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2014 Lockn’ Festival Review

By Miranda Stryker Photo by Ryan Jacobs

Lockn' Festival 2014 | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Lockn’ Festival 2014 | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

The second annual Lockn’ Festival took place this past weekend in Arrington, VA featuring approximately 52 hours of music over the course of four days.  In the week leading up to the festival, the weather called for high percentages of rain throughout the weekend, making camp prep and packing a daunting task.  Upon arrival at about 9am Thursday morning, it was overcast but already hot as festival goers waited outside their cars blasting music and mingling while waiting to enter the campgrounds.  By the time the sitting cars were led to their respective camping areas and set up had commenced it was about 90 degrees and sunny, which ended up holding until the last night.

The Wood Brothers | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
The Wood Brothers | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

The festival started off strong with a full ten hours of music on Thursday opening at 4pm with the No BS Brass Band.  The day quickly turned into an all night party once Lettuce took the stage after the Wood Brothers in place of Bob Weir & Ratdog.  Lettuce brought the instrumental funk as usual with a punching horn section and Adam Deitch on drums.  Eric Krasno of Soulive join them on stage and completely shredded, resulting in the quote of the day: “That was Adam Deitch on drums and Eric Krasno on the guitar.. and we’re still Lettuce.”  Alecia Chakour then lent her soulful voice on stage for three songs before they proceeded to start a cover of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Paris”, which went over well with the minority younger crowd while the older parties were less impressed.

Eric Krasno with Lettuce| Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Eric Krasno with Lettuce| Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Erik Coomes | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Erik Coomes | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

Alternating sets of Umphrey’s McGee and The String Cheese Incident followed.  Originally, four sets of Cheese seemed like it was going to be a bit much, but they killed it that first night and set a solid tone for the weekend. Being that they played so many sets, they made for an easy time slot to regroup and lift your spirits or to slip out and grab refreshments, use the restroom, etc. without the risk of missing too much.  Umphrey’s second set of that night was one of the top most memorable sets of the festival.  Mainly due to their performance of “Puppet String” and the near half hour long jam that kept reintroducing its themes straight into a mind melting cover of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” that fell over the audience like a huge blanket of hush and awe.  String Cheese and the lead singer of Kool & the Gang, James “J.T.” Taylor pulled everyone out of their Floyd space warp with “Jungle Boogie”, turning the show fields into a big Saturday Night Fever dance party and closing down the first night with tons of old Kool & the Gang songs like “Lady’s Night”, “Get Down On It”, and “Celebration”.

The String Cheese Incident | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
The String Cheese Incident | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Umphrey's McGee | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Umphrey’s McGee | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

The best thing about waking up to an 85 degree sun scorching Friday morning besides instant coffee was Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass set at the forest-nestled Triangle stage.  It was the first set of the day on Friday and Saturday, starting at 11am, where Keller Williams, Keith Moseley of the String Cheese Incident, and Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band played soul reviving bluegrass versions of Dead songs.  Friday morning included “Cold Rain and Snow”, “Sugaree”, and a killer version of “Shakedown Street”.

Up and coming NYC based band Tauk took the main stage around lunch Friday capturing the audience with their genre blurring jams and some tight solos by guitarist Matt Jalbert and keyboardist A. C. Carter during their cover of the Beatles’ “I Want You”.  Cabinet, Del McCoury Band, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band followed before two more sets of the String Cheese Incident sandwiched Bill Kreutzmann’s Locknstep Allstars.  The Allstars of Bill Kreutzmann on drums, Tom Hamilton and Steve Kimock on guitar, Oteil Burbridge on bass, and Aron Magner on Keys were assembled after Bob Weir cancelled his appearance at the festival.  The group jammed on old Dead tunes and had guests Keller Williams and Taj Mahal join them for a couple of covers, which worked out swimmingly if you didn’t get to catch their early morning or late night sets.

Tauk | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Tauk | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

Phil Lesh & Friends featuring Warren Haynes and John Scofield on guitar, John Medeski on keys, and Joe Russo on drums closed out Friday night with a great set.  They played in and out of Dead songs like “Unbroken Chain”, “Mountains of the Moon”, “Friend of the Devil”, and the day’s second version of “Shakedown Street”.  Yes, they played a lot of Dead, and yes sometimes Phil’s voice isn’t the greatest, but there is still merit to their performance outside of just individual musicianship.  One of the things that is so amazing about groups of musicians like this is how well they transition from playing an accurate recount of a well-known song, into series of unmatchable improvised soloing, back into the song, and then bring down the tempo and the mood to transition into a low key spacey jam, just to bring it back up into the vocals of the next Dead tune. Phil & Friends concluded the set with a cover of “Turn On Your Lovelight”.  Afterward everyone shuffled out of the show fields in a state of self-reflection trying to make up their minds about what they had just heard.

Chris Robinson and his family | Phil Lesh & Friends | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Chris Robinson and his family | Phil Lesh & Friends | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

The late night shows for Friday night were an acoustic set by Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi to warm you up for their Tedeschi Trucks Band performance on the main stage the following day, and Chris Robinson Brotherhood if you were up to going hard until 2:30am.

By Saturday, things were in full swing and there wasn’t a single band you would have wanted to miss.  Aaron Freeman of Ween performed early Saturday, pulling songs off his new self-titled solo album as well as, to much surprise, a few Ween tunes from the past including “Transitions”, “Exactly Where I’m At”, and “Freedom of ‘76”, which all four of the Ween shirt wearers in the crowd went bonkers for.

Gary Clark Jr. | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Gary Clark Jr. | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

Gary Clark Jr. followed immediately after on the adjacent stage, opening with good ole “Catfish Blues” to get you in the proper mood.  He then moved into some songs off of his EP like “Ain’t Messin ‘Round” and “When My Train Pulls In”, bringing it to a close with a face scrunching cover of B.B. King’s “3 O’clock Blues”, ironically just about in time for 3:00pm that day.  Tedeschi Trucks Band, a group that’s always a complete joy to watch—two adept guitarists with one also being a soulful female vocalist, not to mention Kofi Burbridge on keys.  They played a couple of covers close to home including Derek Trucks Band’s “Ballad of the Chicken Robber” and the Allman Brothers’ “Done Somebody Wrong”.  Susan hit a soft spot in the crowd with their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, Its Alright”.

Tedeschi Trucks Band | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Tedeschi Trucks Band | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

Things got a little out of sorts Saturday evening thanks to the weather.  Phil Lesh & Friends’ set was cut short by a mandatory evacuation from rain and lightning warnings.  People were restless at their tents, waiting.  Mimicking of the previous year’s news coverage of a fan crooning a drunken drawn out cry of “Wi-i-idespre-e-a-ad Pa-a-ni-i-ic” could be heard across camps in anticipation for the show to resume.  After about thirty minutes, the entirety of the festival stormed the gates of the show fields to get a solid spot for Panic’s first set of the weekend.  It was obvious that even the musicians were a little thrown by the sudden change in agenda, but it was still a Widespread set.  They dealt out the second festival renditions of “Low Spark” and “Mr. Fantasy” of the weekend with help from Steve Winwood, who really made the set worth the rain.  Then there was Tom Petty.

Hey, we all love a good Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tune—the guy’s an icon—but to have him headline after Phil Lesh and an hour long Widespread Panic set with a weird rain delay in the middle was very odd.  Luckily, it made you feel more motivated to go catch the late night set for redemption.

Steve Winwood | Widespread Panic | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Steve Winwood | Widespread Panic | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Tom Petty | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Tom Petty | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

Saturday’s late night set at the Shakedown stage took everyone by surprise and was definitely one of the most memorable sets of the entire festival.  Bustle In Your Hedgerow composed of Marco Benevento on keys, Joe Russo on drums, Scott Metzger on guitar, and Ween’s bassist Dave Dreiwitz completely melted faces with ridiculous Zepplin covers for a solid hour and a half to two hours.  There were moments when it was hard to tell if you were just telling yourself it sounded as good as it did, or if it was legitimately happening—it was happening.  Benevento’s organ was on fire and Metzger could do no wrong that night.  That performance single-handedly brought the magic back after all the weather and Petty weirdness.

Joe Russo | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Joe Russo | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

Sunday was a day for legends—except SOJA.  Grace Potter was looking fine and put on a hell of a midday show like a true rock and roll star.  She was impressive on the organ for a couple of songs including her tribute to Haynes’ recently deceased guitar technician, Brian Farmer, who was honored by many of the musicians and fans throughout the festival.

The legend, the man himself, Willie Nelson followed Grace Potter and the Nocturnals playing his ancient, hole burdened, signature guitar.  It was exactly what you would expect from a Willie set.  It’s amazing the man is still going at it and still doing it well.  Susan Tedeschi graced the audience for a third day by joining Willie for “I’ll Fly Away”, and later jumped back up on stage along with Kofi Burbridge to join Widespread Panic for a cover of Bill Withers’ “Use Me” where she shredded with Jimmy Herring.

Grace Potter | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Grace Potter | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Willie Nelson | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Willie Nelson | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

Widespread’s set Sunday night without Winwood was more of what you would expect.  Jimmy really brought it.  They hammered out favorites like “One Arm Steve”, “Thought Sausage”, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces”, and the crowd swooned when they covered Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues”.

Derek Trucks & Warren Haynes | The Allman Brothers Band | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Derek Trucks & Warren Haynes | The Allman Brothers Band | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Gregg Allman | The Allman Brothers Band | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
Gregg Allman | The Allman Brothers Band | Photo by Ryan Jacobs

Finally, the rich dessert ending to the weekend of musical snacks: The Allman Brothers Band.  They started fifteen minutes late and ended fifteen minutes early.  It was a long, intense, immaculate set, but just not quite long enough.  During the performance the atmosphere was heavy with reverence and a hint of premature nostalgia for what was about to come to an end.  They all entered the stage wearing matching black tee shirts with the late Brian Farmer’s face on them and had a chair saying “Farmer” set to the side of the stage in memorial.  The air was the coolest it had been all weekend.  The stage lit in mostly cool tones with mist bellowing out over the crowd of tapers in the air and watchers below—quiet, listening with intent, not to miss a single pick or stroke.  Even during the fifteen-minute drum solo there was no obnoxious hooting or hollering.  It was eerily still in that field for the entire two hours.  The Brothers left the stage after completing their performance of At Fillmore East.  Even after returning for a half hour encore, the field remained full and still for the longest minutes following a performance I have ever experienced.  Everyone in a state of shock that it was actually over—like over, over.  After another ten minutes of reflecting and waiting, hoping to see them come back out for just another half hour or so, the field of tens of thousands finally all filed out solemnly.  It was the most perfect and depressing end to a long, fun-filled weekend of extremely talented musicians and soul warming music.

RIP Brian Farmer | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
RIP Brian Farmer | Photo by Ryan Jacobs
The Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band
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