Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove topped the Large Conventional bands in the semi-final round of the National Steelband Panorama competition held at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain, on Sunday.
It was just on 9.25 p.m. when Phase II took the stage, led by arranger Len "Boogsie" Sharpe.
This year the band from Hamilton Street, Woodbrook, Port of Spain, has given to Carnival 2013 "More Love", composed and arranged by Sharpe.
For the allotted eight minutes, the audience was treated to an enchanting arrangement of the song, which features vocals by calypsonian Black Stalin.
Despite the noise which continued to float over from the North Greens, the audience listened attentively, absorbing every note while taking in the almost flawless execution of the arrangement and Phase II received thunderous applause for their performance. The band played in position 11.
Earlier in the evening, playing in the fifth position, Caribbean Airline Ltd Invaders brought both stands, North and Grand, to life with their rendition of Arddin Herbert's arrangement of "Dat is Lie".
WITCO Desperadoes were also impressive and their performance of Robbie Greenidge's arrangement of "Hammer Time" allowed the music to talk for itself.
Defending champions Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars followed Petrotrin Phase II on stage and put on a good show with a spirited and energetic performance of Leon "Smooth" Edwards's arrangement of "Bounce and Drive".
Some people commented their performance was good enough for a final night, while others felt the normally dazzling performance was not quite there.
Ray Holman, the arranger who pioneered songs composed by panmen to be played in the competition, and initially met stiff resistance to this idea way back in the 1970s, marked his 50th year in Panorama with his own composition.
This year he is the composer/arranger for the Junior Sammy Group Skiffle of San Fernando. The band played in position 13.
Skiffle sounded well-rehearsed, but still lacked proper execution of Holman's arrangement of "Supna-The Dream".
Republic Bank Exodus of Tunapuna made a dramatic impact on stage dressed in black and gold. Their arranger Pelham Goddard evoked some nostalgia for those in the audience old enough to reminisce about his choice of Maestro's "Gold", which was reworked last year by Machel Montano as part of his "Going for Gold" musical project.
In the 1970s, Goddard co-arranged "Gold" with acclaimed musician Art De Coteau. On Sunday evening, dramatic impact and thrilling arrangement placed them one point behind Phase II. In addition, their uncovered pan racks allow the sound to flow freely.
The audience got a two-pronged shocker from the newly-sponsored White Oak Starlift as they took quite some time to set up on stage. When they finally got going with their tune of choice, "Bounce and Drive", arranger Keith Salcedo lived up to his nickname "So Sick" when, with a flourish, he whipped off his T-shirt and went on to use it to conduct the band.
The display was somewhat amusing and served as a puzzling distraction more than anything else. The band did not make it to the finals.
At 11.30 p.m., New York native, pan jazzman Andy Narell and Birdsong of Tunapuna came on stage to the strains of a jazz-inspired melody called "The Last Word".
The song stirred interest as it was not the usual fast-paced composition. However, Narrell had warned in an Express interview last month that he did not intend to conform to the Panorama style of arrangement, and he kept his word on that.
Narrell used a pace he felt that the song deserved. Many were put off, but in the end the band was well received by the audience.
Ken "Professor" Philmore and NLCB Fonclaire brought the curtain down on the semi-final round with tempo and energy which brightened up the Savannah at about midnight.
Their rendition of Philmore's arrangement of "Addicted" was a fitting close to the Panorama, which saw many who are addicted to pan music remaining at the Savannah venue till the end. The criteria used by the judges for the competition are as follows - arrangement: 40 points, general performance: 40 points, tone: ten points and rhythm: ten points.
Here are the results of the semi-final round where the top ten bands will move on to the final round.
1. Phase II Pan Groove 273
2. Republic Bank Exodus 272
3. Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars 271
4. WITCO Desperadoes 270
5 . PCS Nitrogen Silver Stars & Invaders 265
7. NLCBFonclaire/bp Renegades/
Junior Sammy Skiffle 264
10. RBC Redemption Sound Setters 255
11. Tropical Angel Harps 254
12. White Oak Starlift 253
13. La Brea Nightingales 248
14. Birdsong/Solo Harmonites 245
15. Siparia Deltones 239
16. Humming Birds Pan Groove 219