Gathering of the Vibes at Seaside Park, Bridgeport, CT – July 21-24
Words: Carla Danca
Photos: Jeremy Gordon
Outside of a few questions that aren’t suitable for print, “So how many have you been to?” is probably the most asked question around Gathering of the Vibes. Sixteen years after its humble beginnings as Deadhead Heaven – A Gathering of the Tribe on the campus of SUNY Purchase, Vibes has become one of the Northeast’s largest annual festivals and one of the oldest as well. In a year when many “newer” festivals celebrate their tenth anniversary, GOTV is well into is second decade. Each summer, friends – many of whom only see each other for four days each July – meet up at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, CT to spend a weekend together. With the heat at record highs over the weekend (103°F on Friday) more than ever it was the people, both Vibes veterans and newcomers, who made this year’s event memorable.
[All photos by Jeremy Gordon]
Sticking to its roots as a celebration of the Grateful Dead, five different members of the band played at some point during the weekend. Dark Star Orchestra brought Donna Jean Godchaux to the stage on Thursday, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh’s Furthur headlined on Friday, while Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann’s Rhythm Devils held court on Sunday. While many other festivals have recently been adding more electronic and popular acts – sometimes to the dismay of their core audience – Gathering of the Vibes has always stayed true to its roots. If the crowd on the field for Furthur was any indication, it seems that GOTV knows their audience as trying to snake your way out of the concert field was all but impossible with a patchwork of singing, swaying fans.
READ ON for more on Gathering of the Vibes 2011…
The main stage wasn’t only for GD alumni though. Good ol’ fashioned rock and roll took center stage on Saturday night when Jane’s Addiction pulled out all the stops for a rocking set complete with sexy bondage girls swinging from the stage. Elvis Costello, who pulled though a sickness that had him cancel the previous night’s performance in Atlantic City, tipped his hat towards the spirit of the festival by covering the Grateful Dead’s It Must Have Been the Roses and dedicated (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding to GOTV master of ceremonies Wavy Gravy. Another fun set came from the Infamous Stringdusters on Thursday, who worked covers of The Police and U2 among their originals. And what would lazy Sunday be without the sweet reggae-filled sounds of Toots and the Maytals or the New Orleans funk of Dr. John?
However, it was some of the younger acts that got the most people on their feet despite the oppressive heat. The shade provided by trees near the Green Vibes stage and the breeze from the Long Island Sound were the perfect location for checking out newer acts like Kung Fu, Rubblebucket and Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. Late night acts also took place at the Green Vibes stage and the sun finally hiding away allowed for some real dancing to take place. From blinking hoops to electric caterpillars that wormed through the audience, the vibe tribe made sure there was just as much to see and wonder at as there was good music to hear.
As with many festivals, sit ins were plentiful at GOTV ’11 with Fuzz performing with the Ryan Montbleau Band and members of Kung Fu collaborating with Deep Banana Blackout among the standouts. Yet it was Joe Russo, who may have been the MVP by playing in the headlining slot with Furthur and sitting in with 4/5ths of God Street Wine, School of Rock and the Levon Helm Band on Friday. The Jersey-bred drummer hit every stage on the grounds that day.
Here’s a full photo gallery of Jeremy’s Gathering of the Vibes 2011 shots, which is followed by some thoughts on the non-musical aspects of the weekend.
Want to know more about life at Gathering of the Vibes? Here’s the run down…
- Due to the heat, the “one sealed bottle of water rule” was relaxed and fans were allowed to bring in as many bottles as they wanted. However, depending on the gate and certain security guards, opened bottles sometimes had to be discarded. Unfortunately there was no place to fill up on the main stage area – an improvement that would be great for next year.
- There was some shade on the main concert field but it filled up fast. If you didn’t mind not being able to see the stage, in the food court there were tables, trees and free water.
- Speaking of the food court area, this is where the Kid’s Tent and School of Rock stage was and many of the kids were amazing with very professional sounding covers spilling out to serenade you while you munched on fine food and gourmet grilled cheese.
- There was only one stage on the main field this year that made for better sound and sight lines (the screens were on the side of stage again) but it was harder to see in-between acts located elsewhere.
- Security and Parking staffers gave out conflicting information, so many times concertgoers had to go back and forth as different guards were enforcing different rules and demanding you to go in the opposite directions. After five years at Seaside, I keep hoping things will be different. Perhaps next year…
- No matter what the temperature was on the field you could always find some relief in the LI sound. From a dip in the water to just relaxing in the nice breeze that blew in from the ocean it was the perfect spot to relax and take a break from the oppressive heat.
- Thankfully, PortoPotties were cleaned very regularly which was wonderful as a full tank in the 100F weather is not a good thing!
- The hotel option was great for those who didn’t want to camp. With the grounds located just off I-95, there were a variety of price levels and options at various distances.
- GOTV food drive collected over 6,000 lbs of food for needy families in the area! Way to go Vibetribe.
What were your favorite memories and thoughts from the weekend. Let us know by leaving a comment below…