Our beautiful, friendly neighbors introduced themselves
before we even parked our car.
"I’m the Fairy Godmother
of the East
and this is Kanga the Perfect Princess."
When the Vibes starts like this, you know your in for a treat!
We quickly set up our campsite and tested out the brand new camping
grill with some burgers and dogs. Soon thereafter, our intreprid
Vibe Tribe was greeted by psychedelic nomads selling hand crafted
glass, jewelry, and other fashionable accessories. The cool breeze
of the Long Island Sound pressed lightly against our faces. The
water was less than a hundred paces from our campsite, our new
weekend home. The music was soon upon us, so we relaxed and gathered
our strength for the marathon of soundscapes still ahead.
The scene was set in a triumphiant return to the coastline of
Bridgeport, Conneticut on the sprawling grounds of Seaside Park.
It has been seven years since the Vibes has layed claim to this
beachfront retreat, as renovations to the park had temporally
moved the festival to both Red Hook, New York's Greig Farm and
Mariaville, NY's Indian Lookout Country Club.
my third year attending the Vibes, and Seaside was by far
the best setting for the event. This year, the campgrounds
and stages were spread along the coastline of Bridgeport,
creating a temporary ocean-view community. Two feature stages
were set side by side in the center of the park. The festival
also showcased a beach stage located a short way down the
coast, as well as a small tented stage in the back of the
main concert field. With about 15,000 hippie-hearted concert-goers
sprawled over baseball diamonds, beaches, boardwalk, and
tree lined fields, this festival lived up to its namesake
more so than ever before.
|The Gathering of the Vibes was born
out of a love for Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. In 1996,
following Garcia's passing, Deadhead Heaven: A Gathering of
The Tribe was staged at SUNY Purchase. This precurosor to
the current Vibes set the stage for what has become the Northeast's
preeminent festival promotion for Jam, Jazz, Folk, Progressive
and Experemental music. This year, both guitarist Bob Weir
and percussionist Mickey Hart performed memorable sets with
their bands. Bob Weir and Ratdog always feel like an incarnation
of the original Grateful Dead. Weir’s voice really brings
a special feeling of nostalgia to the whole performance. The
Mickey Hart Band was more of a departure from the original
Dead; a super-group jam with Jen Durkin (Deep Banana Blackout
/ The Bomb Squad), Steve Kimock (Zero), and others. Both groups
appealed to different tastes in the same crowd and reinforced
the connection to the original Gathering.
|Aside from the Dead connection, this
year’s Gathering of the Vibes went above and beyond
expectations with an awe inspiring all-star lineup of artists.
Les Claypool (Primus, Oysterhead) stood out from the other
artists performing this year with a quirky but confident demeanor
on stage. Les digs into his dark and funky slap bass lines
like no other. He began his show with a number of solo songs
that isolated his personality and off-beat stage energy. He
then began to slowly roam the stage as he was joined by Ratdog
musicians Jay Lane on drums, and Jeff Chimenti on keyboards
and organ. Saxophonist Kenny Brooks was soon expelling air
into his woodwind instrument to bring a jazzy melody to the
sonic forefront. Finally the show was capped off with a guest
performance by Bob Weir.
The band covered the Beatles’ “Within You Without
You.” Les Claypool introduced him as “Mr. Edward Van
Halen,” a sarcastic remark considering Bob Weir plays rhythm
guitar and never really takes a solo. There were plenty of guitar
solos to go around (the Legendary Buddy Guy, Josh Clark of Tea
Leaf Green, and my favorite, Tim Palmieri of the Breakfast). This
festival is more about the folksy, collaborative vibe of the Grateful
Dead, and not a million ripping guitar solos. Les and friends
filled a huge niche at this year’s festival by crossing
genres in an edgy and eclectic way.
The Solar Beach stage,
about a fifteen minute walk west of the concert fields,
brought the audience right onto the beach, a great edition
to this energetic festival. We actually skipped the Wailers
performance to see the Breakfast debut their new keyboard
player. Spending one year as a power trio, The Breakfast
has grown back into a quartet. Guitarist Tim Palmieri
will never disappoint, and this band is likely the most
underrated underground band touring the country at the
moment. Despite some technical problems from a PA speaker,
the band played to peak performance and drew a real crowd
while the Wailers kept the concert field alive.
A few other special
performances included Deep Banana Blackout (James Brown
Tribute Set), Assembly of Dust, Dickey Betts and Great
Southern, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Keller Williams
and Buddy Guy. Deep Banana gave us the funk and the soul
of the Godfather, as James Brown received his post-mortem
vibes tribute in 2007.
|AOD’s Reid Genauer
is always pouring his soul into each note he sings.
Dickey Betts played his classic, “In Memory of
Elizabeth Reed,” a song that never gets old. The
sousaphone of the Dirty Dozen is amusing in any situation.
Keller Williams and Buddy Guy are both legends in my
opinion; guitar heroes that we are all lucky to have
in our lives.
|The organizers of
the festival went the extra mile in adding themed artwork
to the stages, concert field, and surrounding areas.
In the daytime, colorful artwork would catch my eye
in every corner, and when twilight began to set, the
very same installations would splatter vibrant psychedelic
hues on my pupils. The stages were adorned with original
paintings, and dangling UFOs that would sway with the
sea breeze as the musicians poured their hearts into
the extraterestrial music.
|Hopefully the Gathering
of the Vibes can continue like this in years to come. A beachfront
setting is unique in the age of summer festivals, and The
Vibes attract a particular of group friendly and environmentally
conscious concert-goers. The concert field and campgrounds
were immaculately maintained by both staff and audience member
alike, leaving a nearly litter-free site at the end if the
weekend. This is a rare treat in today's "someone elses'
problem" culture that follows much of the festival circuit.
All can enjoy the overwhelmingly positive, family friendly
environment, as campers are personable and carefree. You can
talk to anyone in the crowd, and there’s always a feeling
of magic. The countdown has already started for my fourth
trip to the Gathering of the Vibes in 2008, and I can hardly