Gathering Of The Vibes | 07.23-26 | CT

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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

GOTV 2009 by Vann
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].

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.”

Sunrise at GOTV 2009 by Vann
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.”

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?”

Thursday, 07.23

DSO :: GOTV 2009 by Chapman
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.

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…

Friday, 07.24

Keller Williams :: GOTV 2009 by McCullough
The sun rose early on Friday, and made enjoying JJ Grey & MOFRO that much easier. The Florida natives belted out powerhouse vocals, horns, guitars, electric organ and precise drums that brought the crowd down to alligator ally through MOFRO staples like “Orange Blossoms” and “Everything Good Is Bad.” Aside from his showmanship, the power and grit of Grey’s voice, in and of itself, is worth the price of a ticket, and his steady burn got the crowd good and ready for a set from Keller Williams and MDS.

Keller classic “Freaker By The Speaker” had people dancing hard, and Phish‘s “Birds Of A Feather” provided one of the groovier covers of the weekend. When asked about the differences between a MDS performance and a solo slot, Keller said, “It’s a totally different thing. I learned a long time ago that it’s impossible to please everyone. So, the most important thing in my world is to be happy and I’m happy on stage, and hopefully that comes across to the audience.” He added, “We [MDS] haven’t played since January. We’ve rehearsed but there’s this un-jaded vibe that we’re all bringing and we’re excited to play and listen to each other.”

George Clinton & P-Funk :: GOTV 2009 by Chapman
Keller’s set was followed by Vibes vets George Clinton and P-Funk, whose set was a shit show in all the right ways. With duel synth stations, seven electric guitarists, a handful of scantly clad back-up vocalists and a performance by Clinton’s granddaughter, things were very busy on stage and in the crowd. Clinton’s set didn’t offer up any new material, nor did it seem nearly as groundbreaking as his material proved to be in its heyday, but with a back catalogue like his Clinton can afford to ride the gravy train all the way to the bank. To be blunt, “We Want The Funk” proved one of the best songs to dance to over the weekend, and that said, he doesn’t have to “keep it fresh” to keep things funky.

From up close or afar, it was clear that Deep Banana Blackout‘s set had everybody in front of the stage dancing their collective asses off. The GOTV regulars have earned quite a reputation over the years and they didn’t disappoint. Carolanne McDowen of Worcester, Mass told JamBase that last year Deep Banana Blackout was one of the bands she went home having gained a new appreciation for, and this year they proved to be another highlight.

Rob Derhak – moe. :: GOTV 2009 by McCullough
moe. was the night’s headliner, booked to perform for nearly three hours but were cut short due to thunderstorms. The band came out of the stable strong with “Not Coming Down” and managed to riff through a solid set. But with thunder a-brewin’ in the sky, the set had to come to a halt. Many fans commented throughout the rest of the weekend that moe. should have been allowed to finish up their set after the storm, but even after the rain halted a truly impressive display of atmospheric electricity continued to threaten from above.

Fortunately for all those who still had a funky monkey on their back, Lettuce brought the nitty-gritty grooves to the Green Vibes Tent for a late night show that made it impossible to stand still. With Eric Krasno and Neal Evans of Soulive fame on guitar and keys, Brotherhood Of Groove‘s Sam Kininger on sax and producer/drummer extraordinaire Adam Deitch on skins, to name a few, the stage was a who’s who of the neo-funk scene, and for a few hours, when most decent people were asleep in their tents, the hardest partiers were dancing their hearts and souls out to what had to have been the funkiest spot on the face of the earth for that short period of time.

Continue reading for Saturday’s coverage of GOTV…

Saturday, 07.25

GOTV 2009 by Chapman
Saturday was the only day of the weekend that provided relief from the rain, and after two full days of festival conditions everyone seemed to let themselves go. Women went bare-chested with painted breasts (with some telling JamBase that they did not feel harassed) and one dude on stilts calling himself Tall Paul roamed the grounds, engaging festival-goers and giving everyone another story to bring home to their friends in the “real world.”

For as many folks tuned in, turned on and dropped out, there was one group of music loving attendees who were entirely on the ball. The Clean Vibes crew proved to be one of the greatest sources of pride Gathering Of The Vibes has to show the world. Kids from all backgrounds came to the event for the music, but throughout the course of the weekend “trash talking” volunteers directed people to dispose of their waste in the proper can, collected trash from the field and sorted out compost, landfill and recyclables with an on-the-radar presence that outdid their work at other festivals. Even Wavy Gravy noted the effort, saying, “For most of these people this is not their first festival. From one vibe to the next, they know the drill – they pick up the trash. There is an enormous effort to recycle, and you don’t see that at most shows.”

Bridgeport native Josh Schroder cited Big Moon‘s Saturday slot on the Green Vibes Stage as a weekend highlight. “The singer owns one of my favorite bars, Acoustic Cafe on Fairfield Avenue. There’s folks from all over the place. You’re from Boston, everyone is from all over, and to get people I know personally represented on the national scale is very cool.”

Levon Helm :: GOTV 2009 by McCullough
Aside from Big Moon, the first half of the day was marked by a set from the Ryan Montbleau Band that had all the pretty ladies shaking it, and a Max Creek performance that Tom and Kasey Hunter from Sydney, New York cited as a highlight. “Max Creek was nice and relaxing,” Tom said. “It’s fun music. You can spin to it or move to it or watch it in the pouring rain.” Donna Jean Godchaux provided backup vocals on “Cassidy” and “Bertha,” and with guitarist Scott Murawski playing guitar for the Grateful Dead‘s Bill Kreutzmann in BK3 you can bet that his guitar tone rang rich with that Jerry Garcia groove that has come to be expected at Vibes.

State Radio canceled their performance the day of the event, and the promoters opted to allow all of the Saturday performers to have some extra time, rather than scramble to fill the void. And it was Guster, the band on the bill most likely to share their fan-base, that helped us forget all about State Radio with a nice taste of feel good rock. Guster seemed like one of the most unusual acts on the bill given their popularity with a mainstream, teenage demographic, but they synced up with the crowd better than a great deal of the “groovier” acts on the bill. They engaged the audience with spot-on banter and played on festival characters we’d all come across, and after an anti-encore tirade, citing the tradition as the lamest in the concert circuit, the group wrapped up on a positive note with their most well known single, “Fa Fa.”

Rob Bob Weir & RatDog :: GOTV 2009 by McCullough
The Levon Helm Band followed Guster, but unfortunately, Helm was suffering from laryngitis and had his daughter Amy and guitarist Larry Campbell sing the overwhelming majority of the set. Bob Weir, who was slated to follow Helm, came out to lend a hand on The Dead’s “Attics,” “Tennessee Jed,” and The Band‘s timeless classic “The Weight” to close the set where Weir traded vocals with Helm for his only singing of the night. Although his lack of vocal contribution was disappointing one couldn’t help but commend the drummer for his perseverance in light of State Radio’s willingness to disappoint their audience.

For a festival that’s built itself around the community of The Grateful Dead, Bob Weir’s Saturday night slot was considered by many to be one of the most anticipated performances of the weekend. Joanna Trossbach of Richmond, Virginia saw him three times in nine days this year and thought that this set was better than the rest, and especially appreciated his help during Levon Helm’s performance. He opened with the appropriate “Festival” (which hadn’t been played since 8/24/2006 – 175 shows) and followed up with a solid “Jack Straw” that pulled in anybody who wasn’t already drinking the Kool-Aid. It was a mellower performance, and one attendee was overheard saying, “Bobby must have taken a Xanax tonight,” but a cover of “Iko Iko” that flowed right into “Drums” kept the evening’s pace mellow, yes, but consistent and coherent. A predictable “One More Saturday Night” closed the set, followed by an encore of “Ripple,” the former and latter featuring Vibes All Star Donna Jean on vocals. The setlist could have been better and the energy could have been higher, but having been on the road the past few months Weir sounded rehearsed and the instrumental components of the set were rather tight, and with folks trashing his previous appearance at the Vibes there was a sense of redemption in his show.

Continue reading for Sunday’s coverage of GOTV…

Sunday, 07.26

Grace Potter :: GOTV 2009 by Vann
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 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.

Buddy Guy :: GOTV 2009 by McCullough
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.

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.

Crosby Stills & Nash :: GOTV 2009 by Vann
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.

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…

Images by: Adam McCullough

Thursday, 07.23

Donna Jean Godchaux
Dark Star Orchestra

Friday, 07.24

Cornmeal
Allie Kral – Cornmeal
Chris Barron
King For A Day
JJ Grey
Keith Moseley with Keller & MDS
George Clinton
Deep Banana Blackout
Eric Krasno – Lettuce
Neal Evans – Lettuce
Al Schnier – moe.

Saturday, 07.25

Reid Genauer & Assembly of Dust
Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band
Pimps of Joytime
Ryan Montbleau
Scott Murawski – Max Creek
Levon Helm
Bob Weir & RatDog

Sunday, 07.26

John Brown’s Body
Grace Potter
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Harlem Gospel Choir
McLovins
Stephen Stills – CSN
CSN

Continue reading for more pics of GOTV 2009…

Images by: Dave Vann

Levon Helm
Guster
Buddy Guy
Lettuce
Perpetual Groove
Bob Weir & RatDog
CSN

Continue reading for even more pics of GOTV 2009…

Images by: Robert Chapman

Reid Genauer and the Assembly of Dust
Guster
Wavy Gravy
Ryan Montbleau Band
Reckoning
P.J. Pacifico
moe.
Lettuce
Levon Helm
Bob Weir with Levon Helm
Bob Weir & RatDog
Perpetual Groove
CSN
David Crosby – CSN
Wavy Gravy & Levon Helm
Wavy Gravy & Levon Helm

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