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Fierce competition for ’19 Carnival

The Soca & Associates band launch pre-party had been going on for four hours by 8 p.m., Sunday, and not a feather, sequin nor square inch of dayglow fabric had yet appeared on the catwalk at the Unity Sports and Cultural Club in Dorchester.

But for the carnival aficionados who regularly join Boston’s masquerade bands, the wait is half the fun. In the kitchen, caterer Junior Black served up buss up shut rotis. From behind the bar, beer and spirits filled plastic cups. The merriment was set to the soundtrack of an array of oversized loudspeakers more than adequate to suppress meaningful conversation in the club.

Models show off Soca & Associate’s designs. BANNER PHOTO

Models show off Soca & Associate’s designs.

While some stood, shouting in each other’s ears, others sat in rows of chairs facing the floor leading to the catwalk, waiting for the models to present Soca & Associates’ theme for this year, “Seductive Delights.”

“I know yah ready for Boston Carnival,” emcee Marcus Lewis screamed through the loudspeakers. “They say Boston Carnival is fiyah this year! They say Seductive Delights is ready to mash up the road!”

In the kitchen, where conversation was somewhat audible, band manager Ashley Perry said the “Seductive Delights” theme is meant to dazzle spectators with its eclectic palate.

“It’s meant to draw people into the carnival with colors,” she said. “It’s a classy seductiveness.”

The costumes will have to dazzle more than the spectators, if Soca & Associates is to be competitive in this year’s carnival. They’ll have to appeal to the 200-or-so prospective masqueraders who turned out to view the costumes Sunday.

“Traditionally, the band launch is to say, ‘Hey people, come out and see what we’re doing this year,” said Michael Smith, whose website Boston Carnival Village posts updates on Carnival-related events.” There are some people who are loyal to one band. There are others who go from camp to camp to make a decision.”

A young percussionist plays a soca rhythm. BANNER PHOTO

A young percussionist plays a soca rhythm.

Masquerade bands typically sign up more members during their launch than at any other time. The masqueraders who join a band can choose from a number of color-themed sections within the presentation. Among those offered by Soca & Associates were “Mardi Gras,” “Mesmerize,” “Sexy Temptation,” “Alluring Fantasy” and “Erotic Desires.”

The masqueraders put down a deposit on a costume, which can run well into the hundreds of dollars. They are measured for the costume during the launch event, then are fitted at the band’s mas camp on Mt. Ida Road in Dorchester.

On the morning of Carnival, the bands line up on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Members show up, hopefully with feathers, sequins and rhinestones intact, then parade their way up Warren Street towards Franklin Park, where each band’s presentation is evaluated by a team of judges.

No amount of prize money offered by the Boston Caribbean Carnival Committee can make up for the tremendous cost of materials nor the thousands of volunteer hours put in by seamstresses, wire benders, metal workers and designers who put together costumes large and small. Bands like Soca & Associates defray some of the costs by charging for costumes, selling meals and charging admission to events like the band launch.

Seductive Delights

Finally, at 8:45 p.m., the first of the costumes emerged from the Unity Sports and Cultural Club kitchen, a woman modeling a piece from the Mesmerize section, with  orange, green, gold and blue cloth adorning the legs, an orange bikini bottom and golden rhinestone bedazzled wire bra. The man’s costume, with more generous orange shorts and green armbands, a green headband and green mantle adorned with a gold chain.

Models show off Soca & Associate’s designs. BANNER PHOTO

Models show off Soca & Associate’s designs.

The models paraded on the catwalk, stopping to wind in front of the audience. Cellphones and cameras flashed. Audience members craned their necks and cheered the models on.

From the enthusiastic audience reaction, the presentation seemed a success. Soca & Associates is ready to take its presentation on the road.

Boston Caribbean Carnival Parade is scheduled for noon, Saturday, Aug. 24. The parade will be preceded by the Kiddies Carnival, Sunday, Aug. 18 and the King & Queen show, Thursday, Aug. 22. So far, eight masquerade bands are scheduled to compete.

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