The 2014 Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival opened on Wednesday before a massive crowd at the Mindoo Phillip Park. Scheduled to start at 8 pm, by midnight the venue was packed to capacity with hundreds more on the outside still waiting to get in. At that point both the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and the police, advised organizers the Saint Lucia Tourist Board to end the sale of tickets. They complied. By that point, an estimated nine thousand persons had rammed the venue, breaking last year’s audience figures of just over six thousand.
With a crowd consisting of young and old music lovers from all over the island, the stage was set for a Caribbean party like no other to kick off the festival which continues here until May 11.
The first act on the stage, Evalucian featuring Arthur on vocals, is a band with more than just promise. They are good! And on Wednesday they showed their potential for obtaining more gigs on the festival’s main stages. They were followed by Haitian Compas band Carimi who had the audience swaying with their crispy clear sounds and infectious French-creole rhythms. But by the time DYP took the stage the crowd’s energy level was already simmering under a lid, ready to explode. With a number of additional musicians, not only were they a great back up band, they were also an excellent performing band on the night in their own rights. Mongstar, who was part of their line-up, gave a tight and engaging performance—one of his best yet. Then Skinny Fabulous from Saint Vincent, who certainly wins the nod of “most improved Soca artiste” over the years, blasted more electrons of soca energy the crowd’s way. He was followed by Kerwyn Dubois who I argued before should have been the headliner on the night. Instead his 45-minute set was cut down to about twenty five minutes but was still easily the best set of the evening.
Kerwyn was a power-house, one that not even Superman could demolish. The HD announcer had to call for back-up in the form of Killa. And, after an over-abused performance of “De-fence,” the Grenadian Soca star was left alone to do what he does best—entertain. And this Mr Killa did quite superbly as dancer, singer and ring-master of the “Roly Polies.” Of course he had them by the dozens throughout the audience Wednesday night. However his cat-suited Roly Poly did more than OK, aiding and abetting his movements, gyrations and antics. His was quite a tough act to follow by Saint Lucian Soca king Ricky T. However the “Tizzle’s” die hard fans still showed him some love before he got off the stage.
In between sets, DJ HP pumped up the crowd with the usual barrage of over-exposed dancehall songs and some soca hits. About twenty-minutes and one interruption by Mr Killa to big up the incarcerated Ninja Dan, then Popcaan’s Ruff Cut band came on stage. Two songs into the dancehall performer’s set and persons stated trickling out of the venue gates a little past midnight. His vocals (for lack of a better word) lacked clarity and his audience depended heaviy on their memory of his recorded songs to sing along too. A further ten minutes along, during which the artiste had sang snippets of about ten songs and seemingly making no connection with the audience, I had had enough.
My exit was accompanied by a mass exodus long before Popcaan ended. Naturally the concessionaires, security, some die hard fans and organzers (except Thaddeus Antoine) stayed on.
I held on to my argument that organizers had goofed by making Popcaan—who is not presently among the top ten of best Caribbean acts—as their headliner. Maybe Tarrus Riley or Cronixx will become headliners while they are still fresh—soon. Then again, great talent never gets stale. Just think of Kassav who rocked Soufriere Jazz the following evening. More on that in next week’s STAR.