Great Fete Notes - Day two

Retro Thursday
July 28, 2011
AllRounder engages a member of the audience at Retro Thursday. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.
More Great Fete photos here.

The promoter has been down this road before, but the first time I’d ever seen it first hand was at last year’s Great Fete, when issues with finance, flights and finally hot tears marked the end of Beenie Man’s much touted appearance at that year’s grand finale night.

Kevan Gibbs has just received a phone call from Vybz Kartel’s manager that the performer, the headline act at this year’s show, has missed his flight out of Jamaica.
“There aren’t any first-class seats!” He yells into the phone. “I’ve been trying to book them for weeks now! I don’t care who else doesn’t get on, just get Vybz here!”

He draws out a long, frustrated steups after hanging up the phone and glares at the road. Great Fete can’t take another hit like last year’s absentee Jamaican headliner, and he knows it.
It isn’t the only problem facing the show’s organisers. Last night’s Welcome Wednesday party, a raucous, loud event, has drawn the ire of the neighbours around Rollocks, a car agency who allowed the space around their business near the airport to be used for the party.

Welcome Wednesday had to be relocated twice in a matter of days after a booking mix-up with Golden Star led to the loss of their slot and the replacement site, a piece of land that demanded extensive rework with backhoes and dump trucks didn’t stand up to sustained rainfall.

The second night’s show will have to be relocated as well, heightening the normal confusion that surrounds the event to a dizzying pitch.
Retro Thursday ends up housed at The G Spot, which in one of those curious turns, is a place that nobody can seem to find. There’s little useful parking and patrons end up walking some distance on the narrow road to get to the spot when they do turn up.

Once they get there, they find a building that probably makes perfect sense for the business it normally does, a small open area downstairs with a little nook of a bar that probably serves patrons at tables, another little space upstairs that’s probably a restaurant and an open area around the pool that’s been restricted to keep the crowd from ending up in the porches of guests staying at the hotel half of the business.

This doesn’t work out well for the crowd who end up trisected into a hot space downstairs that wasn’t built for that many sweating bodies packed into it, an odd trapezoid upstairs that resists easy engagement and the outdoor area, which is mercifully cool but also relatively quiet because the speakers are all indoors.

The crowd gamely wrestles with the space, trying to squeeze a vibe from it while the DJs try to find some era and style of music that will spark a response strong enough to lift their audience out of their curious circumstances.

That catalyst, and the night's salvation. eventually comes from an unusual source, the Hendrickson family, AllRounder and his kaiso daughters, who initially aren’t particularly welcomed by a crowd that’s been rocked by vintage dancehall and funk all night.

The Hendricksons have real sand though, and aren’t about to let a crowd of young punks, all young enough to be the children of any of the family members present, dictate their pace.
The DJ gets their first track up and they sing vigorously, but then there are problems with the backing music.

Sensing their narrow window, the three veterans launch into two songs acapella, one right after the other and win the crowd’s attention and enthusiasm with their bravado and spirit.
By the time the DJ’s sorted out the music for AllRounder’s 2011 hit, Bodywine, he’s already won them over completely and he milks the song and its now quite intricate physical routines, during a long, spirited performance.

It’s a retro moment for sure, eschewing technology and artifice for old school principles like talent, craftsmanship and brazen showmanship and the crowd let the Hendricksons know that they’d scored.
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