On the fourth night of the National Panorama single pan steelbands prelims, the Newtown Playboys, under the direction of arranger Duvone Stewart, showed they are gunning for the champion title.
The San Juan East Side Symphony and Marsicans Steel Orchestra are joint title-holders of the competition, which was last held in 2019.
The prelims continue tonight, with more bands from Pan Trinbago's Eastern Region performing before the judges at various panyards.
Judging in the Northern Region was not without drama, with an arranger and frontline players parting ways with a band, which was left without the required number of players to qualify for judging.
Moving down to Woodbrook, the vibes were much more positive at the Newtown Playboys' home. The band introduced its set and tune of choice, KMC's First Experience, with a live performance from veteran singer KMC, before creating a party-like atmosphere on Tragarete Road.
Playboys attracted and also hosted a cross-section of pan lovers, members of the diplomatic corps and entertainers David Rudder, Neil "Iwer" George, Carl Jacob, Mavis John and other music-industry people.
Earlier that evening, judges visited other panyards in Port of Spain and environs and heard World Wide Steel Orchestra from Hololo Mountain Road, Cascade; Nostrand Symphony was also scheduled to play at the Belmont Community Centre but ended up at the Massy All Stars' panyard, Duke Street, Port of Spain; and D' Original Woodbrook Modernaires Steel Orchestra played at French Street and Tragarete Road, Woodbrook.
Gonzales Sheikers from Lange Street, Gonzales, was the first band to start the action, promptly at 7 pm, with Out and Bad as its tune of choice. Judges then went to Belmont Hi-Larks at the Pandemonium steelband's panyard on Norfolk Street.
Next in line was Nayan Hill Steel Orchestra from Layan Hill, Belmont. And, as with all things Carnival, this was not without a bit of bacchanal – and not a pan was heard. The band was scheduled to be judged at the Belmont Community Centre, Jerningham Avenue, but before the judges could get there, people who arrived early sent a message back to Pan Trinbago officials to say the band would not be performing.The pannists (mostly teenagers) who were at the venue said their arranger and the entire frontline had left, so they would not be competing. One member said, "I took time off from school to rehearse and now this."Commenting on the incident, Pan Trinbago president Beverley Ramsey-Moore said, "It was unfortunate for that kind of action to take place. A steelband is much more than the competition. What bands have to do is ensure they have full community participation, as steelbands were the pride of the community and people will have a sense of belonging.
"These bands that are weak, we will aid so we don't have that kind of action taking place again. Music does not come from your back pocket, but from your heart...We must have communities who believe that sink or float, we sailing with the ship when it comes to their band. My VP is already having discussions with the band."
Otherwise, Ramsey-Moore expressed extreme pleasure at the performances since the 2023 competition started on November 11.
"The communities are supporting the bands. We know there are some areas that are 'hot spots,' but the bands are performing, and wherever steelbands are performing, that space is a sacred space. The communities are behind their bands because of the sense of community pride."
Last night, judging began in the Northern Region, with four bands playing their tunes of choice. Another 16 bands will perform over two nights, with eight tonight, and another eight scheduled for tomorrow.
However, one band, Platinum Steel Orchestra, will perform in Port of Spain, despite being a Northern Region band.
One of Platinum's managers, Lauren Pierre, told Newsday that throughout the covid19 period the band had no base, so its instruments are kept at members' homes.
The band used Potential Symphony's panyard in San Juan in the past, but because of development on the site, it no longer has access to that venue. So Platinum practises at Duke and Melbourne Streets, where it will face the judges tomorrow.
The 2023 single pan prelims, which began in the South/Central region on November 11, will wrap up tomorrow in the Eastern Region. Judging in the Northern Region took place from November 13-15, and Tobago Region judging was held on November 16.
Royal Stars Pan Symphony is scheduled to be the last band standing, performing at MP's Adrian Leonce's office, Lot 10 Cajuca Street, Morvant.
Score sheets will be opened on November 21 at the Grand Stand, Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain, at 10 am.
Thirty bands will compete in the semi-finals on November 26 at Arima Velodrome from 4 pm.