Last update: 08-Dec-2013 4:55 am
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Wet, wet, wet
It’s 2 pm in the afternoon on Republic Day. I’ve just woken up. My wallet is soaked. Business cards and photo IDs are strewn across the living room table, drying out. Sodden clothes litter my bedroom floor. My smartphone is in a bowl of rice, drying out. I had kept it in my pocket at a wet fete. Why did nobody warn me a wet fete would be so...ummm...wet?
Some weeks ago in this column I asked, “Don’t You All Ever Sleep?” It was a genuine query, concerning when precisely you Trinidadians and Tobagonians find time to rest alongside your party schedule. Now look at me, partying til the sun comes up, wandering in at 8 am after an all-night bashment. I should feel ashamed, at my age. But I don’t.
Major Lazer was explosive at the O2, Chaguaramas. The trio took a while to come to the boil, in fairness. For around an hour it seemed as though the night might end up a damp squib. Well, it ended up damp, but not a squib.
Major Lazer dropped big anthems early on, but the crowd—who had previously been roused to fever pitch by the MC—seemed underwhelmed. One thing live music crowds here have in common with London crowds: they are hard to please. A lot of posing and waiting to be entertained. But when crowds here wake up, they really wake up. In London a round of applause is usually the most a band can expect.
The DJs played for three hours, by my watch. My watch had, however, become waterlogged so perhaps it was stuck on the wrong time. If I could have suspended time I would have, so I could fully take in the scene, magnify it and make a mental image.
When Diplo, the DJ/producer and founder of Major Lazer, stripped, rather immodestly, to the waist and strode cross the top of the mixing desk hands aloft, it was the cue that the party had started. By the end, after Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin and a seemingly endless stream of dancers had raised the temperature, Major Lazer was tearing off the proverbial roof. Turns out the DJs had merely been teasing the crowd. Later Diplo got inside a giant see-through beach ball and crowd surfed. Exciting? Not half.
The volume rose too. At first, the two speaker stacks either side of the stage had felt a little insipid, when I compared it to a Beenie Man dancehall rave I’d seen in Montego Bay, where the immense sound system shook the whole town.
But forget Jamaica, how does an event like this, WeTT Republic, compare to events in the UK?
Really there is no comparison, except perhaps the ticket prices, which at $380 were in the London ballpark. But in England I would have spent another $380 on alcoholic beverages. Here, I walked with a $90 bottle of rum, which sufficed. In London you cannot bring alcohol to any ticketed event, full stop. The exorbitant prices ($45 for a pint of beer, $60 for a glass of spirits) are how event promoters make all their profit back home.
In England we would not be soaked to the bone with water cannon. Not unless we wanted to catch our death of cold walking to the tube station afterwards. Here it was a nice cool down. I also realise now why parties happen in the early hours of the morning. It’s cooler then.
As the sun rose at 6 am over Chaguaramas it was a majestic sight. Fluffy droplets of cloud blobbed the sky over the ocean which was dyed a pinkish orange hue. A world away from the O2 Brixton Academy in South London where you are met outside by homeless alcoholics and a foreboding urban dystopia. Incidentally, UK curfews for concerts kick in at 11 pm and the venues turn you out into the street.
The crowd at the wet fete was very young. So young it left me wondering whether there are age restrictions and whether they are enforced at all. I saw kids as young as 14.
Around me were scenes of debauchery. In the VIP upper section it was too packed to move. Girls were wearing virtually nothing in the heaving throng. Glow sticks turned faces incandescent. Onstage the MC declared the time 6:30: code speak for the shape the dancer was throwing, touching her ankles her body formed into a 180 degree straight line, like the hands of a clock at half past six. Epic twerking followed. The running, jumping land into splits brought a tear to the eye.
But while all this debauchery took place without anybody batting so much as an eyelid, as soon as a bit of swearing was heard, the party was nearly shut down.
Diplo dropped Pharoahe Monk’s tune Simon Says. A raucous song containing the “f” word. Within seconds, two uniformed police officers appeared onstage, headed straight to the DJ mixing desk and whispered into Mr Diplo’s ear that this really was not on.
The music stopped. There were a tense few seconds when the crowd thought the plug would be pulled. Then the MC declared the DJs would play no further songs with “curse words” and the party started up again. Phew. “It’s a colonial thing,” my friend told me, facetiously.
It’s really not though. In England swearing (sorry, cussing) is just like breathing. We don’t even know we’re doing it half the time. It is certainly not censored. I found it comical that amidst such anarchic scenes an air of conservatism still crept in. It’s only a word that rappers say, after all. Whilst recovering the next day I watched Pulp Fiction on cable television. Here too I found the original script doctored and overdubbed, removing cuss words. Boring.
I switched off and fetched a towel. My mind was playing tricks on me, I still felt wet. Actually I’m beginning to wonder if I will ever feel dry again.
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