Gathering of the Vibes 2012

Bridgeport state park was donated to the city by PT Barnum for the public to enjoy summer recreation. Barnum was originally from Bridgeport and though times have changed in this city, the park remains a lovely seaside venue and fairground.

The festival was hosting a food drive and I was grateful to be able to donate our glass jars instead of throwing them away before entering. Once we pitched our camp, I set off to get the lay of the land and started to freak out when I found hardly any vendors. Luckily I found pizza being baked in the back of a big red fire engine.

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There was an excellent beer selection including Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Foam and White IPA as well as several offerings from Saranac Brewing including a “Vibes Lager” that had a heavy, fruity aroma and dry finish.

When the festival was in full swing and the vendors were open for business, I still didn’t see anything inspiring. Thankfully festival staples, Jerry Roll and Co., were whipping up falafel, fried Oreos, and their namesake: a giant egg roll slathered in “cock sauce” aka Sriracha. That weekend we proved Jerry Rolls are perfect for all occasions including breakfast and the Breakfast Jerry Chimi was created: we ate half the roll and I stashed the rest in the cooler. In the morning I fried it up and topped with a couple eggs.

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The lack of exciting vendors did give me the chance to do some good campsite cooking. We had breakfast tacos with portabellas, peppers, caramelized onions, eggs and avocados one morning, the Jerry Chimi, and a Sunday Sandwich-off featuring pork steaks versus veggie grilled cheeses.

Gathering of the Vibes is a wonderful festival with a great family feel as well as party atmosphere. Sometimes the party got pretty crazy – for example our neighbors were taking mustard vodka shots as the sun rose, which is a recipe I don’t feel the need to share. Being on the ocean at the park is gorgeous in the sunshine, but not so fun in the pouring rain for the first half of the fest. Phil and Friends was my favorite of The Dead related acts. Seeing so many Grateful Dead side project and cover songs became surreal – someone described it as feeling like Groundhog Day which is exactly the sensation of hearing “Sugaree” ten times in two days.

At a festival where I thought there would be nothing special to eat, I made some fabulous discoveries like Galen and his Jesus Toasters. I scored one with a VW bus that toasts bread with Jesus on one side and a Jewish star on the other.

The highlight of the weekend was absolutely Primus who jammed into the night, turning the friendly festival into a sinister, funky, freak show. Les Claypool had more to say than usual, musing, “Shall I call you Vibratoooohrs??” and later reflecting on how lovely it was to be able to perform at these great American venues. He pointed out the Ferris wheel, remarking that he loved it because it’s a symbol of freedom and fun in the summer. That weekend I learned from my friend Stephen that festivals almost always lose money on the ferris wheel- they have to rent out the main attraction of a fairground for the weekend so basically have to buy every ride. Though the lines look long, make a point to ride the Ferris wheel at a show soon to support the festival and check out the beautiful view.

After a swim in the sea Sunday morning, I heard the Avett Brothers sound checking from the water and came running to see them play. Pretty much the only other person watching was Luke, the lighting designer for the band Dopapod.

The Avetts closed a lovely weekend with a rollicking set full of show clapping and foot stomping as well as ballads and bluegrass. Wavy Gravy himself introduced the band with a long, rambling, and very far out story about making Jell-O backstage at Alice Cooper. When it melted, they added dry ice, which made “gaseous bubbles form- it went Geothermal, man” leading to the chant “World peace through smoking Jell-O!!” Apparently Alice Cooper stabbed a pillow with a pitchfork on stage, sending feathers flying and sticking to the hippies tarred in Jell-O – they were wrestling, not eating it. Or I think that’s how the story went..

On the way out, I overheard that the festival’s non-profit, The Terrapin Foundation, had raised over 6,500 lbs of donations for the local food bank, which will make a huge impact on this community. At a festival where I thought there would be nothing to report on, I got so many recipes and made a bunch of great new friends. Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right..

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