18 years. Has it really been 18 years of the Gathering of The Vibes Festival? When Jerry Garcia, aka Captain Trips, singer and guitarist of The Grateful Dead, died in the summer of 1995, his passing left quite a void in the psychedelic rock scene. What began a year later as a celebration of his musical legacy, has blossomed into one of the Northeast’s most preeminent music and arts festivals.
This year’s festival began on Thursday with one of two – The Road To The Vibes Contest – winners, Consider The Source. Live on the smaller, Green Vibes stage, this NYC based trio incorporates middle eastern toned improve rock and American classic rock, in an instrumental rock show. Double neck guitarist Gabriel Martin is a technical, wailing wizard, and the rhythm section is a tight musical unit. Songs such as the set opener, “Moisturizer The Situation,” and “Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong” were sinewy rock instrumentals that drew rapt attention from a crowd that grew with each song played. And the choice covers of Rush’s “Tom Sawer” and Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” were performed with a fiery resonance though the instrumental takes went largely unrecognized by much of the youthful crowd. This trio certainly got the event started on a moving and upbeat note.
Borboletta, a tribute act to Carlos Santana, followed early in the afternoon, as 1 of 2 supergroups, both making their debut performance at the festival. As if the already impressive lineup of percussionist Johnny Durkin and keyboardist Cryus Madan – both of Deep Banana Blackout – and guitarist Tim Palmieri and drummer Adrian Tramantano -both of Jazz improve rockers Kung Fu – wasn’t enticing enough; vocalist Ryan Montbleau took lead vocals on “Hope Your Feeling Better,” and the Deep Banana Horns and vocalist Jenny “Pipes” Durkin joined for a rousing take on “Evil Ways.” Their early afternoon set was a Latin Funk extravaganza and here’s hoping they do this again.
Later in the afternoon on the main stage, The Ryan Montbleau Band – a long time Vibes staple act – were performing a somewhat sentimental performance, as two of the band members will be leaving the band by year’s end and this was likely the last time the band was perform in this incarnation on the Vibes stage. His new song, “Pacing Like Prince,” saw Ryan playing a new guitar with a funky tone – perhaps a precursor to a future direction of the bands songwriting. And guest guitarist John Trafton of Strangefolk brought a warm jangle to “Here Et Al.” “Honeymoon Eyes” was given a slow, jazzy interlude that seemed to linger a bit long for the crowd’s liking. While the future is unclear for the RMB, it’s performance today was certainly a festival highlight for many of The VibeTribe!
Strangefolk, the original line up of the Vermont based quartet – a band that performed at the first festival held in 1996 – performed on the main stage for the second year in a row. The melodic opener “Chasing Away” drew a crowd with the opening ringing notes of acoustic guitar from Reid Genauer, but his soulful and elegant vocals and the meshing, golden voiced harmonies he shares with his bandmates have always been the front and center of this quartet. In-demand multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby joined the band on fiddle, lending a gorgeous string tone to “Speculator,” and David Gans, of the weekly syndicated radio show, The Grateful Dead Hour, sat in for a stellar run through “Shakedown Street;” the second time Gans has sat in with Strangefolk, the first being in 1996. But again, the silky smooth lead vocals and stellar vocal harmony were in full display on the beautiful set closing “Westerly.” It’s a crying shame that this band performs as infrequently as it does, but certainly a lovely pleasure to have them back in the Vibes fold.
Dark Star Orchestra, a tribute act that performs stunning renditions of the music of The Grateful Dead, is a Thursday night staple at Vibes. And guitarist Jeff Matteson has performed at every single GoTV. Opener “Bertha,” stumbled lyrically out of the gates, but made up for it with a faithful reading of the classic. “Ramble On Rose” featuring bluesy piano fills, while “Mama Tried” was lead with bellowing, resonant vocals with much of the crowd chatting just above the din of the mellow by lovely ode “Peggy-O.” The stirring gambler’s lament, “Loser” brought the crowd back to attention and “Sugaree” was a rollicking set closer
Kung Fu, the other local super-group of sorts, brought the heat for a late night rager that kept fans rocking out till three in the morning. Guitarist Tim Palmieri, is one of the most underappreciated rock guitarist on the scene. Billed as including … the DoJo Allstars … the band was joined on stage throughout its set by the DBB horns and vocalist Jen Durkin, which brought rave cheers from the huge late night crowd at theGreen Vibes stage. Closing its set, Fu was joined by vocalist Nigel Hall for a run though several Stevie Wonder tunes, sending the crowd back to their campsites on a glorious high note.
Photos by Chad Anderson