Kudos to all involved for marking Upstate Reggae's 25th birthday with a live record to capture the vibe. The headliners, from St. John in the US Virgin Islands, might remind one of Steel Pulse or even Culture with their uptempo approach to the music, a positive message and an infectious stash of melody. Thus their earned nickname of the Virgin Island's best-kept secret.
The comparison to Culture is apt, since the latter plays Bearsville August 16. "They [Culture] are not playing New York City at all this time around, so I was glad and blessed to get one of their two days in New York State," explains an excited Leah Boss, the mastermind behind Upstate Reggae. She is also pleased that the very first live reggae record to be recorded in town is under the Inner Visions moniker. "Don't forget: They were the ones who played that free show on the Village Green, a block away from the Colony," added Boss, the Valley's premier producer of reggae and the owner of Spirit of Woodstock.
The band - which includes guitarist/lead vocalist Phillip "Grasshopper" Pickering, percussionist/lead vocalist Paul "Ras Paul" Samms, bassist/drum programmer/vocalist Alvin "Jupiter" Pickering, keyboardist Akiba "Mr. Snooze" Pickering and drummer Aswad "Hollywood" Pickering - released its debut album, Love One Another, in 1995 to positive reviews and attention from Caribbean radio. Four years later, Inner Visions' single "Shalala/Tonight" reached Number One on Caribbean radio, upping the buzz for its 2000 release Spiritual Dancer. The band released its fourth album, Frontline, in 2006, which rails against social injustice on songs such as "MLK" but spreads purely positive vibrations on such tunes as "Everlasting Love."
Speaking of spreading the love, just wait until you hear of Upstate Reggae's plans for next year's 40th anniversary of...ya know, the big gig over in Bethel. For ticket prices and to order, call (845) 679-0008.