The whamp killed the Vibes [by Neil Benjamin]
Another year, another Vibes.
For the sixth consecutive year, I (sort of) enjoyed the fun people, (kind of) great music and (mildly) silly antics at the festival that celebrates the life of the great Jerry Garcia.
Except this year was different. Maybe it should be renamed “Gathering of the Shady and Sketchy Vibes.”
I mean, what am I supposed to say? Early Saturday morning, a DEAD BODY was found in the camping area. Seriously? I spoke with a few people who had vast knowledge of the fatal situation. The news is reporting that the 29-year-old male probably died due to a medical condition. I don’t buy it. One source who saw the body said it looked swollen and bruised. I have no doubt I know what happened to this person, and who did it for that matter. However, I am not going to share my speculation.
Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Conn., is a scenic place. A beach blankets the coastline which features vivacious views and sunny settings. People stroll around with smiles glued to their dancing faces. Tye dye is the color of choice. The friendliness (usually) sets this apart from other festivals. Not this year.
This was the year I get to boast that I have officially become a member of the Vibe Tribe. But after what I saw, I am not sure I want that title.
Sadly, all of this overshadowed the fact that I got to hang out with Bob Weir, rhythm guitarist for the Grateful fuckin’ Dead. One of my idols. The legend helped create the whole scene. A man who enjoys being a rock star, but also knows how much the fan base means to it all.
Needless to say when I woke up on Thursday morning at the crack of dawn I was excited to pick up an old friend and made the trek. After leaving Massachusetts, I drove through Lake George and made my way to my destination.
That’s when the bad vibes took over. There was an uncomfortable silence for the first part of the drive. She yelled at me, degraded me. A friend, you say? More like a thorn in my eye.
But alas, I was going to see a bunch of my friends and people that I love the most.
“Ignore the bitch next to you,” I repeated to myself.
Ahhhh, arrival. I went to pick up my free VIP pass and in we were.
After exchanging hugs, I made my way to the music. I was preparing for Dark Star Orchestra, which had its usual Thursday headlining slot.
In short, DSO kicked ass. The weather, however, kicked my ass. It rained so hard that I had to retreat and sleep in my car. I missed The Machine’s late-night performance. It had begun.
The next morning, after hearing insults and jabs from the “friend” I picked up, I decided to get so drunk I couldn’t walk. How else do I deal with this?
On my excursion around the festival, I ran into so many old buddies. However, it seemed that people were way more concerned with buying and selling drugs than the festival itself. I couldn’t take more than 10 steps without having someone offer me some drug. Many of them I have never heard of. What the hell is MDX?
I even saw two fights happen right on Shakedown Street, the first time I have ever seen violence at a festival. What was going on? Did the storm make everyone crazy? Oh well, time to get ready to see moe.
Silly me. I drank too much. Within 20 minutes of the band’s set, the rain started to make everything annoying. I was also ready to pass out, so I bailed for a night of sleep.
“It’s OK,” I thought. “I get to hang with Bobby tomorrow. Then rage to some Dead tunes.”
The day had arrived. I sprung up and made my way to the VIP camping. We sat around for a while discussing what we were going to say to Mr. Weir. In the end, we decided to just go see music and forget about it.
The only thing on my mind (besides that thorn in my eye) was Bobby. I can still remember the first time I saw him in 2003. I barely knew any of the songs, but I was hooked.
The music was a blur, and for those of you reading who want to know all about Saturday’s antics, I’m sorry. My mind was set on Bobby.
So we filter down to the area to see the man. Was I going to cry? Or just not know what to say? Regardless, the time was here.
I went into the area and stood directly in front of Bobby. This figure that seems so gigantic on stage had such a calm and soothing demeanor.
“Hey man, how’s it going,” he asked.
Oh god, oh god, what do I say?
“Thanks for everything, Bobby. This is so surreal right now.”
I put out my hand for a shake. Then he said, “How about a hug?”
Christ, I do NOT want a boner in front of this man. But I hugged him. Then we posed for pictures, and he asked me what I was going to have him sign. I told him a story about my friend who is going to jail and he wrote “Hey now, Jason. Bobby Weir” on a poster. He gave me another hug and told me to pass that along to Jason. Could he be any nicer of a person? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! BOBBY WEIR!
I was higher than any drug could get me. Nothing could ruin my day, right?
Wrong. Two plus two equaled seven.
So I went and delivered my little gift to Jason. He loved it. Hope you make it through that sentence, buddy.
Ratdog was on in an hour. It was time to get the whiskey ready and prep for a magical evening, when out of the corner of my eye I saw two people leave the tent I was staying in. It was her. And another guy. Seriously?
My day was ruined. How could she do such a thing? Fuck it, I was going to see Ratdog.
It was amazing. Bobby and the boys came out blazing. The first two songs were slow, then a version of “Jack Straw” hit me like a snowball on a hot day. It was tight and fast, just how I like it.
The rest of the show featured “Scarlet Begonias,” “Bertha,” a kick-ass “Birdsong,” and the most rocking “One More Saturday Night” I have ever seen. Thanks Bobby. It was amazing.
Afterward, it was time to do the usual Saturday night raging. I ran into Buntology friend Xtina. It was nice and she gave me a hug, which I really needed.
Then the sketchiness hit its peak. Everyone was crazy messed up. Sure, I was drunk, but that’s legal. Everyone was either spun, rolling or just plain out of it. I surely didn’t like the vibe at all.
The next morning I packed my stuff and bounced, but not before hearing all about the death. The festival scene is meant for people to have fun and reconnect. This was way too screwed up for me.
I said bye to my friends, (told that one “friend” that she was not welcome at my apartment or even in my car on the ride home for that matter) and there you have it. A very bittersweet weekend for me. Some great memories and some terrible ones. Oh well, shit happens. What doesn’t kill us only makes us want to kill others. Wait, er, never mind.
See y’all on the Phish run in August!
(After the Nitrous-related violence (I mean, what?) at Vibes, the “Grateful Dead Family” reacted– NO MORE GAS, BABY!)