Another Year of Magic at the 35th Annual Gathering at Chaffee’s
Written by Laura Beth Miller
The Gathering at Chaffee’s is Erie County, Pa.’s best party of the year. Hosted by Doug & Kristen Chaffee and their children Emma, Chase, and Maddie, it’s a back yard picnic gone epic. Held this year on the weekend of July 24-26 in Girard, Pa., it’s an intimate festival with a massive amount of love, awesome music, positive vibes, and good times.
Located just feet from the Chaffees’ house, the main stage is covered with a gigantic tent which proved most useful to take shelter from the sun’s steamy July rays, as well as a brief Saturday evening rain. Campers could pick their own spot — wooded or on the edge of the woods/field — on the Chaffees’ land. Vendor’s row gave festival goers just the right amount of options for heady gear and food. My favorite part: You could pick out your own tie dye, hand made by Erie’s hipnique boutique, the Grasshopper, and have it screen printed with the Chaffee’s 2015 logo.
Chaffee’s a pet-friendly gathering, and that wasn’t limited to dogs, though there were plenty of friendly pups around. Sherman the turtle hung out all weekend as well. The Chaffee’s dog Bella paroled the grounds, her tail always wagging as she kept watch over her humans’ party.
Friday afternoon featured an array of Erie-area talent. Dag Nabit started things off with what would be the last performance together for the band. Strangers & Liars and Daybreak Radio rocked out hard for the smiling Gatherers, followed by some more indie rock with Falling Hollywood. I was really impressed by Eric Brewer & Friends, a jam band with a funky fast bass guitar and Eric Brewer crushing it on guitar.
A side stage showcased even more local talent — Jess Royer, Matt Texter, the Mighty Sea, and Claire Stuczynski — in between sets on the main stage. GNOSiS brought it on the side stage with two sets of their jam rock fusion.
The Friday standout for me was BIG Something. Their groovy jams and positive messages took the good vibrations even higher. I was already digging them, and then they played an amazing cover of my all-time favorite song, Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond. They rocked it and I fell for them; I’ll definitely be seeing them again as soon as possible!
The Heavy Pets traveled all day from Boca Raton, Fla. to close Chaffee’s day one. Their funky reggae groove jams created the perfect dance party for the happy festival crowd.
“Tomorrow is gonna be magic at the Gathering!” festival MC Garrett Skindell reminded the crowd before sending us off into the night to share campfires, stories, hugs and all kinds of revelry. As I lay in the grass, taking stock of the day and surveying the wonder of the universe, a shooting star streaked the brilliant night sky, and I knew the magic had already begun.
Saturday began as another picturesque day, and a nice crowd gathered for some Erie rock with the Remnants as they kicked things off early on day two. After their set, MC Garrett asked the crowd: “Have we shaken the cobwebs off from last night? Have we figured out last night yet?” The answer for me was a definite no…I definitely should have gotten up for morning yoga! As This American Song rocked out, the singer’s adorable kids passed out stickers to the still-recovering crowd. Hip hop lovers enjoyed the LEC (Lower Eastside Connection) with their “hippie hop,” and fans of the Black Crowes were treated to cover band Sunday Sound. The Stagecoach Robbery added some cool prog rock to the afternoon. The evening dance party really started when the Hornitz took the stage, followed by Conehead Buddha and their funky ska jam.
Still more great local talent played the side stage again on Saturday: Fred Greco, Six Year Stretch, Tyler Smilo, Sean Patrick & the Newgrass Revolution, and Special Guest. Six Year Stretch stood out with incredible vocals from brothers Andy and Adam Brown. Singer Tyler Smilo blended his soulful folk voice for the first time with the enchanting voice of Jess Royer, giving Gatherers a special treat. Special Guest gave us two sets of their psychedelic funk rock.
Chaffee’s does a great job of keeping the party family-friendly. Festy kids made new friends and played for hours on the Chaffee’s own backyard playground. A secret set was played Saturday evening by the newly-formed Jachels, fresh off the kids drum workshop held earlier in the afternoon
The Gathering blasted off onto another planet when Consider the Source brought their unique, other-worldly jams to the stage. I don’t think Gatherers were really prepared for the intense psychedelic trip the trio took us on!
Spiritual Rez took to the stage for the last set of Chaffee’s 2015, ending the party on a really high note with their reggae jam funk music. A hornpocalypse occurred when guys from Consider the Source and the Hornitz joined the Boston-based band on stage. Spiritual Rez was by far my favorite set of Chaffee’s day two; they’re definitely on my to-see-again-asap list!
Many “Cheerful Chaffee’s!” were exchanged throughout the weekend, as beautiful, awesome people spread the Chaffee’s magic and love to all 800+ attendees. I left incredibly high on good vibes, my heart full after a weekend of so much love and fun. I can’t thank the Chaffees enough for opening up their backyard party and their hearts to all the Gatherers. I understand why the party is still going after 35 years. Here’s to 35 more!
Pictures used with permission of The Gathering at Chaffee’s.