There’s no doubt that we’ve been having one hell of a year in music. Most recently, we’ve seen artists like Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Bill Withers (finally) becoming inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Leading up this year, we’ve seen big name artists like Taylor Swift pulling their music from online streaming services to crush the myth that “physical sales just don’t sell anymore.” We’ve seen lawsuits changing the recording world and the way we associate artists with earlier musical predecessors. In the live show atmosphere, we’ve seen many great small music festivals lose the support they need to bring us great music. Luckily, there’s one festival that seems to have left a firm stance in an ever changing music industry, and it’s back for its 20th year to bring us the music that’s so very near and dear to our hearts. Friends, get ready for the Gathering of the Vibes.
Starting as nothing more than a small memorial celebration at SUNY Purchase, “Deadhead Heaven: A Gathering of the Tribe” was created from a batch of devoted, yet mourning fans of the legendary Jerry Garcia: local promoter Bob Kennedy, business guru Ken Hays, and publishers of the fan magazine “Dupree’s Diamond News” Sally Ansorge Mulvey and John Dwork. Their aim was to provide an atmosphere that celebrated the incomparable success of the Grateful Dead, while mourning the loss of a respected, legendary frontman with hope and celebration. As the word spread about the show’s reminiscent and engaging atmosphere, so did the festival itself. Moving to Croton Point Park, NY a year later, it was renamed “Gathering of the Vibes,” named after the devoted fans self-proclamation as the ever present “VibeTribe.” To meet the growing number of attendees, the festival moved the following year to Plattsburgh, NY as the founders searched for an even bigger venue to host a long-term contract. Upon finding Seaside Park in Bridgeport, they immediately jumped on the opportunity, gracing Connecticut with the 1999 and 2000 Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival. It was then that Bob Weir himself played the Vibes stage, alongside his band Ratdog.
With great success always comes great challenge, and renovations needed to be done to Seaside Park as Vibes gained notoriety. For the next six years, the festival hopped over to Red Hook, NY followed by the Indian Lookout Country Club in Mariaville, N.Y. That certainly didn’t stop Dead members stopping in on the fun, however, since Phil Lesh & Friends made a two night cameo appearance in the 2002 festival in Mariaville.
Despite the festival’s continued success in New York, Vibes was able to relocate back to Seaside Park from 2007 onward, with endless support from the Town of Bridgeport as well as the devoted VibeTribe. Today, you can still witness the same spiritual cleansing and celebration of great music that these great pioneers aimed for back in SUNY Purchase. Along with the great artists that graced the stage back in 1996, including Strangefolk, Max Creek, and moe., Gathering of the Vibes has brought in some of the greatest legends in music, including Elvis Costello, Allman Brothers Band, James Brown, Buddy Guy, and Primus, to name a few.
This year, the team at Vibes has thrown us a couple of surprises in their 2015 lineup, including Weezer, Wilco, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, and The Gaslight Anthem. Though you may plan to make your way into a crowd of sweaty, sprightly individuals to jam out to the newbies of the Vibes lineup, make sure you take part in the shows of those who came at the early stages of Vibes, including but not limited to Max Creek, Strangefolk, Warren Haynes, and Deep Banana Blackout.
With so many venue relocations and constant adaptations, Gathering of the Vibes has been no easy wind. With constant support from the beloved VibeTribe, Gathering of the Vibes has been able to withstand the odds and survive as a notable festival, earning ranks on Rolling Stone’s “Summer 2015 Must-See Music Festival.” To join in the 20 year celebration, visit the Gathering of the Vibes official website and get your tickets. While you wait in anticipation for this year’s festival, however, make sure to check out the past performers that graced the Vibes stages, dating back to SUNY Purchase in 1996. The Gathering of the Vibes has certainly beaten many odds and maintained its high reputation, which is certainly worth celebrating, so we’re looking forward to this year as well as many years to come.