by Vic Fernandes
in Castries, St Lucia
As I sit in my condo at my home away from home in St Lucia, WindJammer Hotel, looking at the pristine waters of the Caribbean Sea on a quiet afternoon in the aftermath of the St Lucia Jazz And Arts Festival, I am in a reflective mood. I am reviewing another memorable week in a country that I love, not least of all because it gave me my 95-year-old mother.
St Lucia Jazz is the premier jazz festival in the Caribbean, hands down! And every year I see incremental improvements in this world-class event.
Wednesday night, May 7, my brother by another mother, Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, was performing at Firegrill Restaurant, and, along with some friends from Britain, I booked dinner there. My brother was amazing!
A first-rate musician, who has toured the world, Boo Hinkson was on top of his game and delivered a performance to match anything else heard during the festival.
Unfortunately, my party of five spent two hours waiting for food that never came, save for the kids’ meal. Faced with the likelihood of being carried out on gurneys, we politely expressed our displeasure and left before Boo’s set had ended, and were eating dinner within 20 minutes at the amazing Big Chef Restaurant nearby. I am sure that Firegrill is a top-class eatery; it’s just that after my experience, I am unlikely to ever find out.
Up to the time of leaving, no manager came to offer an apology. Lesson: if you are going to cater to large numbers, be prepared, otherwise a positive becomes a negative.
While the jazz festival is top-class, unfortunately the quality of the MCs is not. Because someone is a popular personality does not automatically make him or her a good MC.
A good MC keeps the audience engaged and possibly entertained. When you start with “Let me hear you scream” and, “How you feeling?”, I know that mediocrity is the order of the day – as it was with the MCs throughout the festival.
Many expected big things from the Commodores. Well, the Commodores without Lionel Richie is like having a cellphone with no SIM card!
The band sounded good, but the vocal audio was poor. Clearly a problem existed; yet no one thought of stopping the set to fix it. Why?
Finally, we got quality sound for the last three songs from the Commodores. It was like watching a beautiful woman in an ugly dress!
They were followed by a female R&B singer, loud and aggressive, screaming out repeatedly: “What’s my name?”
Sweetheart, if you don’t know your own name, how would I?
Barrington Levy was in top voice, but annoying by repeatedly “pulling up” and talking. Barrington, if I want talk, I listen to a call-in programme!
The ladies loved Maxwell. He loved himself too. He didn’t need an audience; a mirror would have sufficed!
For me, Boo Hinkson, Monty Alexander, Alison Hinds and Tessanne Chin were the highlights – all Caribbean artistes. The soca diva had Pigeon Island rocking, and Tessanne Chin stole and broke my heart – stole it with her performance, broke it when I missed an invitation to be present to meet her during an interview.
By the time she left the stage, I had had my money’s worth.
Tourist Board of St Lucia, take a bow. The organization was exemplary; traffic flowed; everything worked. No security issues; everyone chilling and soaking in the music.
If I have one wish, well two, one: you need to bring some other big names; and two: I want to come back again next year.
Lastly, the ladies – oh, my goodness, they were amazing! My heart rate is slowly returning to normal.
(Vic Fernandes is a prominent regional broadcaster.)