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My Behind The Scenes Tour and Overview of The Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland)

Loving Life!

Loving Life!

Gorgeous art on canvas. Quality!

Gorgeous art on canvas. Quality!

I just got back from the 45th year the Montreux Jazz Festival, which took place on the gorgeous Lake Geneva, or Lake Léman as the Swiss like to call it. This amazing musical festival ran from July 1 through the 17th.

Nestled amongst the French populated section of the Swiss Alps in Montreux, Switzerland, this town has one of the most majestic views one will ever have as backdrop for a music festival.

Fun Fact: Lake Geneva was the site for the first measurement of the speed of sound in (fresh) water.

Take all your preconceptions, like comparing it to any festival you have ever attended, and throw them away.  For those thinking it might mirror New Orleans Jazz Festival in the sense of night and day jumps all over New Orleans catching shows, it’s nothing like that.  Try thinking more along the lines of a dignified, classy smallish in scale but giant in reputation, amazing, worldly festival thrown into the middle of The Sound of Music.

A Little Background

The Montreux Jazz Festival is certainly the most well known music festival in the world, at least to musicians.  I would wager that the average musical lover even has a few Live in Montreux cds from an artist or two without even realizing it.

Live at Montreux - I hope you have a few of these albums!

Live at Montreux - I hope you have a few of these albums!

Funky Claude Nobs!

Funky Claude Nobs!

It is all began with Claude “Funky Claude” Nobs, a passionate jazz fan and visionary who founded the festival back in 1967.

This guy was cool, rocking Missoni gear every time I saw him. Come to find out he rocks it almost exclusively. When I lived on Park Avenue, Missoni was the only store on Madison Avenue I cringed by when I took my daily walks home from work.  However, I took the time to take a look at the Missoni catalog that came in our gift bag (more about that later). I have to be honest with you, I dug some of the $1,000 and up items.

A group of youth tossing three teens in the air. Not photoshoped.

A group of youth tossing three teens in the air and they rotated! Not Photoshopped!

Our tour rep told us that Claude started as a cook and networked his way up to somehow create this festival.  That wasn’t a through enough description for me.  How about these facts:

  1. After apprenticing as a cook, Nobs worked in the Tourism Office of Montreux.
  2. He later went to New York, where he met Nesuhi Ertegün, the president of Atlantic Records.
  3. There he met Roberta Flack and invited her to the Rose d’Or de Montreux, one of the most important international festivals in entertainment television
  4. Aretha Franklin made her first visit to Europe thanks to him.
  5. At the age of 31, while he was director of the Tourism Office of Montreux, he organized the first jazz festival

~ Thank you Wikipedia

One of my favorite booths on the walk...

One of my favorite booths on the walk...

Gorgeous flowers were the only thing that stood between you and the water's edge!

Gorgeous flowers were the only thing that stood between me and the water's edge!

Montreux’s inaugural fest was only three days compared to the current three week run and listed almost exclusively jazz musicians.  In the 1970s, the festival began broadening its scope including blues, soul, and rock artists.  Over the years, the festival has grown to include all styles of music from around the world.  This year, I noticed that there was a large Hip-Hop focus at this “Jazz” festival, especially late night.  I would love to speak more with the team who creates the line-up.

It’s fair to say that The Montreux Jazz Festival might be one of the world’s most diverse musical gatherings. Over the four days I was in Montreux, on the streets alone I saw:

  1. Indian group chanting with flute and drum accompaniment
  2. Individual John Mayer types with guitars
  3. Japanese dancing and singing
  4. African Tribal dancing and singing
  5. A Didgeridoo group called DidgEra. (They changed spots all week, I loved them but they need to be nicer to their fans if they want us to give a crap. I got brushed off when asking about the instruments they were playing.)
  6. A solo Kora player
  7. Many versions of American songs remixed with electronic beats coming from the food booths. (Celine Dion even got some love!!)
  8. Hip-Hop dance rage on one of the park stages
  9. Four dudes strapped a barely floating raft to a paddle boat and set up their band on the raft with an electric amp playing garage band music. THAT was amazing. As seen below 🙂
Ballzy and awesome! Note the pirate flag...

Ballzy and awesome! Note the pirate flag...

Try to take into perspective that the festival is very small in ground size even though 220,000+ people are said to have attended.  It’s basically laid out along the edge of Lake Le’man on a straight sidewalk lane pretty much ending at our hotel, Eden Palace Au Lac.  Literally a 15-20 minute walk from end to end.

The Overview

Surf Board Paddlers had the best view from the middle of the Lake

Surf Board Paddlers had the best view from the middle of the Lake

I arrived in Montreux, Switzerland on the 14th of July and was there for four days. Even though it was raining, the place shined through with its gorgeousness. Spotless lawns and sidewalks, clean air, a large gorgeous blue lake in the middle of the most scenic of mountain views one could ever encounter. To have a music festival set in this type of landscape was phenomenal.  As I grow and experience these musical adventures, my definition of phenomenal has changed.  This…was…PHENOMENAL!

The town itself was rather small and you didn’t have to gaze far to see that the town took this festival seriously.  Every window display had a music theme.  There were guitars with pearls draped across them and drumsticks scattered around cupcakes.  Over our time there I would see flower vases lined with sheet music or in the shape of piano keys, cloth stores hung musically inspired cloth and restaurants serving Orchestral Salads and Musical Cheeseburgers.  It was no joke.

Lobby shot of our hotel!

Lobby shot of our hotel!

Loved these guys!

Loved these guys!

While checking in to the Eden Palace Au Lac, to our pleasure we were immediately told we had a room upgrade with a better view!   Then we were told that a representative from The Montreux Jazz Festival had contacted them and asked to be alerted upon our arrival.  We were then told that in ten minutes a representative of the festival would becoming to our hotel to greet us.  Alright, this was pretty dope…

Seriously...this was our view.

Seriously...this was our view.

Our Room with VIew

Our Room with View

Josh and I went to our rooms and melted into our view. It was the most delicious view I had ever experienced.  The grandeur of the mountains were just breathtaking.  The Blue Ridge Mountains where I spent my college years were put into perspective.

The water was so clear and clean.  Very much like a tropical island.  At any point on your walk along the lake, if you felt like swimming, you could jump in from one of the many quaint docks and ladders.  While you swam you were  floating amongst ducks, swans, pigeons, and sea gulls.  Scattered around were sail boats, paddles boats, para-gliders, surf-board paddlers and more.  Every single moment and spot was picture perfect.

View from sidewalk walk around Lake!

View from sidewalk walk around Lake! See the docks to jump in from? Too cute!

Gift Bag Welcome!

Gift Bag Welcome!

I began to unpack before the  phone call came.  Josh went down to meet the representative and came back with a huge bag of goodies. The gift bag contained two Montreux shirts, MAC cosmetics, A Montreux Jazz Festival dual-disc sampler cd, Missioni clothing magazine, and a Switzerland tourist type booklet with fun things to do around the area.

Hip-Hop Dancing on The Park Stage

Hip-Hop Dancing on The Park Stage

Over the next four days, I would experience a world I had never known as this amazing festival opened itself up to me at the same time. I was walking amongst covered Muslims and Native American Indians.  I heard people speaking French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Israeli and more.  This is something I never see/hear at American Festivals.

Fest goers lounging outside the Park stage.

Fest goers lounging outside the Park stage.

During the three week festival you could enjoy piano, voice and air guitar competitions with contestants from Great Britain, Australian, France and more.  There were paying concerts with Carlos Santana (Rock), John Mclaughlin (Fusion), Jimmy Cliff (Reggae), Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi (Southern Rock), B.B. King (Blues), and any other style of music you can imagine. There were also free shows held in various locations along the water each day.

Notice the water on the right as you walk along the side walk of vendor tents.

Notice the water and mountains on the right as you walk along the side walk of vendor tents.

The Music in the Park Stage, located right outside the Auditorium Stravinsky!

The Music in the Park Stage, located right outside the Auditorium Stravinsky!

There were Salsa and Brazilian show boats and a New Orleans Jazz train which all housed performances on board.  There were workshops in Funk, Soul, Bossa Nova, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Electronic and Classical music.  There were teachings about the rise of Hip-Hop, music in film, Slam Poetry performances, and numerous individual artists workshops.  I attended the Larry Graham Workshop and the Marcus Miller Workshop, both of which will be posted in full later next week.

The food booths were unique, diverse and fresh!

The food booths were unique, diverse and fresh!

My first meal at Fest was Paella. So Good!

My first meal at Fest was Paella. So Good!

Some 22 food stalls can be found along the lakeside.  The food was on par with the quality you might find at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the only other festival I’ve attended whose food was on the same level as the music. My first meal was Jambalaya, followed by fondue, crepes, orange and apple portable waffles that tasted like fruit loops, baguettes with amazing cheese and oil toppings, German style potato salads, cheesy scalloped potatoes with ham.  There was Sushi, Thai, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, and German and there was even a salad/pasta bar in one of the booths.  The food was never ending and I didn’t get to eat enough of it while I was there.

Tons of exciting activities were around for kids of all ages!

Tons of exciting activities were around for kids of all ages!

The Behind-the-Scene Tour

To be honest, I had forgotten about the Behind the Scenes Tour until two days into the trip and we were on our last night of box seats.  All we had to do was come in between 2pm and 11pm and they would give us a Behind the Scenes Tour.  The tour ended up taking place on our last day of the festival right around sound check. Coincidence? I think not 😉

I was described the difference between Backline (everything behind the artist on stage) and Front Line (the lights and video equipment). With that info under my belt, I was taken into the Instrument Storage Room.

Hanging out with all the instruments - felt good!

Hanging out with all the instruments - felt good!

Due to the small size of Montreux, the frequency of the shows during the festival and the lack of time for each artist to set up, most artist attending the Montreux Jazz Festival use instruments from the stock pile that is housed in the Auditorium Stravinsky.  Of course, people such as Larry Graham and Paul Simon would use their own instrument but their back up bands were asked to use what was already on site.

Instrument galore...

Instrument galore...

Every day the staff prepares the instruments.  The last performer of the night sound checks first.  The selection of instruments was grand.  I was told that the staff who maintain and organize this portion of the festival were the hardest working people on site.  It was their job to make sure that every artist had the instrument they needed.  It was their job to be there multiple hours a day.  First to organize what is needed for the day, then to organize sound check, see the show through to the end of the performance, and then make sure the instruments are put back accordingly.

I immediately recognized the pressure that was on this portion of the staff and at that moment, a grumpy male snapped at Nathan to move out of his way.  Clearly, there was pressure.

Instruments everywhere, of all kinds.

Instruments everywhere, of all kinds.

Because so many artists performed in such a small amount of time on one stage, the last artist performing on a given night has sound check first and their equipment is set up.  Each following artist’s equipment is set up in front of the last.  Then, during performance time, the first act goes on, their items are removed from the line and by the time the last act is performing, only one line of instruments, that last artists instruments, are left on stage.

I was told of a story involving Keith Jarret.  There are only two pianos in the collection: a Steinway and a Yamaha.  Jarret struck one key on the piano provided by the festival and said “NO!” He refused to use the equipment.  The Montreux staff went looking all over Switzerland for the type of piano that Jarret wanted. There was only one located in Switzerland and it was flown in.  The artist struck one key on this new piano and said “NO!”  He ended up using the original piano provided by the festival.

The crates that brought supplies on the train to the Festival

The crates that brought supplies on the train to the Festival

I was escorted to the inner belly of the building.  Here was housed the recycling center.

Fun Fact about the alcohol:  The festival has 20,000 liters of beer imported from Belgium because the tiny Swiss kegs don’t serve the purpose of the large festival.

Kegs ready for the Festival.

Kegs ready for the Festival.

Montreux’s Greening efforts are intense. Their mission is to limit waste creation while at the same time maximizing sorting and recycling. This mission manifests itself through:

  • Returning the site to its original state on a daily basis
  • A team that works 24 hours a day, sorting trash and ensuring the cleanliness of the festival areas
  • An on-site eco-compatible waste plant
  • Eco Points spread across the site, both indoors and outdoors, allowing the public to recycle items including plastic cups, PET, glass, aluminum, paper/cardboard, and items to be incinerated
  • Prevention and information for the public, in partnership with the Summit Foundation, to promote eco-friendly measures

For it’s second year, in addition to financial support, Alpiq is providing practical energy efficiency solutions for the Hospitality Garden, the festival’s VIP area.  With the installation of a photovoltaic system and energy-saving LED lighting, this technology is to be extended in future to the entire festival infrastructure.

Hospitality Area...

Hospitality Area...

Audio Production...

Audio Production...

The audio trailers were also in this area. There were two audio trucks and two video trucks.   The Montreux Jazz Festival has been recording their video in HD since 1991. Back then, HD was seen as ridiculous.  Now Funky Claude just sits back and smiles with his awesome video while everyone begs for it.  The entire festival is recorded live and there has been 5000 hours of tape recorded.  As an artist playing the festival, you have to be OK with being taped. Don’t worry, you get a free copy of your show! Marvin Gaye refused to be taped until he went to Funky Claude’s personal home and saw the quality of the HD video.  Only then did Marvin agree to be taped.

The fest is staffed with 1200 volunteers who are mostly students who make little in wages so many stay with someone they know or travel in from the outer towns.    There were perks for them throughout the festival. Food was a 15% off price, there was a masseuse backstage for cheap whenever they needed to relax, they were allowed to see music days on end for free, sometimes lucky ones, or not lucky, were allowed to work for the artists!

View of the busy sidewalk near the Auditorium...

View of the busy sidewalk near the Auditorium...

The two main Halls, Auditorium Stravinsky and The Miles Davis Hall, used for the evenings shows, were located inside the Convocation Center.

Montreux Convocation Center

Montreux Music & Convention Center

Backstage at Miles Davis Hall: The Miles Davis Hall, located in the Music & Convention Center, was built on as an audition to the Auditorium Stravinsky after the festival got to big for the solo stage and has a capacity of 2,000 people.  Once built, musicians, specifically jazz musicians, wanted to perform in that space rather than the large space.

Front of Miles Davis Hall, attached to Auditorium Stravinsky

Front of Miles Davis Hall, attached to Auditorium Stravinsky

Lights testing at Miles Davis Hall

Lights testing at Miles Davis Hall

I inquired about the Jam sessions that Sean Rickman had mentioned to me when we ran into each other at a red light on the street.   Artists are encouraged to go to the Montreux Cafe after their performances for impromptu jam sessions.   There are certain set concerts to help promote such a thing happening.  Unfortunately, the scene late night in the Montreux Cafe is not one that many artists of Sean’s caliber want to participate in.  Whenever we were near the area late night, the scene was full of young 20-something drunken ragers who were more interested the opposite sex then the music fueling the vibe.

Heading towards backstage...

Heading towards backstage MDH...

Rage!

Rage!

As we approached the backstage entrance to the Hall, I could hear Larry Graham‘s bass lines coming from sound check. We were let in to watch a portion of the sound check and sadly had to leave our camera outside.

I can tell you, standing in front of the stage with just me and Larry Graham and his low end was an absolute thrill.  In that moment I felt very special. I knew I was in a special moment, experiencing a very special thing. I couldn’t help but think about the people who had gotten me to this point. Thank you to my parents, the Sloanes and Josh! I wasn’t taking any of it for granted.

Larry Graham was on stage with his wife checking things out. His wife and he were sporting matching jerseys with #1 and #2 on the back. Josh, myself, Nathan and Helen watched for about 15 minutes. Taking it all in…

Auditorium Stravinsky

Auditorium Stravinsky

Auditorium Stravinsky this way...

Auditorium Stravinsky this way...

Backstage at Auditorium Stravinsky – We headed through a few corridors and up or down some stairs to end up in the Auditorium Stravinsky, situated in the Music & Convention Center.  The interior is completely paneled with cherry wood and has an audience capacity of 1800 seated and 3500 standing,

We immediately went backstage and were walking amongst the orchestra that would be backing Deep Purple that evening.  There was a red carpet on the floor which I found out led to the stage. How cute is that?  A red carpet to the stage!!

Lounge outside Auditorium Stravinsky inner room for drinkers, etc.

Lounge outside Auditorium Stravinsky inner room for drinkers, etc.

To the left of the red carpet was Claude’s dressing room and interestingly enough, Quincey’s Jones’, who stays all three weeks each year.  When our rep explained to us that her first job had been serving artists relations, Josh asked her which artist had been the most difficult.  Prince became the topic of discussion now as she spoke of going all over Montreux with Prince’s makeup artist looking for the correct wig and he apparently has a very impressive makeup collection.

Leaving the tour, this is the entrance to Stravinsky Area.

Leaving the tour, this is the entrance to Stravinsky Area.Deep Purple fans right around the corner.

The tour was informative and exciting.  As we left the building to go do some more shopping, we passed the entrance to the line for the Deep Purple show.  Diehard fans with purple hair and Deep Purple clothing were already lined up for the show that would be taking place in 2 hours.  I knew how they felt.  The music was calling…

Deep Purple fans ready to rage!

Deep Purple fans ready to rage!

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www.gatheringofthevibes.com

Thanks Jerry!

Thanks Jerry!

I must immediately say THANK YOU GATHERING OF THE VIBES!!!  WHAT A GREAT, WONDERFUL, CLEAN, HAPPY MUSIC FESTIVAL!!!!  I don’t even know where to begin this weekend.  So much happened!

My lil VibeTribe

My lil VibeTribe

It was a weekend of firsts for sure!  I would be camping for the first time this year and we were taking the train with all our gear from Manhattan.  HAHA!! I was stoked to see how we would make that happen.  I was co-chaperoning a 15 year old rager this weekend so now I was responsible for another life other then my own for the first time.  This was my first time with a VIP ticket and being able to utilize VIP amenities at a festival.  First time seeing numerous bands like Primus and The Rhythm Devils…and so much more.

This was, however, my SECOND Gathering of the Vibes. My first one was a little bit of a train wreck.  This go-round, it was heaven on earth and down as one of my top five festival experiences.

The people who we spend these magical weekends with are called our Tribe and effect our experiences considerably.  I got off work around 5pm Thursday afternoon and immediately met up with my mini-Vibe Tribe at the 125th street Metro Station to catch the train to Seaside Park, Bridgeport, Ct..

The Lead Heads w/ Issac on the right :)

The Lead Heads w/ Issac on the right!

Let me tell you a little something about our teenage charge for the weekend.  Issac Slone.  One of the most smart, well-mannered, self-aware, gorgeous young human beings you will ever meet.  From a musical standpoint, he is the bass player for The Lead Heads, the Nation’s only teen-age Grateful  Dead cover band.  And they are no joke.  Issac also writes his own blog and I will be sure to post his GOTV  entries once they are posted……

(Check out The Lead Heads show this weekend @ B.B. Kings on Sunday, August 8, 2010 ~ JERRY GARCIA MEMORIAL TRIBUTE SHOW Featuring: REFLECTIONS – Celebrating and Jamming the music of the Grateful Dead  and  Jerry Garcia)

Ready for Full rage!

Ready for Full rage!

I would be chaperoning our little rager with my favorite person on  earth, Jay.  The dear man had carted all the gear to the station by  himself.  God Bless him.  I smiled as I saw Issac’s mother had come to see him off .  I immediately felt an immense warmth and sense of maternal instinct kick in.  I was not one to babysit when I was a kid, never one to seek children out.  I was always the person who said they would adopt or just not have children.

Wook stop!

Wook stop!

Recently, in the past year that has all changed.  This was going to create an entirely different festival going experience for me.  I was looking forward to finding that balance between raging and responsibility.  I knew I would take the best care of her precious treasure.  I would kill for that kid. And at the end of the day, Issac is possibly more mature and grown up at 15 then some of my friends in their 40’s.  He’s simply a pure ray of wholesome sunshine.

Shuttle to Vibes

Shuttle to Vibes

With two tents, bedding, bags and chairs, we did remarkable lugging the gear around.  It’s also nice Jay is 6’2 and strong.  Upon arriving in Bridgeport, we joined some wooks who were waiting for the shuttle bus and as we boarded it, we all got giddy.  Everyone was fully charged.  Issac’s excitement only fueled my own.   I spent the 10 minute shuttle ride thinking back on my first music festival and how excited I was.

The Festival Grounds @ Seaside Park, Bridgeport, Ct.

The Festival Grounds @ Seaside Park, Bridgeport, Ct. (Similar Set up this year)

Welcome To VIBES!

Welcome To VIBES!

The festival was held on the University of Bridgeport‘s campus grounds.  It was lovely but terribly run down with dilapidated buildings and trash that the earth had eaten over time of neglect.  From the drop off point, we took a fun little ride on a golf cart through the camp grounds and past the stage to the VIP check-in.  You can hear New Rider’s of the Purple Sage playing in the background as we pass the stage in the video below.

Pretty Lamanant!

Pretty Lamanant!

VIP.  Another first for me and absolutely worth every  penny.  One barely needs to spend a penny outside the ticket price.   I  will go into the amenities as they arise along our path but in the mean  time The Vibes 2010 VIP Pass  Includes:

•VIP Entrance
• VIP Camping Area conveniently located near the concert field
• Admittance to the park on Thursday, July 29th at no extra charge
• Hospitality Tent with plenty of room to spread out, relax and chill
• Your choice of water, soda, juices and snacks throughout the weekend
• Catered lunch on Friday and Saturday, with brunch served on Sunday
• VIP bathroom facilities and showers
• Commemorative 15th Annual Gathering of the Vibes Laminate
• Gathering of the Vibes 2010 Event Poster
• Gathering of the Vibes 2010 Event T-Shirt

VIP Check-in

VIP Check-in

Settin' up camp...

Settin' up camp...

First thing we did was establish our camp.  I am a Virginian tomboy who spent her summer youth in the mountains camping, spelunking, climbing, and hiking among other things.  Then I moved to The Blue Ridge Mountains for college for 6 years.   I may be a spoiled city girl now but I know how to get dirty, boi!!  So, here I was with two New Yorkers from the Upper West/East who live in door man buildings and have relied on a superintendent when things needed fixing.  Needless to say, it was amusing to say the least.  Inside my head, I was dying hysterical.  It was at this point we made friends with all our neighbors as many got involved when our “Hit-a-button-and-it’s-magically-a-tent” tent didn’t work.  Whole damn thing was smack-you-in-the-head fantastic.  I will just hope that Issac writes about his experience putting up the  tents in his blog and you can read it there! It was hilarious and fun and in the end  we all helped to get the two tents up in time for Dark Star Orchestra (DSO)  to begin.

Dark Star Orchestra @ GOTV 2010

Dark Star Orchestra @ GOTV 2010

DARK STAR ORCHESTRA

Rob Barraco- keyboards, vocals
Rob Eaton – rhythm guitar, vocals
Dino  English – drums, percussion
Rob Koritz – drums, percussion
Lisa  Mackey – vocals
Jeff Mattson – lead guitar, vocals
Kevin Rosen –  bass, vocals

Oh man, Oh man!!  Right off the bat the music started with a fury.  I have skipped over seeing DSO at every festival this year and I got smacked dead in the face by them tonight.  They were on fire.

Celebrating Jerry Garcia’s Birthday week, I actually didn’t want to see anything but Dark Star at that moment.  This week was all about Jerry and his music, his legacy.  The thing I love about Dark Star, aside from my personal favorite Fake Jerry: Jeff Mattson, is how they present their shows.  Picking a Grateful Dead show from their many decades of touring, DSO recreates the show song for song.  They bring their own vibe, interpretation and sound to the sets and it’s truly the greatest cover band of all time IMO.

Dark Star Orchestra @ GOTV 2010

Dark Star Orchestra @ GOTV 2010

We made it to the field while Candyman was playing.  Issac was hungry so we grubbed down some fries and pancakes.  Dinner of festival champions.  And the fries were miracled, haha.  After the food, we made our way over to the Karma Wash to establish our base-camp for the rest of the weekend.  The Karma Wash crew were our close friends and this was always our spot to meet between sets with whoever wanted to find us.  Having Issac this weekend made this an even more crucial location then normal.

Full Moon 4 DSO!

Full Moon 4 DSO!

A really special thing happened during this set, during this time of setting up at the Karma Wash.  First, a little back story….

During Mountain Jam, a lost soul had made his way to the Karma Wash and had been touched in a positive way through the entire vibe of the set up.  He thought I was the one who “washed him” and finding me through facebook, we became friends.  Over time I noticed that his status’s were dark, deeply sad and made me straight up nervous for his safety.  Not really knowing him or what he was going through, I reached out to him anyway.

Dark Star Orchestra @ GOTV 2010

Dark Star Orchestra @ GOTV 2010

We began communication and over time I learned that he was suicidal, hurt, lonely, broken…all for the same reasons I had been in 2009.  I knew all too well how he felt and I just hoped he would see light.  Through our communications, I shared things with him I wouldn’t share with anyone and he thanked me for helping him see hope when even those closest to him were not able to reach him.  We casually spoke about meeting up at Gathering of the Vibes but I didn’t know if I would really see him.  And, so now, here we were.

Walking right up to the Karma Wash, I sw a few familiar faces and hugged it out and right off the bat, this person turns around and there was his face.  Smiling SO bright.  I wanted to cry but I kept it together.  I was so happy to see him standing there…SMILING!!!  There were no words, we just walked directly into each other’s arms and hugged for a long time.  It was awkward and wonderful at the same time.  How does one react in these moments?  This entire fantasy world was surrounding me and here was this super intense, real moment…at least for me.  There are no words for these kinds of moments.  Later, he would tell me that “Your hug released my soul.”  What a way to start off a weekend fueled by the power of music and kindness.  You can’t make this stuff up…nor can you do it justice in words…not when emotion is such a huge player in the equation.

Dark Star Orchestra @ GOTV 2010

Dark Star Orchestra @ GOTV 2010

DSO really got the festival started off right.  The dance party was bouncing and I knew it would seamlessly roll right into Big Sam’s arms, ready to RAGE late night…

Set One:   Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo > Franklin’s Tower > New  Minglewood Blues, Candyman,Me And My Uncle > Mexicali Blues,  Althea, Man Smart (Woman Smarter, Ramble On Rose, Let It Grow >  Deal

Set Two: Shakedown Street > Samson And Delilah, Never Trust A Woman, Estimated Prophet > He’s Gone > Drums > Space > Throwing  Stones > Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad > The Wheel > The  Other One > Wharf Rat > Good Lovin’

Encore: Don’t Ease Me In

Big Sam's Funky Nation @ GOTV 2010

Big Sam's Funky Nation @ GOTV 2010

Big Sam’s Funky Nation

Danny Abel – Guitar
Eric Vogel – Bass
Drummer Boy Milk  Williams – Drums
Da Phessah Drew Baham – Vocal/Trumpet

BSFN @ GOTV 2010

BSFN @ GOTV 2010

Big Sam…The King of the Party!  This performance was our underlying reason to coming to Vibes Thursday night instead of Friday.  I had told Jay about BSFN a while ago and prepared him for total late night domination by way of some contemporary, funky-ass, bass-filled, horn rage. Having seen Big Sam earlier in the year, I expected the same assortment of choices in set list and was eagerly awaiting to break my legs dancing.

Big Sam's Funky Nation @ GOTV 2010

Big Sam's Funky Nation @ GOTV 2010

Milk Williams @ GOTV 2010

Milk Williams @ GOTV 2010

Formerly the trombonist for the  Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Big Sam Williams, put on an indisputably raging dance party and I dare anyone to tell me they didn’t move during this performance.   This New Orleans-based group is modern funk at it’s best combining today’s popular pop songs with an MC attitude and some nasty NOLA swagger.  If you need more reason to go see them, in 2009, BSFN was awarded Best Funk Group  at the Big Easy Music Awards.  Look! An award…ohhh…ahhhh.  Just go see them.

Danny Abel is one HELL of a guitar player, bringing a sense of rock to the group, shredding his guitar in between Big Sam and Baham‘s horn heavy funk plays.  And Eric Vogel on bass is sharp and bumpy, standing out on his own throughout many of the songs during his solos.  A few songs in particular had me transfixed on him completely.  At times, the horns would leave the stage and allow the other three to jam out.  Drummer Boy Milk  Williams raging a vibrant drum solo, flanked by the guitars.

Big Sam's Funky Nation @ GOTV 2010

Big Sam's Funky Nation @ GOTV 2010

During the encore, Big Sam reiterated the importance of “family” and then he open the flood gates:

“Normally, we just want the ladies up here.  But tonight…it’s family, right?  We are family!  So, let’s have the guys up here too.  Bring it up here.”

Bum rushin' the stage...

Bum rushin' the stage...

I was probably the first girl on stage as I was directly up front on the railing for the show anyway.  But by the time I even turned around it was full of dudes.  Now, where some women are still crazy scrambling fanatics to get to the stage, knocking people over, they are still dainty right?  Most times? Try telling a group of male ragers they should join the stage? When I turned around, after being helped on stage by security…it was as if a heard of spider monkeys were coming at me.  By the time they cut off the surge, it was almost all men.

We raged the stage for the entire song.  After the song I got off the stage and most people stayed on.  I was now alone in the pit and danced around in circles until the end of the performance in front of the stage in my own little world.

Peace out Vibes...

Peace out Vibes...

(Check  out Big Sam’s Funky Nation show this weekend on the Rocks Off Cruise Series this Wednesday, August 11,  2010)

We concluded the evening/early morning by hitting up the Casbah, a dope set up our friends had in Family camping.  I immediately collapsed down on the mats in the middle of a group of my friends.   The cuddle puddle had commenced and I was utterly raged.  You wanna know how hard tonight raged???   I passed out before almost all my friends.  That NEVER EVER happens.

Move on to Day II: Gathering of the Vibes: Friday (07.30.10)

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