Jamaica's Exhilarating Carnival Season: Don't Miss These Parties
Going into my first carnival week in Jamaica, I had many close personal friends and family remind me to not let my expectations get the best of me. Knowing how highly anticipated this was, they didn't want me to feel disappointed once the experience was over. I can guarantee you that this did not happen.
Carnival, on a whole, was a movie. I wanted to take you on a journey with me...unfortunately not to Toco Loco, but to Kingston, Jamaica. A large part of the carnival experience is the fetes leading up to the big day. Simply by attending fetes and not playing mas, one can truly experience the carnival spirit.
Carnival in Jamaica is growing year by year, including the amount of parties per day during carnival week. While I only attended four parties this carnival season, a very small amount compared to some veterans, I enjoyed every single one of them. Nevertheless, parties are all about mindset. Two people could attend the same fete and have completely different reviews and opinions. Carnival, and fetes, can bruk your bank account, so I want you to make the best out of what comes your way. Here are some parties that you should attend at Jamaica Carnival.
For the ultimate guide to carnival in Jamaica, check out my previous blog post: https://www.gomilesguide.com/blog/carnival-in-jamaica
Also, keep your eyes peeled for a Jamaica Carnival 2019, and my experience with Xodus Carnival, review.
While flying over my homeland always makes me emotional, this time was different. I simply could not believe I was going home. It was a moment that had been years in the making, through turmoil, unfortunate timing and prolonged waiting. Finally, the moment was here. I felt as if I was finally going to be let in on the big secret; to finally know what all of the hype was about.
Carnival Tuesday: Tuesday on the Rocks
From the moment I touched down on Carnival Tuesday, I was ready to go. Sure, I might've had a final paper due the next morning but that was the least of my worries. Tuesday on the Rocks was that night and Kes was- and always is- my main priority. Taking a break from my antibiotics for the first time in months meant I was ready to physically and mentally embody Mr. Rum.
In my opinion, TOTR was the perfect start to the season. The first staging of the well-known concert in Jamaica was an amazing preview to all the madness to expect from the week. You best believe your girl was up front trying to make eyes at Kes and being an emotional mess every time he sang Savannah Grass. While I typically hate concerts (due to the incohesive changing between sets and dead vibes), TOTR took the cake. As opposed to a normal concert format, the night started off with a few DJ's before Kes the Band came out themselves. Kes would perform a few songs, bring out an artiste, and repeat the cycle. It felt more united as opposed to a lineup leading up to Kes as the closing act.
As expected, Kes' voice sounded like an angel straight out of heaven. Every person in the crowd was swooning, all age groups, all genders alike. From Kes (of course) to Shenseea, Shal Marshall, Sekon Sta, Konshens, Teddyson John to even Munga Honorable, everyone was there. Hell, Dr. Mashup himself, Machel Montanto, was even liming in the crowd. There was a predominant focus on soca with hints of reggae, dancehall and ska tributes. The perfect blend for carnival in Jamrock. Plus, nothing did sweet me like hearing 'Tiney Winey' come out of Kes' mouth.
While I had the time of my life, it wasn't until the next morning that I remembered some menial annoyances at the beginning of the night. While the entrance was a bit congested, the line for bar tickets really confused me. For cashless bars, bar ticket stands will always be ram at the beginning of the fete, as everyone wants to get their tickets early on. In my opinion, the two queues available couldn't accommodate this. Additionally, when it was my turn, the attendants ran out of change. I ended up receiving more bar tickets, thinking they'd come in handy, until I realized that the barmen wouldn't be able to compensate the difference, in cash, ticket stubs or even a ginger ale. This made me vex as it felt like money down the drain.
Nevertheless, this really comes to show that it is truly all about mindset when feteing. Experiences like this definitely are not native to TOTR or Jamaica itself, and were seen throughout the week. It's all about making sure that you don't allow it to bruk your vibes. Yeah yeah, easier said than done, especially when you're a paying customer, but letting it ruin your night benefits nobody.
Carnival Wednesday: I Love Soca
After I woke up at 8 am on Carnival Wednesday and wrote and submitted my paper the next morning, most likely still drunk, I felt carefree and ready to tackle the week to the full extreme. As one of the most infamous fetes, I Love Soca was the perfect event for this. For many years, I planned to go to I Love Soca, at their summer or Christmas parties, but somehow always missed it. Attending for the first time last Christmas, I told myself that dis party nah miss me AGAIN.
I Love Soca is always a process in the sense that you have to arrive to Sabina Park relatively early to secure good parking, or else you'll be walking far far far. I wouldn't say we were the first people to reach the fete, but when I walked inside and saw the venue a bit sparse I was well frighten. At first, it definitely was not as packed as previous years, but as usual I placed my cooler up front and was ready to make the best of the situation. Thankfully, the crowd naturally flooded in one by one and the vibes followed suit.
Apart from the stage's amazing graphics and visuals, this might have been one of the best nights of my life. It was one of those parties where I left before the music lock off, and I was still very content. That night, Machel Montano performed and put on a show, as expected. He's one of the best performers in the Caribbean, and if you ever get the chance to see one of his full shows I highly recommend it. With appearances from Skinny Fabulous, HoodCelebrityy, Ding Dong and Teejay, the night was definitely memorable (well...based on how many drinks you had). The vibes continued after the performances, and the crowd was one of the most vibrant ones I saw all week.
If there was one life lesson I could take from the night, it was that my new body goals is, and forever will be, HoodCelebrityy. Amazing night, always a great time, 10/10 would recommend.
Carnival Thursday: Xodus Tailgate
The following morning, it was definitely difficult to wake up. I needed a break from hardcore feteing, and Xodus Tailgate was the perfect remedy for that. It felt so refreshing to attend an unconventional party, that didn't follow the typical formula. I would call Tailgate more of a lime or a par to go to with nuff of your friends. Hosted in the Stadium parking lot, there were rows of cars lined up in front of a mini stage and a space for a crowd to assemble. We made sure to arrive from early to get prime parking near the front, and ended up setting up in the first row that separated the stage/crowd from the rest of the lot. While we weren't able to roll with the biggest team, we still made the best of it.
While I loved our parking spot in the moment, I was also very grateful for a friend's parking spot at the back of the venue. Parking at the front of the venue is a commitment- as you will more than likely help security lock the stadium gate on your way out. Waiting for blocking cars to leave is frustrating; especially when some people, potentially with their heads' swollen from their brands of their cars, feel the need to arrive late and force up themselves to the front of the venue when there is no space.
With J'Ouvert the following day, Tailgate was the perfect event for Carnival Thursday. Voice and HoodCelebrityy made appearances, though people were having such a great time liming I'm not sure everyone noticed. Eventually, we made our way into the raving crowd where the music definitely did not disappoint. I know that I would've had an even better time if my whole entire friend group was there, and we had all of our cars lined up, but the fact that I had so much fun without them speaks volumes. Nevertheless, Tailgate was an amazing party and it's exciting to experience new kinds of parties in Kingston.
Carnival Friday: Caesar's Army's A.M. Bush
While each day came and went, I had to mentally prepare myself for what was to come. J'Ouvert. Carnival Friday was mainly spent trying to rest for Caesar's Army's A.M. Bush that night but, as usual, there's always something to do in the days. It's so important to take care of yourself, mentally and physically, during carnival week as you begin to operate solely on overdrive. Pushing yourself too hard in the week is never a good idea. At the end of the day, it is a marathon, not a 100m sprint.
That night, like many J'Ouvert nights, I didn't get much sleep. I was excited to finally experience this heavily renowned J'Ouvert. A.M. Bush isn't like any typical J'Ouvert. It follows a highly selective recruitment process, which was strange to me but also somewhat comforting. It felt reassuring knowing that the team was aware of majority of the people attending the party, incase of any emergency situations. Instead of marching around the streets of town in the hours of the early morning, A.M. Bush happens in....well...the bush, specifically Caymanas. While its price tag is a bit heftier than other J'Ouverts, A.M. Bush is an experience. It includes a goodie bag, shuttle services at the venue, inclusive drinks and food...and overall, an experience. That being said, expectations going into this event are always high, whether it's your first or tenth time.
Leaving my house around 2:30 a.m., a bus load of tired but eager feters made their way to Caymanas not knowing what to expect. While I was somewhat acquainted with this 'bush' format of J'Ouvert's, from my Crop Over experiences with Mix Nutz, I still was unsure of what to expect. Overall, my friend group and I left the fete in the morning with amazing attitudes. The crowd was on their baddest behaviour, and everyone was embracing their inner hooligan. From paint to powder to water, there was not a clean body in sight. While we were ready to go home, wash off, and pass out, we all were very happy with J'Ouvert. After all, it's the second most highly anticipated event of the season, so of course it went well.
It wasn't until I logged onto Twitter that I saw multiple threads detailing how much of a logistic mess A.M. Bush was. It suddenly flooded back all memories of the night, and I recognized things that I turned a blind eye to were actually inconveniences. Most things were organizational mix-ups that, if I'm being real, I didn't notice because that's how things sometimes work at home. Personally, I felt that there was no direction by staff as to where to collect your cups, or where to queue to access the shuttle to the venue; the shuttle that wasn't there. I didn't care to walk to the venue, where trucks were lined up. I didn't care that the second music truck's speakers were blown out. I didn't care that people were endlessly pushing to get to the front of the road march.
However, I did care about one thing. My biggest beef happened the original queue to the 'shuttles', as when we got to the front I realised that wrist bands were not being checked. In the package's instructions, it says to ensure that all patrons are wearing both their t-shirt and wrist band. I know for a fact that this wasn't completely checked, as my friends wrist band was faulty, and couldn't fit on her wrist, yet they let her right through. This slightly frustrated me as I felt that anyone could've finessed their way in.
Honestly, these things didn't bother me in the moment. Why? Mindset. If I could tattoo this on my forehead I would, but it truly is all about mindset. It's trying to make the best out of every situation, and using your lemons to make lemonade. At the end of the day, when you're buying a party ticket, you're investing your money into an experience. It's definitely frustrating when expectations may not meet reality, and you're allowed to be vex. However, that money is gone and you nah get it back. Not letting shitty situations bruk your vibes is a life skill that's applicable way beyond carnival fetes. It's impossible to control everything in life, especially when unseen obstacles and hurdles come your way. Simply changing your attitude and how you perceive the situation can be beneficial, not only to your personal view but, also, to how things are resolved.
Check out my vlog on all the madness! From the parties themselves, to reviews and picking up goodie bags for A.M. Bush and Carnival day!