The Gathering of the Vibes kicked off yesterday at Seaside Park with an amazing line up of musicians including headliners Phil Lesh & Friends, the Black Crowes, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Assembly of Dust, John Butler Trio, Galactic and more. We at the Connecticut Weekender are huge fans of the Vibes, so we caught up with the festival founder Ken Hays to learn more about what the Vibe Tribe can expect this year as well as what the future may hold.
CW: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. We’re incredibly excited for this year’s Vibes and thrilled to be covering it for a second year in a row. Aside from just the overall growth of the festival over the past few years, what are some major ways it’s evolved from the first one to where we are today?
Ken: Well, the very first one we had 3,500 attendees and pretty consistently over the past 4, 5 years we’ve had between 20 and 25,000 people attend over the course of four days.
CW: One thing we know people are pretty excited about is the return of Government Mule. What did it take to bring Warren and everyone back to the festival?
Ken: It had been 10 years since Warren played Vibes and he’s wanted to do it for years, but because of touring & conflicts like when he’s touring with the Allman Brothers Band, we just hadn’t been able to sync up and make it happen until now, but we’re really pleased he’s back on the Vibes. The response to the announcement has been huge. Based on where we’re at with ticket sales right now it looks as though we’re going to sell out camping in advance.
CW: The rest of the line up is pretty diverse – you have acts ranging from jam bands to DJ’s. What’s one of the main reasons you aim for that variety in line-up?
Ken: Well, we’ve pretty much done that right from the start. Everything from Harlem Gospel Choir, to Jane’s Addiction, to James Brown and everything in between. This year we’ve got Grace Potter and the Nocturnals returning to Vibes and she’s just exploding in popularity. Last summer she opened up for Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney and performed in front of 80 to 100 thousand-person stadiums across the country. She’s one of the amazing artists that people might not have known the name, but once they see Grace and the other artists perform they can get a glimpse of what’s in store. We’ve got some incredible musicianship on the Vibes lineup this year.
CW: The Vibe Tribe – how would you describe it to people who might know what it is?
Ken: Well, I’m not even sure what it really is. The Vibes attendees over the years, you know, they’ve called themselves the Vibe Tribe. It’s just a community of friends and family that communicate online through Facebook or on our message boards. The Vibes is an annual reunion of friends and family. Last year we had 2,000 kids under the age of 15 that came with their parents, and Sunday this year once again is Family Day at the Vibes.
CW: What do you think it is that attracts so many families to bring their kids to the event?
Ken: You know, I think that it’s fun. It’s safe. It’s upbeat, it’s positive, you know, wherever you look there’s people who are smiling and look you in the eye. If someone bumps into you they say excuse me. It’s kind of an unusual space in these days of negativity surrounding the 24 hours news cycle. Connecticut’s going through tough times, the country is, hell even internationally. We’ve got some tough problems. And this is an opportunity for friends and family to step away from that for a few days and enjoy each others company and spend meaningful time with each other.
CW: What are some things we can look for on Family Day?
Ken: It’s on Sunday, and Connecticut residents get $10 off, so a full day is $32.50. It’s a great value for a full day of music with Max Creek and Blues Traveler, John Butler Trio and the Black Crowes on the Main Stage. On the Green Vibes Stage there’s a bunch of local bands that are up and coming. One of those bands is Band Together who for close to ten years they’ve assembled a bunch of amazing musicians that constantly change. They perform throughout the states and all the proceeds go to charity. As government funding gets pulled back from some of these really worthy non-profit organizations it’s really important that we continue to support these groups that provide social services support to those in need.
CW: One of the organizations that the Vibes embraces is called HeadCount. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Ken: I’m actually a board member of HeadCount. It’s a vital organization dedicated to registering people to vote – particularly teenagers and first time voters. They do so at concerns and festivals and on tour with international touring artists and engage these kids and get them to vote. One of the incredibly positive stats of HeadCount is that of those that signed up to vote at one of these shows, 87% voted in the last general election. It’s about doing everything we can to make sure that everyone has the tools and information they need to be heard.
CW: Are there any bands on your wish-list that you’d love to have play Vibes but haven’t been able to coordinate yet?
Ken: Yeah – I’d say Tom Petty, the Red Hot Chili Peppers would be a few. All good things in all good time.
CW: What’s the #1 thing you’re looking forward to at this year’s Vibes?
Ken: You know, to be up on stage and look out over 20 thousand-plus smiling faces with beautiful blue skies and 80 degree weather… that’s what I look forward to. It’s incredibly powerful and meaningful for so many. It may be cheesy but that’s something I really enjoy doing. The average drive to get to Vibes is right around 4 hours, people are flying in from all over the country and all over the world, and this little grass-roots festival has kept true to what we’re about – and that’s a group of friends and family coming together for an annual reunion in a beautiful park.
CW: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today!
Tickets to Gathering of the Vibes can be bought at the gate through Sunday. For more details, visit http://gatheringofthevibes.com/.