March 31, 2015

Words and Photos by Ravi Lloyd

Moonsplash began 25 years ago as an intimate session where Bankie Banx and all of his friends would just jam and sell food to raise money for the band. That homegrown kind of vibe still continues with the festival today, even has its grown into an international event considered one of the Eastern Caribbean’s biggest and best annual live music events. Performers in recent years have included the likes of John Mayer, Buju Banton, Jimmy Buffett and Chronixx.

Moonsplash lived up to its tradition of beach-reggae-jam greatnessย this past weekend, as it celebrated a quarter-century of good vibes. On Friday and Saturday night, The Dune Preserve, Bankie’s own beachfront venue, hosted an intimate showing featuring some of the region’s best performers, including Jah Cure, Omari Banks, Freddie McGregor, Third World and, of course, Bankie himself.

Night one, dubbed International Night, was the night to catch for the younger crowd. Rising Anguillan R&B talent Natalie took the stage early with her debut single โ€œPerfectโ€ as well as some feelgood covers, and Mighty Mystic out of Boston jazzed up the scene for the rest of the reggae acts to follow. Omari Banks took the stage for a passionate, hour-long set that included bringing up his father, Bankie Banx, for some renditions of his oldies like โ€œPrince of Darkness.โ€

Friday nightโ€™s headliner, Jah Cure definitely brought the heat. Moonsplash is one of the only festivals that is so intimate. At Moonsplash thereโ€™s no security gate, or even security for that matter, between you and the artist. This was certainly good news for the ladies up front during Jah Cure, as the reggae star reached out to grab their hands as he sang hits like โ€œNever Find.โ€

The second night was filled with that heavy home spirit. Bankie delivered a warm and vibrant, Caribbean folk-infused performance like you might have seen at those first jam sessions on the beach back in the ’80s and ’90s. Third World followed Bankie, and, of course, they had to bring Banx back out for another session on the harmonica. Omari, identified by Third World’s Cat Coore as his โ€œfavorite Anguillian batsman,โ€ (he was the island’s top cricketer before focusing on music) joined the jam, performing his latest single โ€œNo Point to Prove,โ€ backed by Third World.

Freddie McGregor then finished the weekend strong with the classics โ€œI Was Born a Winner,โ€ย  โ€œPush Come to Shove,โ€ and, of course, โ€œBig Ship.โ€ Given the festival’s oceanfront setting, it was a fitting close to the weekend’s festivities.

The venue: Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve, The Valley, Anguilla

Mighty Mystic (at right) with Ishmael Levi, guitarist for Anguillan band British Dependency

Omari Banks waits his turn before taking the stage on Moonsplash Night One.

Jah Cure and crew before the singer’s set on Night One.

A Family Affair: Omari Banks was joined on stage by Anguillan rapper Latif, his cousin and the nephew of Bankie Banx.

A female fan snaps a flick during Omari Banks’ set.

Father and son unite on stage: Omari Banks and Bankie Banx.

Jah Cure awaits his turn to take the stage.

Iyah Cure, making the fiyah bun!

Cure gets up close and personal with his female fans.

Welcome! Back at the Dune Preserve for Day Two of Moonsplash.

Anguilla’s first female bassist, Joyah Gumbs of British Dependency, on set for Moonsplash Day Two.

The crowd at the Dune Preserve, gathered for Bankie Banx’s performance on Night Two.

Down on the Corner! Bankie Banx performs the classics at the venue he literally built himself.

Omari Banks takes the stage for a second time, during his father’s set on Night Two.

Now that we found love, what are we gonna do?!! Legendary guitarist Cat Coore and new vocalist AJ Brown, who replaced the departed Bunny Rugs last year, lead Third World through the fog.

Richie “Bassie” Daley, laying down the rhythm with Third World.

The Captain of the “Big Ship,” Freddie McGregor backstage before making the festival’s culminating performance.

Bankie Banx (center) catches up with Third World’s Cat Coore (at right) and Keith Tasha Sitoli, the original drummer for Bankie’s ’70s-era band Roots and Herbs, after the show.