Sunday once again brought the threat of a storm that was expected to bring hail and lightning, but the rhythm of John Brown's Body kept the sun shining throughout the afternoon. Following the positive reggae vibe of John Brown's Body, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals played into Buddy Guy, followed by the fest's highlight, at least on paper, Crosby Stills & Nash. And while CSN was one helluva treat, the threat of a storm had plenty of folks packed up and gone before Potter graced the stage.
|Grace Potter :: GOTV 2009 by Vann|
Grace Potter is one of the most promising up-and-coming female vocalists around, and you can tell by her stage presence that she's well aware. Her beauty complements her talent, and her confident-not-cocky mentality always goes over well. Somber ballads like "Great White Gate" and "Apologies" gave the crowd something to sway with, and tunes like "Stop The Bus" and "Ah Mary" gave her fans something to rock out to. After telling the audience about her first Vibes experience as a 15-year-old Vermont native, she continued her set, trading off between an electric organ and a Flying V electric guitar, as she belted her way through covers of "Come On In My Kitchen," a Robert Johnson nugget she picked up on the road with Gov't Mule, and Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit." The set concluded with a powerhouse "Nothing But The Water" that more than anything was a vehicle for Potter to display the full force of her vocal chords. She literally squealed like a schoolgirl as she hit the high notes before bringing the set to a close on a synchronized, hard hitting note, strummed over and over before a sudden halt.
As could be expected, Buddy Guy fucking nailed it. Plain and simple. The man who Jimi Hendrix considered one of his major influences has continued doing his thing well into his golden years, and he does it better than a lot of the younger cats who strapped on a guitar over the course of the weekend. Guy has a "I've got your nose" goofiness to his stage presence and the sea of sun tanned faces consistently brought a smile to the legend throughout his 90-minute set. Tunes like "Hoochie Coochie Man" demonstrated his ability to shred the guitar, making spastic runs up and down the neck in a way that clearly showed where the anarchy in Hendrix's playing came from. With the heat as strong as it was, Guy opted to sit the last song out, allowing a pre-teen named Quinn Sullivan to nail Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile," making it seem as though Guy was passing on the torch to a protégé working on the licks of an icon who got so much out of Guy's playing.
|Buddy Guy :: GOTV 2009 by McCullough|
As the clouds grew gray and thick, folks were hoping weather would play nice until Crosby Stills & Nash finished the final set of the weekend. For as much condescending criticism can be written about geriatric rockers from the '60s trying to cash in on dated material, CSN, more than most of their peers, have held onto the magic that made them what they are. The sharp, precise melodies they trademarked were spot-on, and the fest's final performance was by far one of the weekend's best, at least for those left to witness it. Opening with "Love The One Your With" got everyone singing along, and they followed up with songs like "Lady Stardust" and a "Déjà Vu" that featured some fresh instrumental rearranging. Add to that "Helplessly Hoping" and they made their mark on the audience before they had really gotten started. Choice covers of The Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and Bob Dylan's "Girl From North Country" demonstrated the effort that went into putting the setlist together, and segueing from "Moonlit World" into Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" did nothing more than underscore the above sentiment.
Beyond their technical precision, what stood out was the strength of the group dynamic they've kept intact. Stephen Stills, still the Fender-slinging brain of the group, perfectly accompanied the Paul McCartney-esque British charm of Graham Nash, and even David Crosby was looking lively as ever, taking to his acoustic 12-string for "Teach Your Children." They knew when to sing and when to let the audience take over for what proved to be a sing-along set, apparently by design. Although it seemed like "Teach Your Children" was slated to close the set before a hefty encore, the rain that was expected all afternoon finally arrived, and as Stills swung the neck of his guitar towards the ground, strumming out one final chord, lightning in the sky roared above us, almost on cue, as Wavy Gravy took the stage to let everyone know the show was over and to get to their cars asap because a severe electrical storm was coming.
|Crosby Stills & Nash :: GOTV 2009 by Vann|
If you're thinking this review seems overly positive that's because it is. RatDog may have been slow. moe. getting cut off early was a disappointment to many. State Radio dissed the crowd without much of an explanation, and it would have been great to hear Levon Helm's voice had he been feeling better, but with Gathering Of The Vibes the performances themselves are just one component of a weekend that is more than anything about vibes. Keller said it best: "It's a fantastic vibe, hence the name."
And whether it came to the interactions amongst staff and patrons, performers and attendees, locals and visitors or campers and their neighbors, the feel good climate that has characterized Gathering Of The Vibes over the years was fully intact, perhaps more than ever, and it's that Vibe that keeps drawing the same crowd back to the same event year after year.
You're not going to see Phish and Bruce Springsteen make history at the Vibes, and you're unlikely to see any big name reunion take place like Coachella has done so many times in the past. GOTV has found their niche, knows their audience and masterfully executed a weekend of great music, solid campground logistics and a communal atmosphere that fostered various bonds and connections that attendees will dwell on long after their ears stop ringing.
Continue reading for more pics of GOTV 2009...