Gathering at Chaffee’s 34: A Grand Slam of a Fest

On a global scale, few mere mortals will ever know the exquisite blissful nature inherent in a music festival. Those mortals include friends you encouraged to come – they show feigned interest but never show up. Grumpy old men ranting about “those hippies need to get a job”. Business people who can’t possibly leave their desk for three days. Those people have missed the boat – no weekend ritual truly embodies and personifies the definition of vacation better. True freedom exists there:  freedom from ringing cells, fashion faux pas, nagging bosses, judgement, and often shoes. To truly live off the earth and feed our natural senses – the sights – the smells – and of course, the sounds. The 34th annual Gathering at Chaffee’s epitomized this hedonistic alternate reality perfectly.

This year would provide some upgrades to the Chaffee experience. For longer than some of the attendees lives, there has been a popular saying here – “It ain’t Chaffee’s if it doesn’t rain”. To answer the weather critics, the festival added a giant circus-esque tent to the front of the stage allowing for not only plenty of dry space to dance, but also quite possibly one of the best light shows a medium-sized festival has ever seen. Images and lights danced over the white tents interior all weekend while smoke effects added another layer of visuals. Morning yoga was added – for those who got up early, or had not yet slept. The yearly beer tasting expanded with the delicious concoctions of Erie’s Lavery Brewing Company. Oh, and the rain? Well, I guess all they needed was a tent because outside of a couple ten-minute sprinkles, the weather was close to perfection from start to finish.

34 years is a hell of a long time for any festival to exist nowadays. When such longevity is achieved, it’s rarely a fluke. Rather, everything has to be just right. The right amount of security to be safe without feeling under surveillance. The right amount of amenities to stay comfortable without abridging the “back to nature” aspect. Enough port-a-potties to insure no long lines engaged in the “pee-pee” dance (Also worth noting – some of the cleanest port-a-potties EVER). And of course, music. Lots of it.

Musical highlights over the weekend were aplenty. Eric Brewer & Phriends performed a near flawless set of Phish covers. Groove rock juggernaut Aqueous busted out some old tunes, some extra long jam sessions and a set with multiple guest appearances – Funktapuss‘s Latez Antonio singing vocals on TLC’s Waterfalls and a full band switch over with Ohio’s Broccoli Samurai (and Eric Brewer to boot) during original tune “The Median”. A crew of uber talented Erie bands performed including a side stage rager by Potwhole and a blistering set by the soon-to-be-big Falling Hollywood. Jimkata’s soaring peaks that lead the way for festival closer Spiritual Rez – a set that can only be described as an unstoppable party. All bands brought their A game, no filler acts to be found here.

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Of course, like any weekend of fun, eventually its time to go home. As people packed up, the overwhelming sentiment was that: “This was the best Chaffee’s yet”. This rang a bell for me, I had heard this before – last year at Chaffee’s 33. And have no doubts, Chaffee’s 35 will be even better. It’s already on my calendar,  do yourself a favor and put it on yours.

All photos by Darren Kemp