SATURDAY :: 08.13.05 :: DAY TWO
As amazing as Day Two of Gathering of the Vibes would be, one musician rose to the top of the explosive mixture of talent – Keller Williams. With the early afternoon sun pulsating down, heavy, palpable humidity lingering, and temperatures well over 90 degrees, K Dub remained as cool as a cucumber as he kicked the heat up a notch with his scintillating guitar playing technique and vast, eclectic songbook. Williams's "Tribe" gave a nod to the festival title and got a rise out of the audience as he asked, "Give to me your energy. Can I subscribe to your vibe?"
Keller Williams :: GOTV 2005
Keller put an unusual, yet welcomed spin on many of the songs in his repertoire. Crowd favorite "Kidney in a Cooler," was delivered in a hyperspeed, bluegrass style. Also played blazingly fast was the incredible segue, "Inhale to the Chief" > "Hypnotize" > "Jack-a-roe" > "Hypnotize" > "Inhale." The "Jack-a-roe" took the cake for highlight of the set as Williams added his normal comedic twist and a "Mother fucker" to the lyrics. As fast as the previous tunes were, Keller offered an equally slowed, almost be-bop meets spoken word take on "Celebrate Your Youth." A trademark guitar, bass, drum kit loop was mixed with intermittent hand-drum for a cover of Peter Tosh's "Legalize It." Some of the giant tree people props from BIG Summer Classic danced on the stage toward the end of the set as Williams set a loop and paid tribute to the guest of honor, "I'm here for Jerry. What would my life have been like without him? I don't want to know. He filled me with the goods right down to the marrow of my soul." Although there was no encore, Williams would be back in a major way later in the night for one more salute to the bearded fat man.
Now I must add that one of the coolest concert/festival experiences I've ever had took place sometime late Saturday afternoon backstage at the Vibes. From a small tent next to the hospitality tent emanated a sweet distinct sound. It was "Eyes of the World," but it wasn't from a stereo and it sounded really, really good. So much to my surprise, I strolled in to find none other than Keller and Reid Genauer acoustically pluckin' out the tune, trying to work it out for their appearance later that evening with Dark Star Orchestra. I just kinda sat there dumbfounded, off in the corner with a shit-eating grin. "Hey guys... do you mind if I hang out here for a while?" I asked. A very "rasta-ized" Williams responded, "Ohhh sure man." And for once, I was that fly on the wall.
Genauer & Williams :: Back Stage GOTV 2005
Before DSO though, there was an entire afternoon and early evening of thumpin' good music to be had. Two of the Northeast's old school jamsters would rekindle the spark of the scene's roots. Deep Banana Blackout, complete with monkey-dressed, banana-toting freaks, would welcome lead singer Jen Durkin back into the fray, as is Vibes custom. Durkin, spunky and fiery as ever, and very pregnant too, dropped the "full frontal funk" on the masses and moved the asses to the late afternoon groove. Fuzz and crew would drop spirited versions of "Memphis Train" and "Mama Feelgood," with Jen even picking up and swinging around her mic stand in true Janice fashion.
Deep Banana Monkeys :: GOTV 2005
The sunset engagement would be a highly anticipated reunion of "North-country freaks" and jam-rockers Ominous Seapods. The Seapods vanished into obscurity shortly after the 2000 release of Superman Curse. Well, there was certainly no kryptonite around on this day as the once long-haired and bearded crew, now clean-shaven and with short hair, opened appropriately with "Blackberry Brandy." Honestly impressed about how tight these boys were, they rocked out into the sunset, including closing their set with "Bong Hits and Porn" then "Leaving the Monopole."
What happened next on this middle day of the Vibes would be a brain-melting, four-plus hours of carefully orchestrated Jerry-goodness. With Dark Star Orchestra serving as the primary band, the evening would unfold and be celebrated by the fifteen guests and one other band (Zen Tricksters) that graced the stage. The early moments would prove to be highly entertaining yet respectably mellow. DSO opened with a jam before busting out an ever-appropriate "Attics of My Life." It's probably important to note that beyond all the hoopla, this was even further a non-typical DSO show, as an entire Dead show was not re-created, which was totally fine.
DSO w/ David Nelson :: GOTV 2005
David Nelson would be the first guest and rightly so. Nelson played with Garcia back in 1964, pre-Warlocks, in The Black Mountain Boys. Nelson would later join Jerry in the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band. "Wind and Rain" was a definite standout before Martin Fierro joined in for "Rocky Road Blues." Fierro played sax, flute, and percussion on the Dead's Wake of the Dead album in 1973. He also played with Jerry and Merl in Legion of Mary.
The rip-roaring, kick-in-the-ass highlight (for me anyway) would be Bluegrass Boy himself, Peter Rowan, gracing the stage for a run through some of the material that he played with Jerry and recently departed Vassar Clements in Old & in the Way. Classics such as "Panama Red," "Land of the Navajo," and "Midnight Moonlight" would serve as the sweetest breeze on this gorgeous evening. Rob Barraco, who was on keys for DSO, even picked up a guitar and gave it his all for a tune. But the ultimate moment, early on anyway, came when DSO with Nelson and Rowan played "Lonesome LA Cowboy." A truly archetypal Rowan song, "Cowboy" displayed Rowan's status as one of America's finest songwriters of all time.
DSO w/ Peter Rowan :: GOTV 2005
The fire really got burnin' though when Keller finally returned to the stage as the pace changed drastically. A mammoth "Scarlet Begonias" into "Fire on the Mountain" would get the festival rockin' and rollin' as Williams displayed his characteristic zeal and flash. Reid Genauer would join Williams and DSO for "Bird Song" and then the one I had been waiting for - "Eyes of the World."
The Zen Tricksters then took the stage and played for what otherwise would have been the setbreak – to keep the vibe and good times flowing. Most notable was a "Mountains of the Moon" into "The Eleven," featuring former Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten on keys.
When DSO retook the stage, a Jerry band reunion was in order as Melvin Seals, Gloria Jones, and Jackie LeBranch joined in. Classic standards like "That's What Love Will Make You Do" and "Harder They Come" were brilliant and full of fun. Closing up the set, DSO would be joined my Donna Jean for amazing spins on "Deal" and one of my favorites - "Mission in the Rain." The encore would feature just about everyone who played during the sets for two choice songs - "Sisters and Brothers" and "Ripple."
DSO w/ Keller Williams :: GOTV 2005
Sometimes when a band has so many guests, things can get cluttered and sloppy. But all involved were sure that this was just the opposite. Minimum time was taken as guests came in and out, and all the musicians are so damn good, not a single one had any trouble blending with the backing band. This wasn't the end of the night though. This reporter put away his camera and shook his groove thing for a few more late-night hours as The New Deal brought their unique live house and breakbeat treats to the Vibes. It is truly a joy to see what our scene has grown into and openly embraces.