Review: Gathering of the Vibes

This year’s Gathering of the Vibes electrified Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The familiarity of Vibes is always refreshing and this live music experience truly vibrates on a frequency of its own. The four-day festival stays close to the Grateful Dead’s legacy, and this year’s celebration even coincided with Jerry Garcia’s birthday on August 1!

Although this was the first time since 2004 that neither Phil Lesh nor Bob Weir was present at Vibes, many acts paid homage to the Dead and to Jerry. On Friday, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass performed Dead classics with a unique bluegrass twist. Later that day, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, playing live for only the third time, put on a killer show that incorporated the JGB classic “Magnificent Sanctuary Band.” Then, late on Saturday night, Grateful Dead members Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann performed with The Disco Biscuits and played an extremely Dead-heavy set that included an a capella version of “We Bid You Goodnight” with a full choir ensemble as the encore. 

Stanley Jordan was the artist-in-residence this year and performed with Dumpstaphunk, Umphrey’s McGee, Deep Banana Blackout, Kung Fu, Maceo Parker and Dispatch throughout the weekend. Taking the main stage at 8:30 on Friday, classic rocker John Fogerty was full of energy and his voice sounded as good as it did in the 1960s. Widespread Panic took the main stage at 9:30 on Saturday and drew a huge crowd …  Jimmy Herring is a beast! Of course, it was fun seeing Slightly Stoopid and moe., both of whom have played at HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cups this past year.  

The amount of good music at Vibes was epic, and with two stages at either end, wandering back and forth between shows and chatting with vendors was half the fun. We look forward to next year’s 20th anniversary of Vibes, knowing it’s a guaranteed great time.  


By Steve Bloom

The 10th anniversary of Gathering of the Vibes—held at Indian Lookout Country Club in Duanesburg, NY on August 12-14—was a rousing success. More than 10,000 jam-band fans who camped out for three days in sweltering heat were rewarded with 16 hours of music each day.

This year’s Vibes paid tribute to the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia, who passed away 10 years ago on Aug. 9, 2005. The initial “Gathering of the Tribe” in 1996 commemorated Garcia’s death, and the following year Gathering of the Vibes (GOTV) was officially christened. The festival moved from New York State to Bridgeport, CT in 1998, and stayed at that urban location for three seasons. In 2001, GOTV returned to New York, and by 2002 found what appears to be a permanent home 20 miles west of Albany on a site run by bikers.

Two stages alternated to provide non-stop music. Some of the daytime bands were among the festival’s best, with Jazz Mandolin Project, Depth Quartet and Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers impressing the early risers. As the sun set on all three days, headliners took the stage and played past midnight.

Bob Weir & Ratdog withstood a steady downpour on Friday night, offering dreamy classics like “Dark Star.” On Saturday night, the Dead and Jerry tribute lasted five hours. After several acoustic numbers by former New Rider David Nelson and Peter “Panama Red” Rowan, Jerry Garcia Band’s Melvin Seals, Keller Williams and members of Assembly of Dust joined Dark Star Orchestra on a variety of Dead and Jerry songs that included “Birdsong,” “The Deal,” “Cumberland Blues” and “Eyes of the World.”

Late-night sets by John Brown’s Body (Friday) and the New Deal (Saturday) kept fans dancing into the early-morning hours. On Friday, a drum circle lasted until dawn.

(With the hope of beating traffic home, I pulled up stakes during Railroad Earth’s mid-afternoon set on Sunday, missing the final headliner, Medeski Martin & Wood.)

Gathering of the Vibes proves that bigger (i.e. Bonnaroo) is not necessarily better. Intimate festivals like GOTV, where people hold Port-O-San doors for you, are high on my list of events Northeast jam-band fans should support and regularly attend.