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Saturday, July 17, 2010

PLANET ROCK - Harts Carnival 2011

Gosh you know when you are in the throes of band launching season when these mas bands start advertising and giving you sneak peaks and sending your heart all pitter patter with the mere glimpse of teal feathers!

Harts doing what Harts does best! "Planet Rock" launches on August 14th!

Gerald Hart

2010 DC Carnival - Machel Montano Live in The City

Machel Montano Live in the City.
The words say it all.
Kermit D. Frog here, it is DC Carnival Friday night and I am walking past RFK Stadium toward the riot of sights and sounds that heralds the most highly anticipated event for the carnival. The fact that Machel Montano, one of the premier soca artistes in the world, is in concert in Washington, DC is not solely the cause of the hype since he has performed in DC in the past. 2010 however is special because Machel has been on hiatus for most of the year and apart from only a handful of performances (literally), his electrifying stage presence has been missing from many of his customary venues and despite the collective pleadings of his fans, his presence in concert has been very rare. When it was announced that he and his entire HD ensemble would be putting on a show for DC Carnival and simultaneously launching his new album, “Album 34”, I immediately circled the date and eagerly awaited what I hoped would a presentation of epic proportions.

I arrived around 11:45 p.m. and the size of the crowd at the all-inclusive Cotton Mill Project (CMP) entrance initially gave me pause, but after a wait lasting no more than 10-15 minutes, my ticket was taken, I was searched, wristbanded, and ushered inside where a large crowd had already assembled and were in the process of getting their night started correctly. My first priority was food and after entering, all I had to do to find some was to simply walk straight ahead and follow the road to the food tents. After checking out the various culinary options, I decided to go carb-heavy and feasted on Italian and it was mamma mia good. While eating, I was able to survey the entire scene and I was impressed with the layout I saw.

Looking across the venue from the stage left side, the CMP section occupied part of the center stage area with the bar located immediately to the left of the stage. There were also 2 big screen projectors on this side of the party which afforded clear views of whatever was on camera. These screens could be seen all the way from the food in the front, to the restrooms in the back, to the dance area in between, so essentially if you were anywhere on the CMP side of the fete you were able to clearly see the stage, the screens, or both with little or no effort. The food was situated on one side of a paved road that led from the CMP entrance into the venue while on the other side of this road there was a small grassy hill leading down to the main CMP dance area in front of the stage. Separating the CMP side from the general admission side was a line of metal screens which were tall enough that if you were right up on them, they would have certainly impeded your view but that was never a problem because while the crowd was thick, it never became packed to the point where you felt like you had no space to breathe, let alone move. The area was beautifully decorated with hanging lanterns strung between the trees and when the warm breeze blew, you could almost imagine that you were in Trinidad at Carnival time. Apparently this sentiment was shared by many of the other partygoers as the excitement permeating the fete was as strong to the taste as were the drinks being poured at the bar; ahhhh, the bar.

In my opinion, the bar at an all-inclusive fete sets the tone for the entire night. The entertainment (DJ’s, performers, etc) is of course a major component and while quality food can put a fete over the top, a well stocked and well serviced bar can do more to sway opinion more than any of the other facets previously mentioned. On this night, I would grade the bar a solid B and while it did not merit an A grade, its performance, considering the crowd and its location, was commendable. There were times during the course of the night when the bar was especially crowded and the wait for drinks was long; longer than it should have been for such an exclusive section. Also, towards the end of the fete the selection of available liquors did become somewhat reduced but these are issues common to all but the most first-class of bars (think along the lines of the Fatima All-Inclusive) and despite these universal shortcomings, for most of the night the drinks flowed well and the masses never seemed to be without drinks in hand for very long. As is required in the District of Columbia, the bar closed at 2:00 a.m. but this hardly slowed the party down because by that time, we were all fully engaged by the concert and the excellent performances taking place on stage.

Once the live show kicked off around 12:30 a.m. and for its 2½ hour long duration, I cannot for the life of me remember exactly which songs were performed when. I remember seeing the performers on stage and when I look back at my pictures I see hands waving and people wining but, in my memory, the exact details are somewhat fuzzy. This is neither because of alcohol nor any other form of chemical impairment, it is simply because the experience was too overwhelming to attempt to analyze. You had to just live in the moment, in the city, and be thankful that you were there. If asked to name the colors you saw just as a volcano exploded right before your eyes, I wonder how many you would be able to describe. Maybe you would have been so caught up in taking in the awesome awesomeness of the moment that all of the specific details that your brain no doubt saw and recorded would be coalesced into a overall feeling of wonder and amazement quickly followed by breathlessness (after all, a volcano is erupting right before your eyes so of course you are doing your best Usain Bolt impression and are probably running like hell). This is the situation in which I found myself tonight; the fete was so sweet, I had to add water. Although I knew I was in Washington, DC partying hard in an RFK Stadium parking lot, I didn’t feel like I was in the U.S.A. In fact I had the distinct impression that if I closed my eyes, I might reopen them only to find myself in Jenny’s Car Park in Port-of-Spain, with the same wildness going on all around me. It was at this precise moment that I realized what impressed me the most about this night. It was that this fete felt more like a Trinidad Carnival fete than any I have been to outside of Trinidad.

Those of us who travel to Trinidad every year for carnival know exactly what a good carnival fete feels like. As you approach the fete, you can sense electricity in the air and you can clearly see a look in your fellow partygoers’ eyes that says come hell or high water, we are going to have a GREAT time! You can smell the vendors cooking food and you can feel the impossibly deep bass and hear the crystal clear highs emanating from the sound system from a few blocks away. Inside the fete the patrons are nicely spread out (except of course when they want to group together and wine en masse), the bars all over the venue are doing a brisk business, and when a warm breeze blows after you buss a particularly satisfying wine on a young lady in a white pants (tight of course), you experience a feeling of satisfaction very similar to the feeling that I am feeling right now and even though I know in my mind that I am in DC, in my heart I am really in Port-of-Spain.

Tonight, while the fete was raging in front of the stage, the patrons who did not feel like taking part in that jamming were enjoying themselves either wining on the side or simply watching the show from the hill. Tonight, there was something for one and all in the fete from the front-of-the-stage jammette to the chill-at-the-back-chipper and everyone in between, but no matter where you were, you were definitely enjoying the night and when the festivities ended at around 3:00 a.m., I turned to head home wishing for more, but grateful that I had been here to be a part of this wonderful night.

As a concert, Machel Montano Live in the City was a rousing success! The DJ’s did an excellent job of establishing and maintaining a vibe and the live performances were definitely on point especially Machel with his almost 2 hour long show. Maybe the bar could have been a bit bigger and maybe it could have been situated more towards the back of the fete so as to reduce crowding but nonetheless, overall drink services were handled quite well and even the food was good.
Synergy is defined as the working together of two or more things to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects and, in one word, there was never a more accurate description of what I witnessed here tonight. Individually, all of the different components functioned well but on this Friday night, they combined to produce a fantastic event that more than lived up to its hype. It was an excellent concert and in my opinion, only minor tweaking is needed to make this a top-shelf event and I look forward to next year’s edition.

Enjoy the pictures peeps, Kermit has left the building, ahm, I mean parking lot.
Mud Palancing is next…..

2010 DC Carnival - Machel Montano Live in The City - Addendum
Greetings peeps, Kermit here sending you a little follow up note to add to my commentary on the Machel Montano Live in the City fete. I always begin writing my commentary for an event after I edit the pictures because once I see the images I recorded, they sometimes trigger additional memories and impressions of the event and these go a long way toward guiding the shape and flow of my words. Then, once the muse is upon me, the writing goes fairly quickly as I simply try to capture what I am feeling and to record it as completely as I can. There have been times after I send out my email that I remember some point I wish I had made or some comment I had intended to make but forgot to include and usually I just sigh and say “oh well” but today as I was re-reading my e-mail, I realized that I had inadvertently made a omission that I could not just shrug off; I had never named the people responsible for making this night happen. I did not mention that the promoters were Gresham Enterprises.

This is an especially egregious error on my part because their event in 2009, DV8 DC, was such a lightning rod for criticism and many people, myself included, were extremely verbose with their displeasure about Gresham’s presentation that year. Now here we are in 2010, Gresham redoubles their efforts and hosts a concert event that was a major success and they get no mention in my write up. This is completely unjust on my part because for as much as their efforts were roundly criticized last year, they now deserve to be lauded for their hard work in 2010 and, sadly and regrettably, I failed to do so and for this I apologize.

It was absolutely not my intention to deny the Gresham folks their hard-earned and richly deserved kudos for a well planned and well executed event and it is my hope that if you, my peeps, didn’t realize who to thank for the great time you had on the night of June 25, 2010, you do now.

Big up Gresham Enterprises for a job well done! I am looking forward to being WOW’d by your next venture.
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