The Low Down on Gathering Of The Vibes From Founder Ken Hays
WHO: Ken Hays (Festial Founder)
WHAT: Gathering Of The Vibes
WHEN: July 19-22, 2012
WHERE: Seaside Park – Bridgeport, CT
TSI: When Gathering of The Vibes started, did you ever expect to grow into what it is now?
KH: No way. Not in a million years. Gathering of The Vibes started after Jerry Garcia died. Out in San Francisco they did a beautiful memorial for Jerry in Golden Gate Park. It was an opportunity for fans in the community to come together for The Grateful Deal. After that Gathering, The Dead organization asked the Mayor’s office in NYC if they could do a similar gathering in Central Park. Mayor Giuliani said no because of the cost that would be spent by the city for police, fire, EMS, parks cleanup and such. Some friends got together and said let’s do a gathering ourselves. Memorial Day Weekend 1996 at SUNY Purchase College we put together a little festival called Deadhead Heaven, a Gathering of The Tribe. 3,500 people showed up and Moe and Max Creek headlined. It was a beautiful gathering of the community. The following year, the event doubled in size. We re-named it Gathering Of The Vibes.
It’s great that the fest has hosted many various projects derivative of The Dead. With Bill, Phil, and Bob Weir all performing on Friday, and Mickey Hart on Sunday, is it safe to say we can expect some cross pollination?
KH:All we can do is set the stage and let everyones’ inspiration flow.
Does any aspect of your job get easier as time goes on?
KH:I think for the most part everything area of the Vibes has gotten easier. I’m unsure whether it is that I’m dealing with the stress better or I’ve just got this incredibly talented and dedicated crew that support the Vibes, I think it is a combination of the both.
What makes a great Festival headliner?
KH:I think that one of the things that I love is putting tens of thousands of people in front of a band that they may have heard of but never seen perform live. That’s huge. When James Brown performed live in 2003, there were only maybe 20-30% of Vibes attendees that had ever seen Mr. Brown perform. To turn attendees on to bands and artists like James Brown or a band that they had never heard of that blows them away, is inspiring. The Avett Brothers absolutely wailed at Bonnaroo in front of 80,000 people or so. I think another artist like that in the states is John Brown’s Body. People had heard of them, and had listened to some of their music, but they are so talented and inspirational it feels great to have them get more exposure.
Who on the smaller stages this year should we be looking out for?
KH: There are a bunch of incredibly talented bands. There are thousands of them. To see George Porter Jr hold down the fort is legendary. Then to have someone like Mates of State who are hugely talented. A band out of NYC called Outernational have a little edge. Another band that is just raging right now is Kung Fu from Connecticut. These are all bands that have enormous potential and are just massively talented Diversity is king, it’s gotta be. You’ve gotta keep it diverse and fresh. It’s a pleasure to program it. My only wish is that we could have more stages and more time allotment but we do the best that we can.
You were lucky to have Levon Helm perform twice at the festival. Is there any sort of planned tribute to him?
KH: Yeah. Last year when Levon performed in a heatwave at 105 degrees outside we were all a little concerned. But, I tell you, when he came out on that stage, and the first thing he did was put on a huge smile and the crowd roared. Throughout the entire set he was just full of love. It was just a wonderful time and he will surely be missed by all of us.
Is there anything else you would like fans to know?
KH: It’s a two and a half hour drive from Philadelphia. Boogie up 95 and check out all of the festival info, the lineup, schedule, everything is at http://gatheringofthevibes.com/. C’mon up and join us. We have a beautiful park. 370 acres all along the water. Bring your bathing suit and come hang out with us.