Concert Blog: Green Day vs. Gathering of the Vibes
It's Thursday morning and my Keens have finally dried out from traipsing around The Gathering of the Vibes, Bridgeport, CT's answer to Bonnaroo, which enjoyed a rain-soaked and lightning-energized 14th anniversary last weekend while playing host to more than 20,000 jam-band lovin' fans.
But if spending a few leisurely days soaking up the sun (and rain) while checking out the likes of Keller Williams, Levon Helm, Ratdog, John Brown's Body, Grace Potter and Crosby, Stills & Nash wasn't enough to keep me occupied, I broke away from the action in Bridgeport to head to Hartford's XL Center to check out Green Day and The Bravery.
Talk about your study in contrasts.
And those contrasts were most evident when you considered the multi-generational makeup of the audiences. So I thought it would be fun to contrast the differences between the parents and children attending the Green Day show together, to the 'rents and kids who headed out to one or more days at the Gathering of the Vibes.
What are the biggest differences between the families at Green Day and the families at The Gathering of the Vibes?
Green Day: Kids are dragging their parents into the venue.
Vibes: Parents are dragging their kids into the venue.
Green Day: Kids queuing up for "21st Century Breakdown" CD and cover-art t-shirt for $50.
Vibes: Parents queuing up for lime rubbed chicken, guac and black bean burrito for $8.
Green Day: Kids cheering and pumping their fist every time Billy Joe Armstrong asks: 'Hey, Hartford ... how the F--- are you?' while their parents just turn away and look embarrassed.
Vibes: Parents singing along to Crosby, Stills & Nash about being sure to "hide the roaches," while their kids just turn away and look embarrassed.
Green Day: Parents driving their kids to the show in clean, late-model cars and mini vans.
Vibes: Parents driving with their kids to the show on bicycles, or in scruffy, beat-up VW micro busses.
Green Day: Parents try to remain calm while kids' eyebrows get singed by massive pyro effects during "21 Guns".
Vibes: Kids try to stay calm while parents scream for a .moe encore while the site is being evacuated because of massive lightning strikes.
Green Day: Kids sneak a cigarette while mom is waiting in line for the bathroom.
Vibes: Dad sneaks a few tokes while the kids are waiting in line to meet Guster.
Green Day: Mom can't believe the crazy punk outfits, tattoos and piercings on all the kids
Vibes: Son can't believe he waited all day so Dad could do the 'humpty dance' to George Clinton in a full Cherokee headdress.
OK, you get the idea--to say my weekend was a study in contrasts is a bit of an understatement. But what about the shows?
Well, I was as impressed with The Bravery's opening set for Green Day on the current tour as I was with a little-known act called My Chemical Romance back when I saw one of the opening shows on the "American Idiot" tour back in the day.
I can only hope that Green Day provides the kind of good luck for The Bravery that they did for MCR. This moody, brooding synth-driven band deserves a chance to bring their material to the next level, and here's to seeing them headlining the arena circuit soon.
I only wish I was as enthusiastic about Green Day's set this time around, but they failed to deliver the visceral energy they managed to generate the last time they played the region, despite packing 32 songs and three additional musicians into a nearly three-hour package.
On the band's previous tour, the former three-piece power-punk trio from the San Francisco Bay area was complemented during much of their Hartford set by guitarist Jason White, who mostly hung in a darkened background corner of the stage. But on the current tour, White was right out there along with Jason Freese, a full time keyboard and sax player, and third guitarist/back-up singer Jeff Matika.
Unfortunately, Green Day--even in a five-piece configuration--could not outdo their own performance on the "American Idiot" tour. Granted, Billy Joe Armstrong could still get the audience to echo back one of the dozens of "Day-o" shout outs, and he can still personally engage the audience by dragging members onto the stage to perform or play act against his own over-the-top clowning.
But what was once a unique novelty is now a tired routine, further deflated by repetition. Instead of having an audience member come up and play guitar, or come up and dance around, or come up and sing, or come up and spray the audience with a Super-Soaker water gun, Armstrong brings them all on during various points in the set.
The only fresh and entertaining few moments came when someone held up a banner that read "Let Tre Sing," referring to the band's whirling dervish drummer Tre Cool. Trading places with Armstrong and strapping on a mint green Stratocaster, Cool's take on "Dominated Love Slave" was as much a visual treat as seeing Billy Joe flailing away on the drums.
All told, Green Day's nearly three-hour set encompassed two-thirds of the new album, with first single "Know Your Enemy," "Before the Lobotomy" and "21 Guns" among the standouts. The balance of the set was sprinkled with hits including "F.O.D." (played by request), "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Basket Case" and the sing-along show closer "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," which had kids and their tagalong parents singing in unison as they headed for the doors.
Meanwhile, back at the Gathering of the Vibes main stages, some of the highpoints included a rain-soaked and flooded-out Grateful Dead tribute Thursday night with Dark Star Orchestra, which was followed by an equally well-received late-night (read: early morning) Pink Floyd cover set from The Machine. Friday's lineup included a rollicking turn by New Orleans-based JJ Grey and the spacey noodlings of Keller Williams.
Saturday offered more tasty cajun-flavored concoctions from Levon Helm, who mixed some big hits from his days drumming for The Band with a jazzy take on the Grateful Dead's "Tennessee Jed." The latter featured the Dead's own Bob Weir lending vocals, perhaps as a warm-up to his own band's subsequent set.
That 90-minute trip incorporated a melodious envelope with "Bird Song," giving way to "Bertha," "Sylvio" weaving Dylan's verses together with a funky "Tequila," "Scarlet Begonias," Weir's "Ashes and Glass," "Iko Iko," and an extended jam back into "Bird Song."
Sunday's finale on the main stage showcased an expanded and almost completely reinvented Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. The recent replacement of Potter's bass player with Catherine Popper (formerly of Ryan Adams's lineup) and addition of second guitarist Benny Yurco is giving this Vermont jam band a better shot at some crossover appeal.
The new, fuller and heavier arrangements may sound strange to longtime fans, but a lot of Vibes-goers who were experiencing The Nocturnals for their first time were buzzing about Potter's set long after she and her band exited the stage.
Original Woodstock vets Crosby, Stills & Nash wrapped up the festival with an abbreviated and lackluster set sprinkled with three cover songs. (The group is working with Rick Rubin on an album of covers.) And while The Rolling Stones "Ruby Tuesday" was kind of neat, with some sweet harmonies, by the time they dealt out an obligatory Dylan tribute and launched into Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" (I kid you not!), I was about ready to show my appreciation by tossing my muddy Keens at Stephen Stills.
The addition of those tunes, which sucked up nearly 20 minutes, plus losing 15-minutes of their two-hour set to a sudden thunderstorm, robbed the expectant audience of what might have otherwise been an opportunity to enjoy some deeper exploration of the trio's catalog. As a matter of fact, this was the first time after seeing CSN more than a dozen times, that they did not perform their seminal Woodstock opener, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes."
Despite the shortcomings, "Guinevere," and Nash's "Winchester Cathedral" both brought chills as the harmonies of David Crosby hit the mark with expert vocal precision. And leaving the stage with "Teach Your Children" seemed a fitting message to send along to all the parents and kids who made it down to enjoy this "gathering" as a cohesive 21st Century family unit.