FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Gathering of The Vibes 2013

Well, kids, the countdown has officially begun. The 18th Gathering of The Vibes is just under two weeks away. I am growing more excited with each hour that passes just thinking about all that is store for us at Bridgeport CT’s Seaside Park. Top five things I am most looking forward to? In no particular order:

1) Happy hour the Friday of with John Scofield Uberjam
2) The Roots
3) Finally seeing Twiddle for the first time
4) The Black Crows
5) Rob Garza > James Murphy (DJ Set) > Papadosio > watching the sun rise

Tickets are still on sale, and the lineup is looking pretty stellar! People all over the circuit are getting their RV’s in order, their travel plans set and resting up for a long weekend of good times. A few weeks back, when the organizers announced the last major addition to the lineup (Gov’t Mule) I was able to chat a bit with the festival’s founder–Ken Hays. Here’s what he had to say about where he came from and what he thinks of this years lineup.

LMB: So how long have you been into music? I image for a guy in your position, your whole life?

KH: Yeah, pretty much. My dad played piano and my younger brother is a piano player who tours all over the world. I have been around live music since my “younger” days.

LMB: In following The Vibes on Facebook today, the question was posed to us followers “What was your first festival experience?” So, tell us, what was your first festival experience?

KH: Woah. My first experience? Hmm. Honestly, it was Deadhead Heaven, the first “Gathering of the Vibes.” I went into festivals with absolutely no experience other than my parents were cool enough to allow me to have parties in high school at the house so long as there was no drinking and that the house was cleaned up when they woke up in the morning. That was the extent of my festival or partying-throwing experience.

LMB: So it sounds like your family is into music. Growing up, what was your first live concert? Do you recall?

KH: I do, I do. It was Beatlemania at The Beacon with my dad. I think I was 7 or 8.

LMB: So now you are grown. What would your 20 year old self think of all that you have done. If you were standing in your own festival as your 20 year old self, what would you be thinking? Kind of a tricky question.

KH: If I were standing at Gathering of The Vibes as a 20 a year old….

LMB: Well as YOUR 20 year old self. Where were YOU when you were 20? If that version of Ken Hays was standing at the 2013 Vibes, what would he be thinking?

KH: Haha.. He’d think this is the coolest thing he’s have ever seen! Ya know? All these people, all these adults, all these kids, all my friends, that are all coming together with a massive stage and awesome sounding music and, ya know, camping out right on the water and swimming in the sound. I would be a kid in a candy store!

LMB: Did you ever think that when you were planning the earlier festivals of what this has now become that it would go on this long?

KH: Never in a million years. Right from the start we were winging it and just trying to make sure everyone was happy and safe. And that the bands had some peanut butter and jellies to eat. And that everyone was having a splendid time. Turns out that it was a little more adventurous than that in that port-a-potties needed to be emptied, kegs needed to be refilled and all of the operational components during Deadhead Heaven that we went through the first time. It was an incredible learning curve and learning experience. So here we are 18 years later and it continues to be a learning experience; refining the things that aren’t going as well as they should and enhancing those activities that people like and thrive on and enjoy–building upon those.

LMB: I have to imagine that the entire festival circuit in general nowadays has got to be much larger than the days when The Vibes all began, no? I feel like it is every day that I see a new one pop up online. It has somewhat even become a year round thing.

KH: Yes, I agree. When we started 18 years ago, it was a much smaller scene; the festivals were the Clearwater Festival, the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, High Sierra Music Festival out on the west coast and the Newport Folk Festival–now celebrating their 50th year. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be doing what I love doing with the people I love surrounding me for 18 years.

LMB: With each year that passes, and with the mix and evolution of music, there is this explosion of electronic dance music that I am seeing more and more across the board. Lots of late night DJ sets, or EDM bands taking the main stage. In keeping with that, I am excited to see The Vibes late night lineup incorporating more of that into this summer’s lineup.

KH: Yeah, with James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem and Rob Garza from Thievery Corporation. And you know? It is something that the young kids want but these guys, these artists, are all old school. These guys were the inventors, the true pioneers, of the EDM scene. And I am excited to put them in front of tens of thousands of people. I kind of feel the same way about it as I did when James Brown played in 2003. 100% of the attendees knew who James Brown was, but just a tiny fraction of them had seen Mr. Brown perform live. And to turn those people onto a live performance of a legend is something that is incredibly rewarding for myself and the entire team here.

LMB: So how is the park doing? I understand that it took quite the beating from Hurricane Sandy. How has it been down there?

KH: It did. It really did. But FEMA stepped up as well as the state. The seawall has completely been repaired and all of the damage has cleared out and the restoration is complete. Seaside park is back to its original state.

LMB: Very good to hear! So, outside of the music that is obviously abound, what other exciting things can we look forward to? I know last year there was a ferris wheel and there were several amazing art vendors. What outside of the music world can we look forward to?

KH: Well we changed up the ferris wheel this year. It is actually 20 feet larger. It is one of the largest mobile ferris wheels in the country. It is actually the same ferris wheel that Bonnaroo has and uses. We will have a ton more kids activities and a parents lounge. The School of Rock is back doing their Teen Vibes stage and we will have the Silent Disco again. So nothing all to crazy that we are implementing this year. I feel like we have a really good model that people like. And, ya know, we’ll have some surprises here and there, but I feel like we have listened and read all the 2500+ survey responses from Vibes 2012. We have implemented those suggestions, ideas and recommendations from The Vibes attendees and incorporated those into this years festivities.

LMB: Ken, I am a pretty big fat kid, and when it comes to festival life, the food excites me. Can we expect some good stuff in the food department this year?

KH: Oh god yeah. The food vendors that we have at the vibes are very different than most other festivals. It is not your regular run of the mill “festival/carnival food” and it is very reasonably priced. So whether a vegan or not, we have a pretty diversified menu that has a little something for everyone.

LMB: Now, last year you had the crazy “Jerry Roll” guy….

KH: Yup, yup! Exactly. He came off of Grateful Dead tour many, many years ago and he has got himself quite a business now with vegetarian and non vegetarian jumbo spring rolls and egg rolls. We love that guy!

LMB: I love him too! Glad to have chatted with you for a bit! I know that me and the guys from LMB are looking forward to covering yet another year of the awesomeness. Any final thoughts?

KH: I feel like things are good. Ticket sales are doing extremely well and it is looking like we are going to sell out in advance. I recommend people check out GOVIBES.COM. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call our offices @ 203.908.3030. We have a great team of people that are happy to help answer any questions about kids or camping or VIP packages.

LMB: Well I just have two more quick questions for you, Ken, before we part ways here. Firstly, who are you personally most excited about seeing during 2013 Vibes?

KH: I am thrilled to have Warren Haynes and Government Mule back at The Vibes. It has been a long time since Warren has been with us and after he just absolutely blew peoples minds with his performance at this years Mountain Jam, it is even more exciting to welcome him back….and I know where we will all be on Saturday night just before Phil Lesh and Friends!

LMB: And lastly, are there any more big announcements to come in the way of other artists?

KH: Like I said, we will have some surprises coming out, but no more major artist announcements. We have some special surprises in store and you just have to be in front of the stage when those “Kodak moments” take place!

LMB: I surely will be! And looking forward to it! Thanks so much for your time!

KH: See you there!