Brooklyn, New York, USA - Back in the day one always had a favorite TV show that aired once a year. This was long before the era of Netflix and Hulu and DVDs. And no matter how many times you saw it - you knew it was going to be great every time. Like the ‘March of the Wooden Soldiers’ around Thanksgiving or Diana Ross & Michael Jackson’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ or the ‘Lion King.’ Great expectations delivered.
So on this sweltering 90-degree-plus Sunday evening, the stage sides of three of New York’s finest steel orchestras performed - Despers USA, Pan Evolution and the hosts New York Pan Stars. They did not disappoint. The Sunday launch (held at the pan yard of Despers USA on July 28) was a reminder of a time past when Sunday evening Pan launches were the norm, with men and women ‘dressed to the nines’ - and the aroma of expensive cologne and perfume would be wafting through the air. Nowadays, folks come dressed in expensive jeans with holes that are placed there on purpose. LOL. But some things never change: good food, good people and great pan music from a live steelband - and you’ve got a real Brooklyn happening.
It was only a week ago that there were blackouts throughout the city - and the ever-popular refrain “Hot, Hot, Hot” took on a different meaning because of the blistering heat wave. However, there would be no power outage on this New York night - in fact, this night would prove electrifying. The performing steel bands brought their own human power supply through their music and instruments and generated enough electricity to keep the neighborhood ‘lit.’ Pan, pan and more pan.
From jumpstreet, DJ BlaccHulk slowly but surely warmed up the crowd, which kept growing with a slew of soca gems from over the recent years. No one does it better. He’s the man.
NY Pan Stars perform at their 2019 band launch
The post-9:00 p.m. start on a Sunday evening was risky, but it worked. NY Pan Stars’ management surmised that after the sun set and the temperature dropped somewhat, folks would come out. They were absolutely right. The team of NY Pan Stars - Sparkle, Noah and Marc - has always been very ‘time’ conscious. And outside of an act of God when a substantive rain shower joined the entertainment mix, they and their event were on point.
The pan portion of the launch opened with the very capable host and performing orchestra - NY Pan Stars - setting the tone and pace for the night. From Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘bout A Thing” to Chuck Mangione’s “Feel So Good” to “Voice” & David Rudder’s “Madness” - NY Pan Stars executed a wide, varied and engaging three song-set that silently screamed “Can you hear me now?” The musical director and arranger is Marc Brooks, one third of the famed arranging team globally known as the “Three Amigos.”
The musical baton was then passed on to the New York defending Panorama Champions - Despers USA Steel Orchestra. The band is under the musical directive of Odie Franklin, another third of the Three Amigos arranging conglomerate. Despers then proceeded to extend the musical conversation with the now well-engaged audience. The growing crowd of spectators partially surrounded the band, and the audience participation had begun through the accompanying singing of the lyrics of songs performed by Despers USA. They dropped a set that included “Don’t Look Any Further,” “Think Free,” “La Vida Es Un Carnival,” “Hookin’ Meh” and “Bazodee.”
Despers USA performs at NY Pan Stars’ 2019 band launch
The performance baton was next passed to Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra (PESO) under the musical command of renowned winning arranger André White. Simply put, the PESO blew the lid off the house, starting with an attention-grabbing tribute to the late calypsonian “The Shadow” (Dr. Winston Bailey). The now-standing-room only crowd was fully engaged - singing, clapping, dancing as the band dropped a hit parade of great music that struck a special chord with both the millennials and veteran pan enthusiasts in attendance.
Baby boomers, gen x, millennials and post-millennials, (the latter two being the cell phone generation, were dancing around with their phones raised high) - many screaming ‘famalay...’ - were in musical ecstasy.
Pan Evolution performs at NY Pan Stars’ 2019 band launch
Maybe Mayor de Blasio should consider hiring a steelband the next time there is threat of a blackout - they would certainly ‘electrify’ things with their performance. And, oh - no electricity supply needed for their performance - even in a blackout....
The show did not end there, NY Pan Stars returned for a second round performance and by all accounts it, too, was ‘lit.’ All in all, it was an excellent opportunity to experience the musical works in varied genres of three of the top arrangers in the USA in one venue - a musical ‘coup’ for those who caught the launch.
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