Playing J'Ouvert

It’s been almost two weeks now since J’Ouvert, the official early morning kickoff to Carnival Monday and Tuesday. We met our taxi at 2:30 a.m. Monday morning not really knowing what to expect. Here is what we did know:

  1. We would be marching around the streets of Port of Spain following a truck full of speakers with a DJ blasting Soca music.
  2. We would be painted
  3. There would be another truck acting as a moving bar, and possibly a “wee wee truck.” I’ll let you guess what that one was for.

It sounded like fun to us. As it turns out we WAY underestimated the music and the paint, but we already knew how Trinis like to party, so no the moving bar held no surprises.

Here’s how the night ahem . . . morning . . . went:

After arriving at our J’Ouvert band’s “camp” we were fed a breakfast consisting of corn soup and our choice of a burger or salt-fish sandwich. All tough to stomach at 3:00 a.m., as far as I’m concerned.

Around 3:30 a.m., a pickup decorated in palm fronds, pulling a small flatbed trailer with multiple buckets of colored paint and mud, yes mud, pulled up and everyone began painting themselves and/or covering themselves in mud. Some literally dove in, and others, like us, dipped fingers and dabbed a bit of decorative paint on themselves—mostly avoiding their clothes. We should have known better, but more on that in a minute.

Just before 4:00 a.m., the music truck showed up. Much to our surprise, it was a U.S.-style semi (not many of those here) with a flatbed trailer full of giant speakers stacked 10-15′ high, surrounding a live DJ. The front of the trailer had a huge generator, which could easily power a house or three, providing unlimited volume and bass. The truck was truly a rolling dance club. It was so loud and the bass was so strong that you vibrated anywhwere within 20 feet of the thing. Bear in mind, it was 3:30 in the morning, in a residential neighborhood! Around 4:00 a.m., volume and bass in the lead, our crowd of roughly 500 grabbed beverages and filed in behind the music truck to begin “chipping” (kind of a marching dancing) down the streets.

A few blocks into our trip, we realized why some people just dove into the paint at the camp. We encountered another group, or “band,” on the street, and realized most of the paint comes from OTHER people painting on you. Either members of your own band, or members of other bands, spray, fling or throw paint in your direction. It’s hard to avoid, so sooner or later you just go with it and begin painting others too.

So for the next 5 hours or so we danced, drank, and painted our way through the streets of Port of Spain playing J’Ouvert.

At around 9:30 a.m., Jesse James, our taxi service owner, met us and the whole cruiser crew, back at the camp, ready to take us home. The taxi’s interior was dressed with old sheets and we, much to our surprise, were also dressed—with giant trash bags. Jesse loves the cruiser crew, but not enough to let us ruin his van!

So this is J’Ouvert and I highly recommend it. Check out the pictures on the photo site. It’s quite a spectacle.

Up next, Carnival Tuesday for the pretty mas…