By Steve Bloom
The 10th anniversary of Gathering of the Vibes—held at Indian Lookout Country Club in Duanesburg, NY on August 12-14—was a rousing success. More than 10,000 jam-band fans who camped out for three days in sweltering heat were rewarded with 16 hours of music each day.
This year’s Vibes paid tribute to the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia, who passed away 10 years ago on Aug. 9, 2005. The initial “Gathering of the Tribe” in 1996 commemorated Garcia’s death, and the following year Gathering of the Vibes (GOTV) was officially christened. The festival moved from New York State to Bridgeport, CT in 1998, and stayed at that urban location for three seasons. In 2001, GOTV returned to New York, and by 2002 found what appears to be a permanent home 20 miles west of Albany on a site run by bikers.
Two stages alternated to provide non-stop music. Some of the daytime bands were among the festival’s best, with Jazz Mandolin Project, Depth Quartet and Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers impressing the early risers. As the sun set on all three days, headliners took the stage and played past midnight.
Bob Weir & Ratdog withstood a steady downpour on Friday night, offering dreamy classics like “Dark Star.” On Saturday night, the Dead and Jerry tribute lasted five hours. After several acoustic numbers by former New Rider David Nelson and Peter “Panama Red” Rowan, Jerry Garcia Band’s Melvin Seals, Keller Williams and members of Assembly of Dust joined Dark Star Orchestra on a variety of Dead and Jerry songs that included “Birdsong,” “The Deal,” “Cumberland Blues” and “Eyes of the World.”
Late-night sets by John Brown’s Body (Friday) and the New Deal (Saturday) kept fans dancing into the early-morning hours. On Friday, a drum circle lasted until dawn.
(With the hope of beating traffic home, I pulled up stakes during Railroad Earth’s mid-afternoon set on Sunday, missing the final headliner, Medeski Martin & Wood.)
Gathering of the Vibes proves that bigger (i.e. Bonnaroo) is not necessarily better. Intimate festivals like GOTV, where people hold Port-O-San doors for you, are high on my list of events Northeast jam-band fans should support and regularly attend.