What should have been a foregone success - with only the i's and t's to be dotted and crossed in write-ups after the event - was essentially an abysmal failure - twenty steps backward from the two made forward last year. This about describes the fiasco termed the USSA 2002 Panorama presented in partnership with the Immigrant's Journal.
But in all fairness - the writing could have said to have been on the wall - as the weeks, then final days to the Thomas Jeffersen Field staged event - drew closer. For supposedly participating bands themselves to express disillusionment mere days before the Panorama's scheduled date of 31 August 2002 - was an omen.
So - the 'night' finally arrived - and on hand to see for themselves - were public patrons comprising both who heard about what they had missed out on in the acclaimed production of the 2001 USSA Panorama, and the others who had actually made the Flatlands Avenue trek in 2001 - and had heard and seen and had given it a thumbs up.
Interestingly enough - it could be said to be human nature to tamper with 'a recipe that works' - but then again - it could also be looked at as 'pride cometh before the fall' as a result as the USSA resting on its laurels. Having a successful first forage into the Panorama arena would seem to have gone to the heads of some of the USSA management - as in 'everything's gonna be alright. Well - it wasn't. Everything went all wrong.
USSA's lack of timely contact with the very PAN PLAYERS and their respective managements, and continuing disregard/disrespect of same - set the scene for disaster. This situation was exacerbated by other 'happenings' or lack thereof - e.g. responsibility for previously USSA/Immigrant's Journal arranged transportation for the bands' pans and racks - dumped at the last moment - literally on the final day - on the shoulders of the Pan Players themselves.
Other lack of planning of crucial points for the event included bands having to literally tug all their pans - including 9 and 12 basses! up a dirt track with planks laid side by side (of course the pans and racks slipped off and players had to heave, huff and puff to get them out of the dirt rut - then collect themselves mentally - not to mention physically! - to perform. The event's transportation fiasco apparently resulted in a practically 2-hour plus delay before the first band hit the stage - as bands understandably declined playing out of position - knowledgeable of the 'disadvantage' of playing first. Last year's third place winners - ADLIB Steel Orchestra hailing from Long Island eventually became the sacrificial band and were unwillingly drafted into playing in first position - and apparently paid the ultimate price - they placed last in the final results as announced on radio station WLIB during the week of 9-13 September.
There was total change in the very arrangements that contributed to the ground-breaking success of the 2001 Panorama - e.g. total lack of Stage Lighting - the only lights were on the field and provided by NYPD; (earlier in the afternoon, a small set of colored lights anchored by sandbags -pictured at right- was what was to initially light the front of the stage for the panorama). The Sound System used this time around did not take into account the need, much less design and necessary 'capturing equipment' for accurate reproduction of steel orchestra performances, as was the case in 2001, but was instead contracted by Immigrant's Journal - and turned out to be the same house system used for other Immigrant's Journal's sponsored ventures i.e. carnival fetes scheduled before and after the Panorama - just like the small set of 'lights'.
Last year's strategic Placement of Judges to afford them hearing an uncolored (true and accurate performance) of the steelbands as they competed, was completely disregarded this time around (this year the judges were in the front line of the speakers' assault, and directly flanked by them). Foreground seating arrangements, or really lack thereof was another serious error - and the list goes on.
From ADLIB's mainly youthful members having to heft their pans including 9 plus basses in racks- stuck in the dirt track, up to the stage - and the judges' distorted perception of their performance - they [judges] being placed squarely between the massive banks of speakers - eighth and last place was ADLIB's unjust reward in the USSA 2002 Panorama. This end result is cause for concern - as some bands who performed after them requested that the house sound system be considerably lowered to the point of being turned off. The judges therefore had opportunities to hear the others more accurately.
Another thing that conceivably worked against ADLIB is the practically two hour gap between their performance - and the rest of the panorama. This may have placed them at a disadvantage being the first band - as at least one of the judges confessed that from ADLIB - nothing was heard but extreme distortion through the speakers. The other seven competing bands performed in fairly quick succession - in some cases with the above-referenced change in the sound system levels.
Unfortunately - all of the above (and more) culminated in no results being announced at the end of the Panorama. Suffice to say - apparently not many people (pan players and pan lovers) are planning to make this particular panorama a "must attend" feature for New York's 2003 Carnival season.
There was the horror tale (the one that came to light) from one Pan Lover who after tendering her ticket at the gate quite early - sat in patience, then growing disgust while waiting for the bands to take the stage. Being a Pan Player herself, she went around back to the "staging area" - and enjoyed the sweet sounds of steel from there for a while - as the bands were doing practice runs of their full panorama selections prior to the competition. When she returned to the entry gate where tickets were being taken and patrons were being let in, the 'people' at the gate refused to allow her passage through - even though she had her ticket stub - and they knew she had been already inside. So these "geniuses" did this particular Pan patron a grave injustice - they told her she now had to pay another $20.00 to get in - which she did not. She simply left - before the last seven bands ever hit the stage, being unjustly cheated out of her already-paid for Panorama. Who knows how many scenarios of injustices may have occurred, and just plain 'power plays' by those particular gate people who apparently crowned themselves 'queens/kings' of that situation?
Why did something that started out so right go so wrong?? Did anything go 'right' that night and if so what? What was apparently right was the determination of the bands of Pan Players themselves - as some of them still believe that despite the calamity plagued USSA 2002 Panorama - that by taking matters into their own hands for a second year running, and participating in the USSA panorama - they send a clear message that because of the thirty plus years of flagrant disrespect they underwent at the traditional Panorama venue - enough was enough. That Pan Players deserved respect for their mastery of the instrument, the forum and conditions put in place for delivery of their product (the music) e.g. at the competition point, and as the human beings who deliver the Pan music so craved by many.
That's the watchword that USSA should have kept uppermost in their minds and on the table in their post-2001 Panorama dealings with the Pan fraternity - as they came out of an unheralded and successful Pan extravaganza, and on the road to the 2002 event.
The USSA needs to know that 'good intentions' are not enough. Pan Players deserve, demand, and will receive - respect. And whoever (or whichever organization) can deliver in this regard - will have the recipe for success in not only Panorama, but all Steel Orchestra events.
In the meantime, the finger pointing continues...
** EDITOR'S NOTE: SUBSEQUENT TO THE PENNING AND POSTING OF THIS ARTICLE, USSA PROVIDED REVISIONS ON 17 SEPTEMBER 2002, TO THEIR PREVIOUSLY RELEASED RESULTS. THESE REFLECTED SOME CHANGES, INCLUDING THAT OF ADLIB MOVING UP FROM 8TH TO 6TH PLACE.
USSA 2002 Panorama ResultS SUMMARY
Other PAN STORIES
ADLIB had their
act together from the beginning, and provided there own transport from
Long Island. They got to the venue early - and ended up playing
first - for playing by the rules.
Small set of colored lights anchored by sandbags, not even as tall as the speakers, were all the arrangements for the stage lighting. These were eventually removed before the competition.
Judges seated in front of the stage, separated from onlookers by police barricades. Note the black bank of speakers in front of judges, to the background left of picture.
The dirt road (above) cut to access the Panorama stage. Planks were later trucked in (below), and subsequently placed side by side to supposedly facilitate the bands' racks and stands rolling up and onto stage
The pan lover who was barred from re-entry on less she paid a fresh entry fee, had gone to the staging area in the back as the Bands practiced (above).