Review & Photos | Gathering Of The Vibes | Thursday & Friday
Words by: Stu Kelly
Gathering Of The Vibes :: 7.31 & 8.1.14 :: Seaside Park :: Bridgeport, CT
Read Stu’s thoughts on the first two days of the festival after the gallery.
The 2014 Gathering of the Vibes Music and Arts Festival returns to Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut this weekend for the 10th time in its 19-year history. Inspired by the dire need to fill the void left by Jerry Garcia’s passing in 1995, Gathering of the Vibes serves as a platform for music lovers alike to celebrate the legacy and community of the Grateful Dead. Originally named Deadhead Heaven – A Gathering of the Tribe, the four-day festival has blossomed into a premier live music experience, showcasing many talented up-and-coming acts as well as established national touring acts while keeping the central theme of the Grateful Dead’s legacy deeply embedded in its core foundation.
The most notable change in the 2014 lineup is the lack of appearances from former Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. This year’s installment marks the first time since 2004 that neither Lesh nor Weir will be present at Vibes. However, several bands will make their GOTV debuts over the course of the festival including Widespread Panic, Lotus (performing a Talking Heads tribute set), Dispatch, Ziggy Marley and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero.
Thursday, July 31
Thursday opened up with several great acts that helped shift the festival into a full swing party. As cars continued to flow in during the day, the event felt its first logistical obstacle as some parking lots started filling up quickly; despite the fact some parking areas were pre-sold to customers. As more fans filled the grounds it became visibly unsafe to continue the caravan of cars to their respected campgrounds, which led to a pile up of traffic leaving organizers scrambling to find a solution. Eventually, after a significant delay, the gates were closed and a majority of patrons trying to get in early on Thursday were turned away from the gate and told to park in a temporary parking area before gaining access to the grounds the next morning. The inconvenience of having to set up camp twice didn’t seem to go over well with the fans, but after this small mishap everything else started running smoothly.
The real highlight of Thursday came when Dopapod commanded the Green Vibes stage to a rowdy crowd late into the morning. Over the past three years Dopapod have made monumental strides as a band, pushing the limits with not only their live sets but also their production. The band brought out Stanley Jordan, this year’s Artist-at-Large, who’s expected to continue making spontaneous appearances over the weekend, and Adrian Tramotano from Kung Fu for a great version of “Vol. 3 #86,” where Rob Compa traded solos with Jordan with deep meticulousness. Jordan was also using his right hand to walk up and down the fret board of his guitar, finger-tapping on top of his soloing. The guitarist had sat in with Dark Star Orchestra on “Bird Song” earlier in the evening.
Stanley Jordan left the stage and was replaced by Todd Stoops from Kung Fu for a great rendition of “Trapper Keeper,” one of Dopapod’s live staples that’s known for its high energy breakdown and exploratory improvisation. Stoops laid down the funk on the clavinet for several breakdowns as Dopapod took “Trapper Keeper” out for a nice long walk. After Stoops left the stage, Eli Winderman switched over to the piano as the band dipped into Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”
Friday, August 1
Twiddle opened up the music on the main stage Friday morning at 11 a.m. to a very active crowd. Hailing from Vermont, this quartet packs a mean sound that blends a series of genres together, keeping the live energy high. The crowd was fully invested in the band’s set and most stayed with them through the duration of their time on stage. Over on the School of Rock Stage, the Bobby Paltauf Band took the stage to a busy crowd who were excited to see this young rising star. “Virtuoso,” “prodigy” and “genius” are all words that have been used to describe Paltauf and his finely-tuned craft. At the tender age of 14, Paltauf bares a striking resemblance to a young teenage Derek Trucks in his ability to not only tour at such a young age, but also command the band musically and step up as a leader. The future is certainly bright for Paltauf as he continues to develop his name around the jam community.
Back over on the main stage, fans were gathering and eagerly anticipating Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass featuring Jeff Austin, formally of Yonder Mountain String Band, and bassist Reed Mathis, of Tea Leaf Green. Together, the trio powered though classic Grateful Dead numbers with a unique and compelling bluegrass twist.
The band constructed a very consistent set list as they came out firing with fan favorites that included a jammed-out “Bird Song,” “Shakedown Street” -> “Feel Like a Stranger,” “Franklin’s Tower,” “Sugaree” and “Samson & Delilah.” Keller Williams handled most of the vocal responsibilities as Jeff Austin juggled a lot of lead soloing and crucial rhythm strumming for the trio’s sound. The mandolin is a quintessential instrument to the overall bluegrass sound. Traditional bluegrass doesn’t have a drummer, so in order to get the proper rhythmic foundation; the mandolin is the closest thing to a snare drum. The band took an interesting turn when “Sugar Magnolia” surfaced and after a nice jam the band dropped into “Bertha,” opting out of the expected transition into “Fire On The Mountain.”
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue kept the crowd entertained as the musical festivities continued to unfold on the main stage. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews did a great job of keeping the crowd involved in the action. He’s a true front man who adds a unique flavor to the traditional New Orleans funk. Over on the Green Vibes stage, American Babies were performing an impressive set of their own, featuring Tom Hamilton, who has been the mastermind behind the project since its 2007 start. Rediscovering his outlaw country roots and blending it with Motown, Hamilton showed off an inventive approach to his music through American Babies.
Back on the main stage, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (JRAD) was getting ready to play live for only the third time in their career. The last time JRAD took the stage was on December 27th, 2013 at The Capitol Theater, in Port Chester, NY. The response has been so positive since their last gig that this one-off performance gave fans a reason to rejoice and enjoy this rare appearance. The band powered through a well-constructed set that included absolutely beautiful versions of “Uncle John’s Band,” “Lazy Lightning,” “St. Stephen,” “Casey Jones,” “Deal,” “Reuben and Cerise” and “Eyes Of The World.” During “Eyes,” keyboardist Marco Benevento took a nice extended solo and made full use of the spotlight during these musical breakdowns before the band returned to “Eyes” and finished the song with grace. JRAD consists of Scott Metzger, Tom Hamilton, Marco Benevento, Joe Russo and Dave Dreiwitz, who have a very tight musical bond that effortlessly opens up many doors of improvisational possibilities when they play homage to such classic Grateful Dead songs.
After a quick set change, Slightly Stoopid took the stage just after 6:30. Slightly Stoopid didn’t do too much to stray away from their typical set list, except for a nice cover of Dr. Dre’s “Still Dre.” The cover attempt was a success and the crowd was absolutely feeling the song choice. Slightly Stoopid also delivered great versions of “2 AM” and “Sensimilla.” The energy was at a good place to get ready for Rock and Roll royalty to grace the stage as John Fogerty was set to headline Friday evening.
Fogerty was full of energy and notably vibrant throughout the entirety of his set. John’s work with Creedence Cleerwater Revival is timeless and his voice speaks from a generation of protest and political change in the 1960’s. On this night, Fogerty showed he is still very much a force to be reckoned with and his musical style has matured over the years to a level that has protected his legacy and his musical craft. The Bay Area native isn’t one of the aging musicians that needs to be seen for nostalgic purposes, his approach to music is timeless and he continues to breathe fresh life into his songs. Fogerty played an incredible set that contained many crowd favorites including “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” “Born On The Bayou,” “Looking Out My Backdoor,” “Long As I Can See The Light,” “Suzy Q,” “Down On The Corner,” “Fortunate Son,” “Proud Mary” and “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”
Lotus graced the main stage next with a tribute set to the Talking Heads featuring guest vocalist Gabriel Otto. Otto stepped into the role of a front man and seemed to take a page right out David Byrne’s book. Otto was even dressed in an all-white suit that was somewhat similar to what Byrne wore in the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. Lotus flawlessly added their signature electronic sound to some of Talking Heads’ most fabled songs, while effortlessly blending their own original material into their set, including standout versions of “The Great Curve” and “Shimmer & Out.” The jamtronica act mostly pulled Talking Heads covers from classic albums Speaking In Tongues and Remain In Light. Highlights came when the band delivered extended versions of “Crosseyed & Painless” and “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” filled with impressive improvisation. Lotus also threw down a nice version of “Found A Job” that kicked off a full dance party. For the encore, Lotus treated fans to an absolutely stellar version of “This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody).” This rare performance was truly something special that fans will remember for many years to come. Over at the Green Vibes stage, EOTO closed out the evening’s festivities before a solid crowd that was eager to continue dancing late into the morning. Saturday’s festivities will continue with Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic, a rare collaboration between Mickey Hart & Bill Kreutzmann with The Disco Biscuits and much more.
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