Photos by Lori Sky Twohy
My caravan made the way to Oak Ridge Estate in Arrington, VA on one of the most beautiful Thursday afternoons I’d ever witnessed. As we drew near, the lines of people made their way into the large fenced area which usually held steeple chases. It was about to be bombarded by some of the most dedicated music lovers in the U.S. This was the first ever Lockn’ Music Festival, featuring artists Warren Haynes, The String Cheese Incident, Furthur, Trey Anastasio Band, Jimmy Cliff, Widespread Panic, The Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Zac Brown.
The immense line of cars, vans and RV’s was a ghastly sight. Our dander was up about getting in and setting up camp, however, it would be at least 5 hours until we would get the chance to even get our vehicle searched. After meeting fellow fans that were also hot and pissed off, we realized there was nothing we could do but wait. After we made our way onto the estate and surrounding large festival grounds, we realized this was no picnic for the kind people that volunteered their time and that a cluster of traffic was unavoidable. Especially after the whole festival was over, I had completely forgotten about the long wait and would do it again in a heartbeat to experience what I did that weekend.
I’ve been to some large scale festivals before, but nothing this massive. With overflowing camping areas, long treks to and from camp grounds, and 25,000+ people, we knew this weekend was going to be one for the books. Upon arriving at our campground, we quickly made even more friends with our neighbors who were from all over the South East. To give an example of how caring these people were- they filled up my solar shower and carried it at least half a mile. I then made them pancakes to show my gratitude.
The sun- drenched walk from stage to campground was dusty and hot but spirits were high and we were ready for some music! Keller and the Keels was first on the bill right after the music got going at 4:30 as Kyle Hollingsworth and Jason Hann took the stage for quick jam with a melodica and hand drum. A long time fan of Keller and The Keels, they played a lot of tunes from their album “Thief” as well as some of Keller Williams personal songs. They started almost thirty minutes late due to the traffic jam of cars. Thank goodness for small favors. Keller and The Keels set consisted of “When You’re High”, “Culpepper Woodchuck”, “Breathe,” “Rain Is Pourin’ Down”, “Take Me To The Tundra”, “Ramble On Rose”, “Uncle Disney”, “Hepped Up On Goofballs”, “Surely Is A Dream”, Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”, “Born To Be Wild”, “Porta Potty”, “Freaker By The Speaker”, “Don’t Cuss The Fiddle”, “Good-Hearted Woman” and Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy” and Butthole Surfers’ “Pepper.”
Next up, also starting a few minutes behind was Warren Haynes Band. I’m a huge fan of what Warren does here in Asheville, NC (his hometown) every year- “Warren Haynes presents The Xmas Jam” at The US Cellular Center. His thing is to sit in with everyone he invites and create a Warren-filled set that impresses the entire civic center, whether you’re a Warren fan or not. I knew that was going to be the case with the big man himself also here at Lockn’. His set included favorites such as “Man In Motion”, “River’s Gonna Rise” and “Sick of My Shadow”, “A Change Is Gonna Come”, “Spanish Castle Magic”,”Pretzel Logic”,” Invisible”,” Hattiesburg Hustle” and “Tear Me Down”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Warren is the man. The most amazing part of this band is not solely Warren’s mesmerizing guitar work but his company on stage, The group included George Porter Jr. on bass, Ivan Neville on keys and Raymond Weber on drums. Also joining them on keys was Ian McLagan as well as vocalist Alecia Chakour and Ron Holloway on tenor sax.
The masses began collecting for the next set which came abruptly after Warren and his band left the stage. The String Cheese Incident took stage for their first set of the festival. We could finally see the entire attendees of the giant festival in their true colors- ready to embrace everything Lockn’ had to offer. String Cheese opened with Desert Dawn and still kept the music humming even to introduce Keller Williams to play “Best Feeling” into the set. This is what people came for.. the incredible mash ups and off kilter sets that were sure to surprise. Cheese played into “Black And White”, “So Far From Home”, “Mouna Bowa”, “Colliding”, “Song In My Head”, “Best Feeling”, and then “Texas”. That ended the first set and the crowd awaited some more Warren with Gov’t Mule.
Gov’t Mule had all the classic tendencies Warren brings with him to the stage for this set. Haynes and drummer Matt Abts – musical polymaths, both – might steer the band into jazz-fusion, or folk, or funk with a reggae lilt, or angst-ridden 90s alt-rock, or Memphis soul or whatever else suits their fancy depending on the night, the mood or the jones. However, this night would lead to one of the most amazing sets of music I’ve ever witnessed (I will say this often in my review of this weekend). The first half of the set featured some Mule classics such as “Steppin’ Lightly” and “Broke Down on the Brazos”, and “Banks of the Deep End”. Grace Potter, who was noted as a special guest for the set, joined the band in the middle of The Beatles “Dear Prudence.” She stayed for the rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Find The Cost of Freedom,” Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and the band’s debut performance of “Whisper In Your Soul.” Grace’s soulful, intimate voice meshing with Warren’s raw, bone shaking guitar riffs are something you can’t get out of your head. It made for one memorable set. Warren Haynes Band members Alecia Chakour, Nigel Hall, Terence Higgins, Ron Holloway and Ron Johnson then sat in for an encore “Soulshine”.
Ending one amazing day with Warren, you could tell the crowd was ready for more String Cheese. They took the stage for the night’s final main stage set. The mood changed as the band started the set with “Rosie.” Next came a “Black Clouds” into The Jackson’s “Shake Your Body.” An extended “Drums” went into “Can’t Wait Another Day” before SCI played their Eastern-infused electro-jam song which took the crowd to a different level “BollyMunster.” The “official” day wrapped up with a “Sirens” that went into “Impressions,” then to a shocking “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin. The set then wrapped up with “Just One Story” and returned for “Group Hoot” and encored with“Barstool.”
With no late night sets, the Lockn’- goers were stoked to hear about “The Triangle” which happened to be a hop, skip and a jump from the campgrounds. If you weren’t ready for bed or campsite shenanigans then you could head over to check out Pegi Young and The Survivors. The triangle hosted a small stage with some state of the art laser lights in the trees. Only a small group of festival goers could muster the all night fun and it made for one intimate setting of sound. There were also rumors that a special acoustic Warren Haynes set was happening for Super VIP members.
The next morning was a bit rough for my camp. We had our fun the night before and the hot sun beat down on our tent in an effort to wake us up in a sweat. After rinsing off the day before, arming myself with liquid, umbrella and SPF 30, I took the long walk to the stage area. Having more time this Friday afternoon, I scanned the area and took my time looking at the vendors and food that Lockn’ offered. Not only did they have an overabundance of delicious “Lockn” vendors that sold everything from stir-fry to pizza there was a “local” tent that had local beers, local food restaurants, and some high class wine. As well as delicious food, they invited some one of a kind art and clothing vendors. All of these vendors were people just like you and I that seemed to be doing this for quite some time. All the vendors I talked to were knowledgeable of their merchandise and had some reasonable prices. I bought a ring from a vendor who sold different artifacts and as I was being rung up, a little girl asked about the cost of a little trinket box which had the price tag of $25.00. The vendor said, “For you? Ten dollars.” That alone let me know these were some decent people.
First on the bill that day was Founding Fathers whom I’d never had the pleasure of listening to until that day. In actuality, I knew more about them then I had originally thought. They were from right down the road in Charlottesville, VA. Andy Falco plays guitar and Chris Pandolfi plays banjo and usually spend their time with the Infamous Stringdusters. The second came from Pegi Young and The Survivors. Although Neil had to turn down Lockn’ this year, Peggy, his wife of 31 years, showed and gave us a taste of her solo album, which was a nice way to get the heat off my mind.
Bringing to energy up, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band strutted on stage. When you have a horn section like DDBB and show that New Orleans funk while doing it, it’s a recipe for a dance party, no matter how hot. Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Soul Rebels Brass Band, both New Orleans natives danced across the stage, encouraging the crowd to get out of their seats and get their booties involved. They gave us a “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Party” Daft Punk’s hit “Get Lucky” and ’ “Sweet Dreams” by The Eurythmics. “When the Saints Go Marching In” closed the set and everyone got ready to witness a real-life reggae legend, Jimmy Cliff.
Jimmy Cliff arrived out of the shadows to his bands pulsing rhythmic beat of several drums and percussion, wearing of course, yellow, green and red. He had several incites about his songs which were sometimes encouraging, informative and political. His switching out of Afghanistan for Vietnam during his classic anthem “Vietnam.” had the crowd amped. He also showed loved to friends by covering Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” and “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, which Cliff recorded in 1993 for the Cool Runnings soundtrack. Seeing such a huge legend so early, and so close, gave me chills but that would be only the first of the day.
The String Cheese Incident took stage for the third time and opened with a band favorite, “Outside and Inside”. The next song is a personal favorite, and it seemed so for the rest of the crowd as well- Talking Heads’ classic “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” As the crowd sang the lyrics and people embraced, swang back and forth, we all realized, it was indeed the place to be. Their bluegrass influenced song “Restless Wind” gave way to Further on opposite stage, fronted by none other than Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.
“Shakedown Street” came out of the speakers first and fans rushed into place to get down to a funky rendition of the tune. “The Wheel”, “Cold Rain and Snow” and “Cassidy” were among the set.. Every note is expected but every time it blows you away. They played on into “Candyman”, and “Jack Straw” to close out their set.
With spirits high, The Zac Brown “Incident,” (the term String Cheese uses to describe a collaborative set between them and some of their friends) was next and honestly, I wasn’t too excited. Coming from the South, I’ve heard Zac’s music and the fact that he was on the bill was a bit strange to me. His new-age pop/country sound didn’t seem like something that could mesh with the jamband scene, especially following such a solid set from Furthur. Zac sitting in with Cheese? It could never work! Boy- How wrong I was.
Zac’s band members Jimmy DeMartini on violin/fiddle, John Driskell Hopkins on bass, and Clay Cook, played a bit of everything fit in with this scene as if they’d done this before. They tore up Cheese original “Sometimes a River” which went into Brown original “The Wind”. They played a sweet little Levon Helm tribute with “When I Go Away”, and a cheesy version of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”. They also made the crowd go wild with Bill Withers’ “Use Me” and a out of the blue Outkast song- “So Fresh, So Clean” which had the crowd rearing for more. The encore was Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved”. I can now say that Zac proved himself in this scene and most likely, any other as an extraordinary musician this side or the other of the U.S. From now on, if I hear Zac Brown’s name, it will have a very positive connotation with a memory attached to it that rocked like no other. Welcome to the jamband scene, Mr. Brown!
People made their way out of the chilly shadows to embrace more Furthur. The temperature was down but spirits were still high as paper lanterns took off into the sky and Weir’s whine of his guitar carried off into the clouds. Hands down, the coolest thing about Lockn’ was the never ending music. It was almost as if the whole festival was a continuation of the last set. It seemed as if the bands had planned what song to play after their set was done, in order to eb and flow to perfection. At times, I’d look up and say, “When did they come on?!” It was an exciting thing to say the least. So before I could turn around to take a sip of my beer, Furthur was beginning their set with “Dark Star” which was re-visited, then came “Eyes of the World”, which also came back around again after “St. Stephen”. Zac Brown returned with his tune, “Free” and then went into Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” which took a sweet and slow, melodic turn. He stayed on stage for the classic, “Tennessee Jed” then left stage in time for an amazing trio of songs “Help on the Way, Slipknot, Franklin’s Tower.” Encore “Touch of Grey” was a great way to end a perfect day and Brown came back out for the last time to give Weir and Lesh bows of appreciation or as in “I’m not worthy” before leaving the stage again.
Saturday gave way to another day of plentiful sunshine and the promise of more jaw dropping musical talent. With another solar shower refresher and a clear head full of b12, our party once again made the long, hot and heavy walk (this time with chairs) to the stage area. Chugging water and finding shade was your only saving grace at this festival. With large sports umbrellas and tapers high in the sky, you could tell it wasn’t these fans first rodeo.
Love Canon was first up. They are from Charlottesville as well and give off a “bluegrass on crack” sound. They covered a few huge hits “She Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby, Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”, and “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel. The London Souls who are a hard, gritty, blues group from New York City made their way up next. It made sense they were on this bill, after receiving such positive feedback from recently finishing off a tour with The Black Crowes and The Tedeschi Trucks Band. I was impressed and will definitely be checking them out again in the future.
The Punch Brothers are no stranger opening the day for large, festival crowds with their progressive bluegrass. They put a fire in your step and introduced The Black Crowes for their first set of the festival. The fans packed center stage to see brother Rich and Chris Robinson sing their soulful bluesy song which we all know and love. This set seemed to be the “top hits” set with their songs “Soul Singing” “Jealous Again”, “Thorn in my Pride,” and “Wiser Time” Little did I know, guitar virtuoso Jackie Greene was the one ripping on guitar stage right. Not only did he fit in perfectly with the bearded, long faced Robinson brothers, he let it be known he was meant to be included with The Crowes reputation. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” and Billy Joe Royal’s “Hush,” were definitely a perfect mid day treat. Little children sat on tall shoulders of their parents and babies chased bubbles in the midday sun. It was a treat for the whole family.
Once again, the sun began to hang low in the sky and the “phans” made their way to the front. Mr. Trey Anastasio was up next and everyone had been anticipating him and his stellar band since the unfortunate cancellation of Neil Young. Trey Anastasio Band opened with “Cayman Review” into Phish’s “Ocelot”, and some songs from Anastasio’s solo release, “Traveler,” which he played “Valentine” and “Frost.” A frequent cover of TAB- Gorillaz’ “Clint Eastwood”. Jennifer Hartswick sings this number with some amazingly polished vocal harmonies, which will give you some serious chills. Phish tunes “Sand” and “First Tube” had phans dancing to Phishy goodness while adding a touch of brass which gave it a leg up. TAB finished up to a roaring crowd while Hartswick belted out lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”.
The most amazing 4 hours of music I would ever witness were about to take place. The energy was high and it stayed that way as Widespread Panic made their way out. One seriously special guest was about to sit in with them, the one and only, John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Hands down, the most anticipated mash up was about to take place. Perfect for a Saturday night, WSP opened with “Henry Parsons Died” into “Pigeons” and “Pilgrims.” “Ribs and Whiskey” into Howlin’ Wolf’s “Taildragger” to Panic tunes “Blue Indian” and “Ain’t Life Grand” finished WSP’s set alone. As the crowd was raising their arms in question and looking around frantically on stage, Mr. Fogerty made his way out. His high energy was shocking at his ripe age of 68, he was not showing it in the least. John Bell announced their accompaniment as “A gentleman who has been in our lives and our heads since the beginning.” Then the band and Fogerty ripped into “Born on the Bayou”. They went down the list of CCR classics “Bad Moon Rising”, “Suzy Q”, “Keep on Chooglin’” and “Old Man Down the Road.” You didn’t need the giant screens to tell that Panic was overjoyed to be sharing the stage with a personal favorite and legend. The crowd was all smiles and even the overheated, drunk, and burned out fans were up on the feet dancing to this mash up. Not being the biggest WSP fan, this encore song with Fogerty made me come to my senses and realized it’s just a Southern way of thinking that gets you hooked on Panic and when they cranked out “Fortunate Son” and Bell and Fogerty screamed in unison “It ain’t me” I got it and will forever understand all that is Widespread Panic.
Once again, in Lockn’ spirit, they gave us no time to make a mad dash to the bathrooms, or grab another cold one, in an instant Furthur was up on stage ready to steal our faces. The piano made eerie sounds tuning until joined by Weir and turned into opener “Uncle John’s Band”. Which turned out to be the 1970 release, Workingman’s Dead, in its entirety from start to finish. “Casey Jones” gave way to Trey Anastasio making his way onto stage. “Our friend Trey” as he’s known by Weir. Magic began when Trey broke out of his mold and began singing “Bertha” and ripped the guitar solo on “Truckin’”. “The Other One” a song that is long and vocal made its way around, without Trey but he made his way out again for “Viola Lee Blues,” and stuck around for two fan favorites “Scarlet Begonias” into “Fire on the Mountain.” After the set came to a close, faces were blank, jaws dropped, overjoyed, and for once in my life, I was completely speechless. The first words I heard come from neighboring crowd was “Holy Shit.” We all walked away, heavy headed and amazed at what was the set now known as “Phurthur”.
With day 3 under the belt, i’d completely lost track of the days, hour and my mind. Everything was running into one big ball of astronomical musical bliss. While walking back towards car camping to The Triangle once again, my mind was wandering from the sheer talent i’d witnessed thus far and what more was to come. Little did I know that Phil Lesh and his sons were putting on one hell of a hoedown with their band known as, Terrapin Station. As we made our way into the triangle a small yet substantial crowd huddled around the stage as well as a small fire pit. Different colored lasers of light shot through the giant trees. This type of light show would be impressive to the largest of stages but outdoors it made for one trippy, enthralling show. It was hard to sleep, with all the songs playing on repeat in my head from one of the best days I’ve ever had in my lifetime.
I woke up that Sunday morning and when it was normally be time to take the 5 hour trek home, I soon realized that this was another day of music, mayhem and mountains. We got a late start that morning after a great breakfast spent with our gracious neighbors, with whom we were saying our goodbyes and expressing our appreciation. This was the first festival where i didn’t want to kill my neighbors the very next morning, instead we got up and had breakfast with them. It was the last hot, dusty and uncomfortable day in the sun yet, we were all reluctant to start packing our small things and take our last walk to the stage.
The Hackensaw Boys were already on stage tearing up a grunge-esque style bluegrass jig. There seemed to be a theme with the Charlottesville bluegrass bands on stage and that was ENERGY! I had witnessed these jaunting musicians in a smaller setting but they were definitely no stranger to a large crowd and they played one solid early day set.
Col. Bruce Hampton was up next was a stellar set of musicians- his band, Kevin Smith, Rick Lawler and the last announced musician at Lockn’- Eric Krasno of Lettuce and Soulive. This became one set that was chunky, and slide guitar, blues-filled. Just then, we saw drummer Jeff Sipe, and bassist Otis Burbridge make their way onto the stage which gave way to a roaring crowd because this was the Aquarium Rescue Unit reunion. With talk of this happening, the crowd soon realized what was about to happen onstage which had not happened since 2011. We saw a few long faces due to the absence of Jimmy Herring but it was still a stellar moment to witness.
A beautiful blonde vixen in a butterfly dress, Susan Tedeschi, made her way on stage. She was followed by her companion, Derek Trucks. The Tedeschi Trucks Band. They ripped through the short silence with “Made Up Mind,” the title track from their most recent album release was their first tune of choice then into, “Do I Look Worried” “Midnight in Harlem” and “Bound for Glory”. Just then, Eric Krasno came out once again to cover John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” with a tease of “Sugaree”. Chris Robinson and Jackie Green from The Black Crowes also showed up and then super special guest, Bob Weir, came out to bang on his tambourine and sing for Sly and the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song” and “ Want To Take You Higher.” This grouping of musicians was all we needed to get us excited for the day and give us a last boost of energy before wrapping up the festival.
The Black Crowes second set gave way which was a more abstract, “off the beaten path”- song filled show. Since they already played their “Top Hits” set this one would be a little less familiar with their tunes “Seeing Things”, “My Morning Song” “She Gives Good Sunflower” and “Another Roadside Tragedy”. But what caught my attention, as well as others was a personal favorite by Velvet Underground, “Oh Sweet Nuthin” which was covered beautifully. However, this wasn’t the last of the flashback cover tunes. The couple Tedeschi Trucks made their way out once again and gave us Ray Charles’s “Let’s Go Get Stoned.” and “Turn on Your Lovelight” with Bob Weir.
“Conrad the Caterpillar” started Widespread Panics second set of Lockn’ and then into “Mr. Soul,” which is a frequent cover of theirs. We then danced into “Disco” and “Party at Your Mama’s House”. WSP then honored Robert Johnson by covering “Stop Breakin’ Down.” Apparently a fan favorite, judging by the energy, “All Time Low” jammed out flawlessly and then the band covered JJ Cale’s “Ride Me High”. As soon as the song was coming to a close, we saw long haired master of strings, Derek Trucks make his way back out on stage to cover a seriously exciting “Chilly Water” which had the front row making it rain with their water bottles and camelbacks. I got a chill down my spine with the Panicy- Trucks inspired rawness of Robert Johnson’s “Me and The Devil Blues” and closed with a promising, “North.” With heavy hearts, we waved goodbye to Widespread Panic and thanked them for such solid sets and allowing us to wallow in their sticky, delicious jams.
Last but certainly not least, Furthur made their way out the close the festival, Grateful style. As plumes of smoke and fits of laughter descended into the air, the lights brightened for the last time and gave way to a grandiose “Terrapin Station”. Susan, taking the place of Donna Godchaux, came out to enhance “Samson and Delilah” followed by Herring for two classics, “Brown Eyed Women” and “Box of Rain”. They quickly made their way into “Weather Report Suite” and then Tedeschi returned for one serious treat, Traffic’s tune “Dear Mr. Fantasy” which had the crowd jovially in tune with the bands set. An uplifting and throwback tune, “Playing in the Band” turned into “Standing on the Moon.” Just then in Dead style, the whole set came full circle and went right back into “Terrapin Station.” While the crowd was left with their heads spinning, the band was given an uproarious cheer and slowly moved onto a beautiful, saddening yet fitting, “Brokedown Palace.” The crowd gathered together to sing the lyrics, “Fare you well, fare you well, I love you more than words can tell, listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.”
Lockn’ festival had everything one could ask for and more. With the absolute perfection of a Virginia Summer day, the epic talent constantly on stage, the straight up good hearted fans that attended, intimate late nights sets, never ending music, and “interlocking” stages- it made for one astounding experience. I left with a newfound love, insight and attitude and I think that is what a great festival does- enhance your vision of the world around you. I will never forget the feeling I got at Lockn’. The hum of music still echoes in my head and I thank you Lockn’ for allowing me to experience you.