Set on scenic Long Island Sound at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, CT, Gathering of the Vibes brings together a beautiful venue, a tight knit community, as well as an eclectic lineup focusing on the broader Grateful Dead family of music to present a music festival that in its 18th year, has set the standard for the Northeast music festival experience.

Thursday afternoon saw the funk of Nigel Hall Band on the Green Vibes Stage, while on the main stage Wild Adriatic from Saratoga Springs, NY soulfully rocked the Main Stage. Ryan Montbleau followed with a crowd-rousing set that drove his fans wild - Montbleau is a Vibes/Northeast staple and for good reason: his band engages the fans with upbeat ballads, funkalicious grooves and band/crowd sing-a-longs. Strangefolk took to the stage for one of the most anticipated sets of the year. An original act from the first decade of Gathering of the Vibes, Strangefolk has a quality to their songs that gets the crowd foot-tapping and swaying while they sing the lyrics in unison. "Reuben's Place" featured "Helpless" (Neil Young) lyrics, "Paperback Book" caught the crowd off guard with a "Bathtub Gin" tease from Jon Trafton, but the special guests this set were a huge highlight and great way to start the weekend. Grateful Dead Hour host David Gans joined the band on stage for a rousing "Shakedown Street",  a sit-in that was made possible by Gans putting the word out that he was hoping to sit in with Strangefolk, and after some discussion, settled on "Shakedown", while "Tennessee Jed" and "Black Peter" were other options. One can only hope that this sit-in occurs at future Strangefolk shows. Jason Crosby, of Assembly of Dust and occasionally Phil Lesh and Friends, joined on fiddle for "Speculator" and "Westerly", two Northeast towns that are a hallmark to Reid Geneaur's songwriting.

Dark Star Orchestra closed the main stage with a show from Andover, Maryland in September 1976. Highlights included "Let it Grow" and "Sugaree" in the first set, while the second set brought out a snaking version of "Half Step" and a pleasant surprise of "Cosmic Charlie", but the closing sequence of "Scarlet Begonias>St. Stephen>Not Fade Away>Drums>St. Stephen" was powerful and made for a tasty jam sandwich. Jeff Mattson, formerly of the Zen Tricksters, has filled the shoes of John Kadlecik, and brought Jerry Garcia's steel pedal sound to his guitar playing with DSO.

Latenight was a funk throwdown with Kung Fu & The Dojo Allstars, featuring Deep Banana Blackout horn section and Jen Durkin on vocals. Dead for dinner, Funk for dessert - a musical meal at the Vibes was served on Day 1, and things were just getting started.


Beautiful weather graced the crowd the entire weekend at Vibes, minus a shower or two on Thursday, allowing for an unfettered musical experience, one that was best started by a view from the Ferris Wheel, giving a 360' view of the crowd, beach, campgrounds and scope of Seaside Park. Assembly of Dust began the day with "All That I am Now", a tribute to the late Richie Havens who sang vocals on the Some Assembly Required version, a lively "Telling Sue" and Reid Geneaur's son on the refrain for "Second Song" (One eye green, one eye blue). Indeed, Vibes is a family affair in every sense of the word.

Railroad Earth gave a hoe-down thrown-down during an upbeat set, highlighted by the legendary Bill Evans sitting in on sax for "Mighty River". The Revivalists from New Orleans gave a dose of indie funk with steel pedal player Ed Williams whose intensity nearly tipped over his rig, singer David Shaw who wandered all over the stage as the music took him, sax player Robert Ingraham who ripped solos alongside keyboardist Michael Girardot who filled in on trumpet at times.

Elsewhere, David Shaw of The Revivalists sat in with Galactic for a birthday tribute to 70 year old Mick Jagger, singing "Gimme Shelter" with his fellow New Orleans compatriots. John Scofield's Uberjam brought out the music diehards to discover the jazz infused improv the legendary guitarist shared with friends and artists. Tedeschi Trucks Band not only had Eric Krasno of Lettuce on bass guitar during their set, they played "Sugaree" with a different musical arrangement that was both soulful and intriguing to the Grateful Dead crowd. Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are indeed the best couple in Rock n Roll today and Tedeschi Trucks Band shows why.

Vibes also has a third stage with local youth playing the School of Rock tent, showcasing the next generation of musicians from the greater Connecticut area, while also giving the School of Rock Allstars a chance to perform on the Green Vibes stage, churning out A+ covers of Boston's "Foreplay>Long Time", B52's "Roam" and The Allman Brothers Band's "Whipping Post". If you catch these acts, in 10 years or so, you'll be able to say "I saw this artist when he/she was in 7th grade", while that act performs on the main stage.

The highlight of the night was clearly Phil and Friends, as he headlined two nights of Vibes with a jazz-heavy lineup: John Medeski, John Kadlecik, Joe Russo and John Scofield. Phil and the Four J's took to the stage and meandered casually through classic Grateful Dead tunes and covers, giving the crowd what they expected but spending time working through each song, a solid 10 minutes for most songs, including a slow and paced "Just Like Tom Thumb Blues", "Deal" and a 19 minute "Viola Lee Blues" that was explored in depth and jammed out in the third portion. "St. Stephen" had a playful intro from Kadlecik and Scofield, while a clear night sky beckoned for "Standing on the Moon". 

Deep Banana Blackout led a late night that was again filled with funk, a random cover of Phish's "Wilson", (on a night Phish was at The Gorge and hoping for Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks to embrace the song as his entrance title) and a Jason Crosby sit in for the encore. Down the beach, Sunrise Silent Disco was kicking into full gear, with Connecticut's own Business Casual Disco and Connecticon Sloedwn, as well as Silent Disco staple MOPO churning out aural pleasure for the festival goers dancing on the sand as the sky slowly lit up from behind the DJs, leading the crowd into the morning hours with remixes of "Here Comes the Sun", "You are my Sunshine" and "Sunshine of Your Love". Waking up at Vibes is one thing, going to bed after witnessing a majestic sunrise over Long Island Sound is another.


Awaking to beautiful yet rare (for Vibes) sun and warmth, the marathon weekend continued and brought the crowds to the beaches of Long Island Sound to take part in this gorgeous day as a community. On that note, the Terrapin Foundation’s GOTV Food Drive collected more than four tons of food (8000 pounds) over the weekend, a benefit to the Connecticut Food Bank with food distributed throughout the city of Bridgeport as part of the festival in giving back to the community that they are part of for one weekend a year.

The Funky Meters got things going on the Main Stage with George Porter, Jr. smiling and strutting to the beat of “People Say” and “Cissy Strut” with the legendary Art Neville on keys. The first Vibes appearance (and hopefully not the last) of The Roots took the crowd on a trip through 70s funk and infused classic hits like “Jungle Boogie”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, and “Immigrant Song”, rousing the crowd early in the afternoon and providing a warm up for the evening. The Roots were the appetizer and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals was the first main course of Saturday, belting out “I’ve got the Medicine”, “Big White Gate” and bringing up Warren Haynes for “Your Time is Gonna Come” before playing a powerhouse rock trio to close the set – “Paris (Ooh La La) > The Lion The Beast The Beat” and a tribute to the recently departed JJ Cale with “Cocaine”. Grace’s mass appeal to the entire crowd was well-observed as nary a face was looking anywhere but the stage and screens as she performed her set. For a former Vibes attendee, Grace Potter has come a long way and gave back to the community ten fold.

The tributes to JJ Cale continued with Gov’t Mule’s set, closing with “After Midnight” and featuring George Porter Jr., Bill Evans and John Scofield to celebrate the life of the tremendous singer/songwriter. Mule’s set was on par with Grace’s rocker, covering The Band’s “The Shape I’m In”, a rock sandwich of “I’m a Ram > Love Me Do > I’m a Ram” and “Thorazine Shuffle > Funny Little Tragedy > Thorazine Shuffle”. Haynes’ own festival, Mountain Jam, has followed in the steps of Vibes with its eclectic lineup and broad musical horizons, and played with the same degree of panache he gives in Hunter, NY.

Phil Lesh and Friends once again let the music play with jazz explorations of Grateful Dead classics, including a first set of “Cumberland Blues, China Cat Sunflower > Cold Rain and Snow, Bird Song > All Along the Watchtower > I Know You Rider”, which broke apart the traditional China Cat>Rider pairing and spent an average of 10 minutes per song, with two songs topping the 16-minute mark. Phil gave healthy directions in conducting the band with subtlety and the 4 J’s were efficient as the improvisation went darker and deeper. “Bird Song” didn’t seem to want to finish, then the band went back in for a closer look and capped the song off before the “Watchtower” segue. The patience this lineup had was incredible. No ripcord here!

The jazz of Medeski and Scofield, especially thanks to their time playing together with MMW allowed for shape and sound shifting inside a second set, for which Bill Evans joined the band for the entire set. “The Other One” that was caught inside a monstrous “Dark Star” and featured incredible jazz improv that was unparalleled among all the Dead cover bands out there. “Stella Blue” featured huge builds from Kadlecik, Medeski, Scofield and Evans, who shared the next day in the media tent that he hadn’t rehearsed with the group or knew the songs going onto the stage, yet no one in the crowd would have ever guessed it. After another “Donor Rap”, Phil dipped into the autobiographical “Box of Rain” that didn’t end after a usual five minutes or so, but rather kept going towards the 13 minute mark. Indeed, this was the best of the Phil Lesh and Friends lineups we have yet to see and we can only hope they perform together in the future.

Saturday’s latenight was the best offering of the weekend, with DJ sets from Rob Garza (Thievery Corporation) and James Murphy (DFA/LCD Soundsystem). Garza’s set was tempered and bassy, yet the crowd mustered not a single hint of complaint, getting all into four-on-the-floor action, but Murphy moved the crowd into a writhing frenzy with remixes of the Talking Heads, laser-accompanied beats and a truly unique show that the Vibes crowd clamored for. Papadosio took the crowd at the Green Vibes stage through dawn with psychedelic jams, or, if you were willing to venture down the beach to the Silent Disco, DJ Mopo was holding court once again as the sun rose to vigorous dancing and smiles all around.


What seemed like a week was coming to an end, as campsites were broken down Sunday morning amid a very light rain, as campers had to be out of Seaside Park following the closing set from The Black Crowes. Thus, most packed up and ventured inside to catch all the music they could before venturing back home. Max Creek played their usual slot on the mainstage, with an emotional “You’re the Only One For Me” and the weekend’s second cover of JJ Cale’s “After Midnight” – repeats are not uncommon at a Grateful Dead-tinged festival, as there were at least three versions of “Shakedown Street”, “Scarlet Begonias” and “St. Stephen” between Dark Star Orchestra, Phil Lesh and Friends and others during the weekend.

The McLovins, Connecticut’s original musical prodigies teased a special guest and delivered on that promise, bringing up The Funky Meters George Porter, Jr. for an incredible performance of “Rapper’s Delight”. Porter, Jr. and The McLovins have a long history together, opening up for each other in various capacities and developing a strong relationship. This was one of the highlights of the weekend, bridging generations of musicians and fans in the process.

H.O.R.D.E. was the original traveling music festival (for jambands at least – we haven’t forgotten about Perry Farrell and Lollapalooza) and John Popper from Blues Traveler recalled some of the early years, and mistakes, that have been ironed out with destination, rather than traveling festivals. Popper held court backstage with reporters and photographers, chatting happily with all, after having played a set that included classics like “Hook” and “Run Around”, but also covers of “La Grange”, a harmonica in lieu of fiddle “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and Sublime’s “What I Got”, featuring Bill Evans on saxophone. Perhaps Popper picked up some ideas at Vibes, as he said he is looking for a home for H.O.R.D.E in the future.

The final two acts of the weekend, John Butler Trio and The Black Crowes saw fans clamoring for spots near the rail. JBT hails from Australia and while it’s winter there, they can tour the States during the summer, giving the crowd a satisfying set of jazzy jams, including a sweet “Mystery Man”. The Black Crowes saw a hippied out Chris Robinson excited and dancing across the stage, reminiscent of Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) in Almost Famous, playing the rockstar persona to a T and building the crowd with each tune. Newer tunes such as “Good Morning Captain” and now-classics including “Remedy” and “She Talks to Angels” were incredible highlights, as well as back-to-back covers of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Feelin’ Alright” which swelled the crowd with excitement. The closing number, Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” was performed in the style of The Black Crowes that anyone who came of age in the 90s can recall with ease (even if the lyrics are still indecipherable), with a special treat of Deep Purple’s “Hush” wedged inside “Handle”. Going out on a high note was the only way for Vibes to end, and Chris Robinson, Jackie Greene and company delivered.

Once again, Gathering of the Vibes shows why they are in the upper echelon of music festivals in America today. The family vibe, the Grateful Dead community and the setting all combine to make this festival one not to miss, especially as they approach their 20th year in 2015.

Download these shows from Thursday via Etree and Archive.org

 Consider the Source   Strangefolk   Dark Star Orchestra    Kung Fu and The Dojo Allstars

Download these shows from Friday via Etree and Archive.org

 Assembly of Dust    The Revivalists     Railroad Earth  John Scofield Uberjam   Tedeschi Trucks Band    Phil Lesh and Friends 

Download these shows from Saturday via Etree

 Phil Lesh and Friends   The Funky Meters   The Roots   Gov't Mule   Twiddle   Grace Potter and the Nocturnals   Steve Kimock and Bernie Worrell

Download these shows from Sunday via etree

Max Creek   John Butler Trio   Blues Traveler   

Written By: Pete Mason

Edited By: Rosemary A.W. Roberts

Copyright 2013 Jamsplus.com.  All Rights Reserved