GOTV 2015: 20 Years of Gathering of the Vibes
Summer has suddenly appeared on our doorstep and that means the Vibe Tribe is once again preparing for the 20th Anniversary of the biggest Grateful Dead festival on this side of the country. While the world revels in 50 Years of The Grateful Dead, the Gathering of the Vibes 2015 will extend the celebration as they reach two colorful decades of the music, family and Jerry-oriented festival from July 30th to August 2nd at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, CT.
As we attempt to patiently await for the proper hour to gather, let’s take a moment of distraction and look back at the incredible, monumental history of the Gathering of the Vibes. This summer will mark my 10th year of attendance of Gathering of the Vibes, yet I still didn’t know the richness to the history behind us. After all, in order to know where we’re going, we must know where we’ve been. So, step onto the Further Bus Time Machine and let’s take it back 20 years.
On August 9th, 1995, the world lost legendary guitarist and poet Jerry Garcia and everything changed. As the former frontman of the Grateful Dead, the devoted fans were left with a gaping hole in their band and their hearts. The community had lost its reason for gathering and was lost in the darkness without the Dead.
In 1996, dedicated fans and owners of Terrapin Tapes (a media distribution outlet for traders and tapers of live concerts) Ken Hays and Bob Kennedy, along with Sally Ansorge Mulvey and John Dwork (publishers of a Grateful Dead fanzine called “Dupree’s Diamond News”), decided to host a memorial party for Jerry Garcia at SUNY Purchase. The one-day get-together was called “Deadhead Heaven – A Gathering of the Tribe” and was the first chance the GD community had to reunite and enjoy the music that had brought them together in the beginning.
The following year, the party was moved to Croton Point Park, NY and renamed “Gathering of the Vibes” and the spirit and energy of the Vibe Tribe was carried on. Seaside Park was first used as the festival site in 1999 and history was made in 2000 when Bob Weir played with his band, Ratdog and guest bassist, Les Claypool as the first member of the Grateful Dead (but certainly not the last) to play the Vibes stage.
FUN FACT: Since 1999, the Gathering of the Vibes has hosted a non-perishable food and hygiene product drive to benefit a local food bank. This is a great tradition and it’s so easy to get involved! Don’t forget to pack some extra items to help those in need!
In 2001, Seaside Park was undergoing some much-needed, major renovations, so Gathering of the Vibes temporarily moved to Red Hook, NY, but despite the constant relocation, 2001 was Vibes’ best attended date yet.
The next year was a big one for the Vibe Tribe. The fest finally settled in Mariaville, NY at the Indian Lookout Country Club for a 5-year residency and a bit of peace after moving locations so many times. In 2002, Phil Lesh & Friends headlined for the 4th of July celebrations. Also in 2002 began the tradition of Wavy Gravy in the honored position of Master of Ceremonies. He hosted with Mike Potashnick – the loved and respected first production manager of Gathering of the Vibes – who died in January 2011.
A quick word about Wavy Gravy, for those interested in the “last, best hippie.”
Hugh Romney was given the name Wavy Gravy by late legend B.B. King shortly after the epic gathering of Woodstock. Wavy says of his name: “It’s worked pretty well through my life, except with telephone operators – I have to say ‘Gravy, first initial W.”
Wavy Gravy is a political activist who originally began clowning around so that he would be less likely to be arrested during peaceful political protests. He figured a clown would be the last person to be arrested. But his clown persona was more than just an act to save himself from trouble. He began the Phurst Church of Phun and was a long time member of the entertainment/activism commune, the Hog Farm, which made its biggest impact on the community at Woodstock just after it had been declared a disaster area. Preparations for Woodstock were sub par and now there was a chance to come together and really take care of each other, so Wavy Gravy got on the microphone and said “What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000!” He is still, and will forever be the masterful MC.
In 2007, Gathering of the Vibes returned to Seaside Park in Bridgeport, CT for good and celebrated the 10 Year Anniversary at the venue in 2014. The festival brings together the greatest musicians, artists, families and fan that our community has. Each year, on the weekend of Jerry Garcia’s birthday, Grateful Dead members join the Tribe again and play on the same stage as fellow legends, upcoming artists and dozens of local bands. Every genre is represented – Funk, Bluegrass, R&B, Jazz, Reggae, Jam, Folk, and even Marching Bands – and all are celebrated in the spirit of Jerry. Vibes has grown from a 1-day backyard party to a 4-day, 25,000-person gathering that would make even Jerry shed a tear.
This year of 2015 brings so much excitement. In this, the 20th Year of Gathering of the Vibes, the Vibe Tribe will gather in Seaside Park once again and participate in a celebration bigger than ever. With all of the Grateful Dead reunion shows and Jerry-dedicated events happening all over the country, the Gathering of the Vibes is just the sunshine daydream for those wishing to locally commemorate their appreciation for the band that’s been bringing us together for a whole half century.
Gathering of the Vibes
July 30 – August 2, 2015
Seaside Park, Bridgeport CT
Tickets are still available online. Weekend passes, RV and VIP as well as Kids’ passes are currently available. GOTV Tickets
(Single day tickets are not listed online, but are usually available at the Box Office at the time of the event for Saturday and Sunday)