Maryland - A larger venue, an almost overwhelmingly hot and sunny afternoon, and a traditional holiday weekend; add to the mix the anticipation of hours of steelband music, and you have the makings of the perfect musical summer opener.
PanMasters' eighth annual Pan Jamboree moved from its 'home' venue of the band's panyard, to a more spacious locale, little more than a stone's throw away. This time around, the organizers erected a temporarily-covered area with some seating available on a first-come, first-served basis. Other patrons wisely walked with their own 'accommodations.'
When Steel Talks
was on the scene by the time the second band slated to perform -
Harbor Knights Youth Steel Orchestra from Baltimore - began
setting up their instruments. Kicking off the show and setting the
stage for what would be several hours of sounds of steel, had been the
Project from Virginia led by Anthony Hailey.
Following the Rhythm Project, Michael George, the 'Phenomenal One-Man Band' took the stage. He had also appeared at the 2005 jamboree, and was back for this year's show. Outfitted (literally) with a set of triple guitars and double seconds, a harmonica strapped to his upper chest, about four small 'chac chacs' or maracas (percussive instruments) strapped around each ankle, and drum machine, George kept it all in sync. It would have been great to hear a bit more of his steelpans, the primary instruments in his 'band'; even though they were miked, only those standing close to the stage really had a chance of hearing the pans. Despite having to stop during his performance to work out some kinks in his audio set-up, this one-man band redefines the term 'skilled co-ordination' when in action! It is hats off to this musician and his unique idea.
Harbor Knights were ready to
perform next, under what had become a very hot afternoon sun. The
young musicians were a bit hesitant during a few of the pieces, but
appeared to gain confidence and energy later in their performance.
The seated audience responded encouragingly to the budding pannists at
the end of the band's set, which included Ne-Yo's So Sick, and
John Legend's Ordinary People.
Still basking in the glow of their May 14 triumph at the 4th Annual Panorama Caribbean Music Festival held in Virginia, the Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra were next up. With a diverse repertoire that showcased their versatility, the band responded to the crowd's enthusiasm - so much so it seemed that the band may have actually performed a bit longer than expected. The steelband lovers appeared to enjoy their performance in totality, liberally soaking up the music and sometimes singing along; a particular crowd favorite was their rendition of the 2006 soca hit Roll It.
Taking up the mantle to keep the show going, St. Veronica's Youth Steel Orchestra succeeded Positive Vibrations onstage. Like the latter, they were also at the 2005 pan jamboree, and eagerly took their turn to provide more good music for the ever-growing audience. They served notice, opening up with a solid performance of Michael Jackson's Thriller. Returning in their line-up were the familiar faces of some of their veteran pannists who, though young, continue to take their craft as seriously as their adult counterparts. Quite a few onlookers were more than a 'bit' fascinated with St. Veronica's female drummer, who handled herself quite credibly and with obvious passion.
The stage side of New York's five-time panorama champions Pantonic Steel Orchestra took the reins next, and led the audience on an ideal musical journey. With Earth a Run Red, Baron's classic Somebody, and their 2005 Clive Bradley-arranged panorama-winning selection Action, Pantonic had something for everyone to enjoy and sway to. All three selections can be found on Tonic's latest CD Tonic Gems, on sale soon.
CASYM, always a crowd-pleaser, struck up as soon as Pantonic finished their forty-five minute session. With their resident arranger Arddin Herbert on drums, the New York powerhouse did not disappoint, confidently moving through their repertoire as they put on a show. At this point however, the dynamics of the event changed somewhat. For all the previous acts, the crowd had been seated in the covered area; some stood around. There were also others who preferred to be closer to the action, and these were literally on the sidelines, with some opting for the shady confines at the rear of the performers. But most of those seated had still been able to have a pretty good vantage point.
When CASYM began to play some people displayed selfish behavioral patterns, as they closed in around the band on all sides - but most unfortunately - they completely sealed off the front of the band from all of the patrons who remained in their seats. There was nothing to be done, not even when a PanMasters official/event organizer tried in vain to appeal to them in fairness to the other patrons. Not only were those seated in the covered area unable to see, but what suffered most was the sound of the steel orchestra, which up until that time had an unobstructed path. Anyone positioned outside the artificial 'wall' of bodies which closed off CASYM, heard merely muffled sounds in comparison to the previous musical clarity. A pity.
Crowd control continued to be an issue even when CASYM was finished, and DC Pan Jammers began. The precedent had been set. The same scenario followed. When Steel Talks departed as Pan Jammers began their third selection, but hopes that some sort of control was effected, if only for the sake of those patrons who remained respectfully in their seats. Hosts and organizers of the event PanMasters were scheduled to close the show after Pan Jammers, and bring the curtains down on what - up to the end of Pantonic's set and before the discourteous crowd element got out of hand - had been a delightful experience to all present.
All in all, the show was a great
event. It allowed for the gathering of people of all ages, and who
all had a passion for pan. Like many of the PanMasters staff, one
of their founding members Roland Barnes, and advertising and promotion
exec Stephen Reid, were seen moving tirelessly all around, making sure
things ran as smoothly as possible under the conditions.
Congratulations to PanMasters for another fabulous and well-thought out
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