The annual Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival celebrates its 18th year this July 25-28 at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Vibes has grown into a four-day event, rooted in the traditions forged by the Grateful Dead community, making it one of the most anticipated (and headiest) festivals in the Northeast.
This year Deadheads are looking forward to catching two epic nights of Phil Lesh & Friends along with rocking out to headliners including The Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, and The Roots.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit gatheringofthevibes.com.
For more on what makes this festival so amazing check out the HIGH TIMES interview with Gathering of the Vibes founder Ken Hays.
Tell me about Gathering of the Vibes.
After Jerry Garcia died in ‘95, it was a devastating blow to all of us. The city of San Francisco, at the Golden Gate Park, did a beautiful tribute for Jerry, thousands of people attended, members of the band. Then the Dead organization wanted to do something similar in New York’s Central Park but when Mayor Giuliani said “no” myself and a bunch of friends got together and said, “Well ya know, lets do it ourselves.” We went to Suny Purchase College, Memorial Day Weekend 1996 and we put on Deadhead Heaven – A Gathering of the Tribe, and had 3,500 Deadheads come out and celebrate the life of Jerry Garcia and the music of the Grateful Dead… it was a beautiful, beautiful gathering.
How would you describe your personal experience with the Grateful Dead? When did you start seeing shows?
I started seeing shows in ‘85 and saw about 350+ shows.
When you threw your first memorial party for Jerry in 1996, did you have plans to make it into something bigger? Or was it something that just naturally happened?
Totally winging it from the start – had no idea. It was clear, after Deadhead Heaven, that we had something really special here that we needed to continue and the following year we changed the name from Deadhead Heaven to Gathering of the Vibes.
How did you end up choosing Seaside Park as a venue location?
We were there in ‘99 and 2000 and then they did a massive renovation of the park so we went upstate New York but then in 2007 came back to Seaside. It’s a beautiful venue man. It’s 370 waterfront acres with a mile and a half of beach. I love throwing parties on the water, you know. I mean, in upstate New York on a farm is, you know, fine, but it’s a totally different vibe. For kids to be dancing in the water and watching the stage at the same time – it’s just an awesome thing to experience.
Going into your 18th year of hosting this event, how have you seen the music scene evolve at your festival from “Deadhead Heaven” to “Gathering of the Vibes” today?
Well there is certainly a whole lot more festivals nowadays then there were back in ‘96, ’97. Now, there’s a festival every weekend – and that’s a good thing. I think for friends and families to come together and hang out and spend quality time with each other and see great music, that can only be a positive thing.
What makes Vibes a “must” for music lovers this summer?
It’s a collaboration of great music, friends, family, scenery, and overall positive vibes. It’s tough being a dick when everyone around you is smiling. It’s contagious.