Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Quest for the McGonagalls and Katt Island

Seaside Park has a long history of being a venue for concerts. When the idea of Sunday concerts "for the benefit of the working people" was proposed in 1890, many neighboring residents opposed the plan, but Barnum, whose own home abutted the park, championed the cause in the local papers. When there was talk of police interference at the first concert, Barnum told the band leader to come play at his home and that the grounds would be open to all who wanted to hear the music. source - Wikipedia

I had been waiting since March for this music festival. The Gathering of the Vibes has been a music mecca since 1996 in Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Ct. The park lends itself to the awesome vibes even before you step foot into the festival. PT Barnum donated land for Seaside Park in 1895 and wanted to give back to the working class and promoted music for their enjoyment. The festival itself welcomes music lovers from everywhere.

The day had finally come to drive less than two hours to set up our camp for four days. Of course we made the most of three hour wait to be checked into camping. Our favorite
caravan was the McGonagall family from the Midwest. Cousins, brothers, sisters and their parents (who stayed at a hotel) all made the trip enjoy the festival. Even their Chilean friend joined them. Secretly, I was hoping we would be camped next to them, but alas we would separate and I would look for them all weekend long.

Sweet Jane my coffee queen - this stand was a saving grace
I digress though. We had the most awesome, amazing, and truly unique neighbors once we were sent to our camp area. To our right, we had a sweet, glittery twirl girl who was not going to let us leave without getting us to wear something sparkly. To our left, the incredible camping family - who I think will be the last ones standing if the power grid ever fails. And seriously, I want them as neighbors - I love them. I can see a sit com happening right now.  We all set up our tents, tables, cooking areas and then finally relaxed for our adventure. Lucky, we were very close to a real shower facility, the sound, and the most famous coffee spot in the park. 

We strolled along the Sound and entered the festival area, complete with smaller stages, food venues, and arts and craft areas. From the start, the first responders were blended well into the crowd. Throughout the festival, their presence was very welcomed. All weekend, I didn't see one fight, one out of control moment - but we did witness them at work  (that story shortly).

We began our musical journey with our friends from Dark Star Orchestra. We kicked back and relaxed - and I got my
favorite song they cover: Chinacat  / I Know You Rider. The festival had been a long time coming and it was time off the hubby and I both needed - so around midnight, after dozing off for a minute or 20, we headed back to our campsite.  Now, the music goes almost round the clock, so as we chatted and got ready for bed, the sounds of the stages drifted along the sound, creating a musical quilt for everyone. Because we had over 15 hours of music ahead of us the next day, I tucked myself in. As I was drifting to sleep in the early hours of August 1st, someone in another aisle of tents exclaimed, "It's Jerry's Birthday!" The light bulb had been turned on. Jerome John "Jerry" Garcia, was born on August 1st 1942. And what is one of my favorite Vibe moments, a chorus of Happy Birthday, Jerry! floated around the campsite.

My new best friend Jane, my coffee angel and I met around 9 am that Friday. With my extra dark, two turbo shot iced coffee in hand, I headed for a morning swim in the Sound. The tide was out so I had a bit of a
The glowfish, the national fish of my Island.
Thank you neighbors and A for your talent!
walk to a sand island off shore. Once I was sure I was the first to conquer this little mound of sand, I turned to my left to see in giant letters Katts Island. Damn it. Well, Katt, you abandoned your post and didn't use an apostrophe so I reclaimed it and named in McGonagall Island. After a refreshing swim, it was time to begin a day of music!

Keller Williams played some Grateful Dead bluegrass to get everyone into the second day of the festival on the main stage. This was also the day that the costumes began to become more elaborate. Stilt walkers, fairy's and men in rainbow outfits began to appear. My own neighbor looked like a glam circus ring leader, complete with gold glitter skin paint.

Before Trombone Shorty began is soulful jamming, the Funky Dawgs lead a crowd into the main area, like funkadelic pied pipers leading the faithful to church. Music was indeed all around. The weather was holding, the sun was shinning, and everyone was singing. And for the Carlsons, there was still nine hours of music left!

If you have not heard of Joe Russo's Almost Dead, and you happen to like the Grateful Dead but with a twist, check them out. Made up of Joe Russo, Marco Benevento, Scott Metzger, Tommy Hamilton, and Dave Dreiwitz,they put real jam and more of a rock sound into classic dead tunes. While we were listening to some JRAD, we got a surprise visit from our friend and musician Christopher Robin! Love music festival reunions.


After a food break and a change of clothes for the night, it was time for John Fogerty! Yes, Creedence Clearwater Revival John Fogerty! And I was able to hear one of my favorite Creedence songs, As Long as I Can See the Light. To go in 180 completely different degrees, next up was the Philly band, Lotus, performing their favorite Talking Head songs - with guest singer Gabriel Otto dressed as David Byrne. I kid you not, it was a highlight. I did wonder how many "kids" had no idea that Lotus was copying anyone.
Deep Banana Blackout would send us into slumber, just as the rain started and the first night of the Silent Disco began.

To be able to sleep in, in a tent, in the rain is a blessing. I had overly needed this vacation away from work, blackberries, and meetings. After a refreshing shower, it was time to watch Assembly of Wine for breakfast. As we downed our first cups of coffee and the sun began to shine, the mashup of God Street Wine and Assembly of Dust jammed out some tunes and got our music souls awake. We also jammed to some LeftoverSalmon, making Saturday's morning lineup sound like a bad meal. But Saturday was a big day. But what made it even more special was WE FOUND THE MCGONNAGALS!!!! And we learned the universal symbol for list McGonnagal, so I use it now randomly. Umphrey's McGee, Widespread Panic and Disco Biscuits were playing so some rest was to be had after AoW. Rest, as in some beermosas and such back at the compound.

Now, to that law enforcement story I referenced before. So the hubby and our new friends were sitting around chatting about Italian Pirates, the monk that showed up with a picture they've been searching for, and
debating if glitter tattoos were the gateway to sparkles...we all swore someone ran through our camp site. Hmm, odd. Anyone back to the convesa...wait another? That is a cop! As we all begin to stand, more cops converge on the area behind us. The neighbors also converge and then we all notice the mounted unit also has shown. After some whispering and gossiping and waiting for the paddy wagon to show following a warrant, the man whose luck ran out was going to be taken away. Well there goes the neighborhood!

Finally it was time for some Umphrey's McGee. Time and again, they amaze me with their mashups and jams. This was no different because I was able to hear a nice 1348 and Hajimemashite. But before Widespread began, I was on a mission. Thanks to a purchase at the merch booth, yours truly was going to a meet and greet with the band. Highlight: Getting my Terrible Towel signed by the band!!!

Skipping with joy as we heard the first notes of Tall Boy, Widespread Panic did deliver for their Saturday night performance. I confess I used to think John Bell had a scary voice. I dog the voice now, but I still can understand a word the man is saying.

Disco Biscuits rounded out the night with members of the Grateful Dead. As well as our friend Christopher Robin and Jennifer Durkin of Deep Banana Blackout along with some very soulful singers, mastered a wonderful version of We Bid You Goodnight.

So sad, our festival was almost over. Around 2 am, the rockets began to red glare. Literally. Our poor neighbor was almost bowled over by a firework that fell on it's side. Outside of our tent was some trippy Bladerunner world. Glad neighbor has quick reflexes.

Sunday was spent packing up but waiting for more music as well by moe., Ziggy Marley, and Dispatch. The first thing to do, after coffee of course, was to cook all the food and feed our neighbors. Admittedly, some had not slept or eaten (we assume) for a few days. It was the right thing to do. As we ate our barbeque and had some beer, I had a Forrest Gump moment. A few Chinook helicopters flew over and I couldn't resist: Now they told us that Vietnam was gonna be different from the United States of America, accept for all the beer cans and the barbeque, it was. It was nice to just sit around and talk about music, life, and tell funny stories.

When we all parted for moe. and everyone was all packed (and the vehicles were re-charged) it was pretty much decided that we would all see each other again - no matter which coast. We were truly blessed with the most awesome of camp neighbors, who helped these kids from Brooklyn who lack basic camping skills.

I can assure anyone, that the Vibes is definitely a family friendly event. In fact, I did witness a couple of kids taking care of their parents. In all seriousness, the Vibes lives up to its name. It is a place full of positive, fun, music loving people.

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