Trinidad Carnival was amazing as expected! In fact, it was better this year and this was because of the fetes I attended with dear friends, as well as the incredible experience I had with Tribe.
I had decided after my trip to Trinidad Carnival last year that I was going to give it a break in 2020. But then, I saw Tribe’s theme, “The Empire”. I am grateful that I was able to conquer another item on my bucket list: To play mas in a Frontline costume in Tribe at Trinidad Carnival. Here is the awaited review.
Band Launch: This was the most anticipated band launch for me. I had decided that if I was going to go back to Trinidad, I was going to go big or go home. I love a theme that screams power, opulence and elegance; in addition, this was a 15 year celebration of Tribe, the first all-inclusive band at Trinidad Carnival.
I loved how the costumes completely embodied the theme, reflecting empires across several parts of the world. I was proud to see the continent of Africa represented in three costumes! You could tell a lot of thought was given to the showcase - the designs, the names, the marketing.
I fell in love with Amirah Frontline at first sight. She is an African Queen of regal beauty and indescribable magic. The feather backpack had me at “hello”. I knew I wanted it and if I didn’t get it, I wasn’t going to Trinidad. It was truly as simple as that. It didn’t matter that the flight had been purchased. Suffice to say, I contacted the designer THAT NIGHT, fully determined.
Registration: It took a while for registration to begin after the launch - 3 long weeks. I received a link easily enough from a committee member, but since Amirah was a private section, I was unable to register for it. I had to get a registration link directly from the designer’s team. I implored the designer and due to our previous interactions, I received a link within a few hours. Anya and her team are truly amazing.
After that, registration was easy – I put in my information, added the extras (I always get an additional bottom), and paid the deposit of $3,500TTD ($560 USD). I opted for the complete Frontline costume with huge backpack and feather leg pieces. The total for my costume cost quite a PRETTY PENNY. But, registration was all set and I was ecstatic.
Communication: Tribe was very active on social media and certainly has some talented and plugged-in social media managers – their posts kept me excited throughout the 7 month wait until carnival. I also received important information via the mass emails they occasionally sent to registered masqueraders. However, Tribe needs to work on their response to emails, direct messages and comments. I asked a couple of key questions via email that went unanswered and in the end, had to seek out the information I needed through secondary sources. This should not be the standard.
Costume Pickup: I paid for my costume in full in advance and hired a concierge to pick up my costume, so I do not know what the process was like. However, I was told that while it was a bit of a wait – she was picking up as many as 10 costumes – it was an overall smooth process. I was able to experience the Tribe customer service first hand when I had to return to the mas camp to pick up a missing piece. I walked up to the main desk, told them my issue and was escorted to a room to speak to a representative. I waited a short while, explained my situation again and was redirected to the designer’s team. They were fantastic! She gave me the missing piece and more. Literally, all I had to do was ask. I was in and out in less than 30 minutes. I expected to be there longer given it was the last day of pickup. I was pleased.
From what I was able to observe through cracked-open doors and see-through curtains, the pickup area was a large room with several attendants. I did not see many people sitting outside in the waiting area so that was also encouraging. There were changing rooms and an alterations center as well.
I loved my goodie bag. The leather backpack I received was compact and of great quality. Inside were several snacks and coupons, feminine products, a Tribe cup, a detailed mini-pamphlet with key information of the road, as well as a map, a sheet that showed all the pieces that made up the costume with some instructions on how to wear them, the quintessential Tribe blanket, Tribe slippers, and a couple of bubbly wine spritzers.
Costume: My costume was stunning!! Absolutely gorgeous in person and looked just as expected. I nearly cried when it was dropped off by the concierge. The Tribe box it came in, yet another piece of memorabilia, was pretty nice. The costume was full of gems, intricate, exquisite, and of excellent quality. I did lose a couple of gems when I was trying to bend and mold the wire bra to my breasts, but overall a very sturdy costume. The backpack was even more beautiful in person. I was definitely impressed and couldn’t wait to put it on.
THE ROAD EXPERIENCE
To rate my road experience: A solid 9/10.
We got on the road relatively late on Monday (around 1pm), but as soon as we arrived, it was PACE. Tribe offered a shuttle service to the band’s location and we certainly took advantage of it. My only issue with it was that we still had to figure out the band’s ACTUAL location from the drop off area. There were several confused Tribe masqueraders – identified by the Tribe cups - asking each other where the band was and following each other hoping one of us was right. Despite the confusion, we arrived just in time to cross the Savannah stage to a live performance by Machel Montano of Famalaylaylaylaylaylaylay. I was on top of the world and I was ready for the rest of the afternoon. I filled up my cup with Johnnie Walker and ginger ale (x4) and was dancing the rest of the afternoon. I felt fit and unrestricted in my Double Double Monday Wear bodysuit and was jumping from truck to truck, catching a vibe at each one.
I loved the lunch stop – it was pretty big and to be honest, I did not realize just how big until Tuesday. It was also very shady. There were many food stations with different cuisines – Trini classics, Cajun food, vegetarian dishes, seafood & fish dishes, chicken dishes, BBQ, pasta and lasagna, Jamaican food, and more I can’t remember. Getting food was simple – you stood in a short line (which moved very quickly) and gave the attendant your lunch chit. I had the jerk chicken on Monday and lasagna on Tuesday. Tribe had laid out red blankets all over, mostly under the trees and tents, for masqueraders to sit on. There were also smoothies, cinnamon rolls and puncheon snow cones I indulged in.
The décor at the lunch stop was a nice touch, with several “Empire” motifs – some cool backdrops for photo ops and even a throne. After the revitalization at lunch, we were back on the road and it was even more fun. I really can’t explain what it is like to be deliriously lit (in a great way), bump into new and old friends on the road and dance with non-creepy strangers who are all there for the same purpose – to be one with the music and enjoy the feeling of freedom and release. A mood.
We arrived at the Socadrome on Tuesday at around 9:30am but we were a tad too early to cross the stage, so we decided to go meet the band on the road. Luckily we found the band coming down the street. I got a drink, ate some doubles for breakfast and found a friend. As we neared the Socadrome, we started to get in our sections. I enjoyed crossing the stage but I admit, I did not feel the same exhilaration as I did last year. I am 100% sure it is because I was dead tired of Famalay…I couldn’t even muster the same energy for it anymore. I am officially Famalay’d OUT and need a break.
Last year, Carnival Tuesday was engulfed by stormers as the afternoon went on. This year…yes, there were stormers but I saw security actively remove people from inside the ropes.
What was the vibe? It was on and poppin’, especially after lunch. By then, I had ditched my leg feathers, I had become accustomed to the big backpack and I had taken my much-needed nap. I was ready for bacchanal. I drank Punchy Punch all day; be careful of it, that drink is killer. It is like clear jungle juice with added strength, but so tasty and good. Overall, I had no problems getting drinks. My main issue was that there were a couple of VIP drink trucks that were not clearly labeled as such. I’d like someone to explain who actually had access to a VIP truck and how that was determined. I know you had to have a certain color wristband to gain access but it seemed random to me. It did not appear to be by section, so it was a little frustrating to not be served. No matter – the other trucks sufficed, and as a woman, getting a bartender’s attention was not a problem. I was always served within a couple minutes. There were several VIP carts hosted by section leaders and their marketers, but there were also public carts where you could get ice cream and snow cones. I got a puncheon guava snow cone…listen, HEAVEN.
As the sun went down, so did the wotlessness. We moved from Truck 5 (DJ Prvate Ryan) to Truck 3 (Scorch) and HOW COULD IT POSSIBLY BE MORE FUN. Oh, but it was. My chest…I do not know who the DJ was from 6pm until the end but dear God, she/he was matching the vibe of the crowd and elevating the mood with each song. There was a variety of music, going as far back as 2008. I loved that it wasn’t just a recycling of the 15 popular 2019 soca songs. I was getting my life – scaling walls and fences, dancing with strangers, posing for pics I will probably never see. That punchy was working, boy.
The road ended back at the Savannah, and it was Las Lap time with the rest of the Tribe group of bands – The Lost Tribe, Rogue, Bliss, Harts & Pure. We didn’t stay because I was exhausted but we stayed for a few minutes to grab a snack (they served pizza slices). It was lovely running into more friends, some who played in the other bands.
We headed back home around 10pm. It was a day well spent.
A final word: It has been a week since my return, and I am suffering from the hardest tabanca I have ever experienced. I had such an amazing time with Tribe, I am even contemplating a return to Trinidad in 2020. Somebody slap me! So far, I have not found a single professional shot of me despite taking several pictures, so if you find a photo of me on the innanets, send it my way, tag me, peacock signal, whatever! I was having too much of a great time to ask the photographers for their cards or information.
I had little to no issues with my costume – it stayed in place all day and I was able to transport every piece (except the leg feathers I gave away) back with me in a garment bag. I cannot wait to see Tribe’s 2020 presentation, and I am secretly hoping I can be convinced to go back.
Tribe, you win.
PS. Look our for my fete reviews coming soon!