Come ready to dance

There may not be a huge reggae scene in western Massachusetts, but the scene that does exist is a healthy one that is marked in part by the longevity of some of its bands. Musical groups like Loose Caboose and The Equalites have been around for over 25 years, which, when we consider the shelf life of most bands, is an absolute eternity. Others, like The Alchemystics, have been in existence for almost 10 years.

You can hear these bands and much more when the Charlemont Reggae Festival takes place on Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Charlemont Fairgrounds in Charlemont. The festival, which is an institution in itself having been established in 1985, is an all-day, all-ages event that will begin at noon with music continuing into the evening. Gates will open at 11 a.m.

In addition to the aforementioned bands, the festival will also feature DJ Sir Walford Sibbles, Rhythm Inc., Addis Revolution, Kebero Movement, Rebelle, Satellite Rockers, Soul Rebel Project, Ardie Cuban Wallace, RevolutioNayabingi Ensemble and the Berklee Bob Marley Ensemble, and many more.

David Boatwright, who is the leader of the popular Pioneer Valley reggae band The Equalites, said that his band has been performing at the festival for so many years now that he has lost count. Boatwright also remembered performing at the very first reggae festival back when he was a member of Loose Caboose, a band that also included (and still does) festival organizer Ras John Bullock.

Boatwright, who lives in Orange, grew up obsessed with rock music and later started listening to reggae and trying to play Bob Marley tunes on his guitar Even before Clapton did I Shot the Sheriff, he said with a laugh. He joined Loose Caboose in 1975 and stayed with the band until 1986. He joined up with The Equalites in 1988, a year after the band formed.

Some of The Equalites were UMass students who had migrated into the community around here, Boatwright recalled. They were about 10 years younger than me, but they had a strong interest in reggae, jamming and the Grateful Dead, so they brought me on board to sing and play guitar.

With Boatright at the helm, the band has turned into a musical force that not only plays reggae but also delves into ska, dub and soul. The Equalites perform original music as well as covers and features Boatwrights soulful voice and sizzling guitar work. That, combined with the bands harmonies, strong use of percussion and a rhythm section that provides a heavy groove, has made the band one of the areas most popular live acts.

There have been a lot of personnel changes over the years, but the flavor of the band always stay the same, Boatwright said. Myself and Boo Pearson, the percussionist, are the mainstays and we played together in Caboose for 10 years, so thats really the thread that goes back to the seventies.

In addition to Boatwright and Pearson, the groups current lineup includes Philippe Simone on drums, Adam Zucker on bass and Edward Reddonett on guitar (an original member who only performs with the band on a part-time basis and will not be at the reggae festival.)

I think we have a great sound; its very basic, said Boatwright of the current lineup. It is just a quartet, but it is similar to a lot of what you hear on stripped-down dub records because I use a lot of effects on the guitar, like echo and delay and stuff like that, and it goes over really well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *