GRENADA CARNIVAL (SPICEMAS) 2019: A REVIEW OF LAVISH

I made it to Spicemas!

Of all the carnivals I attended this year, this was my most anticipated one, and I am so glad I experienced it, despite the highs and lows. Most of the fetes were great but mas with Lavish was a different story. Read on…

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PRE-CARNIVAL

Band Launch: People say Pretty Mas is not the pinnacle of Spicemas, but I could not imagine traveling all the way to Grenada and not playing mas. We did some research on the bands and decided to go with Lavish, a new mas band with a band leader based out of New York City. Why? For me, I liked the ease of open communication with the band, the marketing seemed professional and modern and of course, at the launch, their preentation “Dynasty” was impressive. I chose to play in Flush, a small premium female-only, Frontline only section. I was also a colour I hadn’t worn before, pink.

Registration: Registration launched about a week later, bright and early on a Saturday morning, and sections were selling out like hot cakes! My section sold out within a few hours. Registration was simple for most people - you create an account on the platform, choose your section, sizing and options and make the $200 deposit. Flush sold out before I had a chance to register and I reached out to the band leader to ask her to open up a slot and she did. I was grateful for that.

Communication: Communication with the band was seamless and excellent until distribution time. One could expect to receive a response from the band within minutes if contacted via Instagram. That was the only mode of communication I used, so I do not know what the response time was like via email. The band shared updates regarding the Monday Wear, costume sales, and production (or so we thought) through Instagram.

A group chat was created by the band leader a few weeks before my arrival to Grenada, and while I questioned the point of a private chat, it was cool getting information only privy to masqueraders. It also served as another way to communicate with the band leader regarding questions or concerns, and I appreciated that. However, communication went from over-sharing to severely lacking to disappearing altogether, especially after the third or fourth distribution schedule change. Details below.

DURING CARNIVAL

Costume Pickup: Readers, I have NEVER in my life experienced such disorganization, miscommunication, non-communication, chaos and disarray. I do try to give bands some margin of error because distribution is a hectic time, but this was a free-for-all shit show that HEAVILY affected people’s schedules, mood and most importantly, money. I will walk you through the series of events.

Piickup was originally scheduled to start the Thursday before mas and was suddenly changed. No reason was given at the time. After it was changed again on Friday, an Instagram live video featuring the band leader and main designer was made to address the reason for the change - we were told it was due to a late delivery of packages that contained key pieces of each costume. Therefore, all sections were going to be distributed on a single day, Saturday.

On Saturday morning, it was changed again. Instead of a full day of distribution as promised, only 3/7 sections were ready and distribution was moved to a later time in the day. Distribution for the other sections was going to take place all day on Sunday. Please keep in mind that mas was on Monday and Tuesday.

On Sunday morning, distribution was changed yet again with section distribution to take place at specific time blocks. So ridiculous! After all the inconvenience, the band continued to dictate when masqueraders should pick up their fully-paid-for costumes. As expected, the time frames given were not adhered to and most costumes were not ready.

I arrived at the pickup site at 9pm on Sunday night. The reason I got there so late was because masqueraders were keeping each other informed in the group chat regarding the (lack of) progress at pickup. There were tens of messages being sent per minute with complaints, anger, frustration, updates and horror stories of people waiting hours at pickup with no anwers and no costumes.

When I finally arrived to pick up my costumes, I was blown away by the sheer havoc. There were people seated, looking disheveled, upset and worn out; there was a group of tables sectioning off the other half of the room and behind those tables were the band leader and masqueraders volunteering their time to assist with distribution. Can you believe that? Spend your big money to be staff, being scolded by other masqueraders who don’t understand you’re trying to do a favor. Crazy. At the back of the room was a stage closed off by a huge curtain, where other people (whether Lavish staff or volunter masqueraders, who knows?) were sorting out pieces and putting packages together.

On the main floor, only 3 sections were fully available - Showstopper, Flush and Profuse. The others were still unavailable, with costume pieces arriving intermittently - a backpack here, a headpiece there, but no bodywear. How Sway.

Soon enough, masqueraders were told to focus on getting their Monday wear, wristbands and cups in order to play on the road the following day. What about the costumes? Well, they were advised to, and I kid you not, PICK UP THEIR COSTUMES ON THE ROAD ON A TRUCK DURING MAS THE NEXT DAY. You can only imagine the uproar.

There were no explanations about WHY there was a delay - masqueraders were only told “all of your costumes are in Grenada”. If so, where were they? People had many theories - the designer was still making pieces in a house/hotel somewhere, the pieces were being transported in a small car so couldn’t fit many pieces at once, the costumes were all the way in another parish and would take hours to arrive, et cetera. The lack of information made everyone tense, nervous and angry, and the demand for refunds was loud and immediate.

I was able to get my costume. However, there was no order or security verifying that I was who I said I was. I literally went behind the tables, saw a bag with my name on it, checked the contents and walked away with the bag. I went to another table where I saw my headpiece and grabbed the best-looking one of the shitty bunch. And then went to the backpacks - on the dirty ground, mind you!! - and found the one wih the least amount of shedding. All of this was done without a single Lavish staff member checking who I was or my credentials and ID. I could have been anyone! I would not be surprised at all if people’s items were stolen.

It was another struggle just to get a cup! And you were lucky if you got a cup with a straw.

In the meantime, the band leader had left the group chat so most communication was coming from other masqueraders. The closest we got to any sort of “official” information came from 2 friends of the band leader who had no official roles in Lavish and were simply helping their friend out.

I had never experienced such unprofessionalism and disrespect from a business, and patience had definitely run out among masqueraders at this point.

Around midnight, after waiting for 3 hours, we came to the conclusion that the male costumes were not going to arrive. The male Monday wear shorts came in and were distributed to the men who had hung around. Soon after that, we left to get some rest for jouvert and the road.

Picking up my boyfriend’s costume on Monday night/Tuesday morning was just as bad, if not worse. We originally wanted to go before Monday Night Mas but after our experience the night before, we knew we would only be wasting our time and miss an amazing experience. Therefore, we opted to go after Monday Night Mas. We arrived at the pickup location at around 1am, and I really expected that at this late arrival, all of the items would surely be there and it would be a swift pickup. Particularly, because we were only there to get a male costume. Aren’t male costumes supposed to be super low maintenance and simple? However, it was another late night involving a lack of costumes with no explanations and more promises of backpacks and bodywear being delivered ON THE ROAD the next day. My boyfriend ended up getting his “costume” - though it was still missing pieces - and we left at around 4am. The road was supposed to start at 11am.

Overall, everyone was exhausted, beyond frustrated, and frankly disgusted by the treatment we were given.

What a turn of events.

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Costume: My costume was pretty from afar. It photographed well. But it was definitely not an exact replica of the advertised costume. There were a few things about it that were different and made it look a little cheap. If you came up close to inspect the costume, you saw the exposed glue and the gems had not been shined. The gems on the crown were very fragile. I am really not a fan of exposed cardboard on backpacks, but I will say that the feathers were beautiful when seen from the front. Because of the stress endured to get this costume, I think I appreciated it more than I would have in another circumstance. I suffered too much and I was gonna slay, dammit!

Expectation vs Reality

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TO RATE MY ROAD EXPERIENCE: 6.5/10

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The reason this rating is even as high as it is is because of Monday mas. Tuesday mas was decent at best.

The saving grace for the band is that the masqueraders were determined to make the best of their plight. We were tired but ready to drown our misery away with liquor and soca.

I had planned to stay home, and relax in the pool all day after the shenanigans of the night before. I was tiredt. But jab jab gives you powers, because it put me in such a good mood that around 2pm, I decided to go out on the road.

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Drinks. Not once did I have an issue getting drinks from the truck. They had a variety, including the popular favorites Johnnie Walker, Hennessy, Ciroc and an assortment of rums. There was also champagne. The bartenders served on both sides of the truck, they were quick and efficient and I did not have to wait longer than 3 minutes for a drink.

Food. I ate on Monday and that was a terrible idea for me. I fell ill and I know it was the food I ate on the road. The chicken looked half-cooked in the middle and after a couple of tentative bites, I threw it away. I had a few bites of the tasteless macaroni pie and threw that away as well.After that experience, I chose not to eat anything on the road on Tuesday and warned my friends about it. The next day, I was not surprised to hear that several people got sick after eating the food that was served on Tuesday. That sucked.

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Music. The DJs really did their best to turn up the crowd and bring up morale. But I felt like the music was great on Monday and severely lacking on Tuesday - were there different DJs? Overall though, I enjoyed the heavy Grenadian soca playlists and sure, there was some repetition of songs but I heard a great mashup of all types of soca from across the Caribbean.

Lack of security. Lavish had NO security. No one to tell you to move out of the way of the truck, no ropes on the sidelines, no crowd control at all. And it was especially needed on Tuesday afternoon when the spectators gained entry to the bands, taking pictures, dancing and hogging up precious space such that those of us with large backpacks could not move. I had to get a bit aggressive to wrestle my way to the front of the trucks for some space to breathe. I found it quite dangerous, especially when it got dark, because of the huge, open drains that line the streets of Grenada. It would have been very easy for someone to fall in, especially if they were trying to move through the congestion.

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Time management. The trucks left very late on both days. Monday’s start time was supposed to be 1pm and ended up being 3pm. Similarly, Tuesday’s start time was 11am and it ended up being 3pm. I knew Lavish was not a competing band but that was ridiculous.

No stage. Just an FYI.

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POST-CARNIVAL

It has been two weeks since mas and Lavish masqueraders are still waiting on deserved refunds. Some have received offerings of $30, $50, $100, all of which I find quite disrespectful given the headaches and low quality products received. A few have received larger or full refunds.

The statement from the band - released a full two days after carnival - revealed no further clarity or explanation about why the gross mishaps even occurred, maintaining the band’s new lack of transparency. Masqueraders were further censored from expressing their opinions or relaying their experiences when they turned off the social media comments. Emails, text and calls have also largely gone unanswered.

I don’t know if the band will return in 2020, but I hope they learn the key expectations in customer service, crisis management and project management. Many of the issues experienced this year could have been tempered with a little maturity, good customer service and better public relations. Y’all let me know if this advice is heeded. However, I will NOT be playing with Lavish again anytime soon.

Did you play with Lavish? How was your experience in Grenada this year?

Tell me below! I’d love to hear from you.

Until the next carnival,
Sandra

NB: SPICEMAS 2020 IS ON AUGUST 10 & 11, 2020!