Friday morning the VibeTribe awoke to the same overcast skies lingering from Thursday. By early afternoon however, the sun finally burned though it all, presenting campers and revelers with the most perfect of festival days – a slight wind blowing in off the Long Island Sound, plenty of sunshine to go around yet temps that never rose above the mid-80’s.
Jimkata is a stunning electro rock band from upstate New York that is taking the summer festival scene by storm with its high energy performances. One couldn’t help but be drawn into the Greene Vibes stage performance as they fused elements of EDM and rock, making excellent use of tension and release, and earning a swarm of new converts along the way.
Reid Genauer is one of the most under-looked lyricists and vocalists on the modern music scene, and Assembly of Dust (AoD) is the second band at Vibes for him to flaunt his gifts – the first being Strangefolk – with a large crowd out to enjoy the fruits of his labor. AoD began it’s main stage set with a beautiful rendition of “All That I Am,” in a nod to the late Richie Haven’s who sang the song with Genauer on AoDs 2009 studio recording of duets. “Grey Believer” continued the mellow yet lovely tone, while “Lost and Amazed” picked up the tempo and “Myth of Mine” accentuated the brotherly harmonies shared amongst the quintet. Genauer made note of the weather conditions with a quirk about not playing in a downpour or in 100 degree heat, as has been the case for the band in many previous performances at the Vibes. Genauer’s own children sang the chorus on “Second Song,” and then the band closed out the set with a rousing rendition of “Sunshot,” the title song to its latest recording as the sun broke through the clouds.
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Railroad Earth is a string band utilizing fiddle and banjo and acoustic guitar; yet its music is difficult to pigeonhole as bluegrass, but rather a hybrid of bluegrass and folk rock that features lovely, environmentally conscious lyrics and danceable rhythms. “Elko” was a sweet and energetic road song with exquisite fiddle, and “Loving You” was a gorgeous ode to a loving partner.
Saxophone player Bill Evans is a Grammy winning musician who’s storied career has seen him play with Miles Davis, amongst others, At this year’s Vibes, he held the role of Artist In Residence, sitting in with many of the bands. His sax brought a foreboding sense of storminess to “The Forecast,” no matter that the clouds had mainly dissipated by this time of day. The band closed its set with a rousing train song, “The Jupiter & the 119,” replete with a bellowing train whistle vocal chorus, “whoooo, ho hooo hooooo!”
Early afternoon presented quite a conflict for many of the fans at the festival with jazz guitarist John Scofield’s Uberjam at the Green Vibes stage, while Galactic brought the cajun funk on the main stage. If he’d been given different set times, they’d have been a great choice for collaboration, as Sco can hold his own with anybody. Here, his band featured Andy Hess on bass and John Medeski on keyboards, and guitarist Avi Botnick, and they played a highly improvisational set of tunes from two Uberjam studio recordings. Much of the music comes from the African diaspora, incorporating afro-beat, reggae, jazz, rhythm and blues and elements of electronic house music, albeit with a classic, jazz/funk foundation. The opportunity to catch this band performing together was an absolute highlight for this reporter.
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In 2011 the Tedeschi Trucks Band – an amalgamation of band members from both husband Derek Trucks band and wife Suzan Tedeschi’s – played an early gig in it’s career at the Vibes, not yet firmly established on the scene at the time. Returning to Seaside Park in 2013, the band now has two recordings of its own and also several years of experience of having played together, and their set this year was one for the ages. Songs such as “Do I Look Worried” and “Ball and Chain” brought her blues background to the forefront, while others such as the inspirational “Bound For Glory” and “Sweet and Low” accentuated the southern gospel tone that is thick in much of the members steeped history. Late in the set, much of the band departed the stage, while Tedeschi remained to offer a emotionally charged and beautifully sung rendition of “Angel of Montgomery,” – with a short tease of “Sugaree,” pleasing the faithful Deadheads – featuring her rich, bellowing and aching vocals, all the while a stunning sunset was descending over the western skyline.
Friday was the first night of two with Phil Lesh and Friends performing as a headliner. For his most recent band iteration, bassist Lesh has brought guitarists John Scofield and John Kadlecik, organist John Medeski and drummer Joe Russo, all legends in their own right. “Scarlet Begonias” was the perfect opener; energetic and uplifting, bringing the concert field full of fans lounging in folding chairs to their feet to dance. Lesh and Kadlecik’s tones, both vocally and musically, were eerily reminiscent to Lesh and Garcia’s. “Crazy Fingers” went to dark, spatial places, then moved into the classic nugget “Friend of the Devil,” with country inflected twang from Scofield’s guitar. “Deal” was an energetic highlight, with great interplay and improvisation amongst all,with Lesh leading the new line up through it all, communicating with gentle nods in each others direction.
“The Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion” was an upbeat rocker, while “Viola Lee Blues” provided a extra long jam with loose improvising amongst the whole band. Scofield and Medeski were demonstrated exceptional musicality together. Lesh and Friends closed out night one with an inspiring and faithful reading of “Ripple” that had a field full of fans – the VibeTribe – singing along in unison.
Friday night was the second evening to feature late night Connecticut funk; giving Bridgeport’s own Deep Banana Blackout (DBB) a late night slot was a wise and befitting move of such a party band. “Ruby” and “Feel The Peel” started the set off with upbeat funk, while “Getchya” featured more cowbell and a tight groove. The evening’s guests included members of Tongue & Groove, a band that predates DBB, as well as Todd Stoops from Kung Fu and multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby. Well past the 3 p.m. time the band was supposed to conclude it’s set, it brought the late night rage fans to a euphoric high with their show stopper,” Put The Boot Down!” DBB brought a huge crowd to the smaller stage for a late night party and then brought a raucous end to a awesome and most perfect day in the park.