Gathering of the Vibes ~ (preview coverage) ~ “Interview of the Vibes” ~ Editorial by Roger Patteson

Interviews by Pete Mason and Roger Patteson

Click name for quick jump to interviews - KEN HAYS ~ GEORGE GEKAS ~ GEORGE PORTER JR. ~ REID GENEAUR ~ McLOVINS

This week Festifarians will embark upon Bridgeport, CT to Seaside Park for the next installment of Gathering of the Vibes.  With an all star lineup comprised of both vets and those new to the game, attendees are sure to gain an experience worth writing home about.   Celebrating their 18th year, GotV has become a highly anticipated vehicle for delivering the goods when all things music and community are concerned.  Chances are if a band has left a life changing impression upon you, they’ve played the Vibes festival and are hopefully returning this year.  Alongside that credibility and experience comes the tradition of putting new, emerging acts on the stage in front of thousands of concert goers.  

 Jams Plus Media put together a segment of interviews with a handful of the artists that will be bringing the funk to Connecticut this weekend.  Among the list are Ken Hays (festival founder), George Porter Jr., Reid Geneaur (Strangefolk/Assembly of Dust), George Gekas (The Revivalists), and members of the McLovins (Atticus Kelly, Jake Huffman, Justin Berger, Jason Ott).


Ken Hays (interview by Pete Mason)

PM: With so many great bands touring this year, how did you end up with a lineup of classic rock bands and Jambands, a bit of a change from last year when Primus, Zappa plays Zappa and STS9 were headliners?

Ken Hays: Each year it’s important that we change up the lineup or we become stagnant, and this year is really consistent with previous years. Last year after Vibes, we sent out a survey and about 2500 people responded about what they like and what bands they want to see, and based on the responses that we got, we put the puzzle together and now have a lineup that I feel really good about.

A majority are bands that have historically played the Vibes, but we are coming up with new bands and new band configurations – Phil Lesh with Medeski and Scofield on Friday and Saturday nights; The Roots have never played Vibes after all this time; to have Rob Garza from Thievery Corporation and James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem - these guys are doing late night along with Deep Banana Blackout and Kung Fu with a whole bunch of friends - James Murphy and Rob Garza, these guys are really the creators and originators of the electronic dance scene, which is now thriving, but to have these guys represent Saturday night late night, I'm really excited about it. To welcome Blues Traveler to the Vibes for the first time, as well as John Butler Trio, plus The Black Crowes, who were with us in 2008 but recently added Jackie Greene to their new configuration, it’s going to be an incredibly powerful show.  

PM: You have a good 25% of the lineup returning, give or take a few. What is the benefit to having some of the same acts on the bill year after year? 

KH: It’s what the Vibe Tribe loves and we’re all growing older together and the Vibes is an annual reunion with friends and family, which extends out to the friends on the stage as well. Where I'm really pleased is with some of these bands that are performing on the Green Vibes stage that some may not have heard of, incredibly talented musicians lined up. A little blues, rock, ska, a little reggae, some jazz with Scofield… so it’s really an opportunity for people to pick and choose the genre that they want to experience and take the five minute walk from one stage to the next and experience all the at we have to offer this year.

PM: After 18 years of Gathering of the Vibes, what wrinkles do you find you need to iron out, in order to ensure the most optimal festival experience for your legion of fans?

KH: I feel like we’ve got a really good model on all points, and be it the camping, School of Rock, Kids Corner, Teen Scene, I feel that across the board we have refined it to a point where we’re really acting as concierges for Vibes attendees and that’s exemplified with our hotline. If any attendees have any questions or issues or concerns, or need a helping hand, they can call the hotline, which is our office number that is answered on site by a dozen or so volunteers who know everything about The Gathering. For example, someone busted their leg a few weeks before the festival and needs a ride from their camp to the main stage, well, they’ll send a golf cart out to them. Or, if someone is drumming too loud too late, we’ll send someone out to quiet them down politely. We serve as concierges for the 10-12,000 camping over the course of the weekend.

PM: John Scofield is playing with Phil and Friends as well as his Uberjam. His versatility alone should be on the lineup. How did you first become a fan of Scofield?

KH: I first knew that he played with Miles Davis many years ago but got more intimately into John because my younger brother Kevin is a jazz pianist who toured with John for a couple years. I remember getting a call from John and he wanted to know more about the live concert tapers and the tape trading community and how that all goes down. I remember spending an hour on the phone with him and how spreading the music is good for all artists, and how the model of selling albums and CDs at that point was a totally different entity than a live performance. He was in full agreement and when he last played the Vibes eight years ago, that guy was just a sweetheart of a guy and a monster on lead guitar. I just saw him perform at Mountain Jam with Warren Haynes and Phil Lesh. Seeing him is just extraordinary and something that either you got it or you don’t, and John has just got it. He continues to reinvent himself, either with Medeski, Martin and Wood or the A Go Go album, Scofield is just brilliance.

PM: Of the first time acts playing Vibes, which acts are you most excited to see, and on that note, what acts that are under the radar should fans not miss?

KH: The Revivalists, Lord Huron, Tribal Seeds and Fishbone. Fishbone is going to be something that people are going to enjoy. I definitely want to be in front of the stage for that one.

PM: Many festivals like Gathering of the Vibes have created smartphone apps that allow fans to use their phones to find out about schedule, updates, check out the map, etc… Does Vibes have an app for this year’s festival?

KH: Look for an app for smartphones, as well as the printed program. An app makes more sense for fests that have five, six or seven stages to help you schedule your time and make sure you don’t miss a band you don’t want to see. At Vibes, you have the main stage and the Green Vibes stage, School of Rock and Silent Disco – everyone pretty much knows where the activities are after all these years at Seaside Park, but we’ll make sure everyone knows what’s going on and when.


George Gekas of The Revivalists (Interview by Roger Patteson)

RP- Just played High Sierra and The Ride festivals with All Good and Vibes coming up, is it safe to say y’all are fond of the festie or do you prefer individual shows?

GG- Every show is different.  There are certain festivals we just really love to be at and there’s certain venues we really love playing our own shows.  We’re in the middle of a heavy, 5 week tour where we started in Texas, went to California, back through Colorado to the Midwest, then All Good, and then Vibes.  We are super grateful to have this opportunity to play everywhere.

RP- Have you ever played Vibes before?

GG- No, this will be our first and I’m so excited.  I grew up 20 min. away from there.  Went to my first Vibes in ’04.

RP- Ahh, so New Orleans isn’t home?

GG- No, we all came down here for college and met up.

RP- So, just how special will it be to play a fest that you grew up around and attended? 

GG- It’s a trip.  When you’re 14 or 15yrs old and you’re playing your instrument in front of people, you never know that you’re going to get an opportunity like this.

RP- And your jazzy, funky weirdness will fit in just right….

RP- You have an early afternoon set on Friday and a short trip for the next show.  Are you planning on kicking it at the fest? What bands are you excited to see?

GG- We’re definitely gonna hang the rest of the day.  After seeing Scofield at High Sierra, we definitely wanna catch his show.  Tedeschi Trucks Band is a great act.  And, of course, Phil (Lesh).  Then we’re off to crash at my parents’ house before playing in Northampton, MA the next day.

RP- I see you guys are claiming a new ride, calling it “Van Diesel”.

GG- Ha! Yeah, we were on our way from Texas to California and broke down.  We got it fixed then broke down again on the way to Colorado.  Luckily our booking agent lives in Colorado and helped pull some strings to get us a new Sprinter Van.

RP- And it seems that any great artist has received breaks along the way and gotten help when it was most needed.  Any shout outs you would like to give?

GG-  Definitely!  David Glassman, our first super fan who’s a retired Lt. Col. In the Marines who helped us find fans in the gulf coast region, i.e. ‘The first people to really “get” what we do’.  Stu Schayot, our first manager and talent buyer at Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans; Adam Kowalski and Stef Scamardo, our management at Hard Head, who’s help provided all of the great gigs this summer.  We wouldn’t be where we are without them.  And, Phil Eganthal and Owen Gray, our agents at Madison House.  They believed in us and saw our potential while other agents were passing on us.


George Porter Jr. (interview by Pete Mason)

PM: Thinking about Gathering of the Vibes, what makes it stand out as a unique music festival?

George: The name itself stands alone. The Vibes! The whole atmosphere is about great vibes and all the great musicians and players bring it, and the festival gives it back. I like it, I've done it with Runnin' Pardners this year and did it years ago with The Funky Meters. I did a Vibes with Buddy Miles and Ray Manzarek. It was a tribute to Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. It was a killer night. That was years and years ago, it poured down rain and stormed, we was in the mud up to our knees, I remember that man, it was wonderful. Ken is good people.  He takes good care of us.


Reid Geneaur (interview by Pete Mason)

PM: What number Vibes is this for you?

RG: This is 17. I’ve only missed one Vibes.

PM: So you’ve seen it change over the years. What’s it been like growing up as a musician and seeing the festival grow up like that?

RG: You know, I've think Ive seen it as not just the Gathering of the Vibes, and I’ve said this before, for us it’s a tent pole in the year, but I think just the scene in general has kind of grown up around it. It’s like Tetris kinda. You see different blocks fall and others rise, and shift around, it’s neat. I feel like a part of something, some kind of history.

PM: You’re playing twice, with Strangefolk on Thursday and Assembly of Dust on Friday. How much do you have to shift from band to band, because this is probably the first time you are playing with both acts at Vibes.

RG: Well, I’m a little bit of a one trick pony, so I'm sort of myself in both bands, but it’s interesting. It’s a different feel and I play a slightly different role. Strangefolk’s a four piece and I'm a little more important in terms of fills and stuff and it’s just different styles of playing. (Drummer) Luke Smith is really an expressive player and (Erik) Glockler plays sort of Paul McCartney’s style bass and so somebody needs to plunking away in the background, holding it down, and that tends to be me. The funny thing actually is, to the extent that there are songs that claim both bands, they’ve got slightly different feels, sometimes they’ve got a slightly different transition, like we’ll do two measures more in one band than the other and I gotta remember which band I’m in. (laughs). It’s cool, and it’s funny, some songs feel more natural, one side or the other.

PM: Do you have to factor in both bands when you have to work on the setlist

RG: Yeah, in general when we’re playing back to back with Strangefolk, we (Assembly of Dust) just try to play pure-bred AOD material, and at this point, there’s enough with five albums. So we’re fine, beyond fine, just trying to be thoughtful about it because I don’t want to play one song with both bands.

PM: What other acts are you going to try and check out?

RG: Dark Star Orchestra and Phil and Friends is a given. I love seeing Scofield. 


McLovins - (interviewed by Pete Mason)

PM: You guys played Gathering of the Vibes last year. What is it about Vibes that allows you to bring out your sound more appropriately, particularly playing the Green Vibes Stage?

Atticus Kelly: They don't call it Vibes for nothing. I know it sounds corny, but I've played some festivals where you kinda feel scared for your life at. And at Vibes, it's like the perfect ratio of authority and good times, and that just makes it easier because no one's really fucking around that much and can really dig the music, and that helps us bring out a real solid sound. 

Justin Berger: Green Vibes Stage is smaller and it's easier to connect with people on a smaller stage than it is on the bigger stage. I haven't played the bigger stage, but from what they (Jake Huffman and Jason Ott) told me, they played early in the day on Sunday a couple years ago on the main stage; a smaller stage leads to greater connection.

PM: Playing the Vibes last year, how did you feel received by the crowd?

Atticus - GREAT! We had a great slot between Max Creek and Keller Williams, and there was nothing really going on while we were playing, so we just got flooded with heady folks.

PM: You guys are from Hartford and local to Vibes, what's it like being a local band playing a major music festival?

Jake Huffman - I really love that Vibes has made us feel like a staple of the festival. Since the first year we were there, every time, Ken (Hays) will come up to us after and say 'Can't wait to have you guys back next year! Put it on your calendar.' It just feels like we're a part of it. It's our fifth year back and that's really awesome. It feels good to be a part of something like that. Since we were so young, playing their five years, we've grown up with it. It's a great feeling; not many people can understand growing up at a music festival. 

PM: What's it like going from the School of Rock Stage to Green Vibes Stage to the Main Stage? You have to be the first band to play all three stages at Vibes.

Jason Ott - That's true. Personally, when we played on the main stage, going back to the Green Vibes Stage, at least in my experience, was my favorite so far. As Justin was saying, it's just so much closer with the crowd, at least it feels closer. When we were on the big stage, we're not quite at the point in our careers that we feel we can fill that stage, having a presence anyway. The main stage is HUGE. You feel like an ant on that thing.

Jake Huffman - It's nice because recently, we've been playing this staple spot on Sunday afternoon. It's Family Day, so everyone from Connecticut comes down and a lot of friends come down because its like $20 for Connecticut residents. And this year there's going to be much more than just The McLovins on the stage. it's a set not to be missed this year. We're playing 1 pm at Green Vibes this year.

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