THE Carnival jumbie appears to have smiled on the Socadrome this year, with the much-maligned “second stage” yesterday surviving the rain and showing signs of being welcomed into the Carnival Tuesday fold.
More than 2,000 patrons, as estimated by the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service, passed through the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain yesterday, compared to around 700 last year and an even poorer attendance when the Socadrome debuted in 2014.
Following talk last year from the Port of Spain City Corporation that the Socadrome would likely flop in its infancy and not see another Carnival, it bounced back this year with heavy marketing and a repackaged programme, including “free breakfast” for patrons arriving before the scheduled start time of 9 a.m.
The early crowd was dismissive of the heavier showers that delayed some bands along the route, choosing instead to lime in the covered stand and enjoy the music in between acts.
The afternoon showers were much softer, even causing some to hail them as a blessing shortly after a performance by David Rudder.
The Socadrome was conceptualised by bandleaders from Tribe, YUMA, Bliss and Harts, and they had said then it was intended to offer non-competing bands the chance to skip the congestion leading to the Queen’s Park Savannah.
The project drew criticism, however, and the bands were accused of looking to hijack Carnival and turn part of the parade into an exclusive event.
Tribe bandleader Dean Ackin said yesterday the Socadrome has come a long way and has improved since its shaky start.
Ackin, who had plugged the project when it began, said the masqueraders loved the Socadrome and he hoped the country would continue to give it a chance.
Tribe, however, did not make it to the Socadrome yesterday due to time constraints. This caused a lull in between acts that at one point had patrons restless, but all was forgotten when comedian Nikki Crosby took to interacting with the crowd and giving away cases of beer.
Socadrome public relations officer and former Miss Trinidad and Tobago Danielle Hunte said the idea will continue to improve, but yesterday’s turnout was very promising.
She said the organisers will continue to build on yesterday’s success.
In addition to more frills, including a pyrotechnics routine, the organisers heard the criticism of the programmes of previous years and moved this year to ensure there were no long periods between activity on the stage.
Hunte noted as well that entry this year was free and said the interest in the project, as expressed on social media, had blown up.
Many patrons yesterday said they had been drawn in by an impressive line-up of performers, as well as the promise of less congestion than the primary stage at the Savannah.
The Socadrome was also regarded by some as being friendlier to older folks, who were able to find parking inside or near the complex.
The show kicked off shortly after the promised time with calypso royalty Calypso Rose (Linda McArtha Monica Sandy-Lewis), who delivered a number of her hits, including this year’s “Leave me Alone”.
The morning also saw this year’s hottest Road March contender, MX Prime and the Ultimate Rejects, perform their hit, “Full Extreme”, from a music truck as they crossed the stage with YUMA.
Other bands to cross were Harts and Lost Tribe while a large contingent of “traditional” characters, including bats, blue devils and dame lorraines, wove between the stage and the crowd throughout the day.
Rudder wows crowd
While the DJ mixed it up for the in-between periods and for performances by the
traditional characters, it’s difficult to say the bands crossed to anything but MX Prime.
As the day progressed into afternoon and the eastern stand filled up, the crowd grooved to Baron, laughed with extempo’s best, including
this year’s Extempo King, Gypsy (Winston Peters), along with Black Sage (Phillip Murray) and Lingo (Joseph Vautor-La Placeliere).
But it was in the early afternoon that the crowd truly came to life when Rudder, who ventured into the stand to meet and greet while he sang, delivered hit after hit, including “Give Praise” and “This is Madness”.
People were on their feet while a small mob surrounded Rudder, dancing and taking photographs. The consummate professional, Rudder was able to star in many a photograph without missing a beat of his performance.
Rudder was followed by Ravi B (Ravi Bissambhar) and a number of his hits, including this year’s “Budget”, which was then followed by his fellow Chutney Soca Monarch winner, Omardath Maharaj, with his runaway hit “Ramsingh Sharma”.