It was day two at Gathering of the Vibes, and the temperature did not relent. I wore jeans again. I do have other pants, I just generally don’t wear them. At least there was a cool wind coming off the ocean. The summer breeze did what it could, but left me short of feeling fine. The sun was too much: no matter how much sunscreen you lathed on, your skin was in the broiler.
The Gaslight Anthem played a rousing set of pop-punk, which sounded like pop-punk, except I imagined that everyone in the crowd was wondering what they were doing bringing in a hardcore band. This is of course relative to the jam-bands that had played until the early hours of the morning. But, as Warren Haynes said when I interviewed him earlier this year, it’s nice to get people to look at other types of music at these festivals.
As they were leaving the stage, they won some brownie points with me that had nothing to do with how they played, but because the lead singer told the crowd that Wilco was one of the best bands of all time. He is right, you know.
Billy & The Kids came up next, Billy being Billy from The Grateful Dead. Surely this band was a hit for many, but to me they seemed rambling and shockingly out of tune with each other, especially in harmony. They mostly jammed, which is fine, but a ten minute long rendition of “Dancing in the Streets,” originally by Martha & The Vandellas does not compute. I was mentally comparing this to The Dead’s version of “Second That Emotion,” which runs a manageable five minutes. Billy just seemed to want to go on forever.
Despite how good the first day was it was the next three performances that really drew me to Gathering of the Vibes this year: Warren Haynes & Railroad Earth, Wilco, and finally Warren Haynes & The Seaside Allstars. The unconventional schedule didn’t seem like it would work, but surprisingly it did. And for most of the time it was great, except for the drunk asshole that nearly ruined the whole day for me.
I’m not that old, but I’ve been going to shows for a long time now. All types of shows, local shows of high school bands, giant festivals with multiple stages, small punk shows with GA only and a mosh pit, beautiful rooms that were built with Opera in mind. To quote Johnny Cash, “I’ve been everywhere.” And I’ve seen all sorts of behavior, but this one group at the front of the crowd was probably the worst I’ve ever seen.
You know the types of people you hate running into at concerts: the drunk, the touchy-feely guy, the camper, the suddenly-I-have-a-million-friends-that-are-going-to-push-everyone-aside-because-fuck-you-that’s-why guy. This guy was all of them rolled into one.
It starts as the crowd leaves for Billy & The Kids. At festivals, this is the natural ebb & flow of the crowd. I didn’t dig Billy & The Kids, but I love Warren Haynes, I wanted a close spot. So my girlfriend and myself walk up to the stage, about two feet behind the fence is where we end up as the crowd starts. It was kind of a bummer to see a group with a blanket on the ground in the front row, but you ignore that, we were close enough.
The show starts, Warren Haynes starts ripping into his new stuff with Railroad Earth. I’m a fan. One person arrives, another, two, three, five, eight people show up, pushing everyone aside greeting the campers like old friends and pushing everyone else out of the way.
Then they start getting obnoxious. They take swigs of whiskey out of a gross water bottle. They take shrooms. They’re getting fucked up. They start dancing, or what might be called dancing. Main dude, we’ll call him Mr. Dickface, is the worst offender. He specifically uses the excuse to “bump” into the girls standing around him. This is not cool.
My girlfriend, Naseema, starts getting visibly uncomfortable with this. When discussing this later, she kept saying that “you do it once, twice, it’s a mistake, but when it keeps happening… then it starts to feel like it’s on purpose.” She brings up the Louis C.K. bit about how every guy knows when they’re touching a tit. And Mr. Dickface knew. I found that out real quick. My solution was to switch places with Naseema. We had merely switched places. We didn’t move forward or backward. And now he was grinding into me. When Mr. Dickface finally realized that he was no longer grinding up on a woman, he became livid.
Naturally, he and one of his also drunk cronies who identified himself as a prick, who I will call Mr. Prickface, threatened to beat me up. I, speaking mostly to Mr. Prickface, explained that I was sober, and that if they decided to throw punches that it wasn’t going to be me getting kicked out. “I have my space, you have yours, stick to it,” I said while gesturing towards the invisible wall between us. Dickface turned around. Prickface decided to introduce himself, asked for my card (he noticed my press pass) and told me how good a bassist the guy in Billy & The Kids was.
Public Service Announcement: A concert is not an excuse to disrespect the space of others. Why anyone should think that behavior like this is ok is beyond me.
This is all while Warren Haynes is still playing on stage. He’s running through most of the new album, Ashes & Dust. I mad I missed most of it telling some dude to fuck off, but at least I heard the last few songs, including “Gold Dust Woman.” Haynes has such a unique voice that he really takes all you can out of that song. And then it was over, an hour and fifteen minutes; most of it wasted. We moved over a few feet as soon as the set ended.
In some sort of divine retribution, Wilco played their hardest and most intense songs, starting out by playing their new album, Star Wars, in order.. I think they were doing it intentionally to kill the buzz so many had going on, but hopefully Mr. Prickface and Mr. Dickface would have bad trips and never go to a concert again.
After truckin’ through the 10 tracks, they immediately launched into “Handshake Drugs,” because every band had a song about drugs that they were going to do. (As a cool aside, Nels Cline did a bit from “Marquee Moon” during the song. Jeff smiled when he did it. It was nice.) It doesn’t matter what the actual message of the song is, they’re just going to do it.
As per usual, most of the songs came from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; four by official count, but I’ll always count “Laminated Cat” as a YHF demo, so technically five, but also technically four because they did “Camera,” which is off the EP… but I digress. They closed out the set with an off the cuff version of “California Stars,” with Warren Haynes guesting on guitar. He fit just so perfectly in the song, like there was a little niche built there for him just in case he ever decided to play the song.
It was a fun good time had by most. I literally saw the person in front of me text “So I can say for sure that I don’t like Wilco.” It’s ok. She, along with another more pleasant drunk gentleman, helped Naseema get what we thought was a setlist, but really was the lyrics to “You Satellite.” At the end of the set, the M.C. Gordon Taylor came out on stage and called it a spiritual experience. Not everyone thought so. There’s an entire thread on the Gathering Forum dedicated to how much Wilco sucked.
If Wilco wasn’t for them, at least they had the Seaside Allstars to follow up. They didn’t get onstage until around Midnight, and played for over an hour. It was an interesting group led by Warren Haynes, but backed by legendary musicians like Branford Marsalis and George Porter Jr. They really laid out the Jam Band portion of the weekend with that whole I’m not sure if this was eight songs or two thing.
The array of songs that they covered was impressive. They hit all the bases; Grateful Dead, Dylan, Allman Bros, but threw in a few surprises like Radiohead’s “Karma Police/Paranoid Android” that reprised in the back end of the set. It was an altogether clever and special set, the kind of thing that you can say you saw a few years down the line and have it be the only time they did this. That being said, I really hope they do this again every year, except with a new cast of characters
That ended somewhere past one in the morning, I think, and by the time I got to taking my notes for the evening and into bed it was three in the morning, again, I think. I was tired. So much so, that I just slept until one the next day. Gathering people: if you’re going to have music that late, you can’t have music that early either. One or the other.
As a matter of fact, I think adopting Boston Calling’s two-mainstage setting would really up Gathering’s game quite a bit. There were so many bands I missed due to timing. Each 45-minute break between bands adds up, and with so many popular jam bands being relegated to the smaller Green stage, some people remained torn by what to watch. With two main stages, you can alternate bands and sound check one stage while a band plays on the opposite stage. Eliminating that soundcheck time can add up to three hours of music.
This could have possibly prevented the mishap that plagued Dweezil Zappa. Not only did he take the stage late because of sound issues, but they continued as he tried to play the first song which had multiple false starts. All in all, something like forty-five minutes went by before he finished his first song. It was a shame because they sounded great once they got started. When they announced their time was up, it basically felt like they had just gotten done playing their first song. Dweezil to his credit was apologetic, saying he just wasn’t going to play if it wasn’t going to be done right.
The same thing happened to Weezer, but they had worked through most of it and came out only fifteen minutes late. During that time the Funky Dawgz Brass Band was playing through the crowd. It was a nice distraction, and I tried to snap a picture of them on my phone. The sun was glaring and I had to keep turning around to see what I got. One of the photos, I looked at the picture and looked again, zoomed in, looked closer, turned around, looked at the photo, and thought to myself, “holy shit, is that Bernie Williams.”
It had to be, looked just like him. He was my favorite baseball player growing up (#51, CF, New York Yankees; part of the ‘98 team that was the best baseball club ever put together), and here he is about to jam out to Weezer with me. I turned around again and he smiled a grin like he knew he’d been found out—I was wearing my Yankees cap, which might have given me away. I thought of running up to him, asking for an autograph or photo, but I didn’t want to blow up his spot. He was gone by the end of the set.
For Weezer’s part, they did their best to distract me from the fact that a childhood hero was standing feet behind me. It was weird seeing them without Patrick Wilson, who according to a friend/fellow-attendee/Weezer fanatic, he had hurt his back just a few days earlier. I was relieved considering that he was one of the original members.
The sad thing about their set, watching them live, it dawned on me that they’re a greatest hits band now. Unlike Wilco who came out rip-roaring behind their new material, Weezer stuck to their most well known stuff, hitting all the stops, leaving no casual fan to wonder why they didn’t play this or that. If anything, I wish they had played more of the newer stuff (the newest album only garnered three plays, The Blue Album came in with five, everything else was two or one).
The not so sad thing about their set was when Rivers’ children came out to play with the band. A small girl came out and played keyboards on “Perfect Situation” and really if you didn’t know that that wasn’t a small child, you probably wouldn’t have guessed. A smaller boy came out ready to rock on a balloon guitar, which, while not technically plugged in, rocked the crowd. They both came back out for “Buddy Holly,” which was great because the small boy, halfway through the song played the highest note on the piano for something like thirty seconds while the older girl watched in horror knowing that he shouldn’t do that.
Then that was it. The Gathering was over. Having already seen Ben Harper just two months prior, I walked around the grounds for a bit and watched people clean up, pack up, and move out. The festival grounds were dirty like you’d expect them to be, but way, way less than you’d expect them to be. Most of vibes gathered seemed to be good ones. M.C. Gordon Taylor was telling what was left of the crowd to take some of those positive good vibes and share them with others. I thought about that as I left through the giant archway that dominates Seaside Park. Mostly, I wondered who they’ll get next year.
Article: Christopher Gilson
Photos: Kayla Klein