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COVID-19 Trapped Big Mike in Paradise; He’s Still There 

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click to enlarge The Dune Preserve in Rendezvous Bay is the home of Bankie Banx’s Moonsplash, the lon- gest-running reggae festival in the Caribbean. “Think City Museum meets Venice Cafe meets Blues City Deli meets Beale on Broadway,” says Aguirre, “in a tiny, beautiful, Covid-free island.” - MIKE AGUIRRE
  • MIKE AGUIRRE
  • The Dune Preserve in Rendezvous Bay is the home of Bankie Banx’s Moonsplash, the lon- gest-running reggae festival in the Caribbean. “Think City Museum meets Venice Cafe meets Blues City Deli meets Beale on Broadway,” says Aguirre, “in a tiny, beautiful, Covid-free island.”

When Moonsplash wrapped up, most of the musicians who'd flown in beat a hasty retreat as COVID-19 travel restrictions loomed. But Aguirre, knowing he had a friend in Banx, figured he might as well stick around.

Banx, naturally, is a musician as well — a performer known to some as the "Anguillan Bob Dylan." Born Clement Ashley Banks, Banx has been playing music since 1963, when he built his first guitar at the age of ten. He's regarded as a pioneer of reggae music in the east Caribbean, and his career included years of touring through Europe and the East Coast in the '80s. Since 1991, he's hosted the Moonsplash Festival each year and has brought artists including Toots & the Maytals, Black Uhuru, Jimmy Buffett, the Wailers, Inner Circle and countless more to the Dune Preserve stage.

When the island went into lockdown, Aguirre and Banx joined forces, with the former providing musical accompaniment — as well as a little technical know-how — for the latter.

"Bankie's an old dinosaur; he doesn't know what Facebook Live is, streaming, and none of us has faced a situation where all the gigs go away and the whole industry goes away," Aguirre explains. "So I teamed up with him to show him how to do livestreams down at the Dune Preserve. You know, pick up a guitar, do Facebook Live, play a song and then post it up there, and then people — someone says, here's five dollars, here's ten, here's twenty, here's this or that. So it was an opportunity to pivot to an online stream using a cellphone — because that's all I packed for in a week — and the Dune Preserve is a venue that was locked down, but we could just stream and tell all these stories about Bankie, who's basically an ambassador of this island and an amazing artist in his own right who built the place."

Ras Bullet, pictured, and Banx “are my Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf,” says Aguirre. Bullet is a musician and boatbuilder and has has built and rebuilt the Dune Preserve many times over through the years and hurricanes. - MIKE AGUIRRE
  • MIKE AGUIRRE
  • Ras Bullet, pictured, and Banx “are my Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf,” says Aguirre. Bullet is a musician and boatbuilder and has has built and rebuilt the Dune Preserve many times over through the years and hurricanes.

The endeavor has proven surprisingly successful, Aguirre says, with the pair regularly streaming performances on facebook.com/DunepreserveAI while encouraging tips.

"The amazing thing is St. Louis was so supportive through Venmo and PayPal and stuff. It really revolutionized everything," he says. "People might spend $100 to go see the band play one night, and $80 of that is on food and maybe $20 is for the ticket, for five or seven people to split. But then you stream and someone's like, 'Hey this is a crazy situation; here's $500 on Venmo.' And it could be $5 — it's been diminishing returns after eight months. But St. Louis has been so supportive. And not only that, the people that I've met here, from streaming with Bankie.

"It's just a direct medium from the artist to — really, this is mostly friends and family, because I'm not a big shot — but just people that I'm able to be in touch with, thanks to a cellphone and Wi-Fi."

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