gets the 2005 New York Pan Party
started with a Bang!
Brooklyn, New York -
before the event, pan lovers anxiously check their calendars to ensure
that there are no conflicts, and that nothing stands in the way of their
being at CrossFire's annual Fundraiser Barbecue. In little more
than three years, this event has become the place "to be seen at" if you
wish to make any kind of statement regarding your presence for the
respective pan season - whether you are pan player, steel orchestra, or
band management. It is the unofficial, yet pivotal launch which
opens the floodgates to what always turns out to be an intriguing and
eventful summer season of steelpan for the New York pan scene.
Many bands send their musical "messages" that demand reckoning, not
merely reasoning, with.
Dem Stars at the launch
11, 2005 was no different. CASYM, Utopia Pan Soul: the Next
Generation, Harmony, Sonatas, Dem Stars, Sesame Flyers and Pantonic, all
turned up to herald the new pan season once more. Differences in this
year's lineup included the absence of Marsicans, CYP and Pan Phoniks, though
the latter has merged with Dem Stars for this panorama season, and appeared
under the Dem Stars banner at the launch.
Although the flyer touted a 12
midday beginning, (which was probably more relevant to the time the food may
have been available from), the first band - Harmony, began to play shortly
after 8:00 PM - and only after repeated calls for players to get behind
their pans. As is always the case with all the bands, some youngsters
who barely reached their pans the previous year had grown considerably, and
cut a different figure at the launch. Their arranger from last year,
Brian Nicholas, was in charge of Harmony's musical mix. The band
pleasantly entertained many patrons who appreciated the musical efforts of
the youngsters, especially in their second set.
Dem Stars, sporting their new
structure bolstered by their merger with Pan Phoniks, performed next.
The resulting stamp from the combination was evident in both their sessions
at the launch.
Sonatas at the launch,
with arranger Yohan Popwell, right
The pan-loving audience then gathered around Sonatas,
New York's 2004 panorama champions, to hear what they had in store, and were
not disappointed. Sonatas maintained their close relationship with
arranger Yohan Popwell who came onboard in 2004, and was with the band at
the launch. Their repertoire, chockfull of Popwell's arrangements, was
brand new. The band's message and musical challenge, especially in
their second set - was unmistakable - they have no intentions of
relinquishing their championship title. It was agreed by the majority
of people present, that once again, Sonatas had the best sounding
instruments in all the bands present, and probably on the New York pan
Utopia Pan Soul:
the Next Generation, at the launch
Pan Soul: the Next Generation, was compact but big on talent as
always, showcasing daring and innovative selections and arrangements. Never
to be underestimated, the band once again give a critical account of
themselves, proving that size does not always matter, and that they are
unafraid of taking steelpan to the next level. Under the leadership of
Sheldon Elcock, and with arranging talents of both Elcock and co-arranger
Curt Rogers in evidence, the pan lovers at the launch lapped up all that the
There was an interval thereafter, as the crowd
continued to swell, with more pan lovers coming in. Food and drink was
plentiful, and pan lovers had their choices, with some going back for
seconds. Once again, it is apparent that this format of a pan launch
works for the management of CrossFire, though it is a huge undertaking.
At most other launches, there is a suggested donation at the door which is
collected before pan lovers are allowed entry. For those who cannot
afford, or choose not, to pay - the other option is to "hang-out" on the
periphery, which usually draws unnecessary attention to the event.
Sonatas' annual band launch is the other well-attended event, and is also
free (it is held on their block, which is shut down for that purpose).
everyone came inside, mingled, and patronized as freely as they could afford
at the fundraiser. The CrossFire management personnel and players were
courteous and around to ensure that their guests and artists were
comfortable. Hugs, kisses and handshakes continued to be exchanged all
around, as old acquaintances were renewed for yet another year. Pan
Trinbago's Patrick Arnold, in town for the upcoming World Steelband Music
Festival, was present along with promoter Derrick Noel, also involved with
Joey Horsford, left, and
Albert 'Bing' Reid, right
Marsicans' bandleaders Albert "Bing" Reid, and
Joey Horsford, drew
When Steel Talks
aside to go on record and firmly squash rumors circulating about the band's
status. "We want everyone to know that Marsicans is alive and kicking,
and coming as strong as ever, if not stronger, for 2005" declared Reid.
"There is absolutely no truth in what people are saying, those that are
going around proclaiming that Marsicans 'mash-up'," adding "please let
our supporters know."
Brian 'Bean' Griffith,
left, and Martin Douglas, right
CrossFire's manager and main organizer of the popular
band launching, Martin Douglas, worked hard as always taking care of
business, with all his additional support. He did however find time to pose
briefly for a picture with his band's arranger Brian "Bean" Griffith,
who also took care of music business for the band in 2004.
When it was time for the
steelband music to resume after the brief break, to the surprise of many
present, Harmony started up for a second set, followed again by Dem Stars.
Some patrons had assumed that the other bands who had not performed as yet
would have been next. These patrons grumbled audibly at not being able
to hear them at that point, especially as they were set up to play.
Some left in disgust with children in tow, because it was now later into the
night. At this juncture, yet to play for even the first time were
Sesame Flyers, CASYM and Pantonic, and all awaited their turn. It
appeared that two of these bands had been set up and ready to perform.
Sesame Flyers at the
After Dem Stars, Sesame Flyers
seized their chance to play. They had a small representation, but were
not at all inhibited in their performance. Their set was a bit shorter
than that of the other bands but nonetheless, the band's interpretation of
Andy Akiho's arrangements was well-received by all of the pan lovers who
encircled the band.
Sonatas then struck up their second set, followed by
Pantonic, who were entertaining the audience for the first time, with CASYM
ready but relegated to last position.
Harmony at the launch
Perhaps next year CrossFire
management can maintain order by conveying to bands clear-cut guidelines
beforehand - such as they are to perform once only, and for a pre-determined
amount of time, and that second sets would be in order only if other bands
were not present or ready to play, which was not the case on Saturday.
Certainly this rule of thumb could be under consideration, if only in
fairness to the music lovers who come out, some with their families, to
enjoy not only the evening, but mainly the music of as many steelbands as
possible. Many people in the crowd could even be heard commenting that
this was not the first time that this chain of events had transpired at a
CrossFire band launch.
Pantonic at the launch
the management of CrossFire may wish to consider that with a minimum of six bands
usually performing, generally for no shorter than forty-five minutes each,
an earlier start is advisable. But it is not only CrossFire management who
can contribute to an overall improvement in time-management. A few bands were actually set up
on Saturday, and some pan players present but very
few patrons were on hand to perform for. It is obviously a somewhat sensitive
balance, with responsibility on the parts of all concerned.
In the end, it appears unfair to
many pan lovers who gathered for the opportunity to hear all the bands at
least once, to leave disgruntled, especially those who were there long
before 8:00 PM when the first band began to play. For some, this is
the only pan launch that they actually get around to attending. Even
When Steel Talks
left the event around 2:55 AM, when Pantonic was into their first set.
Unfortunately, CASYM had yet to play and when they did perform, at that time
the vast majority of the pan lovers had left.
But for the record, the
CrossFire Fundraiser and Barbecue was definitely the place to be on Saturday
if you were a pan lover.
When Steel Talks
chatted with a couple of people who almost missed the launch, thinking it
was scheduled for Sunday, but caught themselves in time and made it out in
the late evening. Then again,
bumped into a few others the next day who were kicking
themselves for not being aware that the launch was on in the first place and
therefore missed the event entirely.
After all is said and done -
it's still hats off to the entire CrossFire team, management and players,
for graciously hosting another spectacular, popular (and delicious!)
otherwise well-organized event, where people of all ages, from the babies to
the elders in the pan community, can meet and indulge in a safe and classy
steelpan affair. And we can't wait for 2006!!
©2005 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved
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