I have resided in Connecticut for my entire adult-life thus far and before this year, not once have I ever had the opportunity to go to the Gathering of the Vibes. And being that it has taken place in this lovely state of mine going on six years in a row now, I should have been banished! But like everything under the sun, there is a time. This year, on the festivals 16th birthday, I found myself right where I needed to be. Thursday afternoon couldn’t have come any faster. The drive from Hartford was a snap and the lines at security were easy going. The sky looked a little tired, but I wasn’t about to see any rain on my parade! It is said that in life that you get what you give. So I met up with my friends, let my hair down and I gave out as many positive vibes as one could. In turn, I got one of the best evenings I have had in a long, long while and, damn, did it need it.
I arrived inside the gates just as Yonder Mountain String Band was getting ready to turn the stage over to Dark Star Orchestra. It was the first time I had seen them live, and arriving at the sets end it only made me yearn for more. Banjo + mandolin = amazing. Bluegrass is an old friend of mine. I don’t always need to stay in touch with it, but when I do we pick up right where we left off. The crowd was growing thicker as the evening was settling in and maybe just a little wilder. We all had some amazing times to look forward to over the course of the next few days and why not kick it off with a bang?! The bill was stacked with amazing artists and the icing on the cake was that the living members of the Grateful Dead were all scheduled to perform: Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. And Bruce Hornsby, for what he was worth to the band.
On this day and at this time 23 years ago the Grateful Dead were under the spotlight of Alpine Valley playing to their friends. It impresses me beyond words that essentially a cover band was headlining this festival’s Thursday evening with that exact same show (plus a little extra.) Dark Star Orchestra has been performing full Dead show’s for nearly as long as said festival has been a thing. 7/18/89 Alpine Valley Music Theatre East Troy WI. The weekend was so young, which helped the lines to the Ferris wheel remain perfect. To the top my camera and I went! Too bad for you all, at that point I was a bit tipsy and didn’t really “capture” the moments. But picture if you will: a sea of dancing bears (well mostly people dressed as bears) in front of me with glow sticks abound and behind me neon hula-hoops in motion on the edge of the sea. It was beautiful. The Green Vibes stage hosted the late night sets for the weekend and with my camera tucked safely away back at camp, I made my way out to see the Royal Family Ball featuring Soulive + Lettuce. My friends and I grooved our way into the wee hours of the morning and by the time it was lights out, the rain had finally made its way to the party…which made for a refreshing nights sleep in a tent.
As morning came, the weather cleared up a bit, but the skies remained gloomy and the rain was far from gone. And due to circumstances beyond what I could control, I had to make my way back to Hartford. As upsetting as it was, I fortunately had ways of remaining in tune and in touch with the days happenings via social media and some good friends. As they say, the show must go on…rain or shine. And on it went. Twiddle woke up and reported on Facebook, “So the weather is overcast with a million percent chance of light rain, rain, and medium kinda light heavy rain for the duration of our set starting in 3 hours. We have decided thrown down and play the filthiest set, ever.” According to the thread of comments below said post and some YouTube clips, I would say they just about delivered:
A familiar band to The Vibes lineup, Assembly of Dust took to the main stage as I started my trek out. From camp I could hear Reid Genauer’s gentle voice and the band’s upbeat melodies. Reid will make a second appearance later in the weekend with Strangefolk, his former band, but more on that later. Back on the Green Vibes stage slightly before AOD concluded, two new-comers to festival joined forces. SC’s Dangermuffin (one of my favorites) and NY’s Yarn came together to perform a damp yet heady mid-day set. With his insanely tranquil voice, DM’s lead singer Dan Lotti lead this duet (of sorts) on to play “Franklin’s Tower” by Grateful Dead; very fitting for “The Dead vibe” that was soaking us all along with the rain.
Dangermuffin reports on Instagram, “The rain has us soaked at Gathering of the Vibes, but still rockin’ faces off! I wonder if Bill Kreutzmann was listening to it; a cover of the music that he and beloved Jerry Garcia wrote so many moons ago?
Speaking of Bill, 7 Walkers were prepping to take stage and will be the first of three former Dead members to perform to this now very wet Friday afternoon crowd. The afternoon also came with a does of CT’s own Kung Fu…during which set Dopapod’s keyboardist Eli Winderman joined in for a little go about. A fan commented, “whoa, kinda like dueling banjos with way more ebony and ivory!”
I had to check out on Friday evening, but according to festival and show friend of mine, Bill Clifford, who was blogging for The Vibes, the evening was wonderful: “Till The Morning Comes” by Bill Clifford