Gathering of the Vibes 2014: Vibes vet Jen Durkin

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If the Gathering of the Vibes had a Hall of Fame, Jen Durkin would among its first inductees.

Durkin, the longtime vocalist of Connecticut jam band Deep Banana Blackout, is celebrating her 19th year at the four-day arts and music festival.

She was at the Vibes in 1996 when it was still known as Dead Head Heaven; that year, she performed with a gospel group called Voices of Joy. Durkin has performed at the Vibes — with Deep Banana Blackout, or other outfits — every year since.

In that time, she’s seen the Vibes go through a major evolution.

“It started as a way for people to stay together after Jerry died and felt like they could still enjoy that life and that music and that togetherness,” Durkin, who grew up in Fairfield, said in an interview Friday. “Then, it evolved into a haven for many of the young musicians of the day, creative people, artists … it’s about the young people not giving into what they’re packaging and selling in the music industry.”

She added: “It encapsulates what’s so great about grassroots, cutting edge, avant-garde, creative, improv music; it’s an incredible swirling kaleidoscope.”

Durkin is one of the most colorful — and active — members of that kaleidoscope, pulling triple duty at the festival: In addition to performing with Deep Banana Blackout, she sat in with teen guitar prodigy Bobby Paltauf, and she’s leading music and dance workshops at the Teen Scene.

Durkin is looking forward to her 20th anniversary at the festival, and many more to come.

“It’s like one big family reunion,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss it.”

Note: Durkin recently started her own band, the funkadelic-inspired Jen Durkin and The Business. The group is set to release their debut album in the fall.

Scott Gargan

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