As we hit mid-summer, I took time over the past couple of weeks to think about a few things as they relate to music in the Bridgeport area. As the temperature heats up, the entertainment bar is raised, and being the opinionated journalist that I am, it would be irresponsible if I didn’t weigh in.
Let’s start with the Gathering Of The Vibes, a weekend event attended largely by out-of-towners who pay exorbitant admission prices in order to have a “Woodstock” moment.
We at the Fairfield County Independent requested press credentials to attend the festival, and after a two-month wait, we were rejected.
Strange thing: How would you not want coverage by a true hometown paper? In place of us covering the event, the organizers had the audacity to ask us if we were interested in “attending” the Vibes over the three-day period for $124, with a $75 reduced rate for Bridgeport residents. No thanks; I hope someone books my band, MDIII, or that someone needs a vocalist to fill in on those dates.
In all honesty, had my editor not asked if I had interest in covering the Vibes, it would not even have been a thought. For a number of years, I have watched with interest — but from a distance — this event that clearly does not reflect what Bridgeport is about: a cultural mosaic of hard-working people dealing with tough times that seem to march in step with its residents.
The festival takes over Seaside Park, one of the few natural treasures we have here, basically inconveniencing those who enjoy the park on a regular basis, forcing people to find recreation elsewhere. Taxpayers’ money is spent on extra security presence, while concertgoers engage in all kinds of wild behavior, while some security personnel look the other way. If this event were heavily attended by city residents, I guarantee there would be more arrests. My friends and I revive that debate whenever the Vibes comes to town.
From a musical standpoint, this event does very little for me in the way of taste. I am a jazz, R&B, soul, Motown, ’70s type of music buff, and the lineup doesn’t reflect that. I often wonder if that is by design, a concept to keep the minority makeup at a minimum. Rocking out is not my thing, although I’m sure there will be at least one act that appeals to my interests … but just one. So, since I will not be able to cover it firsthand, I’ll get secondhand reports like so many residents of this city.
Keeping it local, my band, MDIII, a fluid, versatile unit capable of playing any style of urban music, would be perfect, but we know that’s not gonna happen. We can’t even get into Captain’s Cove. Ah, yes, the very popular Cove, the seasonal venue in Black Rock. I have tried to get in there without success for the last two seasons. Prior to that, I helped them make a ton of money with a band I used to perform with.
In fact, my first gig there, 25 people showed up on my word. But when it came time for MDIII to throw our hat in the ring, we were described as a limited and unsure band, kind of strange, because we can do a funk show one day and a jazz gig the next. As a Bridgeport resident who is known by more than a few, I deserved a better look than that. But politics abound on the local music scene. You don’t even have to be that good to play the Cove; trust me, I’ve heard a few … Just bring a huge gathering that is more social than musical. If you have a huge following, you’re in. MDIII is for those who truly love this music. Having said that, we don’t see Captain’s Cove in our future.
Now, for the good news: Bridgeport and internationally acclaimed bass player extraordinaire Steve Clarke has been doing an awesome job for the musicians’ community for the last 20 years. His Musician’s Networking Picnic, held usually on the Fourth of July, has brought many singers, players — some of the best among New Haven, Fairfield and Westcester counties — and listeners together for an afternoon of performing, reminiscing and creating new relationships.
This past year was, in the opinion of many, including Steve himself, his best yet. Let the people speak:
“Absolutely amazing time.” – Francesca C.
“I wish I had made it.” – Michael G.
“The highlight for me was to finally get to play with my daughter, Jessica (on drums).” – Steve Clarke.
“A wonderful sense of spirit and community!” – Michael O.
“Thanks for the joy you brought to all … You might have a mini-Woodstock soon!” – Nadia R.
“The Fourth will never be the same without the unconditional love of the Steve Clarke family!” – Walter L.
“It was a blast, man … I was able to JAM.” – John Henry L.
“Thanks 4 a wonderful day!” – Marcel B.
“Absolutely amazing … for over 20 years.” – AEO Consortium
“Awesome!!!” – Willie R.
“I wish we could do this more than once a month. Any ideas, guys?” – Steve Clarke
Well, in closing, Steve, I must tell you, I’ve been working on an end-of-the-year jam, at my place. If the stars are aligned correctly, and Mother Nature cooperates, we will do this again. There is no way that I can duplicate what Steve Clarke has done for 20 years; we just want to augment his good works.