Saturday was another beautiful blue sky summer day at Gathering of the Vibes, jam packed with a diverse lineup of legendary artists. The Funky Meters started their set on the Main stage with sound troubles during the first few songs but this didn’t deter them from laying down a funky set. Bassist George Porter, Jr. wore a bright smile as he dropped the heavy beats while dancing with the crowd and his bandmates. Another legend, famous at Vibes as The Master of Ceremonies is Wavy Gravy, who was on the scene, sporting a lot of tie dye, red clown nose and chicken hand bang. Mr. Gravy told stories from back in the glory days of Woodstock and gave advice to concert goers such as “balancing on a unicycle equals a balance life.” Rock guitarist Steve Kimock was joined by Bernie Worrell and friends such as Bill Evans and George Porter Jr., making for a super killer set early in the day. The musicians covered The Beatles “Come Together” and an epic closer of Talking Heads “Take me to the River.” Kimock mentioned in an interview later in the day that it was his son’s idea for the collaboration with Worrell and it was easy to perform with friends when they are all here at Vibes, stating, “It’s all about circumstance and convenience.”
The Roots, best known for playing as Jimmy Fallon’s Band on Late Night, proved to be a bunch of jazzy, energetic, jungle, hip-hop animals, covering a wide array of genres that kept the crowd on their dancing feet through the set. The Roots hip-hop-ifyed classic hits such as “Jungle Boogie”, Guns and Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” The tunes went from spacey beeps and boops containing robust rap lyrics, only to go back into a full swinging cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up”. Keyboardist Kamal Gray went off on almost every song with hard hitting solos as the band members danced all over the stage. This was The Roots first performance at Vibes and hopefully not the last.
Back by popular demand this year was the sensational Grace Potter and The Nocturnals. Grace took the stage, wearing a gorgeous white toga-like dress, showing off her womanly figure that was made for the spotlight. “Medicine” opened the set, proving that Potter and The Nocturnals can cure anything that ails you. Grace serenades fans with a wide range of vocals that are sincere and slightly heartbreaking. Throughout the set, Potter reminisced about her first Vibes experience, a very rainy weekend when she was 15 years old, which made for incredible memories and has made her who she is today, saying “This is what inspires us.” Paying tribute to JJ Cale, who had passed away earlier that day, GPN performed “Can’t Look at the Stars” off their newest album, The Lion The Beast The Beat, a passionate song that brought everyone close to tears. Potter never missed a beat as she switched instruments from her electric and acoustic guitars to tambourine and electric piano making her the ultimate threat in today’s music industry. To the delight of the audience, Warren Haynes made a guest appearance and the set concluded with another tribute to the late JJ Cale with an authentic performance of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine.”
Before taking the stage with Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes took some time to chat with the press in the media tent about Gathering of the Vibes, best described to him as a “family reunion”, where people take music very seriously and it’s a great opportunity to see everyone in one spot. Fans asked about the various groups and their setlists, which he responded, “In The Allman Brothers, and The Dead and Gov’t Mule, we don’t really worry about arrangements too much. A lot of times we are doing it on the fly and sometimes where the verse begins is where you want it to begin…it’s about trying to achieve balance between your band and your friend’s band.” When asked on his thoughts about the passing of JJ Cale, he said “It’s a huge loss. He’s an amazing writer and artist and for people that don’t know, he wrote so many amazing songs that you’ll probably hear a bunch of them over the course of tonight….and I’m really sad to see him go.” Unfortunately, the duo never had the chance to perform together despite Haynes being a big fan of Cale’s. Still shaking off the previous musicians, I asked him what it was like to perform with Grace Potter and The Nocturnals. “Grace and I always have fun playing together. She’s wonderful and we’ve played together dozens of times at this point. She’s one of the guest featured vocalists on the new Gov’t Mule bonus disc that’s coming out this September and we always look forward to playing together.” Feeling recharged after the interviews, Warren took the stage with Matt Abts on Drums, Danny Louis playing Keyboards and Bassist Jorgen Carlsson, to form the last minute addition to the GOTVs ineup, Gov’t Mule. It’s understandable why this band is in high demand for shows, given their hard rock performance with a dash of blues. Not to anyone’s surprise but there were fantastic sit ins from George Porter, Jr., Bill Evans & John Scofield, individually as well as the powerhouse group encore of “After Midnight”, dedicated to JJ Cale.
It was an “all too familiar” feeling, waiting in the crowd for the second night of Phil Lesh & Friends final set of the Gathering of the Vibes weekend. Given the wide fields at the Main Stage, half the crowd has their own setup with families lingering towards the back with blankets and chairs, leaving plenty of dance room up front for the diehard fans. Whether hustling up close to the stage or being content with the two large TV screens, concert goers were able to get an actual view of the chemistry that Phil shares with John Scofield, John Medeski, Joe Russo and John Kadlecik. Besides drifting in and out of their jams, the musicians are constantly watching each other perform for the “signals” and feeling for the vibes that they each are giving off. Bill Evans joined in on the fun during the entire second set with his saxophone and clarinet, particularly for “He’s Gone.” When asked how he felt the show went, Evans laughed, “Oh, I had no idea what was going on.” He was hearing all this music for the first time, so he had to take in the information quickly and just play, making for a fresh and innovative set, the way the Phil likes it.
With the end of the festival just around the corner, Saturday night makes for the perfect excuse to let loose and rage hard. The Green Vibes Stage kept the party going with separate DJ sets of Rob Garza from Thievery Corporation, James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem and jambanders Papadosio. Each act provided the dark dance jams that festival goers crave after midnight and still have you wanting more when you see the sun come up.
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It seems that it’s over even before it started as Sunday arrived with no delay. Concert goers can be seen everywhere beginning to pack up their campsites and plan their remaining day at Gathering of the Vibes. Staying true to the old motto, “Never miss a Sunday show,” Vibes had saved for last. Blues Traveler made their debut at this year’s Vibes, showcasing their style of uncontrollable New Jersey rock. John Popper wasted no time blasting fans with his wide range of harmonica solos while Ben Wilson smoked the keys with fingers ablaze. Bassist Tad Kinchla and Brendan Hill kept a steady, light hearted rhythm of blues going with Chan Kinchla strumming solid 90’s guitar chords. Bill Evans joined Blues Traveler for a unique jazzy cover of Sublime’s “What I Got”. Blues Traveler pulled off a serious game changer when they performed a spin on the classic Charlie Daniels song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, by having Popper ferociously play the harmonica in place of the fiddle. The band was joined by guitarist Mihali Savoulidis from Twiddle for a ripping version of “Carolina Blues”.
After the show, John Popper and a few other members of Blues Traveler met with the press backstage for a brief interview. John Popper discussed how with so much traveling, each show feels like a reunion when you have friends in every city, making every night of the week a party night. He spoke of his inspirations that originated from Paul Butler, Blues Brothers and Jimi Hendrix. “On the harp there is such low expectations. On the harp you cover what you like.” When asked about Bill Evans and Mihali Savoulidis sitting in, he said, “Yea, that was fun. It was awesome. There was no warning. I just wish we had more time because both of them wanted to stretch. You just feel it…let’s just take it to a second gear but we’re just trying to cram all our songs in.” Blues Traveler is well known for establishing the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons Of Rock Developing Everywhere) touring music festivals from the early 90s. When asked about festivals, Popper stated, “I think they made it a lot smarter making them destination festivals. When you have a giant whale carved out of a redwood tree, everyone wants to come and see it. It’s beautiful. But when you gotta load it on flatbed truck and haul it everywhere, you’ve just quadruped your price for everything…when you have a place where you know it’s going to be, you can just park the whale and it’ll be there next year. You can have big things…but it was a lot of things like that. You had to bring your attractions with you.” Naturally money plays into a big factor of putting on festivals but Blues Traveler is looking for locations for next year. “It’s a game of patience.” He brought up how major jambands like Phish and Dave Matthews Band don’t have to play major festivals since they can afford not to.” Why bother when you can throw your own? Why not just go to Disneyland? Why not just hire Disneyland to come on the road with Phish? That would be fun.” Popper compares Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo to Vibes, saying he really “digs the scene” at Seaside Park and how crucial it is for festivals to have basic amenities, not just to be located in the middle of nowhere.
The VibeTribe got a taste from Down Under as the John Butler Trio shook up the stage on Sunday with Guitarist John Butler, Drummer Nicky Bomba and Bassist Byron Luiters. The soft vocals and strumming from Butler gave way to a tribal beat from Bomba mixed with versatile notes from Luiters. JBT created a new sound of music with their Australian flair, somewhat like a Consider the Source vibes meets the Outback. They worked on their spacey build ups, holding them longer than anticipated with great intensity. As Butler thanked the colorful bunch, he said, “We’ll always come back if you’ll have us.” Hopefully the staff at the GOTV was listening. Last but not least, southern rock and roll legends The Black Crowes featuring Chris Robinson on lead vocals and harmonica, guitarist Rich Robinson, Steve Gorman on drums, Bassist Sven Pipien, Adam MacDougall on keyboards and newest member Jackie Greene on guitar, were greeted with a warm welcome after their recently ended two year hiatus. The Black Crowes have tremendous stage presence with multiple “off the wall” guitar solos, Chris Robinson’s vocals and groovy dance moves plus Gorman’s hard hitting rhythm. The band treated fans to songs from their newest album, Wiser for the Time, as well as remarkable such as The Rolling Stones “Jumping Jack Flash” and Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright.” Be sure to catch The Black Crowes in action on as the tour the country this fall.
Gathering of the Vibes continues to share a collective spirit and positive energy by honoring the music of the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia and with new visitors and returning VibeTribe members of all ages each year. With over 20,000 attendees this summer, Vibes proves that good music and loved ones are always worth gathering for.
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