Gathering of the Vibes will celebrate its 18th year, returning July 25th – 28th to Bridgeport, Connecticut at Seaside Park. The four day music and art festival still has Weekend Camping Passes available for $225 as well as Single Day Tickets and Single Day VIP with discounts for Connecticut residents, Bridgeport city employees and active members of the military. “Although many Vibes veterans are local, we’re seeing our fan base expand beyond the tri-state area more and more each year. People are traveling from DC, LA, Philadelphia and even other countries,” commented Gathering of the Vibes founder, Ken Hays.
The 2013 lineup includes Phil Lesh and friends for 2 nights with John Scofield and John Medeski, Gov’t Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Black Crowes, The Funky Meters, Galactic, The Roots, Blues Traveler, John Scofield Uberjam, Grace Potter plus many more. The weekend begins on Thursday with Consider the Source, Original Strangefolk and Upstate New York’s Wild Adriatic starting the party, creating the perfect excuse for concert-goers to arrive early and set up fast. The music will be going nonstop even into the wee hours with late night performances from members of LCD Soundsystem, Thievery Corporation, Papadosio, and Kung Fu. There will also be a Silent Disco with costume themed nights; with Friday being “Jungle Love on the Beach” and Saturday “Pirate Pajama Party.” Due to popular demand, the late night stage will be open to single day holders on Friday and an additional $20 for Saturday.
Besides having over 40 bands, Gathering of the Vibes offers an array of food and craft vendors, with a Kids Corner and Teen Scene with arts & crafts, plus an 85 foot Ferris wheel. Among the music and art for everyone, Vibes is the ideal festival for families and a timeless tradition. There will also be a “Non-profit Village” which showcases local and national non-profit organizations from all over the country, demonstrating that Gathering of the Vibes is a festival that cares.
For the past 18 years, Ken Hays has put on the Vibes festival to bring people together to celebrate the spirit of good music and good times. Being a dedicated Grateful Dead fan, Hays and fans everywhere were seeking a void after Jerry Garcia died in 1995. Hays organized a small memorial for Jerry and friends to gather for a weekend retreat which overtime has evolved into a 20,000 person party on the beach, hosting legendary musical acts from all over the country. With Gathering of the Vibes quickly approaching, I was lucky to get some free time with the festival founder, Ken Hays.
Susan Rice: This whole festival started from your love of Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead. What concert got you hooked and made you a lifelong fan? Do you have a favorite song/album?
Ken Hays: Yea probably my first one which was November 10th 1985 at the Byrne Arena in New Jersey.
SR: What was it about that show that got you hooked?
KH: A combination of listening, having a love of the album “American Beauty” and seeing the band perform live and it wasn’t just the music. It was a sense of community. If someone bumped into another, they would smile and look each other in the eyes; there was a kindness that surrounded the Grateful Dead.
SR: Do you ever travel to other musical festivals/concerts to get more ideas for yours?
KH: I love music festivals. What I really want to do is to travel to Europe and further to expand some of the more unique and high profile festivals.
SR: I’ve seen pictures and they look crazy.
KH: Oh yea, there are some on mountain tops. Beautiful festivals and venues throughout the world, that host hundreds of thousands of people, through the course of a weekend. They always seem to fall during the summertime where I am going a little bit crazy bringing the final approaches to Vibes.
SR: What is new this year to Gathering of the Vibes that long time veterans have to look forward to?
KH: I feel that we have a great lineup that is filled with great diversity and incredible musicianship. Many of the bands are not on the radio and you might not have heard of them but these are musicians and bands that are extraordinary in their live performance.
SR: You’ve mentioned that you and your team will sit down to plan out the artist line up as well asking fans of who they want to see. Do you ever have big name bands/artists reach out to you first to join? If so, who?
KH: Ya know, yea, Janes Addiction and Elvis Costello, who both performed in 2011. They were thrilled to be a part of the Vibes and something a little different. They were a huge hit with the Vibe Tribe.
SR: This year, you are once again offering print at home tickets. As great as a convenience it is to fans, do you find this makes your job easier or harder at the gate?
KH: It’s easier for attendees and for us at the gate. You have the ability of purchasing your ticket and scanning it on your iPhone. I think it’s the future of ticketing. Make it less expensive and more convenient for the ticket buyer. But additionally for us, operationally and logistically, scanning everybody and getting them settled in for a great weekend.
SR: I’ve never traveled out to Connecticut or to Seaside Park for that matter. What makes it the ideal place to have Gathering of the Vibes?
KH: Seaside Park is 370 acres of Long Island Sound, a mile and a half of beach and it’s a beautifully manicured park that was donated to the city by Mayor PT Barnum in 1975, with the condition that the park be open to the public and that it be reserved for recreational and artistic events.
SR: Have you always had a great relationship with the town of Bridgeport especially with hosting a huge nonstop party?
KH: The city has been awesome to work with, from the top down. They see the value of hosting Gathering of the Vibes at Seaside and we love the venue. Going 50 miles outside of NYC to find 370 beautiful waterfront acres is most unusual and unique. Year after year, vibes attendees come back with their kids. Last year we had just about 2,000 kids with their parents. I think that’s what differentiates Gathering of the Vibes from most festivals because there is a festival every weekend during the summertime throughout the country. As festivals continue to thrive, we’ve got a kids corner and teen scene, tons of fun interactive scenes for kids of all ages.
SR: Do you think that Gathering of the Vibes will still be going strong in another 18 years?
KH: In another 18 years? Haha I hope I’m doing good in another 18 years.
SR: What advice do you have for me as a first time vibes goer?
KH: I think that it’s important to wander about. That’s one of the beautiful things about Seaside is that the venue is laid out in such that, in a 5 minute walk you have access to all the activities, all the stages, all the craft and food vending and the artisan village. So walk around, experience all that there is and bring positive vibes and spread those vibes with others.