Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Festival Trail: A Freak Too Far (Gathering of the Vibes '07)

Writer’s Note: As promised in my announcement of the return of Gathering of the Vibes to Seaside Park this summer, here is a four day account of a previous experience of mine at GOTV '07. I must warn you though, as I view music as the number one priority of any music festival experience, there are also many other factors that culminate in making a festival a beautiful, chaotic and fun loving time for all that attend. So there is no hiding the existence of drugs and violence in the face of the typically peaceful community. In this piece, I have chosen to bring you, the reader, to the forefront of these issues in an attempt to bear witness to the deep intricacies that often accompany festival life. So without further ado, I invite all of you freaks and Heads out there to step out of the norm and journey down “The Festival Trail.” 

Day 1

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning on the eve of the 12th annual Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival, and the band of misfits that rolled into Bridgeport, Connecticut some twelve hours ago are already head over heals in the midst of an acid frenzy. I had been awoken by shrieking screams just a short time earlier in the backseat of my friend Delilah’s car. Now I find myself standing in a dimly lit honeymoon suite at the Fairfield Inn, while screaming freaks dance around me in bugged out fashion.

We had come into town early to get some sleep and to join the rest of the Heads in the lot in order to avoid a long wait and poor camping, which can often be accompanied by a late arrival. Now it is looking like we will accomplish none of these goals.

There are more of us now, too. The group is blossoming from five Heads to eight. I had arrived with Delilah, Rosalie, Jack and Charlie, and now our friends Dupree, Lucy and Rosemary have joined us sometime in the night. They had come in from the same small Upstate New York town as we. The three of them have showed up early expecting sleep but arrive to shear chaos. I am the only one in the room that has slept, and thinking ahead, it seems to be the best decision considering we have four days to explore the depths of every drug imaginable.

It is no easy task but some how we are able to pull ourselves together, gather our things and head down the road toward Seaside Park at 5 a.m. I’ve been given the unfortunate task of riding with Delilah and Rosalie. They are bugged out and laughing uncontrollably making the ride almost unbearable.

Delilah is driving, which normally would not make me nervous, but this was her first time on LSD, and it seems she is on the verge of losing all control. “The road is so narrow,” Rosalie cries holding her hands close together to show how narrow it is to her. “I know it, I know it, I know it,” says Delilah bouncing up and down in laughter adding, “I think I figured it out, you just got to drive right through the middle of it.” I buckle my seat belt and clench the handle on the door.

Delilah careens through traffic lights, by road cones and flashing cop cars with ease. At first I am nervous about her driving, but by now my heart rate is settled and she has sold me on her skills. Hell, maybe she is even better at driving high than sober. I don’t know this for sure, but what I do know is she is gracefully maneuvering the car in a way that would have made Neil Cassidy proud.

“I’m sorry, Jimmy,” Rosalie says turning around to me. “Me too, Jimmy, I’m sooooo sorry,” adds Delilah. They apologize over and over until laughter starts to consume their speech and their faces turn so red, they look like they could explode at any moment. “Pull it together, girls! Look at yourselves, you’re falling apart. I warned you about taking your acid that late, but that’s neither here nor there. I will forgive you for all of your terrible actions, just as long as you get me to Seaside Park,” I shout.

While Delilah is capable of driving, they have no clue what is going on, and that’s where I come in, for I am in charge of making sure they keep their heads straight and lead us to the park safely. I am less worried about them now and more worried about keeping my own head straight in the midst of their insanity.

We pull up to an enormous Roman arch where a lone police officer stands, or maybe a security guard, I can’t tell. I hope we didn’t lose the rest of the gang, I think and turn around and look out the back window to reveal that our friends are still right behind us. “Where do we go?” Rosalie whines. “Which way to Seaside Park?” I holler sticking my head out the window. “You’re here!” he says adding, “But you’re early.” “Well what the hell do we do then?” I ask. “Well you could either come back at 8 a.m. when the gates open, or you can follow this road until you reach a parking lot where you can then wait until the gates open at 8 a.m.” “Hell, why didn’t you just say that in the first place,” I scowl, “Take a left Delilah.” “Which way…?” she says laughing. “Left, damn it! That way,” I yell with my finger pointed in the right direction.

At this point Rosalie and Delilah have lost all control over their trip. Luckily we are less than a mile away from parking our car and relaxing our minds before they open the gates. We pull into an enormous parking lot to reveal members of our Dead Family that have already began to assemble. We are searched upon arrival and then shuffled into a long line of cars that stretches eight rows deep. Now there is nothing left to do but ride out the waves of our high until the gates open and we are set free. We sit in the lot patiently, mingling among the weird and listening to Grateful Dead music as it pours out of nearby car windows. Hipsters from all over the Northeast and beyond have convened in the parking lot now leaving their lives and principles at the door and investing their souls in a weekend of chaos, beauty and music. They finally open the gates at 8 a.m., as promised. The girls and I jump back in the car, start the engine and head on our way down the paved road, while our friends follow closely behind.

A flicker of light bounces off the ocean top and attracts my eye to reveal the distant horizon, as we drive around the winding ocean side road and toward our future weekend home. We park without problem and quickly set up shop and secure our site, to my surprise. There is nothing easy about leading a pack of tripped out hippies into a highly tactical camp set up. Luckily we are not your normal tripped out hippies, for we are mountain people from the Adirondacks and festival veterans, to boot. We know what we need to do in order to secure our land and guarantee our comfort for the next four days, and we do it.

For our early arrival, we are treated to an ocean side campsite and a ten minute walk to the concert grounds. Note to self: stop showing up early, they always stick you in the back. We spend the rest of the day exploring the beach and waiting for the first ripples of Grateful Dead music to be transformed through the bands most famous cover act, the Dark Star Orchestra (DSO).

Seaside Park does not resemble any other festival ground I have ever been to before, and that includes the Indian Lookout Country Club, which hosted the last four Vibes. Seaside Park was designed by P.T. Barnum, the late great American Showman and inventor of the freak show. The festival was originally titled Dead Heaven, and I can see why, as this place is more like a Grateful Dead resort than a festival ground. It’s different, but I think I like it.

The time finally arrives for us to head down to the DSO show. “I don’t trust any of these people, they’re a bunch of sketch balls,” Jack snarls. “You’re crazy, man. Of all the festivals you have been to, and you think these people are sketchy? To be honest, I find the Vibes crowd to be good hearted and honest people, not to mention they are family. If anything, we are the sketch balls.” I snap back. “We’ll see about all that,” Jack states.

We stuff our bags full of beer and head on down the beach front road to the concert grounds for the first time. We arrive to flashing lights and cops on bikes. “What the fuck is up with this?” I say. “That’s some fucked up shit, I’ve never seen cops at a festival before,” says Jack. “Fuck em’, there is no way they can give a shit about anything. I mean, everyone is high, or at least I am. What are they going to do, arrest us all?” Charlie adds. “I don’t like this one bit, I mean aside from the music, the best part about a festival is the freedom from cops, rules and the scorn of society. This just totally contradicts the whole concept of the music festival,” I say. These cops represent everything that festival freaks stand against, and it makes our whole group uneasy. There is no time now to worry about this troubling revelation because DSO is starting soon, and if I have one pet-peeve at a festival, it is being late for a show.

We arrive just in time to hear the first waves of music come ringing from the main stage. The show is one of the most anticipated concerts of the festival for us, as DSO offers young Heads a chance to witness the closest thing to a Grateful Dead show that they may ever see. DSO usually recreates old Dead sets in their entirety, but tonight is different, because this set is for Jerry. A collage of Dead classics is what made up the music on the night, as we dance around the soft grass while day turns into night.

We spend the show bouncing around from vantage point to vantage point while grooving and smoking grass along the way. Everything is going great, that is until DSO decides to break into a face dripping rendition of “Drums/Space”. The “Drums” are a crowd favorite and always a great break to the night, but that retched “Space” can turn one’s mind inside out and make them feel as though they are in the vast depths of a bad acid trip.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be Jack, Charlie, Rosalie or Delilah, as I sit here fighting through the ambiance of sound. The acid they had eaten earlier in the morning is still running through their veins, and I can tell it is starting to wear on them. Rosalie and Delilah are squatting on the ground with their heads in their hands. “They’re doing this just to fuck with us, this whole thing is just meant to fuck with us,” Jack proclaims.

I want to answer him, but for some reason I can barley talk. The sounds are piercing through my brain and working their way down my spine now. Is it just the song or am I really tripping? I think, Maybe somebody dosed me…No, that’s just crazy talk. All this insanity is starting to rot my brain and send me into deep fits of paranoia. Yeah, that’s it.

The song keeps going on and on and on and on, as my mind starts to grow weary with every twisted dripping note. And just when I think I’m going to lose my mind, the band finally finds its way out of the spaced out jam and back into a more uplifting mix of Dead classics. A sigh of relief comes over all of us. We thought we were all plagued to stay lost in the tripped out jam forever, but now we are back on our feet with smiles stretched across our faces and our ears happily tuned back into the music.

By the end of the show the two days of drugs, music, and no sleep has finally caught up to us. We have three more days and two nights of insanity ahead of us, and we will need our rest if we are going to make it out alive.

A light rain begins to fall while we sit around our camp to blaze one last joint before heading off to our tents for a good nights sleep. Turning to me Jack says, “You know what, you were right about what you said earlier. These people truly are beautiful. Hell, maybe we are the sketch balls, after all.” “See I told you, man. You just got to give people a chance,” I respond. The first day has lived up to all of our expectations, and tomorrow promises to be even better, as more and more Heads prepare to roll into town sometime in the night to join the freaked out party. Hopefully, we will be ready.

Day 2

I awake to a hard steady pulse of rain pounding down on my tent. The wind off the ocean starts to pick up and I can hear the tents and tarps rustling around outside. The breeze off the ocean is bitter cold. I step out of my tent and into the early morning air clutching my arms around me to keep warm.

The crew is already up and sluggishly moving around. There’s an aroma of eggs, bacon, and marijuana steadily filling the air around us. We spend the early hours of day nourishing our bodies with food and our minds with grass. Colorful characters from all around invade our campsite, and before I know it there are over twenty people sitting under our small makeshift fortress of pop-ups and tarps.

Some of the freaks are friends that arrived sometime in the night, and others are just strangers for whom found our campsite in an attempt to hide from the weather outside. We share our food and grass with our new and old friends, and they share whatever they have with us. Booze and a multitude of uppers and downers start to consume our souls as morning turns into afternoon.

Our bodies are wired and ready to go to the music, but our minds are weary from the influx of rain. Our freakish friends are coming in and out of the camp and bringing with them new unfamiliar faces with every trip. Our site has become the stomping ground for those who have been stuck at the farthest points of the park. There is a rumor going around that the promoter had expected 15,000 Heads and instead 40,000 have arrived between last night and today. Our friends feel this effect having arrived sometime in the night and need to take a bus to get from their campsite to the concert grounds.

Zero and Dickey Betts are the only two acts I truly have any interest in seeing during the day. However, I allow myself to be swallowed into my friends’ treacherous pit of sitting out show after show in order to get high and stay dry. In the eye of the rain, everyone has to make their own decision to either brave the elements or hide away until it fades away. We are no different, and I am ashamed as I sit under our shelter listening to each show over the radio. It’s just not the same, I think.

Around 6 p.m. the storm disappears out over the sea. We pull ourselves together and prepare to go down to the concert grounds to catch the Mickey Hart Band. The rain is gone now, but it is still extremely cold. We arrive just in time to catch the beginning of Mickey’s set. We groove around with our bodies huddled into ponchos in order to stay warm. When we left New York the temperatures had reached the nineties; needless to say, we had not packed for this kind of weather.

Our spirits are not quite at the same level we experienced them the night before. I can’t tell if it is the aftermath of the LSD, or the influx of bad weather that has thrown the crew into such damper spirits, but they are starting to bring me down with them.

We leave the show early missing the end of Mickey’s set in the face of our dismal mood. This is not the atmosphere I expected after an intense first day. The good news is that George Clinton and the James Brown Tribute, as performed by Deep Banana Blackout, is coming up next. We have all sorts of funky attire the girls have bought for us to change into. Colorful pimp hats, boas, beads, glow sticks, and silly string sit in the bottom of a large bin waiting for us to decorate ourselves.

Dupree and Lucy come back while we are in the middle of changing into our funky garb. “Hey guys! Did you see that Zero set earlier? It was awesome! Robert Hunter even came out,” Lucy says. “No way!” I respond. “Yes way— Where were you guys anyway. You missed a hell of a show.” “Oh, well, we just sat around and listened to it on Vibes radio, it wasn’t the same.”

“We should all go down to P-Funk together,” Dupree says adding, “I bought some LSD off this guy camping next to us. He say’s he made it himself. I haven’t tried any, but I hear it is real mellow, a good clean high, if you know what I mean.” “I’ll try some,” Charlie says jumping out of his chair adding, “I need something to pick me up for the show.” Dupree pulls bag upon bag out of his pocket until he eventually pulls out a small vile. He drips a bit on Charlie’s hand. “Is that going to do anything?” Charlie asks. “I’ll soak your whole hand, if you want,” Dupree says. “Well, you don’t have to do that. Just give me a little more, so I know I’ll trip.” Dupree thrusts the bottle upside down allowing drip after drip to rain down into Charlie’s hand until there is a small puddle lying in his palm. He licks his hand to make sure he absorbs it all into his body.

We finish getting ourselves together and head off down the road in our colorful attire. We reach the festival grounds with time to spare, but for some reason Jack runs off into the crowd. I ensue behind him, almost losing him several times along the way. His fuzzy day glow hat makes it easy for me to recognize him, as I make my way through the dense crowd. He leads us to the far left side of the stage. It’s just us five again. We lost Dupree and Lucy somewhere along the way.

“I just want to tell you guys I love you,” Jack says turning to us. “Awwwww,” the girls moan in harmony. I think it was the acid speaking, but it was a touching moment between friends, none the less. We share a group hug just as a booming voice thunders over the crowd introducing P-Funk.

The night moves on, and our dreary moods disappear in the face of the funk gods. That is until we edge closer to the end of the night’s music, and I notice the acid has not done the trick for my friends like it had the night before. “We should try to find some more drugs,” I hear Jack say. “Yeah definitely,” Rosalie responds. I can tell they want to go, but this time I am staying, for I missed enough music due to rain earlier and I refuse to miss anymore in the name of drugs.

They say their goodbyes, and disappear into the darkness of the crowd leaving only me and Charlie to the music. The show is set to end at 1 a.m., and even worse, it’s the last one scheduled for the night. I have never been to a festival where the music ends so early. Usually there is music that goes until the early hours of the morning, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here at Seaside Park.

Charlie and I are high from the Deep Banana Blackout set. We decide to stick around and help with the massive clean up effort. We pick up cans, bottles, and all sorts of weird disgusting garbage with the help of our fellow Heads. In the end, the large open concert ground once consumed by thousands of Heads less than an hour ago is empty of the freaks and their waste.

Charlie and I make our way back to the campsite fighting past gangs of people standing around watching street performers and other circus freaks entertain. A large gathering occupies our site now. Party favors get passed around to all, but eventually our minds start to wonder and we slowly disperse into the night.
Charlie, Dupree, Lucy, and I find ourselves on the ocean side road. A parade of drunken freaks that come chanting down the street grab our attention, and we quickly find ourselves swept into their madness. There are people drinking and smoking. There are those holding hands, hugging, kissing, screaming, singing, dancing, jumping, laughing and talking all at the same time. You name it, people are doing it.

The parade makes its way around the circular road, which I can see has formed into a parade route. As the road comes to an end, I can see freaks hurtling over a barrier up ahead. It seems all the emotion of the crowd comes together at once, as fellow freaks are drawn towards a festival taxi parked in the road. The crowd erupts, as some of its members engage the cart, jumping up and down and shaking it and the souls inside. I notice a pair of security guards jump behind a jersey barrier for protection, but there is no need for that, they are perfectly safe for if they new any better they would realize it is all in good fun.

People are dancing, singing, and hugging, now. Their reaction seems to signal the end of the parade. We find ourselves dispersed along the road with the rest of the freaks. Luckily the after party continues to rage on in the camping area, as we head out to see what kind of excitement we can find.

We spend the rest of the night exploring Seaside Park. Drum circles are the pinnacle of entertainment, seeing there are no more bands set to play. We meet beautiful new friends and promise that we will never forget one another’s faces. The day that started out as cold, rainy, and miserable for us, has now blossomed into something far greater than any of us could ever imagine. And to think we still have two more days ahead of us…

Day 3

I awake the next morning to sunshine blazing into my tent. I step out into the warm summer air realizing that everyone else must still be a sleep. What a difference a day makes. I wonder off from the campsite and sit on the beach enjoying the beauty of the ocean while drinking organic coffee and catching an early morning buzz.
I head back to the site finding my festival family awake. They are moving around even slower than they had the day before. They quickly pull themselves together, and before I know it, we’re back at the concert grounds mingling around the crowded shops and listening to early morning sets by the Ryan Montbleau Band, Strangefolk and Donna Jean and the Tricksters.

We make our way back to the campsite where our friends have gathered once again. The party starts to rage. There is nothing left to do except crack open a cold one and hope that your early morning hang over has worn off. I start to drink and converse over the upcoming days events with my fellow friends. Tonight is the height of the musical experience for all of whom sit around, for we are all excited about the prospect of seeing Keller Williams, Les Claypool, and Bob Weir and RatDog perform tonight.

I notice a few unfamiliar faces under the tent. I strike up a conversation with a long bearded hipster named Jerry. He’s a comical character, who I find to be a fellow Upstate New Yorker. The girl he is with, for whom I presume to be his girlfriend, attended the same State College Jack and I had. Her name is Alyssa, and I’m not sure if this is her first festival or not, but she seems to be enjoying herself, none the less.

We all head down to the show a little early in order to find a good spot for Keller. As we approach the concert grounds, Jerry and I have nothing on our minds except getting through the gate and finding a spot close to the stage. We dash off bumping and weaving through the crowd. I feel someone grab my shoulder turning me around to reveal Jack. “Jimmy, come on man, its Donna!” He says pointing over to a small tent nestled just past a line of vendor’s. All I can see the silver hair of former Grateful Dead member Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackay shinning threw a small opening of people.

We make our way to the stage finding Delilah, Rosalie, Alyssa, and Charlie twirling around among the small crowd. Under the tent stands Donna Jean and Grateful Dead Hour host David Gans perform in a rendition of “Friend of the Devil”. “Good looks, man.” I say turning to Jack. “I know it…glad I caught you, because you would have flipped if you had missed this.”

The song is the last performance of the group’s collaboration, but it’s one of those intimate festival experiences shared among a small group of Heads. We walk across the street passing by police officers who sit on large intimidating horses, giving them a presence of power in the face of the peaceful crowd. We make our way inside pushing through the intense crowd, keeping track of one another along the way. We find a spot to our liking set just in front of the sound board.

The stage is already surrounded by Heads. Keller and the Keels are the first act, only it’s just Keller that appears on stage. “I’m sorry to announce that the Keels cannot be here tonight,” Keller says. We are not disappointed but more excited at the prospect of a Keller set. Keller is out and in his typical fun loving fashion. He twirls his head with his mushroom-top hair flailing around in the air. He jokes about tripping, and sings his song about the doobie in his pocket. We laugh, dance and sing our way through the show, never once stopping to erase the smiles from our faces.

Keller’s set ends, and we stand around guarding our spot drinking beer and sharing our grass with fellow Heads in the midst of the freaks that push their way in and out of the crowd. The sun begins to set over the horizon, as Claypool steps out on stage dressed in his customary pig outfit. The crowd erupts. I look around noticing Dupree, Lucy and the rest of our crazy friends cutting threw the crowd. “Dupree, over hear!” I yell. My words get lost in the hysteria of the crowd. Luckily they see me in their passing and are making their way toward us. We greet each other with hugs and excitement in our eyes. For the first time this weekend, our whole family is together.

Claypool puts together a great set that spans the music of his career. What makes it even more memorable is the introduction of the members of RatDog one by one, until it ends when Bobby Weir joins the collaboration on stage, thus ending the show on a high note and leaving our bodies exhausted from dancing and our minds hungry for more.

Delilah, Rosalie, Jack and Charlie take off for the bathroom while Jerry, Alyssa, and I follow Dupree and the rest of the gang over to the beer tent. I bob and weave threw the crowd, until I get swept up in the madness forcing Jerry and Alyssa to stop and wait for me, losing our friends in the process. We get our beer and head back to the front of the sound board where we have all agreed to meet if we were to get separated. Just as we are fighting threw the crowd, RatDog takes the stage, and the first notes of “Shakedown Street” come seeping out of the opening jam. You can feel the electricity in the crowd, as we sneak past the grooving bodies and back to our designated spot.

Jerry is jumping up and down and howling with his head tilted toward the open sky. “He’s here, man! I can feel him, Garcia is here,” He snarls in laughter. I share in his excitement. Jerry, Alyssa and I bond to the music, as we dance around and scream like Bobby Soxer Girls, while each and every jam weaves an intricate web of stimulation throughout our mind and body.

“Hey, guys!” I hear a cheerful voice say as I turn around to find Rosalie, Delilah, Jack, and Charlie. “Hey, you made it!” I exclaim in excitement. “Yeah we were just over on the other side of the stage watching. We got pretty close,” Rosalie says. “Well it’s good to have you back,” I respond.

All together now we dance the night away, while RatDog sends shivers down our spines with a “Dark Star > St. Stephen > William Tell Bridge > The Eleven” ending, an all too obvious “One More Saturday Night” encore and a classic sing along in “Ripple” to close the set. The show is the perfect end to a beautiful night spent with friends both new and old.

We walk quickly toward the exit in an attempt to beat the rush of freaks to the gate. Met by a body to body wall of madness, we are herded out through the small entrance like cattle. Losing my friends, I somehow make my way out of the mess to find them waiting patiently outside.

Out here everything is buzzing with excitement and energy. We make our way through the bustling street, when there is a sudden melee among the crowd. A group of cops and event security come charging through chasing after a fellow Head. They tackle him to the ground kicking him in the ribs and crushing his face into the road’s hard pavement of the road. I watch as the crazed hipster refuses to allow the officers to arrest him.
They continue to beat him in the head and ribs, but the hipster will not give up. The stress of the situation is getting to the crowd now, as I look around to see the horror in the eyes and faces of my fellow Heads. They continue to beat on the man, until their efforts get them no where, and one of the officers takes out his taser gun.

He shoots the tasers into the man’s flesh, and he immediately starts to shake as if he is having a seizure. They attempt to arrest him again, but it does not work, as he continues to resist. Another set of tasers are shot into his chest, sending shock waves through his body, but still he will not allow the officers to arrest him. They tase him again and again and again, but he continues to fight the men even as his body appears to subdue into a state of shock. They tase him for a sixth time, as his body starts to shake, and I can see the pain and anger fade from his eyes. The smell of burning flesh consumes the air around us. The officers are finally able to get his hands behind his back and place him under arrest.

They drag the man off, leaving the crowd standing in shock over what they have just seen. All of the good vibes for which we felt upon leaving the show are gone. Left in their place are feelings of sadness and despair for what we have just witnessed. Our mood is somber, as we make our way back to the site trying to forget about the horrific scene along the way. In passing, I overhear a Head talking of how the man had been running around provoking people, and that he had actually mugged some poor soul on the street. Even this revelation doesn’t change our feelings because the incident has left a permanent scar on our minds, as it is hard to erase the image from our eyes, the smell from our noses or the sadness from our hearts.

We arrive back to the campsite, the rest of our friends showing up not far behind. They have witnessed the horrible scene, also. We sit around sharing our feelings and emotions on what had just happened. We have different opinions, but what we can all agree on is nobody deserves a beating like that. “You know, I was always afraid to go to Vibes when it was in Mariaville out of fear of the Hells Angels, but after seeing that, I would almost rather take my chances with them,” Jerry says. Maybe we weren’t so free after all.

The rest of the night is spent at the campsite drinking our cares away and trying to refocus our attention on the good times, instead of the bad. We ride out our highs, until one by one our friends slowly make their way back to their far off campsites. I turn off the lantern and head off to my tent to get a little shut eye before we have to wake up and start packing. I lie in my tent for a while listening to the party rage on somewhere out in the darkness. Another Vibes down, I think.

Day 4

The next morning I step out of my tent to find our campsite in ruins. Dupree, Lucy, and Rosemary are surprisingly already up and packing. We, too, attempt to mobilize ourselves in an effort to clean up our site. We begin the process of tearing down our gear and packing it back into our cars before the heat becomes too unbearable to do so.

Our energy is short lived, and I decide to head down to the concert grounds to catch some music and explore the area one last time. The sun is blistering hot, and the humidity in the air is enough to suffocate someone to death. I hide away in the Merch Tent taking advantage of the couches, fans and the Jerry Garcia Art Show that lies inside. I soon find myself swept away by the nostalgia of the archaic photos and the beauty of the colorful art.

I eventually find my way out of the festival grounds and through the exit in order to hide under the shading of the trees out back. I lie down in the cool grass listening to Martin Sexton before falling asleep. I awake to someone shaking me. “Jimmy! Jimmy!” I hear a voice say. It’s hard to see, but I can just make out the silhouette of Jerry and Alyssa in the glare of the sun.

“Hey guys, I was hoping we would run into each other before I left,” I say. “Yeah, we just happened to stumble upon you, literally,” Jerry says laughing. “So when are you guys getting out of here?” I ask. “We were actually just heading back to pack up the rest of our gear, and then we were thinking about hitting the road,” he answers. “Yeah, we were probably going to stay for Buddy Guy and then do the same,” I respond. “Well, we’re going to get going, man, but if you are ever in our neck of the woods or if you just need a place to crash, make sure you give me a call,” he says. “I will, man,” I promise him adding, “If you make it back here next year, make sure you let me know.” “Well you might be hearing from me because after this weekend, I might just have to come back,” he answers. They walk off disappearing into the crowd, as I wonder if I will ever see their faces again.

My body is cooled now, and I decide to venture back over to the concert grounds to catch Guy’s set. I wait in front of the Merch Tent where Delilah, Rosalie, Jack, and Charlie have promised to meet me. They never arrive. I head over to the front of the stage in order to get a good view of the blues legend. His set is everything one could expect, as it is filled with legendary blues covers and signature guitar riffs. The sun is even more unbearable than before, so I head for the gate catching the end of the set from the roadside. I slowly walk back to my campsite.

I arrive drenched in sweat and ready to hit the road. I find my friends passed out under our pop-up with nothing more packed than when I left. Dupree, Lucy, and Rosemary are gone. Jack opens his eyes looking up at me in a daze. “What’s going on?” I say. “Tired,” he says, stretching his body. “Well, what time do you want to leave?” I ask hoping his answer will be sooner than later. “Well I really don’t care if I see Buddy Guy or not,” He states. “Well that’s good because you just missed him,” I respond. “Oh shit! Well then we should get going.” He says, jumping out of his chair.

We wake up the rest of the gang up and pack the remainder of our gear under the rays of the hot sun.

The Vibes, like many other festivals, is always a special experience to be a part of. It is a time set aside for music, friends, and family. It is a place where for at least one moment in the vast existence of our lives, we can be free from the rules and problems of the outside world. And although you may not escape all of the horrors of society, we are all able to find some kind of magic within the music, people,and culture to make the whole experience worth while.

With our vehicles packed and our minds weary, Delilah, Rosalie, Jack, Charlie, and I head off into the sunset leaving the vast ocean horizon in our rear view mirror, and with it entering back into the reality of our lives… at least until next year.


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