An Interview with Ken Hays from the Gathering Of The Vibes: Feel The Groove

The Gathering Of The Vibes takes place from July 31 to Aug. 3 at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where acts like John Fogerty, Widespread Panic, the Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, Dispatch, Umphrey’s McGee, moe. and others will turn the oceanside venue into jam band central. The Aquarian Weekly caught up with Gathering Of The Vibes founder Ken Hays to discuss the festival’s 19th year:

Are there any acts in particular at this year’s festival that you just can’t wait to see?

There are a number of them, but having the Disco Biscuits back at the Vibes with Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead and sitting in is going to be over the top. They’re talking to each other and developing a setlist, and Mickey’s also been wanting to explore for a long time that jam-tronica world of sound

Will this be a Grateful Dead type of thing or something else differently?

It will be unprecedented!

How do you go about picking the bands?

It requires a lot of thought. Now that there are so many festivals every weekend in the Northeast, it’s getting kinda interesting. We try to put ourselves into an attendee perspective and figure out what they’re listening to and then taking them on a musical journey with all the highs, lows and peaks from different genres.

It started with and has always been about Grateful Dead, but we’ve had everything from the Harlem Gospel Choir to James Brown and the Allman Brothers Band. To have John Fogerty at this year’s fest and Widespread Panic for the first time is exciting. Putting together these unique projects like Lotus: Talking Heads Deconstructed and the Talking Heads, too. Trying to do things that are out of the box and exciting to the bands and audience and showing them something they’ve never seen before is what we’re all about.

Will there be any artists sitting in with others for their sets?

Right from the beginning we’ve always tried to plant the seeds. You never want to ask an artist if he’d like to sit in with this person or that person. It’s gotta happen organically. We have planted a couple of seeds this year and they’re starting to germinate and with a little bit of water might grow into something beautiful.

How does that happen?

It’s planting the seeds in advance so they can think about it and consider the possibilities knowing who is in the house and who would like to perform with one another and on what tune.

Do you have any bands that have played your fest that you’re particularly proud of that moved from the smaller stage to bigger stage?

Twiddle played a couple of years on the Green Vibes stage and this year they’re playing the main stage on Friday. To see these musicians grow is incredibly meaningful and I am incredibly proud to give them that platform.

What are your top memories of past Vibe shows?

(Laughs) There are so many I don’t know where to begin, but I think in 2003 when James Brown took the stage. One of the things I try to focus on is artists that everyone has heard of but never seen live. They know these guys from records and DVDs, but to see them play live and feel the bass coming through an amazing sound system that we have and to feel it is a whole different world.

You are an originator of the jam band fests. How does Gathering Of The Vibes differ from other fests out there like Bonnaroo?

I think we have a good model. Bonnaroo and Coachella have a different, post-collegiate demographic. We’ve got an older demographic of 25-49. One of the things that differentiates the Vibes from the other musical festivals is how family-friendly our fest is. Last year we had 2,300 kids under the age of 15 that came with their parents. Having the School Of Rock Stage, Kids Corner and Teen Scene and parents bringing kids and friends to the fest is incredibly meaningful to us.

Do you have a bucket list of bands you’d like to see play at the Vibes?

On the top of the list has to be the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I think that would be extraordinary, as well as Elton John, who I have loads of bootleg tapes from the ’70s.


The Gathering Of The Vibes takes place from July 31 to Aug. 3 at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut. For more information, go to