Title taken from Shal Marshall's "Play de Mas."
Miami Carnival 2013
If you have never been to Miami for Carnival, you don’t know what you’ve been missing! I will try to keep this review short, but there is so much to say. The fetes are amazing, the atmosphere is electric, and all of the true West Indian feters come out for one last break away before winter. Although I have been going to Miami Carnival for years, there was something extra special about this one. Maybe because Miami-Broward finally got their act together and informed city employees what was happening, or maybe because more artists came from all over the Caribbean, or maybe it was because the deejays and promoters worked over time to put together so many events that you would think we were all moving to Miami. Regardless of the reason, this year definitely had vibes.
I am not usually a fan of any party that requires me to wear all white, but it was so beautiful to see all shades of my people together in their white outfits. As I am a huge fan of DJ Back to Basics, I followed his advice and purchased the VIP tickets, which meant food and unlimited drinks. I took a quick photo at the entrance and then immediately headed to the bar - you know, because that's what you do when you're partying in Miami on a Friday morning. I figured they would only have no-name liquor that had been watered way the hell down to stretch for the entire event, but I was mistaken. Rum punch and top shelf liquor flowed freely. Needless to say that about an hour after I arrived, I was having a ball!
Along with the liquor, the deejays kept the party going long past the advertised 3pm cut off. The lineup included DJ Back to Basics, Riggo of Pantrin Vibes, DJ Private Ryan, DJ Stephen and more. How could everyone not break away all day? The only downside was the alleged food. Some vendors don’t know how to anticipate a hungry crowd. First, do not insist that everyone line up on one side and then serve people on the other side and then argue and tell people you are not serving them because they are not on the right side. Come on. Folks paid their money. Other than that small hiccup, the party was amazing! I have to give it up to the promoters, the organizers, and the deejays. That was the best way to kick off my Miami Carnival weekend.
With all of the hype surrounding the Deauville Beach Resort, I’m surprised by how unimpressive this place was. The empty ballroom seemed like where a bad prom would be held and the bar outside made no sense at all (give the money to a cashier and then take the receipt over to the slowest bartenders). Honestly, at one point, I was considering leaving… but then I remembered that this was the only place where Bunji Garlin and Fay-Ann Lyons would be performing for Miami Carnival. If you’ve been following me at all, you know that this is enough incentive for me to endure almost anything.
However, I was not sure how even soca's royal couple would turn up a crowd of disgruntled fans who were not pleased to see a warm-up band perform for what seemed like hours. Luckily performances by Cassi, K-Rich, and the legendary Super Blue - who even climbed off of the stage to jump with shocked and excited fans - managed to assuage the audience. With the lull in the music due to deejays seeming to be overwhelmed by failing equipment and the time getting shorter and shorter, I was worried that this event might leave partygoers feeling shortchanged. My fears were dashed when The Viking took the stage!
I love the vibes of this couple. Anywhere they go, they turn the party up! I definitely felt that I got my money's worth and, judging from the adoring and sweaty fans waiting to take a picture with the couple, I was not the only one.
After not sleeping for 24 full hours, I was sure that I would sleep right through j'ouvert. However, the promise of free premium drinks, food, and soca roused me from my one hour of sleep ready to hit the road! I put on my Canboulay tee shirt, sneakers, grabbed my goodie bag, downed a Red Bull and headed to Central Broward Regional Park.
The trucks were already lined up when we arrived... all except the Canboulay truck, which sat behind the gate outside of the park. This was the most expensive j'ouvert band so it upset many to see that our truck was outside of the gate while other bands were already enjoying their drinks, getting covered in paint, and dancing to their deejays. Two hours later, the Canboulay truck finally came out of the gate. At this point, I would like to big up all of the bartenders in the Canboulay drink truck! They could have easily caught attitude when all the participants rushed the truck with cups out ready to make up for the missed drinking time; however, they were professional and served everyone quickly with no complaints. I got my Hennessey and Coke and moved off to jump up behind the music truck where Riggo Suave was already playing.
The next few hours are kind of a blur, but I know that I jumped up, wined up, and shared drinks with strangers. I don't know what it is about getting all painted up that lets people break away all day, but I will definitely play j'ouvert with Canboulay again!
This is one event that has never disappointed. I go every year, but this was the first time that it was held at Sun Life Stadium instead of Hialeah Park. That worked for me as the stadium was closer to my hotel. This was clearly the event for Saturday night because I was forced to only hear Kerwin DuBois perform while waiting to get into the parking lot. I was so looking forward to seeing him live, but it was good to hear his hits, "Bacchanalist," "Possessed," and I nearly jumped out of the car and abandoned the driver when I heard "Monster Winer."
All was not lost. I did get to see Farmer Nappy (click here to see a clip of Farmer Nappy's performance), Patrice Roberts, and Machel Montano fog up the place. That's always fantastic, but this time I was distracted from the stage show. A special big up to all the men who pumped up just to show off bareback. Whew! May the good Lord bless you for making my eyes happy.
The highlight of the weekend was the carnival on Sunday. Watching the masqueraders tear up the road was only part of the fun this year. I hoped that the $25 paid at the gate would not be the fee to just watch the parade and luckily it wasn't. The ticket got us a seat in the bleachers across from the stage, access to the many food vendors that catered to all West Indian tastes, but most importantly, it got us into the spontaneous party behind the stage where the trucks parked up after the revelers crossed. Hearing Blood & Mikey perform "Roll It" live from the top of the truck during the battle between the Bajan and the Trini trucks was an unexpected treat. We danced and waved our flags for hours while truck after truck entered the area.
Just when I thought the party was winding down, the stage lit up and it was announced that the stage show would soon begin. Like moths to a flame, we headed over to the stage with our frozen lemonade (in that heat, this was so necessary...but it would have been even better with a shot of tequila). Ravi B. got the crowd going with his hit "Perscription" while Nisha B. did amazing covers of tunes like "I Love It" and "Clarity." Finally Shal Marshall and Mr. Nutron took the stage and proceeded to mash up the stadium!
Everyone should experience Miami Carnival at least once in life. There is plenty to do and so that you can fete day and night. Confession time: Although I have not played mas since Trinidad 2001 when I played in Minshall's "This Is Hell" band, you will probably see DysChick in costume next year in Miami. The revelers appeared to get their money's worth and have a time on the road. I am not sure which band I would most want to play with but I will say this - Miami Carnival 2014, LEH WE GO!