July 18, 2003 – On June 23, a large white van rolled into a small village in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. The reggae group Inner Visions, all the way from Love City, St. John, had come to town.
Reggae fans of Great Barrington, Mass., and nearby communities and those curious to know more about the genre would soon experience the "positive-message music" that Inner Visions is known for in the Virgin Islands — and, increasingly, on the U.S. mainland.
For Terry Meigs, a special education professional from Greenfield, Mass., the band's appearance at Great Barrington's Club Helsinki was her first exposure to the group. "It was an evening full of fun, dancing and high vibrations," she said afterward. "I enjoyed every minute of it."
Meigs, whose only personal connection with the Virgin Islands is a trip she once made to St. Thomas for a job interview, added: "The lyrics really matched the music in the spirit of roots reggae."
The six-member band is in the midst of an extensive stateside tour promoting the release of its new CD, "Street Corner Musicians." The 13 tracks include "My Father's Prayer," "Just a Matter of Time," "Black Sheep," "Ain't It the Truth," "No More Tears to Cry" and "Kindred Journey." Most of the songs were written by band leader Phillip "Grasshopper" Pickering or percussionist "Ras Paul" Samms.
Grasshopper, the heartbeat of the group, does lead vocals and plays lead and rhythm guitar. Samms also does lead vocals along with percussion. Alvin "Jupiter" Pickering, Grasshopper's brother, handles background vocals and plays bass, and Leroy "Spikie" Guiste is on keyboards. The Pickerings grew up on St. John; Guiste is from Dominica and Samms is from Jamaica.
The most recent additions to the band are Grasshopper's two sons Akiba, age 21, and Aswad, 18. In just nine months, these young men have mastered their instruments — keyboards and drums, respectively.
Inner Visions is a group recognized for its great discipline as well as its talent. After many years of performing throughout the Virgin Islands for loyal fans, the band is meeting with impressive success on the mainland. From the moment the musicians take the stage at venues thousands of miles away from Caribbean, audiences are listening and dancing as the message of "Love One Another" — the title of their first CD — finds a welcome audience.
Since May, they have been criss-crossing the continent to play reggae festivals and other bookings, including the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and the Island Fest in Kalamazoo, Michigan, both invitations to return after appearances last year. This week, they're in the Rocky Mountains, performing in Crested Butte and Boulder, Colorado.
Paul Toth, entertainment director of the Kalamazoo event, had this to say about Inner Vision's first Island Fest appearance, in 2002: "The band took the stage precisely when scheduled and delivered one of the finest sets I have ever witnessed. I have always been a fan of vocal harmonies, and Inner Visions delivered three- and four-part harmonies that sounded like Jah's angels."
A highlight of the current tour will be the group's appearance Sunday on the mainstage at the California Worldfest in Grass Valley, Calif. — again an invitation back after a well-received performance last year.
Then they'll head back to the Rockies, for gigs at the end of this month in Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Durango, Colorado — winter ski meccas that attract nature lovers in the summer months.
The band will continue touring into the fall, returning to New England and points south on the East Coast. Fans can keep up with their itinerary by checking out the Inner Visions Reggae Web site.
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