to noise complaints, police insisted that the music be lowered for a while; 10-15 minutes later the volume would be raised a bit only to be dropped yet again; as the night wore on it became more and more frustrating since it did not allow the revelers to really get their wine going.

After bouncing up some friends who told me their horror stories about their shuttle experience (they arrived at the Baysox Stadium around 12:00 a.m. and didn’t get to the party until after 1:30 a.m.) I decided that I was not getting caught in the inevitable crush to leave because if there was that much hell getting here, it would be hell squared to leave. Besides, I was sober and not feeling a wining vibe so I might as well leave. I rounded up my crew, advised them of the plan, and we headed out. It was 3:15 when we reached the front of the party and joined the back of the smallish line that had formed. Little did we know that things would head rapidly downhill from there and go from bad to worse to ugly.

DV8 DC: The Ugly

The line that we were in was apparently a self-formed line as the folks in it had simply lined up where they had been dropped off and it seemed like the logical thing to do. While in the line, we saw a shuttle enter the driveway, stop at the front of the line, quickly fill with people and drive away. If things continued at that pace, we would only have to wait for 2 more shuttles or so before it would be our turn to board. Of course that was assuming that people would respect the line and would join the end of the line after emerging from the party. YEAH RIGHT! When I say it was a self-formed line, that is exactly what it was. Unlike at the Baysox Stadium, there was nobody here to direct the crowd and to keep order. Maybe the organizers expected that irate patrons leaving a fete where they paid top dollar to wait in line to catch a shuttle to get here, then fight a crowd to get drinks, then stand up under the speakers to hear old skool dance, reggae and some soca, would just walk out, see a line and, of their own volition, go to the end? What color was the sky in their world? The people leaving simply joined the front of the existing line enlarging it from 3-4 people wide, to 7-8 people wide and it was left to us to attempt to oust them. While witnessing the heated exchanges that took place between several groups, I found myself actually being thankful that we had been searched twice. Maybe the organizers had a vision and saw this coming because if anyone out there had a weapon, it would most definitely have been put to use.

It is now 3:40 a.m. and the line is now a crowd. Two shuttles entered and proceeded up the driveway and tried to turn but when they stopped, the crowd at the front BOLTED over to the shuttle doors and tried to enter. Surely, we thought, the drivers are not mad enough to let them on right there but we were wrong. The doors opened, the shuttles filled and they drove away leaving the rest of us that had been in line for the past 30 minutes to wonder if this was really happening. Finally we saw two police officers emerge and stand in the driveway close to the front of where the line used to be. The original line members pleaded with them to try to control the situation or at least send for reinforcements or somebody in authority but they steadfastly ignored all requests. One security fellow did emerge and tried to move the “line” so that it would not block the driveway but his efforts were summarily dismissed.

It is now 4:00 a.m. and the crowd is a mob. The party is over and the music is turned off. Everyone is now filing out and filling up the area in front of the venue but nobody can leave. One shuttle attempts to make its way up the driveway but only gets halfway before being swarmed by the crowd. The mood in the driveway is tense and is one confrontation away from turning into a riot and believe me, I am not exaggerating ONE BIT! In all my years of partying, I have never experienced being in a situation where I felt so completely out of control and helpless with no possibility or hope of deliverance. Some people expressed the hope that since the party had officially ended, the organizers would finally show up in force to organize the shuttles. After all, they made us take the shuttles here and they knew they had to get us back. They organized the departure from the stadium so why wouldn’t they do the same here? After 15 minutes, when it became apparent that we were left to our own devices to get back to our vehicles that we were forced to leave a 20 minute drive away, hope turned to despair. For me and my crew’s safety a decision had to be made soon.

I had received word from some friends who had walked out to the highway that shuttles were no longer coming inside the property and that they were filling up at the entrance to the estate. I marshaled my crew and we started to trek down the driveway in hopes that we would get lucky and actually get on a shuttle. Soon we made it to the highway and joined a small group waiting expectantly by the roadside. During the wait, some people decided to call taxis; some decided to walk to the 7-11 further down the highway; some were waiting on friends that were lucky enough to have gotten on a shuttle who said that they would return to pick them up; and some even said that they would walk back to the stadium cursing every step of the way. After 15 minutes or so, two shuttles appeared and, as was reported, they simply pulled over on the shoulder and opened the doors so we scrambled and managed to get on. AMEN! Our prayers were answered and believe me there were many people praying that night especially once it became apparent that only God could help us since the organizers clearly would not.

We made it safely back to the stadium a little after 5:00 a.m., got into our cars and drove home counting our blessings that nothing more unpleasant than being severely inconvenienced had befallen us tonight and that at least we were unharmed and finally out of danger. Strange sentiments to be exptressing after what was supposed to be one of the best parties on the DC Carnival scene. The horror that was DV8 DC will not soon be dispelled from my mind. Based on my previous experiences with the promoters and with the DV8 franchise, I had set high expectations for this night and not only were they not met, they were driven down almost to the point of nonexistence.

In my opinion this was one of the worst organized and most irresponsibly conceived fete experiences that I have even been to and what has compounded this affront is the inexplicable silence of the organizers. It has now been 2 weeks since DV8 DC and they have not even seen fit to issue an apology or any communication for that matter. We would all be well within our rights to expect an explanation for the night’s shortcomings but we would be happy to receive a simple apology. We did everything that was requested of us. We jumped through all hoops presented with nary a grumble. Yet when it came time for the organizers to step up to the plate and deliver on the wonderful experience they promised, they dropped the ball. There may well be reasons, valid or otherwise, for all the snafus that occurred this night but in the absence of any reaction from the DV8 management, we are forced to come to our own conclusions and they most definitely will not portray the organizers in a favorable light.

Maybe this night was the “perfect storm” of a series of unexpected, unanticipated glitches. Maybe, as the DV8 franchise goes, this night was the exception and I truly hope that it was because, all logistical issues with food, drink, and music aside, abandoning what seemed to be close to a thousand people at a fete is not only infuriating and irresponsible but it is very dangerous. It was a miracle that no one was hurt or that no one suffered from anything more than a major inconvenience. It could have been worse, much, much worse.

It remains to be seen what epilogue will be written about DV8 DC. Will we ever hear from the organizers or will they simply hope that our memories fade over the next year? Will they set about to analyze the debacle and work to ensure that something like this can never happen again? Only time will tell but knowing some of the individuals involved and their personalities, I think it likely that the latter will be the case.

I sincerely hope so my peeps because fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Enjoy the pics
……D’ Garage Boyz Mud Ants is next.


The Bands Are Tweeting....

So, TRIBE got on Twitter yesterday, announcing on The Secret of Silk facebook group that we can all follow them on twitter @carnivalTRIBE for "inside info". First tweet by carnivalTRIBE is to let those interested know that tickets for the launch will be available next week at the mas camp and through committee members.

Following closely on TRIBE's lead is Spice who now have a twitter page as well, you can follow them @SpiceCarnival. Whose the next band to start tweeting, I wonder?

In totally unrelated twitter news, Dream Team's theme for Carnival 2010 is "Gems of the World", which seems like Deja Vu to me since I recall their theme was Bejewled in 2008! Well I guess we can be glad that one band is deviating from the trend of exploring the Asian continent!

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