Returning once again to Bridgeport’s beloved Seaside Park and one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s must see music festivals of the summer, Gathering of the Vibes and it’s tribe of merry patrons will take residence July 31 to August 3.
Keeping in spectacular tradition with former Bridgeport mayor and circus extraordinaire P.T. Barnum and his “Greatest Show on Earth” Gathering of the Vibes boasts a huge assortment of entertainment with over 40 bands, crafts people and vendors from all over, and a humanity friendly Not for Profit Village; for those who wish to learn or let involved and still look cool doing so… and still yet there is more. There are fire performers and Gong meditation, plenty of food and beverage and of course the refreshing waters of Long Island sound.
With the count down officially underway, I was given an opportunity to speak with the Mayor of Vibes’ Shakedown Street Ken Hays to talk about this year’s festival, Bridgeport and more.
Ken Hays: Dave, Hey Ken Hays how are you
Dave Weidenfeller: Hey Ken, I’m doing great how are you?
K.H: I’m doing alright.
D.W: Great, well I’d really like to thank you for taking the time to talk with me, can you believe its our third time kind of exciting but anyways lets jump right into it.
How does it feel to be coming up on the two decade mark, this being the 19th Festival and the 9th if I’m correct, right here in Bridgeport?
K.H: Well lets see, we were here 1999 and 2000 then 2007 through 2014 so what’s that… 9… yea so nine times here in Bridgeport and it feels great, you know. The city has done everything they possibly can to ah, support the Gathering of the Vibes and I’m very appreciative. But as its been very publicly expressed its an enormously expensive venue to operate, but it is an absolutely gorgeous park and I feel it’s something that’s good for Bridgeport and good for Vibes and the state in general. You know, as we see more and more 25 to 34 year olds move out of the state, maybe this will hopefully be something that will encourage them to hang out in Connecticut for a while or at least come back and visit.
D.W: that’s an interesting perspective. Did you envision the festival going this long and can we hope for its continuation into the future?
K.H: I certainly hope so, you know… when we started 19 years ago it never was a plan to make to make this long term and to engage in what it is we’re doing. I love doing what I’m doing and as long as attendee’s keep coming and have fun, enjoying time with friends and family, I look forward to continuing.
D.W: And I think I can speak for many here, we love what you do too!
K.H: Well I appreciate that, I do very much.
Ken Hays and Festival MC Wavy Gravy grace the main stage in between sets during last years festival. Photo by D.Weidenfeller
D.W: With acts this year like Wide Spread Panic, Umphrey’s McGee, and the percussionists from the Dead playing with the Disco Biscuits, How do you the tribe has reacted to the line-up?
K.H: Well based on ticket sales their very supportive of this years line-up. It’s great to have all those bands that you mentioned, and you know, John Fogerty and Ziggy Marley and so many others. Its important that we continue to consistently try to mix it up, you know, and bring in new fresh blood. You know to have the band Lotus performing their version, their interpretation of the Talking Heads is something that is going to be quite inspiring as well. So it’s those one time … you know, those one time musical… ah what am I trying to say, those one time musical experiences that make the Vibes so unique. And when artist sit in with other artists and artist crosspollination with some incredibly talented musicians. That’s what is unique about the Vibes and takes it musically to another level.
D.W: And well speaking about variety and talented artists, The Road to Gathering of the Vibes Contest, which was won by the Cosmic Dust Bunnies, how do you feel about them?
K.H: I think their incredibly talented and as do, I think… goodness, I think between 25 and 35 thousand people voted and it’s the most democratic way to get your band or your favorite band onto the bill, is to vote on Facebook for your favorite band… and it went down to the wire with a couple different artists, but the Cosmic Dust Bunnies pulled through at the end. Again their a great bunch of musicians, incredibly talented, and look forward to having them kick off the main stage Thursday.
D.W: Definitely cool. Fire Performances have been becoming very popular over the years (and one of my festival favorite of mine) what do you think they add to the festival experience?
K.H: You know Vibes is all about art forms, all different types of art forms. You know whether it is musical or creative, like the fire twirlers and performers. Its about new and creative expressions of art and that’s what its all about.
D.W: Last year I had a great time with the girlfriend and her daughter at the school of rock stage, and being familiar with the program from an earlier article, how do you think it effects the children and their parents to see kids maybe their age or a little bit older or younger up there playing on the stage in ever way shape and form like the adults over on the main stage?
K.H: I love it. You know the way the School of Rock, Teen Vibes and the Kid’s Corner areas have expanded over the years is a testament of how Gathering of the Vibes is succeeding. You know last year 2300 or so kids under the age of 15 coming with their parents and to put these kids on a stage and see them perform is inspiring. Anything to get the kids away from the Playstation the Game Boys and all the other video games and get them engaged in music and all the different activities we have; not only for the children but for the teens as well and that can only be a positive thing.
D.W: And with that I remember seeing a lot of those same families and kids over in the non-profit village area, do you find that there are any particular issues that you’d like to see people paying a little more attention to that might be represented there this year?
K.H: Um… yea. I mean the needs are so great within Connecticut. You know, for a state that is known to be so unbelievably well off within the Gold Coast and then to see at the same time, so many people in need. You know there is the impression that Connecticut flush with money and everyone is driving Mercedes Benz and BMW’s. And that is certainly not the case. With the sate and federal governments cutting back on social services and the needs…and mental Health services specifically. You know we really need to evaluate what we’re doing here as a society, and not only locally but globally, and try to get a handle on what we can do on a local individual basis as it pertains to mental health. And one thing I am very supportive of is a foundation called the David Lynch Foundation, which specializes in teaching inner city children and the teaching of transcendental meditation. And it’s proven to not only help kids with ADHD and vets with post traumatic stress, you know it’s these types of programs and non – profits that need our support and deserve our support at a time when again, the state and federal governments are pulling back financial support. So we need to do everything we can to support non-profits and programs that are succeeding. That’s our goal there within the non – profit and sustainability village.
D.W: I think that’s one of the greatest, well one of the most important aspects of that is that people are coming here to have a good time but they are also given the opportunity of learning something.
K.H: Yea. I the words of Jerry Garcia “Our Job is to shed light and not to master” You know its important that we show not only the kids but the adults too what they could do in their every day lives, to be a part of the solution, to help and to volunteer, to vote and have your voice be heard as we approach the mid-term elections. These kids are…you know we’re all feeling so disenfranchised. But the importance of getting out there and voting is essential to the foundation of what we’re all about here in the United States. I’m on the board of directors for an organization called Head Count.org and we’re registered over a quarter million individuals at concerts throughout the U.S. There is nothing more important in my eyes right now then to vote for the candidate who sucks the least. [laughter]Be heard. Be engaged. What ever your social stance is you know, whatever it is whether its gay rights or legalization of medicinal marijuana or homelessness or feeding children who are in need and social services. Whatever you feel passionate about it really isn’t that difficult to find out where the candidates lie within their voting record, and vote for the individual whom you feel aligns best values and beliefs.
D.W: So very true. Lastly as we’re just about at our time, is there anything you wanted to share or get out there?
K.H: Again I’m pleased to offer Bridgeport residents the three day Bridgeport Resident Pass for $75 dollars and then Sunday will again be Family Day and discounted tickets for Connecticut residents. You know we have a great event here excited to see everybody down at the part at the end of the month. And hopefully, well definitely not hopefully, look forward to continue to support Bridgeport and it’s parks and residents.
D.W: Well thank you Very much Ken and hopefully I’ll see you down at the Festival.
K.H: That sounds great dude!