“Gathering of the Vibes is a gathering of the elders, a gathering of the youth, a gathering of family” – Steve Kimock
One constantly encounters various vibes throughout everyday life. Whether commiserating with the receptionist while waiting at the doctor’s office, talking to a prospective new boss in an interview or sitting adjacent to a stranger on the train, one is consistently deciphering different vibes on a conscious or subconscious level. However, there is a location proven to permeate a plethora of benevolent vibes – a festival in Bridgeport, Connecticut called Gathering of the Vibes. Steeped out of the Grateful Dead tradition, people with strong values and good souls gathered to share love and the enjoyment of music at the 18th annual festival located just 1.5 hours northeast of New York City for four days and three nights over July 25-28, 2013.
Vibes commenced in 1996, originally called Deadhead Heaven, as a musical response to fill the void from the passing of Jerry Garcia. In 1997, the moniker was changed to “Gathering of the Vibes.” The music and atmosphere are rooted in the tradition set forth by Garcia and his Grateful Dead brethren. “Shakedown Street” is a term coined to represent the centralized bustling of vending, crafts, merchandise and party scene inherent at any festival or concert atmosphere. It originated from the days of vociferous lot activity prevalent at Grateful Dead shows. Ironic, that the song most played over the course of the weekend, “Shakedown Street” (most notably by Phil Lesh and Friends, Strangefolk and teased by George Porter, Jr.) as GOTV served as one large “Shakedown Street” for the members of the “Vibe Tribe” that called it home for the four-day excursion. In an era where new festivals are feverishly popping up each week, Vibes remains a trailblazer. Held in six different venues over its 18 years, 2013 marks the festival’s ninth trip to Bridgeport. The vast 370-acre Seaside Park, donated by legendary promoter and former Bridgeport mayor P.T. Barnum, provided strips of bouncy beaches, long lawns and panoramic views of Long Island sound.
When asked about the impressive lineup, owner Ken Hays claimed, “It is a result of sorting through thousands of comments and survey responses; we hope to deliver an experience that keeps our core fans happy while remaining diverse and current.”
Thursday, July 25
The festival officially started with talented instrumental shredders, Consider the Source, the winners of the Road to the Vibes contest (fan voted) on the smaller Green Vibes Stage. In addition to their usual fiery fusion of original middle-eastern inspired numbers, they aptly covered Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” and Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android.” Borboletta, an all-star tribute to the genius of Carlos Santana followed. The band boasted Tim Palmeiri on lead guitar and Ryan Montbleau took the helm on vocals for “Hope Your Feeling Better” while Jen Durkin from Deep Banana Blackout took the reins for the classic “Evil Ways.” Nigel Hall Band followed with a soulful set of raucous funk and R&B; Vibes veteran Ryan Montbleau delivered a solo set on the main stage; uber talented and genre-defying virtuoso Jason Crosby offered a steady and professional performance; and Dark Star Orchestra ripped apart the main stage in the prime slot with their patented euphoric Grateful Dead emulation – with Jeff Mattson being honored for performing at all 18 Vibe performances; and Bridgeport’s own Deep Banana Blackout closed out the night with a high-energy blow out with sit-ins from Kung Fu’s Todd Stoops and Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone.
Strangefolk :: 7:00 PM –8:30 PM :: Main Stage
Reid Genauer (vocals/guitar) founded Strangefolk at UVM in 1991 with Jon Trafton (guitar), Erik Glockler (bass) and Luke Smith (drums). After a lengthy hiatus, they reunited the original lineup last year and this performance marked the ninth show since reforming. The band remains a favorite of the Vibe Tribe since they helped head the bill at Deadhead Heaven in 1996. Highlights of the set included a sit-in from Grateful Dead historian David Gans for a tasty rendition of “Shakedown Street” that showcased Genauer’s clean and crystal clear vocals. The band polished off tight versions of their originals, “Roads” and “Alaska”, leaving room for some extended jamming before soaking up the adulation during fan favorite “Reuben’s Place.” Long-time friend and multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby joined the fray for “Speculator” and “Westerly,” adding an extra layer of spice to the fray. Genauer explained why the band sounded so confident, “after playing a bunch of shows together, we are now coming from a position of calmness, we are accustomed to playing together again and can take more chances, can be more expressive and can roll with it.”
Set List: Roads We Take, Sometimes, Elixir, Reuben’s Place > Paperback Book, Songbeard/AGLW > Shakedown Street, Alaska, Speculator, Westerly
Kung Fu :: 1:00 AM – 3:00 AM :: Green Vibes Stage
With the three-headed talented monster of Tim Palmieri (guitar), Todd Stoops (keys) and Rob Somerville (sax), one has the makings of an all-star band, but on this night even more was added to the mix as the Dojo All-Stars were thrown in. Kung Fu regulars Chris DeAngelis (bass) and Adrian Tramontano (drums) performed alongside skilled musicians Nigel Hall (vocals/keys), Nick Biello (sax), Rob Volo (trombone), Cy Madan (keys), Ryan Cavanaugh (Banjo) and 13-year-old prodigy Bobby Paltauf (guitar). The Connecticut-based jam outfit felt right at home in the late night slot and took over the proceedings quickly with their beloved brand of funk and dance-laden grooves. Tim Palmieri still brandishes his axe like an effective weapon and people are beginning to fully comprehend the raw talent that oozes out of his frenetic fingertips. Clad in his traditional Adidas sweatsuit, the affable and gregarious Stoops slayed the ivories like a man on a mission. The highlight of the set was the Nigel Hall led medley of Stevie Wonder numbers to energetically close the first night’s musical offerings from the Green Vibes stage.
Set List: Do the Right Thing, Tsar Bomba, Hollywood Kisses, Samurai, Snaggle, Paragon, S’All Good, Bringing Up the Rear, Do that Stuff, Do I Do, He’s Misstra Know it All, Higher Ground E: Gung Ho
Friday, July 26:
Up and coming jam outfit Jimkata garnered more fans with a powerful mid-day showcase, Assembly of Dust, currently with a free album download available, rocked out the main stage for yet another year with front man Reid Genauer’s four-year-old son adding vocals to the contagious and bouncy chorus to “Second Song,” Railroad Earth exuded banging bluegrass and Tim Carbone’s patented fun fiddle for a dancing diversion, the Revivalists proved why they are now on many folks’ radar as a band to discover and Galactic further proved why they are arguably the funk kings of NOLA and beyond.
Tedeschi Trucks Band :: 6:30pm – 8:15pm :: Main Stage
Any band that possesses one-time child prodigy and number 12 on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Guitarists of All Time, Derek Trucks (guitar), should have the audience chomping at the bit for a good time. TTB delivered the goods at Vibes. The versatile and professional band includes his wife Susan Tedeschi (guitar, vocals), Kofi Burbridge (keys, flute) Eric Krasno (bass) Tyler Greenwell (drums) J.J. Johnson (drums) Mike Mattison (harmony vocals) Mark Rivers (harmony vocals) Maurice Brown (trumpet) Kebbi Williams (sax) and Saunders Sermons (trombone), but it is the endless different sounds, tones and styles of play incorporated by Trucks that is the star attraction. The blues tour de force showed off their skills with “Ball and Chain” and “Bound for Glory” while “Sugaree” was teased for a moment and briefly incited the crowd. The set was trademark TTB, one complete with inspirational numbers in the southern tradition, mixed with more rambunctious bluesy ones. Already a blues legend, Trucks was once described as, “the most awe-inspiring electric slide guitar player performing today.” Nothing on this day would decrease the accuracy of that decree.
Set List: Misunderstood, Do I Look Worried?, It’s So Heavy, Made Up Mind, Sky is Cryin, Love is Something else (Intro), Midnight in Harlem, Part of Me, Wah Wah, Angel>Sugaree, Nobody’s Free, Get What You Deserve, Bound for Glory, The Storm
Phil Lesh and Friends :: 9:00pm – 1:00am :: Main Stage
The headliner of the festival and the direct link to the Grateful Dead lineage was slated to take the stage just after dark as the weekend commenced. Incredibly, the grizzled veteran and living symbol of the Grateful Dead era is 73-years-old. Some folks have grandparents that are 73 and they are not allowed to use the remote control to the TV set, yet Phil has access to the button – to the bomb. Yes, even today Phil can drop bombs like it’s San Bernandino ’77 and he demonstrated it again on a blissful Friday night in Bridgeport. Arguably, this current band incarnation is the best Phil has ever amassed with John Kadlecik (guitar/vocals), John Scofield (guitar), John Medeski (keys) and Joe Russo (drums). Scofield is a jazz legend who used to tour with Miles Davis and the improvisational magic that ensued would leave any aficionado of the Grateful Dead satisfied. Even detractors, who claim that Phil should sing less, citing his often lack of vocal prowess, must have been pleased with his lack of opportunity on this night. The “Scarlet Begonias” was punchy and started the danceathon off proper. However, it was the second set opening segue of “Golden Road”>”Viola Lee Blues,” clocking in at nearly 20 minutes that showcased lengthy exploratory jamming and admirable musicianship. “Friend of the Devil” was a complete sing-a-long as the majority in attendance knew the words to the Robert Hunter-penned classic. A poignant and melancholy “Ripple” left the spent crowd satiated in a pleasant afterglow.
Set List: Scarlet Begonias > Just Like Tom Thumb Blues, Crazy Fingers > Friend of the Devil, Deal, Uncle John’s Band Set II: The Golden Road > Viola Lee Blues, St Stephen > Unbroken Chain, Shakedown Street > Standing on the Moon > Going Down the Road Feeling Bad E: Ripple
Silent Disco on the Beach
Initially, one may not think of Bridgeport as a bastion of beauty, but the beach at Seaside Park provided a surprising slice of heaven. One can listen to amplified music in silence while wearing comfortable headphones while watching hoola-hooping hotties on the beach. There were a plethora of quality acts at the Silent Disco including the talented Suspence from Boston, Imangeles, Mofo, Matt Haze, and Connecticon Sloedwn. One morning a seemingly endless litany of Beatles jams were served up. However, the highlight was a young man named Cosmal. Cosmal (Ryan Coyle) uses only live instruments to fuse together a uniquely layered sound with diverse textures and unexpected outcomes. The Long Island native draws in your senses, provoking one onto the edge, not knowing where the music will take you as it leads one on a riveting voyage through the unknown, a musical journey through a labyrinth of space and time – essentially everything a listener seeks when donning headphones and attempting to escape reality at 3 a.m. on a beach at a silent disco. He is one to catch. His girlfriend, and co-collaborator, Ali Laz, offers a visual aid by providing stimulating live art as the magic simultaneously unfolds.
Saturday, July 27th:
Saturday was a monster day of music. The Funky Meters started the day off right with the bass mastery of George Porter; Von Grey, a quartet of classically-trained teenage sisters from Atlanta tore up the stage with skill; The Roots packed the Main Stage with their hip-hop soul synergy; one of five Vibes acts from Vermont, Twiddle, jammed away to a loyal fan base; Tribal Seeds brought the reggae rhythms; Gov’t Mule, set to release a new record on September 24th, gripped the crowd with a stirring rendition of “After Midnight” in honor of the recently departed J.J. Cale with sit-ins by Scofield, Evans and Porter; and Rob Garza and James Murphy satiated those seeking to get weird with some wacky late night DJ sets laced with lunacy.
Steve Kimock & Bernie Worrell :: 2:30 PM – 3:45 PM :: Green Vibes Stage
Ironic that the man that Jerry Garcia once dubbed as his “favorite unknown guitarist” would steal the show at Vibes. Inexplicably, Kimock may not be listed on Rolling Stone’s List of Top 100 guitarists or well-known outside the jam sphere, but at Vibes, he demonstrated yet again that he is a trailblazing master of his craft. A curious innovator (and guitar collector) who experiments with different sounds, Steve is able to hone in on unique tones while carving a niche of his own. Known mostly for his improvisational work with the band Zero, his recent work as a member of the Mickey Hart band and for being the first man to replace Jerry Garcia with the Dead in 2003, Kimock has miraculously flown under the radar – with performances like the one at Vibes, this may not continue for long. With friends including his talented son John (drums), Andy Hess (bass) Camille Armstrong (vocals), Bill Evans (sax) and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bernie Worrell (keys), this set was consistently mentioned as the strongest of vibes from those in attendance. With a guest-sit in by George Porter, Jr., adding a thicker layer of funky beat to that already provided by Worrell on “You’re the One”, saw all players let loose for a relentlessly tight 12-minute jam clinic. Similar to critics of Darryl Strawberry’s natural ability when he came up, that he must have been dogging it, Porter plays so well and with such seemingly effortless ease that it all just looks so easy that he must not be trying. It was a showcase of three professional veterans and school was in session. Kimock credited his son, John, with pulling all the talent together and you could feel his exultation of pride when he explained why it worked so well, “we have such incredible chemistry on stage.” Kimock will be joining Bob Weir and Ratdog at the Peach Fest later this month and remains a virtuoso that any jam fan or fan of guitar mastery will not want to miss.
Set List: New Africa, Five B4 Funk, 54 46 (was my number), Come Together, You’re the One (w/George Porter Jr on bass), Simple Song,Take Me to the River
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals :: 4:15 PM – 5:45 PM :: Main Stage
Amidst a massive tour, it’s been a very busy year for GP&N. It was apropos that the beautiful front woman had an ideal slot smack dab in the middle of a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. The Vermont band, formed in 2002, consists of Grace Potter (vocals/guitar/keys), boyfriend Matt Burr (drums), Scott Tournet (guitar), Benny Yurco (guitar) and Michael Libramento (Bass). Lured as if by hypnosis into the frenetic energy emanating from Potter, clad in a demure yet sexy long white dress, the entranced crowd heard a mind-bending opener of “Medicine.” The heavy guitar-driven bluesy rock and roll outfit, veterans of a plethora of festival appearances including Hang Out, Bonnaroo and GOTV in 2009, continued with a variety of old favorites and a slew of material from the new album The Lion The Beast The Beat, which dropped in June. For over 1.5 hours, genre-jumping and tempo changes proved a strong asset to the band as it segued from a slew of slower soulful tunes to toe-tapping rocking ones. One should also take note of bassist, Michael Libramento, who plays it upside down and left-handed, but nothing can overshadow the undeniable songwriting skill of Potter, who maintains her stature as a multi-threat, with her prowess behind the mic and the Hammond B3, complete with model-like aesthetics and her commanding stage confidence. Her style is reminiscent of an iconic ‘70s Stevie Nicks, but her voice remains a unique amalgam of the sweet nuance of Edie Brickell and the sexy hoarseness of Kim Carnes. Loyal fans know the calculated change she has made from the hippie styled wide-eyed singer/songwriter from just a few years ago into the polished and classy fashionista she has become. Sex appeal sells records, but unlike some other pop acts, Potter pulls it off because her talent consistently trumps more shallow enticements. In the wake of the news of J.J. Cale’s death in the morning, Potter conjured up a stirring version of “Cocaine” and dedicated, “Stars” to the fallen idol. Not surprisingly, she invited her friend, Warren Haynes, who she dubbed, “The Godfather of Rock and Roll”, to come out and sit-in.
Set List: Medicine, Never Go Back, Goodbye Kiss, Stars, One Short Night, Devil’s Train,Turntable, 2:22, Big White Gate, The Divide, Nothing but the Water (I),Nothing but the Water (II),Your Time Is Gonna Come,Paris (Ooh La La),The Lion The Beast The Beat, Cocaine
Papadosio :: 4:00am-5:30am ::
Having performed a sunrise set at last year’s festival, it was well documented that Papadosio was one of the highlights for attendees of last year’s festival. In the vein of “why change a good thing?”, the schedulers brought back the jamtronica outfit, that has seen a meteoric rise of late, to recreate the same magic in the exact time slot this year and with similar results. The eco-friendly festival veterans and outspoken activists from Asheville, bombarded the senses for 1.5 hours to a resilient and responsive crowd of early morning revelers. Still travelling across the country in support of their studio album release, T.E.T.I.O.S., Papadosio continues to push the envelope with an energetic fury.
Find Your Cloud, Garden>Taking Turns, Magreenery, Puddles for Oceans, New Love, Dream Estate, Snorkle
Sunday, July 28th
Sunday was designated as Family Day with single-day admission price set at nearly half- price when juxtaposed to the other days as well as free admission granted to any child under the age of 15 and Connecticut Residents received a discount as well. Local favorite from neighboring Stamford, John Popper and Blues Traveler, came home to perform a bevy of hits at Vibes for the first time; Max Creek played at numerous GOTV’s, included the very first, and showcased their talent and 40+ years of experience highlighted by a cover of “After Midnight” and their original classic “Just a Rose”; John Butler Trio received the most adulation of the day as they won over a blossoming crowd on a beautiful day with raucous takes on familiar hits like “Treat Your Mama” and “Better Than That.” The Black Crowes closed down the house on Sunday with ripping versions of “Feeling Alright” and “Jumping Jack Flash” in addition to a poignant take on the hit that put them on the map over two decades ago, “She Talks to Angels.”
Bill Evans, the veteran saxophone player who once recorded numerous albums with Miles Davis and performed with such luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Mick Jagger, and Ian Anderson, was the Artist-at-Large for GOTV in 2013. He infused his talented skill with many sets including joining in with Railroad Earth, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Deep Banana Blackout, Steve Kimock Band, Govt Mule, Blues Traveler and the entire second set of Phil and Friends.
The School of Rock (Teen Vibes Stage) are the top 2% most talented students from a nationwide search that audition to be part of the all-stars program. The highlights included Nick Depuy and New Canaan High School covering “You Enjoy Myself” and “Up On Cripple Creek” and The Remnants sharing a blistering “Frankin’s Tower” and “Lovelight.”
Vibes is more than just music. This year it boasted a 90-foot Ferris Wheel, one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. There was a food and clothing drive and Cosmic Karma Productions performed miraculous acts with fire in the pits. Non-profit organizations set up in the “non-profit village,” vending options were varied and various and the weekend’s music was streamed on WPKN 89.5. The incomparable Woodstock veteran, Wavy Gravy, was the Festival MC. Some fans complained about the parking – claiming the later one arrived, the closer to the stage one got to park. A fan died of an accidental drug overdose – the third such fatality since 2009 and upper-class Fairfield residents (located over 10 miles away) blasted their local police station with over 15 phone calls in the middle of the night complaining of noise pollution to no avail. Tickets varied in price from $225 for a weekend camping pass, $475 VIP or $85 Fri/Sat for a day pass. However, with an attendance of nearly 25,000, the overall sense was that the festival was a smashing success.
In an era of abundant festivals with a plethora of attendees using the music as an occasion for an excuse to over-indulge in artificial euphoric means, it’s refreshing to witness a gathering ripe in love of family: family as a genetic unit and family as a cohesive structure of friends serving as a bonding force. If one is gathering vibes, might as well make them upbeat and this memorable Festival serves up a cornucopia of positive familial vibes in spades.
[Published on: 8/1/13]