Gathering of the Vibes :: 8.12 - 8.14 :: Mariaville, NY
Words & Images by: John Smrtic
Just over ten years ago, fellow Deadheads joined in sorrow and solidarity in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park to mark the passing of iconic Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. Back here on the East Coast, a mass gathering permit for Jerry mourners, or better yet, Jerry's life celebrators, was denied for New York City's Central Park. In comes proud owner of Terrapin Tapes, Ken Hays, who together with Dupree's Diamond News, assembled "Deadhead Heaven: A Gathering of the Tribe" on Memorial Day, 1996, at SUNY-Purchase College. The commemoration of Garcia's life and music continued with a similar event the following year, as the newly dubbed "Gathering of the Vibes" took up residence in Croton Point Park. After a stop in Red Hook, the Gathering of the Vibes has found a semi-permanent home at the Indian Lookout Country Club in quaint and lovely Mariaville, New York – home to the annual Camp Creek fest and also to a large Harley Rendezvous.
After a scaled-back 2004 Gathering, Hayes, now out of the tape/CD trading industry and focusing solely on productions, along with the rest of the Terrapin family, planned and pulled off a spectacular 2005 Gathering of the Vibes, or "GOTV" for short. With the likes of Bob Weir and Ratdog, A Jerry tribute with Dark Star Orchestra and many very special guests including, Keller Williams, Medeski Martin & Wood, John Scofield, Ominous Seapods, and a Deep Banana Blackout reunion, the Gathering ended up being a MAJOR East Coast festival draw. With estimates of nearly 10,000 attendees this year over the three day span, it seems that Hayes and crew have re-injected a breath of life back into one of the country's premiere festivals.
FRIDAY :: 08.12.05 :: DAY ONE
The Lookout, now in its familiar fourth year as GOTV host, serves as a wonderful backdrop for such festivities with its open fields, rolling hills, rural-country locale and feel, and even a nearby lake. To mixed blessings, the rough and tough Harley dudes provide security for the event, the venue being their home turf. On one hand, it's much better to have the biker boys rather than the cops searching your personal belongings and patrolling the grounds. On the other hand, many of these grizzly and hardened bikers don't understand the concept of peaceful, fun-loving gatherings... and the idea of personal, private property for that matter either. Add in three consecutive days of 90-plus degrees, mad humidity, and some damn fine vending, food, beer, and people, and BANG - the stage is set for the 2005 Gathering.
Wavy Gravy :: GOTV 2005
Of course, the Gathering wouldn't be vibin' without perennial master of ceremonies, Wavy Gravy. Wavy is one of the increasingly rare relics/survivors of The Great Acid Wave, and his tales in-between sets certainly proved that.
The Zen Tricksters got the opening Friday off to a nice start, beginning the event in true Dead fashion. After opening with Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," the Tricksters moved into Jerry mode busting out "Reuben & Cherise" and "Beat it on Down the Line" followed by "I'll Take a Melody" with Donna Jean Godchaux MacKay. By the time Assembly of Dust took the stage in the early evening, most campers were settled and situated, yet the grounds were spacious enough so that there was no elbowing for a great spot to let the tunes take over. Reid Genauer really has AoD firing on all cylinders, and the set was thoroughly enjoyable. This band definitely has more of an edge than Strangefolk, the front man's former band, though perhaps less poppy and groovier, with a touch of 70's rock and soul. Genauer's soothing, golden voice and amazing storytelling ability were on display for "Samuel Aging." Nate Wilson, who doubles as Percy Hill's keyboard man, laid down a memorable solo during "Aging" and took a beautiful lead on piano for "Stouthearted." Guitarist Adam Terrell sparkled with great solos on "Honey Creepers" and laid down the law on closer "Amplified Messiah."
Assembly of Dust :: GOTV 2005
The Jam Stage was only a few minutes walk from the main stage at the rear of the concert field and hosted numerous explosive performances throughout the weekend. Leo Nocentelli, blazing guitarist from the Original Meters, laid down a soulful, kick ass set as dusk now fully gave way to the thick, dark, cloudy night sky. Observing Nocentelli was a real treat, his mouth and nose contorting, legs spread wide like a tripod base, back bent, as the large, imposing figure laid out a rock-tinged funk sound. Nocentelli will get to display his chops again soon as the Original Meters are back for a reunion and tour, most notably with Art Neville, Zigaboo Modeliste, George Porter, Jr., and Nocentelli hitting the inaugural Vegoose festival in Las Vegas.
Leo Nocentelli :: GOTV 2005
The main event Friday, however, would be Jerry's comrade and fellow Dead guitarist Bob Weir with his band Ratdog. Now say what you will about Bobby, but the last few years have brought tight, thoroughly enjoyable Ratdog shows. So spirits (amongst other things) were high when the boys from the Bay took the stage around ten pm. After a brief intro tuning jam, Ratdog dropped into a raucous "Bertha," jump starting the frenetic, gleeful crowd. Space within good viewing distance was now more of a precious commodity than before, but the vibe remained chill and the energy aloft as Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay graced the stage to add her characteristic vocals to both "Bertha" and a stirring "Cassidy," which followed. Kenny Brooks, who is responsible for much of Ratdog's unique identity, was super strong on saxophone for these numbers but stood out especially on a jazzy "Dark Star." A slowed, funkified "West LA Fadeaway" was another stellar offering in the early going as well.
Bob Weir with Ratdog :: GOTV 2005
Midway through the long, single Ratdog set, both the band and Mother Nature would tweak the intensity knobs to full tilt. A slow, steady drizzle turned into an all-out downpour as "October Queen" evolved into a serious, skull-thumping rock and roll jam, finally delivering "Truckin'." By this point of the steamy Friday night, the lightning was more impressive than a fireworks display; the crowd would roar louder than the thunder when a not so lazy lightning bolt would zig zag across the evening's blackness. Appropriately, and to more audience appreciation, "The Wheel" would be next, featuring Donna Jean for the fitting chorus, "If the thunder don't get ya then the lightning will."
The segue would continue for the rest of the show as "Help on the Way" became "Slipknot!" Weir delivered the goods on the ensuing "Dear Prudence," and the show would come full circle, rain now stopped, as Ratdog went back in for second helpings and finished both "Dark Star" and "Cassidy" from early on in the show. And not to disappoint those familiar with the "holy" trilogy, "Franklin's Tower" helped slip the fans into a perfect state of mind as Night One of the Vibes came to an end.
John Brown's Body :: GOTV 2005
Well, the night wasn't quite over yet for those with any gas left in the tank. Well after 1 am, Ithaca's dub reggae superstars John Brown's Body would deliver an ultra-danceable, highly-spirited set into the wee hours of the morning. For my money, JBB offers the most original roots sound this side of the Caribbean, displaying their versatility by switching to deep dub at the drop of a hat. Spreading the message of Jah and love, the veteran band may just be Tompkin County's funkiest export.