Bridgeport, Connecticut was recently inundated with a hippies and hipsters from all around the country coming together for the 19th annual Gathering of the Vibes music festival in Seaside Park. With a diverse array of artists including Ziggy Marley, John Fogerty and Widespread Panic performing on two stages all day long and into the evening, the focus of the fest continues to be the music. However, the Vibes offers more than just music for its tens of thousands of attendees. This year, the festival featured a kids tent for families, vendors, craftsmen, face painters and a rare appearance of Ken Kesey's infamous “Further” bus in all its multicolored glory.
The event began on Thursday with music beginning in the early afternoon, as the campers streamed in and set up camp along the sprawling fields surrounding the stage areas. The event started out strong with big bands including Rusted Root (pictured) and Strangefolk performing throughout the afternoon. As usual, fest favorites, Dark Star Orchestra were the highlight of Thursday’s music, ending the evening with a solid set of Grateful Dead classics and Jerry inspired jams. Friday got a little funkier as more and more fans joined the party. Bands like Twiddle and Slightly Stoopid got the crowd up and moving throughout the afternoon and John Fogerty closed the main stage with some well received solo hits as well as some of the better known Creedence classics. But the Vibes prides itself in its late night activity, so after John Fogerty finished his set, local band, Deep Banana Blackout, hit the “Green Stage” with an energetic performance that kept the large crowd dancing until wee hours in the morning.
By Saturday most campers had arrived and the festival was officially in full swing. Like many music festivals, there are lesser known gems to be discovered during the afternoons, and Saturday was chock full of them. Two standouts were Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (pictured) who released it's unique blend of folk and rock to an appreciative audience. Fans sung along and danced with the LA based band, which created a buzz around the campgrounds as one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Another highlight of the afternoon on Saturday was the amazing acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela who wailed on their instruments with such skill that even people who had no intention of heading to the stage wound up flocking in that direction just to see who was making this amazing music. Umphree's McGee and Widespread Panic followed the afternoon acts, and the evening was capped off with the funked out beats of the Disco Biscuits, featuring Grateful Dead drummers, Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann on drums for a couple Grateful Dead covers at the end.
One of the most evident differences in the Vibes this year happened when Sunday rolled around. Normally, Sunday is the day that people start to pack up camp and head on home throughout the afternoon; but not this year. Sunday's lineup was by far the most solid of the four days, which forced fans to continue to “vibe on” until the final band was finished. As usual, the morning started out with the annual “peace parade” (top picture of review) in which the ever colorful Wavy Gravy (pictured above) and a large crowd of peaceful people wish peace for every single country in the world, individually, chanting “May peace prevail on earth,” as fans wave a variety of flags. It is really a beautiful, yet lengthy, event, specific to this festival, reminding people of the possibility of actually gaining world peace through love and music. After the peace parade, the music started up, and what a day of music it was. Maceo Parker revved up the main stage with a funky set of sax saturated jams. Hippie heavyweights, Moe., followed Maceo and it just kept getting better after that. Next up was the ever-irie Ziggy Marley (pictured below), who wailed out some of his solo hits, as well as a large number of his father's better known songs. For fans of both Bob Marley and his sons, watching Ziggy perform “Redemption Song” is about as close as you can get to hearing Bob Marley sing it himself. It was an amazing set that kept the vibe upbeat throughout the afternoon. The Boston-based band, Dispatch, closed out the festival with a solid set of satisfying jams.
After Dispatch (pictured below) finished its set, the weekend had come to a close and people finally headed back to their sites to pack up camp and head back to reality. But the beauty of the Vibes is that no matter what goes on in life throughout those other fifty one weeks of the year, each member of the self proclaimed “Vibe Tribe” can start looking forward to next year's vacation to one of the only remaining places in the country where old school Deadheads can truly feel at home.
Photos and Words by Scott Perham
*Note: The opinions expressed in the Music Connection Photo Blog do not directly reflect that of the Music Connection brand. These are posted "as is" without additional support from MC.