Good Vibes in Bridgeport
In 2000, shortly after entering the jam-scene following Oysterheads debut performance, Les Claypool performed before Bob Weir and RatDog at Bridgeport, CTs Gathering of the Vibes. Still new to the scene, Claypool fronted an ad hoc band consisting of members of RatDog known as the Rat Brigade and, at the end of his set, participated in a duel stage jam with Weir himself. In retrospect the collaboration is not that surprising since RatDog drummer Jay Lane played in an early incarnation of Primus and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti has since played in Claypools band, but, at the time, the collaboration seemed to usher in a new era for the alt-rock bassist.
The next year Gathering of the Vibes relocated to upstate New York and dug deeper into its Grateful Dead roots but, after six years, finally returned to Bridgeports refurbished Seaside Park last weekend. Once again both Claypool and RatDog performed back to back sets and, once again, the pair collaborated onstage. Claypool opened his performance alone onstage playing a bassjo, a 4 stringed instrument which is a combination between a bass and a banjo, and played a number of songs unaccompanied. Soon after, Lane emerged and slowly Chimenti and RatDog saxophonist also Kenny Brooks took the stage to help Claypool through songs like D’s Diner. Weir then appeared at the end of Claypools performance for a cover of the Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows.
As expected, RatDogs performance also featured a number of special guests, in addition to current touring member Steve Kimock. After a short jam the group opened its set proper with a version of Shakedown Street featuring Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay, who later returned for Eyes of the World, the Beatles Come Together, Ripple and, of course, One More Saturday night. Fellow Gathering of the Vibes performer Keller Williams also appeared on Eyes of the World, a few hours after he invited Weir out during his set for Lowell Georges Willin,’ ‘Scarlet Begonias and Brown Eyed Woman.’
Other Saturday highlights included Donna and the Tricksters first ever performance of Spirit in the Sky, Assembly of Dusts cover of Oasis Champagne Supernova, Boris Garicas set on the Sound Stage, Rollas high-energy set on the festivals beach stage and a spirited set by festival veterans Strangefolk.
While Saturdays offerings narrowed in on the Grateful Deads music, Fridays festivities focused on funk, capped off with a set of all James Brown covers by longtime Vibes favorites Deep Banana Blackout (who arrived dressed in suits and with special guest Sam Kininger). Immediately before that set George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars warmed the crowd up with their brand of funk including songs like Give Up the Funk, and Mickey Hart performed a mix of Dead-favorites and New Orleans funk numbers like Iko Iko with a band featuring Kimock, Meters bassist George Porter. Jr., Deep Banana Blackout vocalist Jen Durkin, drummer John Molo and percussionist Sikiru Adepoju. (at one point he segued between Fire on the Bayou and Fire on the Mountain with ease). Zero, Railroad Earth, Tea Leaf Green and Dickey Betts & Great Southern also played throughout the afternoon.
The festivals final day, Sunday, opened with a unique set of jazz music led by festival promoter Ken Hays brother Kevin, an accomplished pianist whose ensemble featured
trumpeter Nicholas Payton, drummer Bill Stewart, bassist Doug Weiss, guitarist Peter Bernstein, vocalist Hilary Smith and saxophonist Joshua Redman. The rest of the day featured an eclectic mix of music, including Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Martin Sexton, the Wailers, the Breakfast and Buddy Guy, who paid tribute to both Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix during his performance. Los Lobos closed the weekend with an enjoyable show that nodded to Sublime and Jerry Garcia and explored the groups own eclectic canon.