GOTV | 07.31 - 08.03 | CT

Do yourself a favor and listen to this Jerry jam while you read. He's playing with Harvey Mandel, Steve Miller and Elvin Bishop.
It starts a bit slow but give it two-minutes. Seriously, go listen, we wouldn't steer you wrong...


Words by: Brian Bavosa & Bill Clifford | Images by: Adam McCullough & Robert Chapman

Gathering of the Vibes :: 07.31 - 08.03 :: Seaside Park :: Bridgeport, CT

Thursday - 07.31.08
By: Brian Bavosa

Phil Lesh :: GOTV '08 by Chapman
There is no denying that our "scene," as we know it today, owes a big debt to The Grateful Dead - the roads they paved, the lessons they taught us and the musical memories that continue to linger in our collective mind. Thirteen years ago, just after the passing of Jerry Garcia, Ken Hayes (at the time head of Terrapin Tapes) and pal Bob Kennedy decided that the legacy of The Grateful Dead just needed to be carried on, and thus the Gathering of the Vibes was born.

"Everybody congregated to the music of The Grateful Dead, the philosophy of The Grateful Dead, the community of The Grateful Dead," said Donna Jean Godchaux-McKay backstage on a plush couch. "And here we have it, a gillion years later and everyone still wants to do the same thing, and that is congregate around good music and a [like-minded] philosophy. It never ceases to amaze me that this prolonged experience that I first experienced back in 1971 is still as vibrant or more – it's right here."

Returning to the ideal setting of Seaside Park in Bridgeport, CT for the fourth time ('99, '00, '07 and '08), this year's festival remained true to its Dead-infused roots by featuring no less than three remaining members - and one defacto clown, Wavy Gravy - of the band that started it all over forty years ago. Boasting the return of Phil Lesh & Friends, Donna Jean & The Tricksters and a band led by Bill Kreutzman, this installment of the Vibes showed that community, family and the ever-present spirit of Jerry Garcia and the GD will continue to flourish long after the music has faded away.

This year's Vibe Tribe also happened to gather on what would have been Garcia's 66th birthday (08/01/08). With a picturesque setting along the Long Island Sound, where patrons can even dip their toes into the water should they please, the sun just seems to shine a little brighter when this event comes to town. And, lucky for us, The Vibes and the town of Bridgeport have sealed the deal to consummate this sacred marriage for the next five years, ensuring that the Vibes will flock to beautiful, southern Connecticut for many more fests to come. There's also a non-profit village that boasts the likes of HeadCount and Rock the Earth, and Radio Vibes, which makes sure those camped along the water never miss a beat of the action. This year's Vibes also offered many activities for kids, morning yoga sessions and everything in between.

Another awesome aspect of the Vibes is the double main stage set-up. With a natural band shell for one and another stage directly next to it, there are no overlapping sets on these "Sun" and "Moon" stages, and allow for a quick turnaround with a merely a lull in the action. It's just another unique aspect of the Vibes that makes it easy to be in one spot, soak in the sunshine - or torrential, sideways rain like on Saturday morning - and be able to hear all of the main acts. So, please gather around as we conjure up the spirits of the Dead - past, present and future.

DONNA JEAN & THE TRICKSTERS

DSO with Donna Jean :: GOTV '08 by Chapman
To hammer home their point like dynamite candles on a birthday cake, organizers started things off with a bang. With birthday cakes, clowns are not far behind, and Master of Ceremonies, Wavy Gravy played his part to perfection. Introducing Donna Jean & The Tricksters (The Zen Tricksters by the way, are one of only two bands to play all 13 Vibes), played some choice numbers off of their latest release together, highlighted by Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia numbers "Crazy Fingers" and "Tore Up Over You," respectively, which Donna Jean often sang in her heyday with each respective band. This performance also marked the first of numerous appearances she would make with varying acts throughout the weekend, earning her one of the most valuable players awards of the vibe-filled weekend.

DARK STAR ORCHESTRA
The following act is not so subtle in what they do and whom they represent. As if this festival was lacking homage to Garcia and company, Dark Star Orchestra played two, monster sets from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. recreating the entire Dead show from 11/06/77 from the Broome Arena in Binghamton, NY; it is hard to not appreciate what this band does - like 'em or not. And who doesn't like The Grateful Dead? The first set saw the band weave their way through such numbers as "Jack Straw" and "Passenger," with Tricksters guitarist Jeff Mattson even "tagging in" for John Kadlecik to play Jerry's part for "Mexicali Blues" > "Me & My Uncle" and "Friend of the Devil." The first set closed with a spirited "Music Never Stopped," a nod to this festival and the tradition it continues to carry on.

Set two also featured Donna Jean on vocals for much of the material, both joining and taking over vocals for Lisa Mackey - who "plays" the role of Godchaux in DSO - for "Samson & Delilah," "Fire on the Mountain," "Not Fade Away" and others still. The first night of music ended with yet another tribute, as all followed up the "Johnny B. Goode" encore with a stirring rendition of Garcia's "Don't Let Go" and capped it off by the spiritually laced "We Bid You Goodnight." With only the first of four nights under our belts, the music of The Grateful Dead had managed to speak volumes already and point the Vibe Tribe in the right direction on what would have been Garcia's 66th birthday.

Thursday - 07.31.08 - Take Two
By: Bill Clifford

GOTV '08 by Chapman
The Vibes invites campers – those staying on the park premises for the duration of the weekend – in a day early on Thursday, but does not open up Thursday's festivities to day pass patrons. Arriving early in the afternoon gave this scribe a chance to set up home base, and then ride around the grounds to get my bearings. The lay of the land at Seaside Park is perfectly suited for a large scale festival - flat terrain with long, winding roads and beach front sidewalks perfect for feet, bikes, skates, blades or boards.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find the Solar Stage, a third, smaller stage powered by renewable energy sources centrally located this year, as opposed the 2007's spot at the furthest end of the peninsula where hardly anyone dared to venture. A further improvement over last year, instead of one main stage and a smaller band shell stage that acted as two main stages, they built two gigantic main stages of equal size, placing them against the setting sun to block the late afternoon rays and offer fans some shade from the heat while in front of the stages.

GROOVESECT
The main stage music began Thursday with Groovesect, one of several unfamiliar acts for me on the lineup. A small crowd had assembled as the band took the stage at 5:30 p.m., with others milling around the vendors located on the back tree line of the concert field. Once the band began to lay down its soulful, instrumental jazz grooves, the crowd did indeed grow. This young New Orleans-based ensemble impressed with their infectious funk, led by the rich layers of sax and trombone laid down by Tim Sullivan. This band is certainly an act to keep an eye and ear upon in the future.

Continue reading for Friday coverage of GOTV...


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