Hard Wine graduates from UWI campus
With roots in Irvine Hall on the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, it seemed unlikely that Hard Wine: The Ultimate Soca Experience could break away from its collegiate reputation. But last weekend at Mas Camp, National Stadium, the event showed all signs of graduating from an off-season event, targeting the tertiary education audience to a fully realised 'big people' party.
At the start of the year, Hard Wine promoters put plans in place to market the event to 'big people, by introducing a two-tier entrance fee. By all appearances, their plan is working. A walk-through the general area was a meandering through groups and crews of wily college kids. Scattered among them were older soca junkies who were just as wild, out to get their fix before the multiple band launches later this year. Moving through the 'big people'/VIP section, the only difference was fewer bodies.
Though the university and its students still got their big-ups from the deejays, there was a louder response when the maestros called out the Caribbean national flags waving in the crowd. 'We Are Feterans' flags waved alongside St Lucia, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago flags and, of course, the black, green and gold.
Styled as the Mother of All Off-Season Soca FÍtes, Hard Wine recruited the skills of DJs Arif Cooper, Billy, Lantern MD, Lil Chris, and Party Animal Kurt Riley. Of all the maestros, Kurt Riley seemed to have autonomy over the crowd. After spotting one woman perched on her partner's shoulders, the deejay called for others to follow. The practised emcee managed to coax the ladies up on the men's shoulders and convinced the men to navigate through the crowd to the front of the stage.
They heeded his beckoning in very little time, orchestrating a frenzied spectacle to the soundtrack of Destra's 2015 hit, Lucy. With the energy on high, Riley continued playing conductor to the Hard Wine audience. After the women descended from their shoulder perches, the front of the stage remained frenzied - complete with splitting on, climbing over or squeezing through barrier rails.
In keeping with the 'big people' vibe, Riley kept some of his set old school with a slew of Alison Hinds songs, including island favourite, Togetherness. He even went about commanding the flag crews, directing them as they charged through the crowd to Machel Montano's and Shaggy's Toro Toro.