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Gathering of the Vibes Review and Photos - 2005
by Lauren

The Gathering of the Vibes music festival was held August 12, 13, and 14th, 2005 outside of Albany, NY

This was one of the best outdoor festivals I can imagine. I attended the 2005 gig at Indian Lookout Country Club, in Mariaville (near Duanesburg, NY, outside of Albany.) It turns out the location is a magical place. Rolling grassy meadows and hills, with a view if you walk to the top of the hill. Very little mud or dust. And a happy energy vortex where cool things happen by themselves and you meet the people you are meant to meet.


For example, I had just ONE friend going to Gathering of the Vibes. I called him as I was driving onto the property, and a couple of times after, but we could never seem to get together easily. The next day, I was standing looking around, and I turned, and who was standing looking around RIGHT next to me - my missing pal Paul!

Everybody was friendly and I met fun people to hang out with. And then I would mysteriously bump into those same fun people again when it was time for us to hang out together. And this is in a group of maybe15,000 people!


I've been to the mega-party "Burning Man" in the Nevada desert 3 times, and I enjoyed Gathering of the Vibes more. Seems like a nicer, more mellow, less competitive and more accepting crowd of people. And the grassy tree-lined campground for Gathering had it all over camping on the dusty barren desert floor.

And did I mention the music? Of course that was the main reason (or excuse) for this gathering. There was great live music playing onstage most of each day. On Fri. and Saturday the music played on the main stage from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m, then there was the late set that went until after 2 a.m. Some of the camping is within earshot of the music, and some is not. But it was piped onto a low frequency radio station so if you wanted to chill at your camp, you could still hear the party.

Big crowd-pleaser bands in the line-up included; The Zen Tricksters, Bob Weir and Ratdog, John Brown's Body, The Jazz Mandolin Project, Keller Williams, Deep Banana Blackout (reunited!), Dark Star Orchestra, The New Deal, Railroad Earth, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood featuring John Scofield.

Under the VIP tent

The weather held out pretty well. The exception was when a sprinkle of rain quickly turned into a torrent during Ratdog's 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. show Friday night, but "The Music Never Stopped."

The sky cleared, and the party continued for those not stowed in their tents. There was some rain Sunday afternoon too. You just can't have a music festival in upstate NY in August without some rain. Remember Woodstock? Or at least the movie?

Saturday night was a musical extravaganza par excellence with the 5-hour Jerry Garcia Tribute that never lagged. The songs that were played probably make this one of the best shows of all time. Dark Star Orchestra supplied the sound of the Dead, and many special guests flew in from Cali to sit in. The show started with Peter Rowan playing some of his greatest songs. Then Melvin Seals, one of Jerry Garcia's favorite keyboard players and his two lady singers. Donna Godchaux, David Nelson, Tom "TC" Constanten who played keyboard for the Dead alongside Pigpen from 1968 to 1970, Fuzz from Deep Banana Blackout, and more.


This was one of the best organized events I've ever attended. Aside from a Bonnaroo length entrance-gate snafu where some people waited up to 4 or 5 hours to complete the pre-entry process, everything else seemed to run like clockwork. The slow entry is due to the fact that all cars are routinely searched by the staff for contraband (glass, fireworks, mass quantities of drugs). The stage shows clicked off one after another, without those annoying delays between shows that can send the audience scattering.

A festival like this has plenty of varied activity, so you're never bored. Walk around, hear live music on the stage, hear impromptu live music in the campground, visit the vendors and shop, eat food that you've prepared or bought from the vendors. Chill, sleep, play Frisbee in the meadow, take a shower, visit the mist tent. Plenty to keep you well-occupied for three days. This is a kid-friendly environment, and over 500 kids under the age of 12 were safe and secure and having a great time checking out the Kid's Corner booth while their parents socialized nearby with other parents and listened to the music.

Chilling at the campsite

Ken Hays is the impresario who successfully started it all and runs the Gathering of the Vibes. We talked to him the day after the show, and he sounded exhausted but exultant at the great success and happy vibe that went down at his show. He said "Other than the logistical problem getting people in, once we got people in and settled it was the cleanest, most family-oriented most community minded Vibes we've ever had. It was the perfect size - if you have too many people you lose the intimacy. The size this year was perfect. Musically across the board, all the bands stepped up and that's really something when you put some unknown bands up in front of thousands of people."

Regarding the VIP area, where concert-goers have the option of paying an extra $150 for enhanced comfort and services (including food and drink) over the 3 days, Hays said  "We had the VIP area in 2002 and 2003, and again this year, and it always sells out. I know there were a lot of happy people under that tent, especially when the rains came Friday night. It seems it was everything they wanted. We choose not to sell more VIP tickets than is comfortable. We want to keep it intimate and make sure everyone feels that they're being taken care of."

Security onsite is done by the Indian Lookout Country Club crew and Harley Rendezvous. Ken Hays says "They do a couple of other shows a year. This is a beautiful site with tons of infra- structure. We're very pleased to have completed our 4th show, and incredibly grateful to them for making sure everyone was having a great time."

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