Love City Pan Dragons resumed a regular performance schedule on Saturday, February 3, with a lively showing in the Frank Powell Sr. Park. The youth steel orchestra played intermittently throughout the afternoon, welcoming guests on the ferry and bringing joy to residents who passed by. Songs performed included calypso favorites Full Extreme, High Mas, and the popular Despacito.
Visitors and residents alike were delighted by the music. Some stopped to dance, while others asked for photos with the pan players.
The appearance may have marked a return to a regular performance schedule since Hurricane Irma made a direct hit on St. John on September 6, but the band has been busy behind the scenes since just three days after Maria struck when a handful of band members returned to the pan yard.
“He was ready to play,” says the Pan Dragons program director Elaine Penn, indicating the band’s arranger and instructor, Ikema Dyer. “All he wanted to know after the storm was, ‘Are the pans still there? Is the pan yard still there?’”
Not wanting to lose the momentum they’d gained since the band resumed regular practices for the season in late August, Dyer called the band members who were still on island to the pan yard on the Friday after Maria, where the somber youths unpacked the instruments they’d tucked away safely in preparation for Irma. The band members traded hurricane stories with one another; most of their homes had suffered damage, while some were rendered unlivable.
“We felt like getting back to practicing would be good for everybody’s head,” Penn says of the effort to resume practices quickly after the storms. “This is the one thing we could offer anybody that was sort of normal. It helped all of us to get back to practice.”
Slowly, the band resumed its normal practice schedule, hindered at first by curfew and the limited ferry schedule, as Dyer travels from St. Thomas to instruct the band. Without electricity, there were no lights or fans in the pan yard. The heat was made worse by a roof from a neighboring building that had blown up against the pan yard during Irma; the roof blocked an entire wall’s worth of windows and any hope of a cross breeze.
“It was hot,” says Penn. “It was a couple of weeks before we could open the windows.”
Though eight band members left island after the storm, the Pan Dragons gained a few new players and they went on to make their first post-Irma showing at the Rotary Club of St. John and St. John Community Foundation’s Thanksgiving dinner in Frank Powell Park. They performed again during the annual Christmas tree lighting event, also in the park.
The band is scheduled to play at the St. John Arts Festival on Saturday, February 17, at 12:30 p.m. in the Frank Powell Sr. Park, and they plan to resume monthly performances in the park to welcome visitors arriving by ferry. Find the Love City Pan Dragons on Facebook to stay up on their performance schedule.
The Love City Pan Dragons is a registered non-profit that provides myriad benefits to island youth, including a positive structured environment, a safe place to go after school, and lessons on how to work together as a team. The band ranges in age from 7 to 70. They rely heavily on donations and are currently in need of air conditioners for the pan yard and extensive repairs on their parade trolley, which suffered significant damage during the storm. Those wishing to help can contact the Love City Pan Dragons through their Facebook page.