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The Stuart News (www.stuartnews.com)


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Fort Pierce rocks to reggae
Memorial Day event a pleasant surprise for artists, audience alike.
By Derek Simmonsen staff writer

Darci Ricciardi dances to the beat of Judah Williams' djemb drum, center, and the Sankofa Rythym Ensemble at the Indian River Veterans Park Amphitheater during Reggae Fest 2004 on Monday. Several reggae acts headlined the tour, called "For the Love of I,", including Beres Hammond, Maxi Priest and Marcia Griffiths.



FORT PIERCE -- Phyllis Forbes has been a fan of Frankie Paul for a long time, but never had the chance to see him in concert.

That all changed Monday, when Paul and several other well-known reggae artists visited Fort Pierce as part of the national "For the Love of It" tour.

"I love it," said Forbes, 36, of Fort Pierce. "I just wish they'd keep bringing them here. We get skipped too often."

A light breeze blew through the Indian River Veteran's Park Amphitheater as hundreds of people gathered on folding chairs and on the grass for the city's Reggae Fest 2004.

Headlining the show were three of reggae music's top artists -- Beres Hammond and his Harmony House Band, British reggae artist Maxi Priest and Marcia Griffiths. The tour began on May 8 with a sold-out performance at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and continues into the summer.

Local music fans are hoping the show will help snare other big name acts in the future.

"It's a wonderful thing. I just hope that other people appreciate what people are trying to do for this area," said Mike James, a DJ with 104.7 The Flame and a local talent manager. "It's like breaking new ground."

James said he would like Fort Pierce to become a regular tour stop for bands traveling between Orlando and Miami.

Members of several local bands were among those who came ready to feel the beat.

Steve Rose, who plays bass in the band Tropical Soul, said he usually doesn't get to see bands because he's playing shows himself. That's why the Memorial Day event came as a pleasant surprise.

"This is a great event -- there's not enough of this stuff happening here," said Rose, 45. "The vibe is a real good one ... you just wait, you'll feel it."

Standing next to him were three members of Reel Ting, a reggae band based in Stuart.

"We came up from Jupiter," said George Pollis, who manages the group and plays steel drums. "This should be good."

Though the show got a late start, it didn't hurt the relaxed mood as the Stuart-based band Sankofa Rhythm Ensemble kicked off the night with a flurry of drumming led by Judah Williams on the djemb drum.

Emily Watkins, 43, of Fort Pierce, brought a chair and an umbrella to shade herself from the 90 degree heat while watching the show. She is a long-time fan of Hammond, and said she didn't even know the Amphitheater existed before Monday's show.

"I'm shocked. It's not very often you see groups like this here," she said.

Mike Williams, of Fort Pierce, who stood nearby, agreed. He had already seen many of the acts live before and said the lineup was excellent.

"I hope they try to keep it up like this," he said. "This is a real good show."