Those who had braved the storm returned home feeling vindicated in the early hours of Wednesday morning after what turned out to be a spectacular show.
When I arrived on Tuesday evening to the Mindoo Phillip Park, I encountered a queue that extended from the entrance of the venue all the way to the Marchand Road.
The heavy rains that started in the afternoon and continued into the wee hours had everyone questioning their decision to attend the event. Personally, my conscience defied that doubt — a conscience that tugged at my soul to stand in solidarity with those who had argued for the return of the event to Mindoo Phillip Park. How could I betray my fellow Laboorians and stay home? After all, I too had joined in the Marchand brigade, more for altruistic than political reasons. Then there was the notion that this was supposed to be work for me. And so, dressed in my garden boots, jeans, t-shirt and umbrella, I turned to the WAVE to listen to their live broadcast of the opening, perhaps for some reassurance before leaving home. The sound of upbeat Conpas music from T-Vice, the opening act originally from Haiti, did the trick. I was out the door.
I had already picked up on the buzz ahead of the opening that the event would be a success in terms of attendance. However, I could not have anticipated the massive crowd, and as it turned out, neither could organizers. Not even a misinformed security guard who tried to abuse his power when I arrived or an equally confused SLTB volunteer, could dampen or sour my mood.
Being at the park swiftly brought back sweet memories of events past and this felt like home too. Marchand grounds and the Mindoo Phillip Park have a pulse and heartbeat still unrivaled by any other venue in Saint Lucia. Suddenly I felt reconnected. I am sure many can relate, as bougeois, malayway, stoosh and rachet folks all celebrated in the muddy grounds as one. They had all come prepared, some wearing gym boots, galoshes, garden boots, sneakers and the like. And the ladies… Let’s just say the outfits they’d bought for the occasion served their purpose! As I took in the final strains of T-Vice, I scanned the grounds, greeting some old friends, shifting to the side as drummers and pan players created a stirring uproar of rhythmic sounds. The steel-pan players on the side-stage all looked happy to be back at what they once knew as Carnival City. This was what most had come for, to celebrate the opening of the festival, carnival style.
Attempts to throw in something different with the vocals of Stacey Charles did not shift the flow. The Ultimate Party Machine with Pen injected the party drug right up everyone’s veins from the first note, particularly with Mongstar’s ‘Saint Lucia We Love’. The Soca artiste delivered his best, including a new song for the year before making way for Mr Bacchanal Kerwin Dubois who gave it his all, feeding off the crowd. He was followed by Benjai who rode the wave of excitement. Ricky T sealed the deal, earning his place as the people’s champion and keeping it tight.
The 2013 Soca Monarch Superman HD closed off the high energy set with his dancers and he was literally smoking on the night with steam rising from his clean shaved head.
It was now after 1 am and with crowded bars, rain trickling down, umbrellas up in the sky, people dancing to DJ tunes, persons asking directions to the nearest toilet, coolers being refilled, styrofoam plates in the hands of some, the party was now well underway. Just before 2 am, with the crowd now at about six thousand plus, headliner and Dancehall star Konshens out of Jamaica took to the stage with his band. Women were visibly separating themselves from their mates, in awe of the performer. But the singer seemed to have a battle working up the crowd past his introductory number, although for die-hard fans, and there were many, there could be nothing better.
His was a refreshing performance, a far cry from the raw and raunchy Dancehall that is so popular nowadays. There was no profanity, no women patting their private parts or doing headstands on stage. The frontline gals who had dressed up for the chance to be called on had more than just their bubbles busted.
Still with his live band intact, Konshens proceeded to perform all his hits in a performance that lasted well over an hour, throwing his bedazzling shirt into the crowd in the process. In fact, this seemed to have been a signature of many of the performers to go bare-chested halfway through their sets.
The drenching continued as Konshens made his way offstage and the skies opened with a final burst of H2O— perhaps glorious tears from the heavens in celebration of the fact that Saint Lucia Jazz had come back to Marchand in a big way.