Words by: Andrew Bruss | Images by: Adam McCullough, Robert Chapman & Dave Vann
Gathering of the Vibes :: 07.23.09 – 07.26.09 :: Seaside Park :: Bridgeport, CT
Bob Weir & RatDog, Buddy Guy, moe. and Crosby, Stills & Nash topped the bill at the 14th annual Gathering of the Vibes, but the lineup of any Vibes is only one side of a story that has to be experienced to be understood. Unlike the great majority of festivals, the Gathering Of The Vibes is more about the attendees than it is about the performers. Vibes is where friends are made, bonds are built and people literally fall in love. Wavy Gravy, the original hippie clown who MC'ed the event, as well as the original Woodstock, was asked what drew him to Gathering of the Vibes. "I found that the Gathering Of The Vibes is the one festival that I feel has the spirit of sharing and caring and helping each other out that was prevalent in the first Woodstock Festival," he responded. "Various festivals have been after me, and somehow the timing was right, and I fell in love [with Gathering of the Vibes].
|GOTV 2009 by Vann|
Throughout the course of the weekend, as an array of artists from genres of all kinds performed sets to an enthusiastic crowd, whenever folks were asked about the highlight of the weekend, it was always about the people, the place and the "vibes."
Bryan Byrne of Cambridge, Massachusetts said his highlight was just "drinking beers, watching people, enjoying bands and just being here." It was his second year coming to the Vibes and he said, "I would have come regardless of who's playing. I don't know a lot of the bands. I just come here for the atmosphere."
Joanna Trossbach of Richmond, Virginia brought her granddaughter to the event and told JamBase, "Everyone should try to make it here because of the beautiful location. Everyone has worked hard to keep it clean. The Port-O-Johns are the cleanest of any festival I've ever attended, and everything is wonderful. Everyone should try and come to Vibes."
|Sunrise at GOTV 2009 by Vann|
Although the event has changed locations several times over its 14 year history, Vibes returned to Bridgeport, Connecticut's Seaside Park for the third year in a row. Many in attendance categorized Bridgeport as "ghetto," and based on the shotgun shells washed up on the park's ocean shore they weren't far off. But even though the park is not known for being safe past dark, for the four days out of the year that Gathering Of The Vibes takes over the Deadhead mentality makes the public park a place that even a Virginia-based grandmother feels comfortable taking her granddaughter to.
Josh Schroder is a Bridgeport local who came to Vibes for the first time this year and he seemed to appreciate the influence GOTV had on his community. "The funniest thing about it all is here we are in the middle of the hood, unbeknownst to everybody, and this is not really where you want to hang out normally, but right now this is the place to fucking be. Bridgeport isn't a place you'd want to raise a family or anything, but then you have this festival and what can you say?"
Although a great deal of the event's DNA revolves around community, you can't forget that it always has been and always will be the music that draws people to the festival. Thursday was highlighted by performances from the Donna Jean Godchaux Band, as well as the ultimate Dead tribute act, Dark Star Orchestra, whose set was unfortunately cut short due to rain. When it rains, it pours, and as torrential downpours opened up on the early arrivals, ocean winds blew into the campgrounds, exacerbating the situation. This would normally put a damper on people's time, but on the first night of the four-day weekend the conditions did nothing but provide campers an opportunity to rally together, seek cover under each other's makeshift shelters and bond with their neighbors.
|DSO :: GOTV 2009 by Chapman|
Fortunately, the rain let up in time for a late night performance on the Green Vibes Stage from The Machine, a Pink Floyd tribute band that was considered by many to be the best set of the day. This was the first year to feature the Green Vibes Stage, and throughout the weekend it hosted late night sets that proved to be among the most memorable of the weekend. Unlike Dark Star, who strives for authenticity, The Machine take subtle creative license with Floyd's material, where songs like "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and "Time" had audible differences from the studio versions. The set's highlight was a version of "Pigs (three different ones)" that let frontman Joe Pascarell truly shine. Nailing the vocal style of Roger Waters and the guitar tone of David Gilmour, Pascarell went nuts on the talkbox guitar solo, making crazed faces that brought to mind Floyd's mad founder, Syd Barrett.
Continue reading for Friday's coverage of GOTV...