Hey, man check out the Vibes! I mean once upon a time we old guys and gals used to talk in terms of “Good Vibrations.” Okay. Maybe, I’m dating myself. I’m still not that old, at least I don’t think.
Egotism aside, I am and always have been a huge champion of the Gathering of the Vibes. This is a festival that brings great music, fun times and fantastic memories to our enclave here in Bridgeport on the shores of Long Island Sound.
Let’s take a look at our last festival. Just last weekend we saw legendary figures like Levon Helm, Doctor John and Elvis Costello perform their sonic magic with the earshot of the East End, Black Rock and the Merritt Canteen. And there was a lot more than that. Bridgeport’s own Darian Cumming and Deep Banana Blackout, the reunion of Jane’s Addiction and the various reformations of the Grateful Dead were all astounding. Congrats!
But in the experience of this journalist, there was one faux pas after another.
Yes, this may sound a little self-centered, but we in the media were given short shrift. Who cares, you might say, you are just worried about your own inflated egos.
I will counter that argument by saying how would you even know about these performers if we were not there to tell you about them.
A few years back when we were allowed to visit backstage, we could engage the artists in banter and gauge what their experience was here in Bridgeport and what life was like on the road, where they were going with their music and why.
It was an always interesting give and take, devoid of egos, even mine.
I remember Derek Trucks performing in a space not too far away called the Klein Auditorium. Then I saw him at that year’s Vibes. I said “Derek, Great show. How does it feel to be back in here in Bridgeport?”
Derek, who was an engaging fellow but obviously geographically confused said, “Huh? Where?”
I explained to him that he had just played a venue that was right down the road. He said, “Seaside Park is in Bridgeport? That’s cool. I didn’t know that.”
Now, that we, the local media, are banned from associating with the artists, we have lost that opportunity to educate our performers about Connecticut geohistory.
What is worse is that local photographers for the most part seem to have been banned from taking photos at the event. At least two local photographers we know have been banned outright and the third was forced to sign a waiver ceding ownership of his photos to the Gathering of the Vibes management. This is a discouraging development indeed.
This isn’t to say the Gathering of the Vibes isn’t a plus to Bridgeport or doesn’t give our city a boost. It does. CEO Ken Hays does everything he can to make things work well on a community level including funding a brand new splash park at Marin School. Local public relations guru Caryn Kaufman also greases the skids to make everything work well.
But somewhere it fails. Months of preparing for the festival often devolve into becoming a complete and total scumbag trying to exploit the festival. I know. I’ve been there.
We need the local press, residents and NEIGHBORHOOD politicians (note the capital letters) to be a little more involved to make this a smoother weekend.
Other than that, what can I say except, “What’s so funny, about, peace love and understanding?”*
*Elvis Costello (7/23/11) Seaside Park, Bridgeport, Conn. Words by Nick Lowe.