Before you even ask, you absolutely should play mas for your first Carnival experience. Carnival is TWO days in Trinidad. Carnival Monday is basically a preview of Carnival Tuesday. It is slightly shorter in time frames and you can wear what you want on the road. Some bands provide 'monday wear' but most do not. Monday wear mostly consists of cute and colorful swim wear with footwear of your choice. Ladies, it is a very common trend to dress up in custom or designed monday wear. It has become a booming business, but don't let that deter you if you don't want to take those extra steps. Many masqueraders wear the band-provided clothing or regular swim attire. More on Monday Wear later.
Tuesday is what is often referred to as 'pretty mas'. This is the day you actually wear the costume you purchased. We often debate the length of the parade routes in my carnival groups, but I believe most will agree that it is around 8-10 miles with roughly a ninety minute lunch break in between. Expect to be out from sun up to sun down. Expect to pay roughly $650-700 for a Backline Costume for women, and basic costume for men. Costumes often come in 'lines' with Backline being the most basic, often consisting of a designed bra, panty, tiara and sometimes minor arm and leg pieces. These costumes usually contain minimal feathers (if any, in some cases). Most bands allow you to purchase upgraded pieces at a la carte pricing. There are also midline, frontline, ultra frontline and section leader costumes available for purchase. Each line is more elaborate and larger than the previous. Most band require a deposit of around $200-250. If you are Frontline or better you will likely be required to pay 50% upfront. Band Launch season begins in June/July. Keep an eye on the bands Instagram and Facebook pages for pictures and notifications.
There is a band for every style masquerader. Some of the popular bands are listed below. Some bands are what I like to call and point and click. These are bands where, what you see is what you get. Meaning, you can log on to their website when registration opens, choose your costume, pick your sizing, checkout and pay in one swoop. Then there are bands that require you know a committee member, which can be a daunting task for a newbie. Check out the Facebook & Instagram pages for more information on each band.
Tribe- is the biggest band currently for Trinidad Carnival. It is also the most highly sought after, and one of the hardest, if not the hardest to get in. If you have a connection, start linking them from late Spring to secure your spot! They are huge in size and are a force to be reckoned with when you pass them on the road. Tribe may ask you to choose your top 3 costume choices, which is frustrating as you aren't guaranteed your top choice. However, this is not an issue for most who play in Tribe, as they are playing for the experience rather than the costume. Tribe has additional bands that fall under the TRIBE brand but are separate entities: Bliss, The Lost Tribe, and Rogue. In addition, it seems that Passion has joined the Tribe conglomerate for 2019. More to come!
Rogue- This band launched in 2018 and is a combination of power movers Tribe & Caesars Army. Rogue promises to offer alternatives to the typical mas schedule with late starts on Monday & Tuesday. They don't make the traditional long lunch stop and participate in the popular Last Lap, free for Rogue masqueraders and Monday Night Mas. I would love to hear some reviews on how well the alternative concept went. If you played with Rogue leave a comment. Their costume launch this year was creative and promising as it was done during a street party with mas trucks in Trinidad. If you know anything about Caesars Amy you know you will need to know someone who knows someone to get in this band in the future I presume. But, as the band is still new if you are interested, follow them on all their social networks and get familiar so that you can request information and have better access to registration! Masqueraders in 2018 did not have to know a committee member, but I don't anticipate that to always be the case going forward.
Bliss- is the sister to Tribe and is marketed to offer slightly better amenities than Tribe. This band, from what I hear is full of couples, and is a bit more reserved than Tribe. Their costumes are beautiful each year. Like Tribe, you will need a committee member to register in Bliss.
The Lost Tribe- This band was born out of a need for diversity among pretty mas costume offerings. While beads and gems will always be gorgeous, The Lost Tribe hopes to bring back the costuming in mas in their presentations. I played with The Lost Tribe in 2018 and would play with them again in a heartbeat. They are on the smaller side with only 2 music trucks. However, each year I enjoy their presentations and look forward to seeing them grow. You do not need a committee member to register in Lost Tribe, however it would expedite your registration to get familiar with one. Lost Tribe's communication is very responsive. If you are interested, get on their mailing list.
Fantasy- another band that requires committee leads Their costumes are often beautiful but I've heard some complaints that they are more geared towards the Indian market.
Harts- This band is often full of Caucasian revelers. Their costumes are pretty but standard. When I've passed them on the road they seem to be a bit small but having a good time. Their road experience is now managed by Tribe.
Ronnie and Caro- This band often wins band of the year. Their costumes normally follow their theme closely. R&C still put a lot of thought and creativity in their presentations even though it is still considered pretty mas which is nice. I would be open to trying them one year. Some say they have a slightly older demographic.
Paparazzi- is a great band, especially for first timers or no fuss mas players. Their costume presentations have been great and they are only getting better. Their registration process is seamless. No committee members are needed and the mas camp is very responsive to emails for any questions regarding registration and overall process.
Yuma- In my experience Yuma has had a bit of a hybrid process for registration, being part committee/part open registration. In 2018 they moved their registration online and put far less emphasis on committee. While I enjoyed their presentation it wasn't as strong as 2016 and it seems their registration suffered. They are still a very popular band and I would play with them in the future. Yuma may ask you to choose your top 3 choices, which is frustrating as you aren't guaranteed your top choice.
Mardi Gras- is a low cost alternative to the big bands. They offer a bra and panty costume that is minimally designed at a significantly lower cost than the big bands. I hear nothing but great things about them on the road. If you're interested check out their social pages and see if it is a fit for you.
These are just a FEW of the bands that grace the streets of Port of Spain on Carnival Monday & Tuesday.