Friday, September 12, 2008

Gathering of the Vibes Festival August 2008

Gathering of the Vibes Festival held July 31 to August 3, 2008

Seaside Park, Bridgeport, CT

Reported by Dusty, special guest journalist

As is the case with any good trip, set and setting are critical, and there’s no better setting for a festival than Bridgeport’s Seaside Park, home of this year’s Gathering of the Vibes (GOV) festival.

The beautiful location on the bay lends a bit of a Monterey Pop feel to the event. At night, dimly lit private boats line the bay behind the stage – not a bad way to spend an evening. An endless passagiatta of strollers walk the beach and boardwalk, simultaneously entertaining and being entertained.

Saturday’s torrential downpour, and Wavy Gravy’s spectacular job as emcee and house jester, lent a Woodstock feeling to the event. Wavy was in fine form this year, as always, entertaining the masses with stories from his five decades as hippie Icon Emeritus.

The music started Thursday night, highlighted by an awesome set from the Dark Star Orchestra. With me, what’s important is not necessarily which music was on Thursday night, which was outstanding, but the fact that there’s any music at all. The promoters could have easily stuck with the three-day format, but no…they want to give you an extra party day and for you to be aurally entertained even when arriving and getting comfortable on Thursday, and when leaving.

On a personal note, nighttime, pre-festival music always brings fond memories for me of having had the good fortune to have been front and center at Watkins Glen ‘73 for “the greatest sound check of all time,” when the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and the Band took a look at the crowd estimated at 600,000, and played an improvised all night set that was considered the high point of the entire weekend..

Early Saturday morning at GOV, it appeared we were in for another beautiful day…not! We got hit with a late-morning storm complete with lots of thunder, wind, and dangerously close lightning strikes. Of course, this was soon followed by the obligatory dance of the mud people, mud-grooving to Taj Mahal.

Despite the inclement weather, people come to GOV to have a great time, and they’re not likely to let a little (or a lot) of rain interfere with that mission. We can’t remember a GOV in the last 4 years that didn’t have some rain. In fact we can’t remember any multi-day music fest around NY state since we’ve been going to them that hasn’t had a bit of rain.

The site is ringed by a circle of eclectic merchandise and food vendors, so there’s plenty of opportunities for hippie retail therapy during breaks in the performances. I swear the promoters must interview the food vendors as carefully as they choose the musical lineup. On Friday night, after a hot day of grooving, I lustfully and with great anticipation perused the multitudinous culinary offerings, before settling down to a masterfully prepared steak kabob pita and well-done, hand-cut French fries done to perfection, which tasted as good as they sound, particularly with background music provided the Black Crowes.

I could easily fill this space with reviews of the performers, each of whom put on an inspired show. How could you not play a great set in this magnificent location, at a gig called the Gathering of the Vibes.

The Bridgeport locals seem to be having as good a time as any of the concertgoers. On my nightly walk through the surrounding neighborhood back to my car, I passed dozens of homes where the occupants were out on their porches grooving to the music live and as broadcast on WPKN.

While I would have driven a few hundred miles to attend this event, it doesn’t hurt that it takes place a few miles from my Westchester county abode. I can’t wait till next year. Regardless of where GOV is held, I’ll be there for sure.

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