Gathering of the Vibes 2013- Day 4

Sunday at GOTV turned out to be the warmest day at the festival, just a bit more humid than the previous days, and with lots of gorgeous sunshine that poked through sparse cloud cover throughout the day. And whether it was local youthful jammers The McLovins or reggae/punk pioneers Fishbone on the Green Vibes stage, or any of legends that played on the main stage, the day had something for everyone’s taste.

Max Creek is a legend in the jam scene, a Connecticut institution of live music, and with more than 40 years of history behind the band, they really are forbearers of the modern jamband scene, an inspiration to many. The band played at the original GOTV festival in 1996 and has continued to play it for many years since that time. They had the noon slot on Sunday, following the World Peace Flag Ceremony, with lots of festival attendees milling around the concert field, maybe searching for a bite for lunch or just enjoying the sunshine and being drawn in by the excellent music.

“Louisiana Sun” got the day started in an upbeat and warm manner, with singer and pianist Marc Mercier’s fingers dancing up and down the keyboard. Later in the set, he sang the late JJ Cale’s “After Midnight” in tribute. Bassist John Ryder cut a rug on the rollicking love song, “You’re The Only One.” Closing the set, guitarist Scott Murawski let it rip both on his instrument and his vocals on the hard rocking “Just a Rose,” the chorus bellowing out over the concert field.

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It’s a pretty safe bet that the three original members of Blues Traveler saw a Creek show or two in their own youth and were influenced at least a bit by the previous band. And though Traveler has been performing for more than 25 years, the group’s performance on Sunday was the first time it performed at GoTV. The New Jersey band brought some NYC love, opening with a speedy run through “Dropping Some NYC,” drenched with John Popper’s extraordinary harp and accompanied by swirling keyboards, and then following that up with “NY Prophesie.” They delivered a hits laden pop set, including “But Anyway” featuring some exquisite harp, “Runaround” and the set closing “The Heart Brings You Back.” But for all of Popper’s prowess on the harp, he’s also got incredible lungs as a singer. His delivery of “The Mountains Win Again” was emotional, his vocals roaring out over a large crowd that was lapping it up.

Australian based John Butler Trio first appeared at GoTV in 2011, and the band’s set that year was so well attended that a return performance was an absolute must. Aspiring musicians take heed; don’t believe the record label head honcho when he tells you that acoustic rock won’t sell as of the trio’s strongest songs were played on an acoustic guitar or even a lap steel guitar. Opener “Revolution” and “Ragged Mile” for instance, were slow building but peaked with a crescendo of wailing steel guitar. And “Johnny’s Gone” was a rock song led by Butler’s acoustic guitar and filled with all kinds of indigenous Australian instrumentation. Other songs, such as “Better Than that,” and “Treat Your Mama” were already well known and drew huge ovations from a crowd gathered for the afternoon set.

Sunday evening’s festival closing set came from the undeniable powerhouse that is The Black Crowes, returning for the first time since 2008. Without question, this sextet is southern rock to the core, as was clear in a greatest hits performance at the Vibes. The latest addition to the band’s line up is harmony guitarist Jackie Greene, known for his own solo career, but also as a harmony guitarist with Phil Lesh & Friends in a previous incarnation.

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The Crowes opened with two of their biggest hits, the hard rocking “Sting Me” and “Twice As Hard,” then moved into “Hotel Illness,” featuring blazing dual electric guitars of Rich Robinson and Jackie Greene. They doubled up on covers that emphasized their love of the 70’s, beginning with The Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” and moving directly into the Dave Mason (Traffic) classic “Feeling Alright.” And this band is the author of one of the stronger transitions on the live scene, as the audience got to hear the lovely anthem “Ballad In Urgency” slip perfectly into the “Wiser Time.” The band broke out the acoustic treatment for the classic, “She Talks To Angels,” then raised the proverbial roof on the Southern rocker, “Thorn In My Pride,” and finally brought the event to a rousing end with ZZ Top’s classic, “Tush.”

And with that, the circus packed up the big tops and left town. P.T. Barnum, who donated the land to the city of Bridgeport, is looking down with a gracious and warm smile.

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