“Spot”light on Ken Hayes – Gathering of the Vibes

“Spot”light on Ken Hayes – Gathering of the Vibes

Now that the summer has officially kicked into gear, I want to talk about one of my favorite summer events…The Gathering of the Vibes.  It’s literally one month away – July 19-22 at Seaside Park, Bridgeport.  Held annually since 1996, a year after Jerry Garcia’s death, this amazing festival encompasses so many amazing sights and sound, I can’t hardly wait!

The festival has been host to some of the greatest names in music over the last 17 and has always included surviving members of the Grateful Dead.  Some of them have been:  Arlo Guthrie, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Derek Trucks, Rusted Root, The Radiators, G. Love and Special Sauce, New Rides of the Purple Sage, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, George Clinton and P-Funk, Black Crowes, Crosby Stills and Nash, Levon Helm Band, moe., Jimmy Cliff, Elvis Costello, and Jane’s Addiction.

More Good Vibes

More Good Vibes

In addition to the who’s who in music, Vibes has also included some of the very best in local CT music.  I am looking forward to, once again, catching bands like Deep Banana Blackout, Graylight Campfire, McLovins, Mates of State, The Step Kids, and Max Creek.

Jen Hill at The Vibes

Jen Hill at The Vibes

This year promises to be another great one with Primus, Phil Lesh and Friends, Bob Weir and Bruce Hornsby with special guest Branford Marsalis all on the bill as headliners.  Check out the full line up here http://gatheringofthevibes.com/

Gathering of the Vibes is a communal event attended by every category of humanity – representatives of a rainbow of old, new, multi-hued festival-goers including many families.  My own daughter has been to many but we’ve not been together yet.  Hoping that this is the year will be the year.

If you haven’t made plans to attend, you should.  It’s something I think everyone should experience at least once.  It will make you…happy.

I had the honor of speaking with Vibes Co-Founder, Ken Hays recently.  My interview is below.  He’s a really an amazing person.  Enjoy!

Check out more of my images from Vibes last year.  http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.171335242935236.41571.123226597746101&type=1

Support LOCAL!  And, as always…

Occupy a VENUE!!


“Spot”light on… Ken Hays, Co-Founder, Gathering of the Vibes



Ken Hays

Ken Hays (Photo Credit : Vibes website)

lsg: It’s an honor for me to get to talk with you today.  I told my 25 year old daughter that I was speaking with you and she said “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard…”

KH:  (laughing)  You’re the cool Mom!!


lsg: …”The shuttle service from the train station to the event is “clutch”.  And I had to actually figure out what that meant.  And then she said, “I really appreciate the little things they do for the attendees.  And tell him I am in awe of the awesomeness.  My first Vibes was the best weekend of my life.  I still think back on it often and fondly.”

KH:  Very nice.  Very, very nice.


lsg:  So she’s thinking I’m pretty cool right now so points for me!  Here we go!  I read that Gathering of the Vibes started as a party thrown in 1996 called “Dead Head Heaven, a Gathering of the Tribe.”

KH:  1996.  Memorial Day Weekend.  It was after Jerry Garcia died and there was a huge gathering out at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park celebrating the life of Jerry Garcia and the music of The Grateful Dead.  The Grateful Dead organization wanted to do a similar gathering in New York’s Central Park and Mayor Giulianni said no due to the cost that would be incurred by police, fire, EMS, public works, etc.  After they were denied, myself and a bunch of friends got together and said alright, let’s do this ourselves and see if we can have our own celebration and gathering.  So it took place at SUNY Purchase College on Memorial Day Weekend 1996 and we had about 3,500 friends and family come join us for a beautiful weekend of community and fellowship.  That event was called Dead Head Heaven, a Gathering of the Tribe.  The following year, the event doubled in size, we move the venue, and we changed the name to Gathering of the Vibes.


lsg:  How did it evolve?  I saw that it’s moved from place to place and it bounced around here and there.  It’s grown in size and momentum year upon year.  How do you think that’s evolved?

KH:  It has.  We’ve moved venues a number of times in order to accommodate the larger crowds.  One common theme was the water.  Whether it was at the park in Westchester county right on the Hudson River or up in Plattsburg, NY in 1998 right on Lake Champlain, and then to Long Island Sound in 1999 and 2000.  There’s something that’s really special about having an event that’s a gathering on the waterfront.  There’s a unique beauty of it.  Anyone can throw a party on a big, open parcel of land but to do something as unique as having two and a half miles of Long Island Sound waterfront and a mile and a half of beach is something special.


lsg:  Yeah it is. Each year, you have this amazing line up of bands starting with former members of The Dead.  How do you select bands for each of the stages and have you considered bigger acts on the beach stage (that’s from my daughter, btw).

KH:  Well, it’s really myself and a bunch of friends get together and kind of throw out a list of bands and artists that we all would like to see.  In addition, we have a about 135,000 people on our Facebook page and tens of thousands on our message board and they help steer the boat as well in terms of what artists they’d like to see. And then the process begins of contacting booking agents and finding out what kind of routing the bands are taking during the year and hopefully we can come to terms on finances and that’s kind of the process.  You know it’s important to keep bringing in new bands every year, new fresh creative blood.  There’s so much amazing talent out there.  We certainly do have a number of bands that have been with us for years and years.  Every year we try to do something a little special and a little off the beaten track so people can experience something that they haven’t already seen or experienced.


lsg:  Has there ever been one particular year when you thought wow, I could never top the line up this year?  If so, what year and why?

KH:  Whoo!  Wow.  Well, I felt really good about last year’s lineup with Elvis Costello and Jane’s Addiction and all the members of The Grateful Dead.  I really felt as if we covered so many bases.  So if you weren’t a huge fan of The Grateful Dead, there were other bands that you’d be turned on to or that would engage you.  It’s important that we cover all the bases, you know, whether it be bluegrass or funk or folk or straight up rock n roll or alternative, always something that’s going to draw people in and excite them.


lsg:  Speaking of last year’s Vibes.  I was there and when Elvis Costello sang his version of “Must Have Been The Roses”…

KH:  Oh yeah, that was beautiful…


lsg:  …I swear it made me weep.  It was incredible.  With the ocean breeze coming through sitting under the tree and just, you know, it really was amazing.  Is there a favorite main stage act that you’ve had perform there?

KH:  Wow.  A favorite main stage act over all these years?

(Note:  LONG pause in thought.  Pretty sure I stumped him!)

KH:  OK.  I would say probably when James Brown performed with us in 2003.  That was something incredibly meaningful.  He put on an incredible show.  He was such an amazing showman and through all the trials and tribulations of his life, he left that at the front gate and he just put on an amazing performance.  That was something incredibly meaningful for us.


lsg:  Local Band Review is a huge supporter of local CT music so I like the fact that you have the small stage for that purpose as well as bringing local talent like McLovins to the big stage.  Are there any local bands you’ve brought in that you’ve seen blow up nationally?

KH:  Not Madison Square Garden blown up but there’s an incredible bunch of musicians in CT that are just not getting the exposure they deserve.  It’s really, really tough to pick some of these bands out because, again, there are so many that are worthy are being on one of the Vibes stages.  We do everything we can to mix them up every year and showcase some of CT’s finest.


lsg:  That’s nice.  I have to ask about one of my absolute favorite local bands that you have back year after year, Deep Banana Blackout.  What is about them that keeps them in the lineup?

KH:  Deep Banana Blackout has been with us since the beginning.  They don’t play very many shows these days and they have a funk that is unlike any other.  They’ve got tightness and a cohesion that just engages everybody.  It really pulls everyone and unifies and everyone’s singing their lyrics.  It’s a fun, upbeat, uplifting musically exploring entity that the Vibe Tribe have come to know and love.


lsg:  I’m a huge, huge fan and I understand exactly what you mean.  Jen (Durkin) is fantastic and I’ve spent many evenings chanting “DEEP!  Banana Blackout!

KH:  Yup!  Indeed.


lsg:  What makes Vibes special?

KH:  I think what separates Vibes from most other medium to large sized music festivals is basically how families and generations of families come together.  From the onset, Gathering of the Vibes was intended to bring friends and families together on an annual basis.  Very consistent with how when we were out on tour with The Grateful Dead.  When spring tour came around, I’d know that I’d see my friends in Chicago and out in San Francisco as I toured with the band.  And we’d all get together.  It was an opportunity to reunite and catch up.  After Jerry died, we knew we weren’t going to have that opportunity as frequently as we once did.  I think that last year having a little over 2,000 kids come with their parents that were 15 and under is an indication that what we are doing is the right thing.  It gives parents the opportunity to spend time with their kids. Their teens and their younger ones in an environment that is incredibly unique.  For me, my time with my Dad was at Shea Stadium watching the New York Mets and that was our bonding time.  For so many kids, these days, Mom and Dad don’t have that kind of bonding time with their kids and with their teens so this is one of those opportunities.  To have thousands of parents bring their kids is incredibly meaningful.  I think that’s something that is unique to Vibes.  With all the kid’s activities and The School of Rock involvement, there are incredibly fun and engaging activities for kids of all ages.  That’s an important piece for us.  To continue to allow kids to explore new, creative areas of the arts and music.


lsg:  Is there a band you’d like to have at Vibes but you haven’t yet?

KH:  Yeah.  I would love to work with Neil Young.  I would love to work with Carlos Santana.  Eric Clapton.  You know, some of the classic rockers that are still kicking it out with incredible veracity and loving what they do.  And Neil, and Clapton, and Carlos all fit that bill.


lsg:  Let’s talk about this year. Anything new and different happening?  What’s the lineup like?  What’s exciting for you about this year?

KH:  Over the last few years we’ve had all of the members of The Grateful Dead whether it be in Bob and Phil’s project, Furthur, or Mickey and Billy’s project with The Rhythm Devils.  This year, we’ve done something a little different.  Having all The Grateful Dead band members attending but also playing with their own individual projects.  So like we have Bob coming out with Bruce Hornsby and Bruce’s band as well as special guest, Branford Marsalis.  Phil’s coming out with his band with Phil and Friends.  Mickey’s coming out with The Mickey Hart Band which is just a spectacular new project that he’s put together.  Really breaking it up and allowing each band member to showcase what they are doing individually is something unique for this year.  As well, we are pleased to have Les Claypool and Primus back at The Vibes.  Les is just one amazing individual not only musically but just unbelievably kind and easy to work with.  It’s just a pleasure to work with the organization.  And then we are doing something a little different this year.  Later on Saturday on the main stage until two o’clock in the morning and then a whole bunch of late night activities until the sun comes up.  Really pleased to have The Avett Brothers at the Vibes for the first time as well as Steel Pulse.  Dweezil Zappa is going to be back with us as well as Assembly of Dust and some of your readers might know a band called Strangefolk out of Burlington, VT.  Strangefolk has put together a reunion concert for us after they have broken up for a while to work on their various projects and they are putting the band together and will be performing with the original lineup at The Vibes on Saturday afternoon or early evening.  Max Creek, CT’s favorite and Keller Williams is back.  Nothing hugely over the top.  The Rolling Stones aren’t going to be joining us but a solid, well rounded up lineup that our core attendees have been asking for and we’re pleased to deliver.


lsg:  That’s excellent.  I am really looking forward to it.  Last question, if Jerry were still here, what do you think he’d think of The Vibes?

KH:  I think he’d be thrilled.  I really do.  I think he would throw his support behind it.  You know, we’ve been doing this now, this will be our seventeenth year and there have been some highs and there have been lows.  There has been sideways hail and beautiful sunshine.  The core is staying true to the music.  And not only just the music of The Grateful Dead because Jerry loved everything.  His first love was bluegrass and jazz and he really covered the gamut musically just within his own likings and that which he listened to.  Keeping the community together is something that’s really important and I know it’s important to the members of The Grateful Dead as well.  So, I’m really appreciative to all of the members that have supported us for so many years.

Ah the memories… – lsg


HOT local video of the week…Deep Banana Blackout

DBB is a local CT Gathering of the Vibes staple.  It ain’t Vibes without them!  I’ve loved this band since I was a 20-something catching them in Sully’s and South City Café in Hartford among many places.  Nobody wails like Jen Durkin!  This is one of my favorites from them taken from Vibes 2009.  Now get your ass on the dance floor!  DEEP!!!

PLEASE LIKE MY FACEBOOK PAGE…WORKING HARD FOR CT LOCAL ENTERTAINMENT http://www.facebook.com/lsgoriginal – and follow my antics on Twitter at @lsgoriginal.  Web page forthcoming!



Lisa Sanchez Gonzalez – lsg Original

Lover of music and the visual arts, Lisa Sanchez Gonzalez is the insanity behind lsg original photography. lsg specializes in artist and performer photography. She’s had the honor of photographing national bands such as Weezer, Snoop Dogg, A Simple Plan, Paramore, Whitesnake, Wye Oak, and The Antlers along with countless local bands and performers.

Hailing from Hartford, CT, Lisa is a life- long music connoisseur. Growing up, her mother exposed her to everything from The Stones to Simon and Garfunkel to Earth, Wind, and Fire to Loretta Lynn…and everything in between. No genre was left unexplored in her vinyl collection. She saw her first concert at 14…Rod Stewart at the (then called) Hartford Civic Center. Thirty years later, it’s still her favorite pastime.

Lisa has two kids (grown!) and a day job. Her loves of music and photography have melded into a second career. And her love of CT keeps her promoting and pushing for local artists and performers. Lisa spends the greater part of her free time seeing and shooting live bands, performers, and artists and art work…and purchasing vinyl!

Scene Queen lsg on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Scenequeenlsg

lsg Original Photography on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lsgoriginal

Lisa on LBR: http://www.localbandreview.com/author/lsg/


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