If the Gathering of the Vibes music festival was a human, it'd be able to vote, defend the country and buy cigarettes this summer.
On Thursday, July 25, the four-day festival returns to Bridgeport's Seaside Park, celebrating its 18th summer and seventh consecutive one on the Connecticut shores of the Long Island Sound.
Patch recently spoke with the festival's executive director, Ken Hays, who lives in Weston.
"We’ve got a great weekend planned," Hays said. "I'm looking forward to welcoming the Gathering of the Vibes family back to Seaside Park."
Founded in 1995, the festival celebrates the life and music of Jerry Garcia, the iconic guitarist and soulful vocalist of the Grateful Dead. Each year, Hays seeks to honor Garcia's legacy by making sure his music is showcased and by stitching together an eclectic lineup.
The lineup to the Vibes was announced earlier this week, with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh's project—Phil Lesh & Friends—headlining the festival with shows scheduled for Friday and Saturday night. Lesh's "friends" in this iteration include legendary jazz guitarist John Scofield, keyboardist John Medeski and Furthur's John Kadlecik (guitar) and Joe Russo (drums).
"I’m really pleased [with Lesh's lineup]," Hays said. "I've been a huge fan of John Scofield for many, many years—the guy played with Miles Davis. He's a jazz legend. You throw John Medeski in the mix as well—there's potential of having some extraordinary musicianship on stage."
Other bands announced include the Black Crowes, the Tedeshi Trucks Band, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, The Roots, the Funky Meters, Galactic and Railroad Earth.
"I feel great about the response to this year’s lineup on Facebook and message boards and such," Hays said. "I think we did a good job in giving the loyal Vibes attendee a lineup that they’re pleased with, and at the same time, for those who haven’t attended Vibes, there’s certainly something for everyone."
Additional bands will be announced in the future.
Hays said the rate of ticket sales has been steady for this time of year.
"I feel really good with where we're at," he said.
In addition to offering a wide selection of music, the Vibes also offers arts and crafts, vendors and something for the kids.
"Unless they’ve been to the Vibes firsthand, there’s an impression that it’s a hippie festival," Hays said. "It’s just so far from the truth. Last year, we had 2,300 kids under the age of 15 that were camping at Seaside Park. It’s a beautiful, clean, safe, secure festival, or we wouldn’t have all these families coming back year after year to enjoy themselves."
Hays said the festival recently signed a year-to-year lease with the city of Bridgeport, with the ability to stay there for five years.
"We're going to take it one year at a time and see where we go with it," he said.
As in years past, Connecticut residents will be able to purchase discounted tickets for Sunday attendance.
"All that information will be forthcoming when the snow melts and the flowers blossom," Hays said. "If you haven’t experienced Gathering of the Vibes firsthand, this is the year to do it."
Tickets and more information about the festival are available at gatheringofthevibes.com. Ticket prices will increase as the festival gets closer, Hays said.