Me Two Hand in the Air

Long Island Carnival 2013

"This should probably only take about three hours.  There are only two mas bands on the road, so I’m sure I will be back home by 5pm.”  I had to eat those words when I returned home close to midnight on September 7th after attending Long Island Carnival.  Why did I even bother to go?  Well, as Brooklyn Carnival was just one week prior, I still had the carnival jumbie in me and Long Island Carnival offered a quick fix.

Masquerader in Long Island

Okay, so it is not my fault that I didn’t know how long the event would last.  The carnival was barely promoted, with word-of-mouth and Instagram doing most of the advertising.  The parade route was so unclear that many people were not sure of the parade route.  As I walked along Leahy Avenue, I saw people walking towards me, away from the college.  “Is it over?  Did we miss it?”  As it was 2pm and the carnival was supposed to be over by 3pm, I figured we were too late.  “No.  I ain know what it have up dey, but I done,” the woman said.  Further along the route, I met with more people who decided that the trek was not worth it and headed back home.  One frustrated passerby even said, “I can’t wait to get on my computer and let people know about this.”  I, too, would have turned around after the forty-five-minute walk without any evidence of a parade if not for my curiosity.

I’m glad I persevered.  Although I saw no band on the road, the party afterwards was some consolation for the hike.  Beyond the barricade into the Suffolk County Community College grounds a large group of masqueraders and spectators.  The gathered masses, like me, were looking for the rumored stage show.  Again, there was very little information disseminated about the order of events.  

Masquerader in Long Island

We finally heard music in the distance so, like blind sheep, we followed each other through the parking lot, across a field, and around the bend, where we finally saw the entrance to the grounds.  A bottleneck formed near the gate, as the ticket collectors seemed to be letting people in one-at-a-time.  Okay, so this should be a warning to any organizer of a Carnival or West Indian-themed event, do not keep West Indians waiting outside of a gate.  We will storm that damn thing!  Usually, I would feel bad for the security trying to maintain order, but this time I was too frustrated to feel sympathetic.  Next time, organize yourself so that you can get people through the line quickly. 

Once I got beyond the gate, I took a long sigh.  Finally!  Okay, first stop, food.  I needed to replenish after all that damn walking.  I have to mention the food vendors.  Although there was corn soup, chicken and rice, and a snack cart, everyone was crowded around one stall.  That’s a good sign, so I joined the line.  “I have no more shark!” was met with disappointed groans.  “What do you have?” I asked.  “Fish cake [accra], but I have to fry more.”  Fine.  Normally, I would just go to another vendor, but I decided to wait the half hour while the cook fried more.  Yes, I waited half an hour for accra… but it was so worth it.

Wotlessness in the stadium

After making my belly happy, I headed over to the two trucks that had parked up in the field to play music.  I noticed a figure on the Grenadian truck.  Get the $%$# outta here!  Is that Mr. Killa?  Yes.  Mr. Sugar Pot himself was on top of the truck performing his hits, including the buff gyal anthem “Rolly Polly.”  How was this not highly advertised? 

With two trucks blazing music, and an open field to “dip pon it” and “spreah yuh hands and leggo” the crowd couldn’t be happier.  Suddenly, it was announced that show time would begin at 6pm.  Confused faces turned to each other for explanation.  What show?  Who is performing? I thought this was over at 3? Regardless, at 6pm all other music shut off and everyone moved toward the stage.  Naturally, DysChick went to the front.

Before the live acts came on, DJ Spice jumpstarted the party with old school to new school soca tunes while MC Wassy amused the crowd.  The first artist to come out was a blast from the past, Twiggy.  I can’t remember the last time I heard “I wah me man up under me all night,” but it was good to hear it live.  Other calypsonians of yesteryear graced the stage and, for some reason, performed their raunchiest songs.  “This cat have a big appetite” is not something you want to hear from a 70-year-old man.  That’s all I’m saying.  Disturbing lyrics aside, the old school soca was a welcomed surprise. 

Hands up!

Other acts to touch the mic included HypaSound, who performed “Roll It” and Statement, who sang his party anthem, “All Night ‘til Morning.”  The party didn’t turn all the way up until Brooklyn’s own The Request Band took the stage.  From the moment we heard “Send over some cups, send over some ice,” the crowd started to break away.  After notable covers of “Leggo” and “A Little Wine,” Yankey Boy entertained us with “Red Eye” and “Bartender” while Patch took orders for pipe.  You would think that, after four hours of dancing in the park, folks would be tired.  Nope.  Not at all.  They still had energy to palance and fog up the place with powder.  I got so caught up in the madness that I didn't mind leaving the venue covered in powder and dust on my whole body.  While I can’t say that the entire day was a success, this definitely was a “Bess Fete!”

If they decide to do this again next year, the organizers of Long Island Carnival have to do a better job of advertising the event so that those of us suffering from Carnival Tabanca have a convenient remedy.  I will say that it was a pretty good turn out for an event with minimal marketing effort.  There were many frustrations but, luckily, the after party satisfied my feting spirit. 

In fact, The Request Band did such a great job that I forgot I had a 45-minute hike back to the car.  Ugh! 

Leonce and Rayzor of The Request Band

See more pics here

Title taken from Rayzor & Leonce's "Bess Fete."