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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Review #2 Concierge service – TheCarnivalConnection (TCC)

This was my third carnival in Trinidad as a foreigner, but the first time I was taking people from abroad with me, and since I was coming with one carnival newbie, I thought to myself that I should better get some organisation behind the band registration, the tickets for the fetes, the transport in Trinidad and the accommodation otherwise the whole experience would become a nightmare.

So I decided that I’d try a concierge service at least for the band registration in summer 2011. At first I sent an email to two concierges I spot on TCD’s page. The first one to reply was TheCarnivalConnection with precise and detailed emails and the form I had to fill in. My choice was done and I would not regret it.We both got all registered in the same section (with receipts and all…) which was a pretty good start.

Then my crew size suddenly increased by two but the band was already “trying” to be sold out, so we had to look for another band. TCC sorted us all out with “panache” and sold the two costumes we had registered already.

TCC told me she could also provide us with tickets and transport for the fetes (via her associate Trinicabby) and even find us the accommodation. Needless to say that the whole thing worked like a charm (She even booked us the tickets for the ferry on Ash Wednesday).

One of us was arriving 5 hours earlier than the others at the airport. I personally didn’t care that much and told him to bring his ipod lol but TCC and Trinicabby took him in charge at the airport so he wouldn’t feel the waiting!

We received all our fete tickets in an envelope when we arrived. The transport to all the fetes was pretty good and very convenient (You can drink and don’t have to think about driving back home).The prices that TCC charges were very good for the services she provided us with. Tcc’s emails are always friendly and her responsiveness is unmatched which is critical since people definitely don’t stick when carnival is involved.

I must say I was VERY impressed and I will definitely use TCC again next year

Big up to TheCarnivalConnection ! (from the French team ;) )

Ronnie and Caro Carnival 2012 Review

I played with Ronnie and Caro; it was their first year playing as a large band. They were previously a medium band.

From the beginning the band was disorganized. Picking up my costume should have been easy but when I arrived at the mas camp my costume wasn't there. They claimed to have called all frontliners to notify them of the delay but I guess they missed my number and the other 10 people or so who showed up while I was there.

I missed Monday mas because I got home from Jouvet at But my sister and friend went; they said it was also a disorganized mess. People were not lined up nicely for lunch and they were pushing through the crowd etc.

Tuesday: There was no shuttle service to the band. The band was supposed to leave at 6:30am. We got there late (8am) and masqueraders were still just standing around independence square. By the time we got there we got what was left of breakfast (bake and cheese or ham), the bake and salt fish was finished.

We only had two drinks trucks and one weewee truck. At one point the line to the weewee truck was so long my friend and I walked through Port of Spain and found a bar, bought drinks so we could use their bathroom. When we previously used the weewee truck they had people there to hold your headpiece and give you soap and towels.

When we were going through Port of Spain the music and vibes were nice. Security sort of let people in and out of the band. I was supposed to have a liaison to get my drinks for me since I was frontline but she was useless. Only got me water once. I got my own drinks for the day.

Around 12 noon we lined up by the savannah to cross the stage and we didn't cross the stage until 6-6:30pm that evening. While we were waiting to cross the stage. We had no food, drinks or weewee truck.....a complete disaster. What added to this was no body in the band directed us to the drinks/food. The band leaders kept telling us to line up and get in our sections. Being stuck in line to cross the stage was the worst. Had I known it would have taken that long I would have left and went back. Instead I listened to the band leaders and kept waiting.

After we crossed the stage we went to the savannah for lunch...which was actually dinner. We had tents set up for every section and you went to that tent to get food. There was only one choice. Chicken, lo mein and rice. There were no blankets, I was so tired and fed up I just sat on the grass. Then after 1/2 hour....they started announcing that we would be moving in 10 minutes!!! At that point, me and the group I was with gave up. We just ate and left.

And the question everyone asks "why did I play with Ronnie and Caro?" My friends daughter played with them last year when they were still a medium band and they were pretty good. I guess being a medium band and a large band is very different. I will never play mas with Ronnie and Caro ever again.


Island People Mas "Heroes" - The Review

This was my first time playing mas with IP and I was extremely excited. I played in the section INKA. I’m sorry to hear how much torture other people went through to pick-up their costumes because my costume pick-up was a breeze. I was in and out in 20 minutes. I picked up my costume on the Wednesday before Carnival around 4pm. I paid for my costume then went into the next room to pick it up. The woman walked me through each piece that was in the box. I have to admit I was not happy when I saw the Monday wear. Especially the “Super Hero” shorts. They were ridiculously tiny. I don’t know who they thought was fitting into them. I got a BMobile mug, a deodorant and some type of protein bar as I left the costume pick-up room. Luckily I’ve played mas before both in T&T and at home in Toronto so I had packed various shorts options just in case something didn’t fit. Besides the Monday shorts being tiny, the costume bikini briefs for Tuesday were too small and the bra had no type of support, but when I read on FaceBook about the long wait times, I decided not bother going back to try to exchange sizes. I ended up wearing my own shorts on Monday and my own shorts and bra on Tuesday.

On Carnival Monday I saw some people with IP pouches and women with IP t-shirts on. I don’t know if these were given out in compensation for something else, but if they were available at the time when I picked up my costume, it would have been nice to be offered one or at costume sign-up be offered a choice of a t-shirt instead of the one-shoulder top that the women were given to wear on Monday. But that’s neither here nor there, it didn’t stop me from having fun.

Carnival Monday went well. My friend and I met the band at the stadium and headed out onto the road. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously. The music on truck #3 (truck with the pink banner) was wicked! It was pure vibez the whole way. Drinks were flowing. We did have to buy food along the route on both days though because we didn’t see any signs of snacks being handed out. Maybe we were too far back from the food truck? On Monday we crossed the stage at a perfect time because it allowed us to walk back to my guest house which was right by the Savannah. However, apparently we left too early because we missed the announcement that the meeting time for Tuesday had been changed from 7am to 6am. So when my friend and I got to the stadium at 7am on Carnival Tuesday, there were a few people there, but no trucks or security in sight. After some walking around and asking questions, we realized that the band had already left! Luckily we got into one of the “meet the band” shuttles that IP provided, however that turned into a joke. When the shuttle bus was full, the driver turned to us and asked “do you know where the band is?” Huh?! I thought he was supposed to know!! How can you take us to meet the band if you don’t know where it is? Someone in IP on one of the trucks should have had walkie-talkies or some kind of communication going with the shuttle drivers so that they could let them know where the band was. We ended up driving around POS asking police officers if they had seen the band. Eventually someone in the shuttle called their house and had a relative give them the code for IP and they texted the “Find ah band” phone number which texted back and let them know that IP was on Abercromby St.

We finally met up with IP and the fun began. We ended up having a block party on Abercromby St. because we were there for probably about 2-3 hours. But it was all good. I like the route that IP took on Tuesday. It was perfect for us. Cross the stage then head for a rest stop. We left the band after the rest stop at the Oval. It was just enough for us.

I would play with IP again, but I would have to really take a long hard look at the costumes. I personally wasn’t excited about how my INKA costume turned out. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but somehow it didn’t excite me when I got it. I actually preferred Monday’s wear! But costume aside, when it comes to vibez and customer service, I wouldn’t hesitate to go with IP again. Any time I had a question, I would send an email to IP and I would usually get a response within an hour or two. The bathrooms were really clean for being port-a-potties, and there were always drinks available. My suggestions for improvement would be to start costume distribution earlier than they did in order to avoid the long lines and hassles; have some type of communication with the shuttle drivers; and send a mass email the night before if there are any changes to what’s printed in the schedule book (I had my BlackBerry with me so I would have gotten it). But other than that, I had a great time and would do it again!

YUMA Press Play Review #2

After playing with TRIBE since 2007 I decided to take a break and switch bands. Some of my friends had played with YUMA in their first year so I decided to give this band a try. I was lucky enough to get into the section of my choice. As I do not live in Trinidad I had a local friend register for me, that being said I cannot comment on the registration process as my friend handled everything for me. When I arrived in Trinidad I picked up the costume from my friend who had picked it up from the Yuma distribution Ctr.

Costume construction - I was not impressed with the quality of work done on my costume. Globs of glue were visible all over the bra, belt and headpiece. For me this was a major turnoff. When I am paying over $600 US for a product I would expect to be thoroughly impressed and pleased with the workmanship on the garment. Beading was falling off of the belt as soon as I tried it on. I have worked for several popular mas bands in North America, never would I be allowed to give a client/customer a final product that is not up to the bands overall standard. Luckily I had travelled with my own "repair kit" and was able to fix the beading that had come apart from the belt.

Monday Wear - Overall I wasn't impressed so I wore my own attire.

Carnival Monday = Machel Monday. IMO I thought plenty Machel old and new tunes was being played. Again this is just my opinion. As I am not a Machel fanatic I would have liked a wider variety of artists played. Getting in and out of the rest spot was a DISASTER. One small area for entry AND exit was ridiculous! Anybody with half a brain should have known that Thousands of ppl going in and out of the same entry point would not work effectively! Food tents again DISASTER! Thousands of ppl and only Three food tents? Yuma all yuh can't do math or wha?

Carnival Tuesday - The vibes on the road were ok. Personally I didn't have to wait long for drinks. Rest stop & Food tents were the same as Monday. What turned me off with Yuma was this:

Shortly after we had passed where Fantasy's band was resting a man jumped in the band and tried to get a wine with my friend. Yuma security (in d dark navy shirts) were on him in a minute and escorted him out the band. This man started to cuss and carry on and wanted to FIGHT d Yuma security team. A man from Yuma band (I assumed he was a security supervisor as he was dressed differently from the other security members) went over to d stormer to try and calm him down...well what happened next left my group in shock and DISGUST. Mr. Blue shirt man (d stormer) pulled out a bundle of TT & US bills and handed it over to Mr. Brown shirt man and paid him off! Mr. Brown shirt man took d money and led Mr. Blue shirt man back into d band!!!! When the other security members again approached Mr. Blue shirt man, Mr. Brown shirt man told them that Mr. Blue shirt man is "ok to be in d band"!!!! What d ass is this? So anybody can BUY dey way into d band come Carnival Tuesday???

Overall I would give Yuma a 4 out of 10. All d quite vibes they boasted about on FB cause they were prepping d costumes etc etc my ass!!! They really need to work on the customer service and the overall experience for the masqueraders. My crew and I will not be returning to this band. I heard of many with great experiences and others with similar experiences to mine. To each is own I guess!

They Call me Mrs Fete :Caesar's Army A.M Bush - The Review

Fete : Caesar’s Army A.M Bush the alternative J’ouvert Experience
Price: $450.00
Date: February 18, 2012

The location for Caesar’s Army A.M. Bush is secret, all I would say is that it is in Chaguaramas, you park and then shuttled to the actual pre J’ouvert party/lime before hitting the streets come sun up.

Nature is your ambiance and décor, which fit in with the “Me Jane, You Tarzan” Jungle theme that Caesar’s Army had going for all their events this year. Bush, bush and more bush was what we were surrounded by.

There were two bar trucks serving rum (Single Barrel, White Oak and Black Label) and vodka .When we were stationary we also got tequila shots.

Breakfast was served once we hit the road, hops and ham or hops and saltfish. There were very generous in giving you as many as you wanted and it tasted good enough on empty bellies full of rum in the wee hours of the morning! There was also a doubles stall when we got back to the car park.

Fresh from his Soca Monarch double win Machel Montano gave an impromptu concert on the truck along with Beenie Man. Unexpected surprise which was enjoyed by many but the Beenie Man session could have been shorter, no offense but we wanted only SOCA!

Crowd Vibe:
Amazing, reminded me of Scorch cruise in Barbados for Cropover on land. First off everyone was welcoming to the anointing and blessing with paint from my crew. As soon as someone arrived clean we bathed them in paint and it was all in good fun and well appreciated. The guys even gave us their bare torso to decorate with hand prints. No bottom was left denied by the men (and women) you were greeted with a wine …over and over and over and over! Best bunch of people I partied with all Carnival season!

Eye Candy
To tell the truth who could see faces in the dark? Plus it is J’ouvert, the women didn’t come out to look cute they came out to get “dutty”, paint in nostrils, bucket on head; this was not a posing party! But between me and you lets just say if you can look cute at J'ouvert (see pics) you got yourself a pretty good looking crowd and some of those guys were yummy! 

There were porta potties in the jungle during the pre J’ouvert party however in keeping with theme many people just opted to use the bush and get in touch with nature!

We were not allowed to park at the venue (for good reason) since the J’ouvert jump up actually took you back to the Car Park. The shuttles were prompt, on time, regular and they kicked off the vibes because they were blasting soca once you got in.

And how could I forget the WATER TRUCKS! Yes, I ran from them! 

Overall Rating:
Caesar’s Army A.M Bush scores 10 out of 10 for me! I have not done J’ouvert in 13 years for the fact that I was always too tired to fully enjoy my Monday Mas experience. I felt that I had to sacrifice one to enjoy the other and since I was paying thousands for my mas J’ouvert got kicked to the curb. The alternative J’ouvert idea is absolutely brilliant! A safe and secure J’ouvert experience (we had police presence the entire time) free from stormers. It was EPIC, my BEST J'ouvert EVER !
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