It was hot. Too hot to even speak. Did you hear what I just heard? The sun went down in honey, the super moon came up in wine, the stars were out bright, we all forgot about the time. There were thunder bolts of lightning, there were fireworks, and rainbows filled with sound…. The fields were full of dancin’, and the bands kept playin’ on.
My mind is still wrapped inside the fog blown from the stages. What a four-day festival it was. Packing for this Virginia trip, checking the weather, it showed rain every day. Ugh. Not another repeat of Mountain Jam 2013!!! Rain coat – check. Rain boots – check. Rain gear for the camera – check. Well, predicting the weather must be like shooting craps, as we had sunshine and rainbows to light up our weekend. Well, a little thunder/lightning scare on Saturday night had us clear the field for about an hour, it turned out to be a warm, sunny weekend. Oh yeah, and humid as a sauna room in the south of Florida.
And, unfortunately, this year we’d get news that Bob Weir and Ratdog would be off the line-up. It’s all good. We firmly believe that your health and well being comes before our happiness. We know we’ll see ya soon. Be well sir, and a huge toss of respect to you. Namaste. So with that, we had a little switch in the line-up, with an additional set by Phil Lesh and Friends (well, I’m OK with that!) and a set by Bill Kruetzmann’s Lockn’step Allstars, which brought Keller Williams, Papa Mali, and the one and only Taj Mahal to the mic, along with Aron Magner, Otei Burbridge, Steve Kimock, Col. Bruce Hampton, EOTO and Tom Hamilton (of American Babies). All of these artists have a special connection with Billy, the heartbeat of the Grateful Dead sitting at the drums for three decades. This year’s Lockn’ saw the return of The String Cheese Incident, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Jorma Kaukonen and Hot Tuna, Keller Williams, Tedeschi-Trucks, and Widespread Panic, although some not in the same form – String Cheese added a little disco to one of their groovy sets, inviting TJ Taylor from Kool and the Gang (’78-’88), Keller’s sets were focussed on the music of the Grateful Dead and each day had different folks join him, and Steve Winwood sat in with Widespread Panic for their first set, cranking out music of Traffic. Who stole the show? Hard to say, and I’m sure depends on your musical soul, but for me, Chris Robinson Brotherhood tore it up – and then gave us an extra 40 minutes in their set! They may have had just as much fun as the crowd did that night.
So, with 42 different bands on the list, where did they all play? The set up of Lockn’ reminded me a tad of Mountain Jam – with two main stages right next to each other, except here, the VIP section was clear down the middle rather than set to each side. This enabled those with VIP to pretty much hang where they were, and just look to the right, then look to the left, then look to the right, and so on…. To the left was the Oak Stage, to the right, the Ridge Stage, named after the land we laid our heads on, the Oak Ridge Farm. Two other smaller stages finalized the musical areas, with the Relix Shakedown Stage sort of placed in the middle of it all, and the Triangle Stage which was set behind the general camping area, and quite a hike from the main grounds. In the words of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (CRB) Freaks, blessed were the trip takers who made the hike up the hill (or lucky me, on the last day, got a ride from one of those super nice Lockn’ staff fellas) as they got three morning sets of Keller Williams grooving on Grateful Grass and Grateful Gospel, and three late-night acoustic sets by Taj Mahal, Tedeschi-Trucks, and Hot Tuna.
Arrival was smooth sailing, as we lined up to have our vehicles and tickets inspected, get our goodies, and be directed to the appropriate camping spot. I was lucky to be with an incredible group of friends who invited me to join them on their RV, which had a nice spot in VIP. I had a bit of a hike to get over to the Will Call/Media location to grab my passes, but a nice fella on the Lockn’ staff saw me sweating and offered me a ride. As a matter of fact, I saw quite a bit of that throughout the weekend – Lockn’ staff offering rides, stopping to help out whether flagged down or not, and just really, overall, helpful and friendly. A shout out to their security staff as well, I believe I saw “Axis” on their shirts – those folks worked hard, all day, in the hot sun, were friendly and on-top of it. Good job, especially that dude down in front of the Oak Stage. So, back to arrival – I heard the stories about last year, so, wow, what a difference a year makes. They had it down. And leaving the Farm after it was all over, was just as smooth.
The first act I caught on Day One was The Revivalists. For me, the music started with this band, and would last all night long, through a special, hour and a half set by Taj Mahal, who was so happy he just kept playing into the night. His late set was to start at midnight and last until 1:00. I left the main stage area after the set by String Cheese and Friends ended, which was about 12:15. The hike up to the Triangle stage took about 15 minutes, but I was determined to see Taj. So very glad I did. I thought I might only catch the last 20-30 minutes, but was overjoyed to catch him play for well over an hour.
As I said, the first day was long – The Revivalists, The Wood Brothers, Lettuce, Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese and The Gang, then up the hill for a little soulful blues with Taj Mahal. I had not seen three of the six bands before – The Revivalists were better than I expected, The Wood Brothers were better than I was told they’d be, and Lettuce was feverishly funky, reminded me of Galactic a bit, with strong horn section and jazzy backbone. “Let the Funk Flow” they say to us. Absolutely. Lettuce also invited up the beautiful Alecia Chakour, who has a voice that takes you back to old school R&B, a little Mavis Staples in her soul. Her sound is bluesy and gritty, and has a voice that has been referred to as, “sultry bad-assness”. My friend yanks out his phone and taps me on the shoulder to take a peek at a snap he took of her when she sat in with Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, which tied it all together and told me exactly why she was sporting a shirt with Farmer on the front. Speaking of Farmer, there were many mentions of this man over the weekend, but the most touching to me was Grace Potter’s tribute to him on Day 4, with “I Shall Be Released”, that brought tears to my eyes. I’m very sure this loss has sent a sonic wave through the music industry, and has impacted them more than we all realize. Warren looked emotional, very emotional, as he walked up to the mic to confirm the feel of the last evening. There was a long moment of silence, as they projected an empty director’s chair with Farmer’s name on it, up on the screen. And the black t-shirts with Farmer on the front, flippin everyone off, clearly worn to show the love – #ThankYouFarmer.
Umphrey’s McGee hit the crowd with two one-hour sets, loud, energetic, visual, audible, incredible energy, at times sounding a little like heavy-rock, at times putting out a full-groove that took the place to another space. Opening their first set with, “Le Blitz”, it was on the heavier, rock side, a 10 minute guitar-driven jam. I mean, c’mon, they did a 28 minute “Puppet String” – what? Sometimes, I think I hear a little King Crimson in there… The high point for me, not knowing all of UM’s songs, was the final tune of their last set of the night, ending with Pink Floyd’s, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”, which to me and I think a lot of Lockn’ fans, was a nice, very nice surprise. And they killed it.
We’d also get two one-hour sets from The String Cheese Incident, the first solely them – high-energy, raging dance party, opening with “So Far From Home” – and the second a little throw-back to the ’70s. I opted to hang for their entire second set, labeled, “String Cheese and the Gang” – c’mon, a full set of Kool and the Gang, with TJ Taylor belting out the lyrics, flanked by three lovely ladies decked out in bright and sparkly dresses, and backed by String Cheese and the horns from Preservation Hall? Okay, Okay, some were “over it” by the third song, but, this was the post-Dead show disco bus, all over again! I ate it up, along with a lot of other Cheese freaks. They definitely gave us a big ole dance party – a little “Jungle Boogie” down on the farm, a little “Hollywood Swinging” over in Arrington, Virginia. With the last groovy note of “Celebration” ya-who! (Side bar: This song will always remind me of my oldest sister’s college graduation, as they cranked out this tune and all the graduates tossed up their caps and started dancing their way down the isles. A memory that pushed me to go to college, cuz I wanted to have that kind of fun!) Anyway, dancing from the rail to the back of the lawn, I took one final snap from up on the platform and started making my trek to Taj Mahal, who took over the first night’s late night set at the Triangle stage, packing that little area from tree to tree, bushel of hay to bushel of hay.
This man, this man. I love this man. Mr. Henry Saint Claire Fredericks, at age 72, Taj still commands the stage and has the energy to play all night long. I’m pretty sure he would have played longer if they let him. His set was to go from 12-midnight, to about 1:00 am. But, I understand there may have been a few sound quirks at the start, so the delay may have pushed it out a bit, but for nearly an extra hour! By the time I made my way out of the main stage area, it was well after midnight, and I’m certain it took me a good 10-15 minutes to walk up to the Triangle Stage. I still wanted to go, as I felt 20-30 minutes of Taj was better than none, and I ended up catching him for an hour and 15 minutes!! Playing the piano, the banjo (just the one, “Roscoe’s Barn”), the guitar, the ukelele, he rocked it, he grooved it, he oozed it, he actually got a little dirty and gritty, sending laughter through the crowd. (OK, sidebar: why, oh why did you go see Taj if you were gonna talk really loud through his set? I mean, really? Show this man some respect! Show the people in the audience there to see him some respect. We didn’t make that trek all the way up there to hear you gab the whole time, young girl who apparently doesn’t know concert etiquette yet. OK, I’m done.) He rock me to my soul, I love him to my soul. “Corina”, “Gonna Move up to the Country”…. And, during”The New Hula Blues” he tells us a story about how much he loves heading up north around Hanalei Bay, over the hill where your cell phone doesn’t work and there’s nothing left to do but….. get into your herb stock, your little herb stock – he exclaims, “I didn’t say I didn’t do that! I said I wasn’t drinkin’!” which gets a huge cheer from the crowd. Taj asks us to participate in a little clap and sing along, says he’ll walk us through it, which he does, verse by verse. He recognizes our enthusiasm, and begins to impart his wisdom on us about going to a concert. “That is what’s great about this crowd. Y’all learn the songs of the people you like, and you sing! You know what? Y’all don’t realize that your part in the music is just as important as the people on the stage. And, you know what? That’s the ancient knowledge! You don’t say, ‘I came to a concert and I saw them’”, he says in a winy voice. “You sang, you rocked, you rolled, you jammed, you got high!” Did I say I loved this man? Sorry to keep repeating that…… Other favs were in a little Robert Johnson tune, “Come on into My Kitchen”, “Queen Bee”, “Fishin’ Blues”, “Lovin’ in my Baby’s Eyes”…… yeah, he rocked us to our souls….. I for one, did not want it to end, but, we all had to go off to sweet sleep….. A very humble musician, he really was taken aback by the love he felt from the crowd, at one point exclaiming, “Wow!” I’m pretty sure we all felt the same.
As a matter of fact, on the way back down to where I’d lay my head for the weekend, I passed by the Shakedown Stage and saw the huge crowd on the lawn, getting down with DumpstaFunk, but my funk was ready to hit the hay….. It was nearly 2:00 in the morning! Oh, these late night sets…… make it hard to get up for the early morning gigs…… Yep, I missed two of the three sets Keller had planned each morning, at 11:00 am, at the Triangle Stage. A little disappointed in myself, I was determined to head up on the last morning to catch his Grateful Gospel set. More on that later, but, it was awesome. Of course.
And then there was Day Two. Yeah, I missed Keller’s early morning Grateful Grass set. Like I said, Taj kept us up late!! My personal day two went something like this: Cabinet, Del McCoury, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, missed the Drive-By Truckers (a girl has to eat and get a massage – paid for by my awesome friends), The String Cheese Incident, Bill Kruetzmann’s Locknstep Allstars, String Cheese once more, and closing out the main stages with Phil Lesh and Friends. Then, I trekked it back up the hill, to the Triangle Stage for a little acoustic Tedeschi-Trucks Band, before heading over to Shakedown to see the Chris Robinson Brotherhood blow-it-up (“is the air gettin’ thinna, or are we gettin’ high?”). Cabinet gave us a little Pennsylvania bluegrass all their own, with their fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo and stand-up bass, add in some clean harmonies and you have yourself some real, authentic music. Then there was Del McCoury – who doesn’t love Del? And they were dressed to the nines! Giving us a classic, bluegrass set, filled with deep traditions and old-time stories. They work hard at keeping that music alive and well in this new day and age, where music spans the gamut of styles. They’ve been working with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band recently so no wonder their blend was seamless, enjoyable, tight, just perfect. Sharing both stages, PHJB came out on stage with Del, who then turned and followed them over to their stage to keep playing. (Sorry, no set list out there I can find, wish I’d kept it!)
I was really looking forward to Bill Kruetzmann’s Locknstep Allstars – with the plethora of musicians he had join him, who wouldn’t want to see this! We (and by “we” I mean most of us) don’t get a lot of Bill K. these days, living in Hawaii and not coming to visit “the main land” that often. He does tour with 7 Walkers, but it has been a while since they’ve had a tour (and may be a while before they go out again, as I read Bill is dealing with a recurrent sever issue with his left arm, that seems on the resistant side of treatment. Be well Bill!). And, Bill was all smiles, ALL smiles. Maybe he was reflecting what he saw in the audience, as the place was packed tighter for him than any other day-time act yet. I really dig Tom Hamilton too. I caught him once before, at Terrapin Crossroads up in San Rafael, as he sat in on a night where Anders Osborne and Jackie Greene both fell ill. Phil wanted to keep the show going so he called upon Tom and local guitarist, Danny Glick, to fill in for Osborne and Greene. It was definitely one of my favorite sets of the weekend, such a variety of musical takes on the Grateful Dead and Jerry, like the rough around the edges “Wharf Rat”, Papa Mali belting it out, “I know that girl’s been true to me!”, and Taj’s version of “Stagger Lee”, nicely tucked inside the gooey middle of that set. Closing out with a twisting and turning, “Slip Knot” into a light and funky, “Franklin’s Tower”, the entire place was dancing with glee. “If you get confused, [put down that camera, Linda and] listen to the music play!!!!”
Day two also gave us another two sets of String Cheese – one before the Locknstep Allstars, and one directly after. And, I’m not sick of it yet! Nope. I think this set was my favorite of their four. They definitely set the pace at “high”, opening up with an extremely funky, dance-crazed, “Rosie”. Can I just say, Kyle is the hardest working keyboard player I’ve seen in a long time. That guy is everywhere – knowing where to go, when to go, what to give…. and he gives it. And he wears his enthusiasm on his sleeve, on his face, in his moves. They definitely left their “Song in My Head” (pun intended). Damn, I dig that tune. I may have just expanded my taste for Cheese, which is ironic, being I’m lactose intolerant. Yuk-yuk…..
I thought the set was done with, “It Is What it Is”, but…. I may not have been the only one, as the crowd seemed to get louder, and I thought I saw Nershi take off his guitar and wave. But, next thing ya know, they go into, “Texas”, and give us just a little more, wait, 10 minutes more! I dunno. I wonder if this was to shorten any other delay with the start of Phil’s set, but it’s all good. The place darkened a bit, quieted down a bit, gave me a chance to catch my breath after that insanely high-spirited set by SCI. We were happy to wait. We had two hours scheduled ahead of us, so, what’s a few minute delay? For just about their planned 2 ½ hour set, we were doused with the magical guitars of Warren Haynes and John Scofield, held down by some Medeski groove, and firmly planted to the ground by Phil and Joe Russo. My favorite part of their set was the “Crazy Fingers > Jam > Unbroken Chain”. It is my understanding that Warren never met Jerry in person, and that he wrote “Patchwork Quilt” after learning of his passing. (Sidebar: that would have been a nice addition to their set!) I find it a show of high respect, an honorable receipt of the passed torch, when musicians channel this music so well. And, I’m pretty sure Scofield ripped my head off during “The Other One”. Don’t worry, I found it later, and put it snugly back on, before heading up the hill to see Tedeschi-Trucks Band give us a little acoustic sweetness at the, yet again, packed Triangle Stage. I sadly decided I had to start my hike up the hill right during “Dear Mr. Fantasy”. I looked at the time, and it was nearly midnight, and that’s the time Tedeschi-Trucks were to start, and I knew I’d have at least a 15-minute walk (which at midnight, felt like 30!). Ya gotta to what you gotta do. I also had to make the hard decision to leave Tedeschi-Trucks so I could get over to the Shakedown Stage for Chris Robinson Brotherhood. I was NOT gonna miss one single cotton pickin’ note of that!
As I suspected, the Triange Stage was packed, again, from tree to tree, from hammock to hammock, from stage to exit…. Oh lord, how will I get pictures? I will move over to where I was the night before, to the right side of the stage (since most people either enter in back or on the left, the far side is usually just a bit less crowded). Sure enough, I found a little space to place my bag, and peek through some heads and shoulders with my big ‘ole zoom and grab some shots. Lucky me, however, there was a mad dash of exiting photographers who had garnished their spots directly in front (surely leaving Phil and Friends much sooner than I), which then allowed me to maneuver myself right up where they were! Dance, dance, dance, snap, snap, snap, and a short 30 minutes later, I found myself making my own mad dash outta there, over to Shakedown. The late-night acoustic set by Derek and Susan and friends was incredibly soulful, bluesy, laid-back, yet also growing intense at times, as they powered out their sound and shook the trees.
Off to Shakedown, for some CRBeeeeeeeeeee!!! Oh man, I’m just luvin’ these guys more and more, every time I see them. (And their fan base is pretty cool too) What do I pick to say??? “Beggar’s Moon” just perfect for that big ball in the sky, that Super Moon that was set to rise on Monday in it’s full glory. My favorite of the set had to be in, “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” – not sure I’ve seen them do this yet, I’ll have to go back and look at the set lists from the shows I’ve been at. At any rate, it was just sooooooo goooooood, so funky, so sweet, so groovy, so filled with joy! I can’t miss mentioning the insane “Vibration & Light Suite” into “Ride”. The way Chris takes these songs, dirty’s ’em up, gives us that deep grit as he hangs from the edge of the microphone, getting it from down deep in his funky soul. He really gave it for “Got Love If You Want It”, laid it down hard. I know how I felt, and by the look of the ragers around me, we all were doused in bliss. There is a picture floating out there, a snap Neal Casal took with his phone from the stage, when it was all done and the lights went up. He says, “CRB late night set at Lockn Festival. Bonkers audience, one of the best we’ve ever played to. East coast rad times.” Rad times with CRB, indeed. Not sure any of us, including the band, wanted it to end! Alas, it was after 3:00 am……
By Day Three, it hit me. I’m not talking music people, I’m talking the festy-cold. Well, maybe I caught it on the airplane (what’s this about a 3-day germination period), but come Saturday morning, I was down, not for the whole count, but for more than I wanted. Missed Keller (again), made it out for Sam Bush and the Keels and nearly passed out in the 90 degree heat. It wasn’t just that it was super hot (even though it was), it was muggy as all get-out, I was carrying a lot of gear, and I had a fever, and, and…… (I know, whine, complain, whine, complain…) I made it through their set to have to go take a serious rest out of the heat and sun, and ended up missing not only (Aaron) Freemen (yes, he who was in Ween), but Gary Clark Jr., and the first part of Tedeschi-Trucks Band. Bummer. Big bummer. But, I had a the remainder of the hot day and a long night ahead, with the rest of Tedeschi-Trucks, Wilco, Phil Lesh and Friends, Widespread Panic with Steve Winwood, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and I hoped to catch Hot Tuna at Triangle and Bustle in Your Hedgerow at Shakedown, to end the night. One of those didn’t happen. Can ya guess? I just couldn’t muster the energy to make it back up to Triangle, so I rested for another spell and joined my friends for Joe Russo’s set, all Zeppelin baby!
I’m so glad I got my self out there for Sam Bush and The Keel’s – Larry and Jenny Keel that is. I’m a tad familiar with both – I was lucky to catch Sam sit in with The Black Crowes in Nashville, last year, and am more than familiar with Keller’s time with the Keels and the high-spirited bluegrass music they generated together. Seeing them live, thought, man can Larry play! It was high noon, the sun was pouring down on us and that stage (at that time of day, I think the musician’s may have been facing the sun), but that didn’t matter, they just kept going, got faster and hotter as their set pressed on. I wish I knew the names of their tunes, but…. just imagine it, raging fast grass guitar and just as raging mandolin (or fiddle, whichever Sam opted for), all backed by one lovely bass player. I so dug them!! Quite a number of other people did so too, as the area was decently crowded for noon, on a hot, 90+ degree, muggy morning. Ah, the east coast in the summer……. I do remember two songs, “Vamp in the Middle”, with lyrics such as, “Play fiddle play! All day long I hear you screamin’..” and I thought, yep, that’s OK, you scream all you want Sam, all you want. And then there was “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” (no, this was not a new take on that same titled song from the 80’s) – Larry singing so deep, came from the gut for sure, clearly has met up with someone who just couldn’t be wrong. I think we all know someone like that in our lives, maybe, just one person. And, many times, they are exactly right! (I said many, not all…. Ha!) My favorite moment, though, had to be with “One Love”, yes, the Bob Marley tune we all know so well, well enough, it turned into a sing-along….. yay.
Tedeschi-Trucks Band gave a second performance, full on electrified, for a good hour, for which I caught the raging second half. Together, they sure make some sweet music. Susan’s soulful voice, Derek’s incredible guitar, slide, whatever he does, the horns and other winds, keys, the wonderfully soulful singers (Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers)….. a match made in heaven. I’m so mad I missed, “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring”, a Traffic cover. It’s all good (I’ll get over it, cuz I can stream it online!). Besides, I caught the other cover by Derek and the Dominos, which was a great take on this – they really hit that Clapton guitar sound, the smooth harmonies, that uptempo groove that puts a big sway to your move, “I was a young [girl], and sure to go astray. You walked right into my life and showed me, love will surely find a way! Keep on growing!” A special moment in their set, Susan takes to the mic to tell us how much the community misses Brian Farmer (Warren Haynes/Gov’t Mule, Allman Brothers, to name a few). How they can’t survive without folks like him, how they care about the music and the scene, and making it all right for everyone. They dedicate a sweet song to Brian, a song that was written by Derek and lyrics penned by Warren, called, “Back Where I Started” – “It’s hard to remember the first time I saw your face, with the moonlight in your smile. How did I wander back where I started? And, I’m so glad I found you there……..” Oh man, it was special indeed. You could nearly hear a pin drop, at least in the crowd up front – and that was a large crowd to quiet down. There was a moment of foreshadowing, maybe, by Susan, as she says, “We got one more song for ya, and I hope it doesn’t come true. But if it does, it’ll cool ya off a little bit” and they go into “The Storm”….
Well, Susan, it did! We got a little rain and sunshine that made for a double rainbow during Wilco’s set, and then they cleared the field for over an hour, cutting Phil Lesh & Friends a tad short, as there were threats of 70 mph winds and 1” hail! Holy $h*t! Run for cover! On the way to safety, I ran into some other friends who didn’t have a place to get safe (took a bus in each day from their hotel), so, we all headed back to another friend’s RV to ride the storm out. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…..
I kind of dug Wilco. I forgot how good they can be. I must say, I was not overly familiar with all of their songs, but sure knew, “Handshake Drugs”. I like the slow, smooth beat to this, giving you that lude feeling, maybe (what do I know, never done that), but with that slow, oozing melody and those lyrics, “Saxophones started blowin’ me down, I was buried in sound. The taxicabs were driving me around, to the handshake drugs I bought downtown……” At some point, maybe during their third or fourth song, it begins to rain, lightly. Kind of felt good, just like Susan said it would. Lucky me, I had rain gear for my camera, so, a little rain wouldn’t bother me! So, what do ya get when you have a little rain along with a little sunshine? You get rainbows people! Wait for it, wait for it…. I took cover under the C.I.D. Tent (another nice table, giving away free water and those kind KIND bars, a small price to pay, surely, to avoid fest-goers overheating and such) and kept my eyes on the sky. Sure enough, we got one, and we didn’t just get a little rainbow, it was a full one, from horizon line to horizon line, and a second rainbow hovered over the first, like an identical twin. And, it didn’t just stay up there for a quick second, that double rainbow shined up in the sky for at least three songs! Even Jeff Tweedy remarked how long it was there. Special for sure. (Oh, and a big warm “be well” wish for Jeff’s wife, who is in a very serious battle with her health. Long may you run. Maybe the double rainbows were for her. Yeah.)
After Wilco’s blazing set, I was ready for some Phil Lesh & his incredible friends. I only caught the first half of their set the night before, as I opted to head off to the acoustic late-night set with Tedeschi-Trucks. My favs in the set had to be, “Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad”, just cuz I can relate to, “goin’ where the climate suits my clothes! Goin’ where that chilly wind don’t blow!” Then there is, “Eyes of the World”, which I could hear over, and over, and over…. Then there was, “Bird Song” and “She Said She Said”….. until they said, ya gotta leave the field! Phil and his buds got to play just under 1 ½ hours when the sound went off, and the announcement came on that we had to clear the field. Safety first – absolutely! Not only was there electricity, wires, and things metal all over the stage, the field was surrounded by things that could conduct electricity and seriously hurt someone. I found it odd so many people thought the announcement wasn’t serious, just sitting there, as if they knew better. But, again, a shout out to the Lockn’ and Axis teams for getting everyone safe.
Just about 1 ½ hours after we cleared the field, we got notice that the show was back on and we’d be sure to get full sets from both Widespread Panic with Steve Winwood, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Well, alright! I borrowed a rain cape from one of my friends, put the protective gear back on my camera, and off we went. It pretty much stopped raining by the time made it back to the main stage for Widespread Panic, Steve Winwood, and a lot of good Traffic. Loved it. Every note, from my favs in, “Glad”, “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”, “Dear Mr. Fantasy”, “Can’t Find My Way Home” to name just a handful. Well, they did toss in one Panic tune, with “Surprise Valley”, allowing Steve to sing this one for ’em. Nice.
I knew the field would be PACKED tight for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. On the way in to Lockn’, we (and many others driving an RV) stopped at WalMart (I know, I know…..) to stock up on some supplies and such. Many of the folks working that night noticed all the hippies ’round town, and asked us if we were “here for that big festival?” Yup, we were. “Is that the one with Tom Petty?” Yes, it is. “I might just get a ticket for that night, I love Tom Petty!” So, maybe Saturday night was the most crowded of all, as many folks around those parts came in for that act in particular.
I, for one, have never seen Tom Petty before. OK, let me take that back. I did see him on that tour, when they and Dylan opened for the Grateful Dead – was it summer ’86? ’87? Both? Rich Stadium, Buffalo, NY, July 4, 1986. That’s it. And RFK….. Oh, and Akron Ohio too. Fun summer. Well, they played all their hits – “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, “Into the Great Wide Open”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Free Fallin’” (well I’m freeeeeeeeeeeee! Free fallin’!), “A Woman in Love”, “Yer So Bad” acoustic, (love this song – “Your sister got lucky, married a yuppy. Took him for all he was worth… Oh but nooooott meeeeeee baaaaabyyy, I got yoooouuuuuu tooooooo saaaaaaaave meeeee…. Awe, yer so bad…….”), “Refugee”, “Learning to Fly” (acoustically done, nicely), “Runnin’ Down a Dream”, and double-encoring it with “You Wreck Me” and “American Girl”. Yeah, they killed it. And Tom was all smiles, happy to be there, happy to be on stage playing. What a band he’s got too. Tight. I was enjoying Petty so much, I seriously forgot to watch the time…. “the stars were spinnin dizzy, and the band kept us so busy, we forgot about the time…..” Now I gotta “Song in My Head (I gotta song in my head)” (great, now I got another song in my head……).
I did make it for some Joe Russo’s Bustle in your Hedgerow at the Shakedown Stage. Man, there were alotta late night ragers at this fest – each night, the sets were scheduled to start at 1:00 am and each night, that lawn was packed! I love Joe Russo and his energy, love it. They definitely got the Led out. I had to hear the lyrics in my head as they did not have anyone singing, which made me think, man, they should’ve invited Alecia Chakour to take it over at the mic – she would have belted it!
And, then there was the last day…. Day four – was it really gonna end? Is there a way to make this day last longer than 24-hours? Nope… But….. You know, I saw quite a bit of mics perched up high, so I know there were people out there recording. It’s just a matter of time before we can relive it all again… we love our tapers!! Wait, do we even “tape” anymore? Do they still call it “the taper section?” Anywhoo…….. Well, this day, I MADE IT TO KELLER!!!! I was determined, even though I felt like a mack truck hit me, I went anyway. And, I don’t know if it was mind over reality, but I was watching all the Lockn’ staff drive by, taking people places they wanted to go. I thought, “oh gosh, I could really use a ride about now……” It was 10:45 am, already probably like 85 degrees, I was illin’, carrying my heavy pack, head down, plugging on up the hill when a guy stops in front of me in one of those carts and says, “Are you going to the Triangle Stage? Want a ride?” OMG – dude, I love you!!!!!! I almost wept…. We picked up an elderly man using a cane, and two other folks who looked exhausted and before I knew it, we were dropped off right at the entrance. The dude turns to me and says, “If you want a ride back down, meet me out here when the set is over.” What? How nice is that!
And, just like each and every time I made it to Triangle, it was packed….. I should have suspected, it was Keller’s last morning set of the fest, and the last set all together at the Triangle Stage, so, packed it was. This set was referred to as, “Grateful Gospel”, so I suspected we’d have some lovely ladies along with the rest of the members from his gig More Than a Little, and I also knew Johnny Kadlecik would be sitting in for this one. The other two early mornings were called, “Grateful Grass” and featured Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band) on mandolin, Jason Carter (Del McCoury Band) on fiddle, Keith Mosley (String Cheese) on bass, and Jay Starling (The Travelin McCourys) on dobro. I walked in during (hopefully) the first song, “Ripple”, done in that fast pickin’ Keller kind of way. Treated to some of that gospel sound Jerry would hand us, with the Jerry Garcia Band, we heard, “I’ll Be With Thee” and “Eyes of the World” – which Keller says, “A lot of these songs you’ll hear a lot of times through the weekend, but we don’t care,” which gets a big cheer from the crowd. Naw, he does care, really, he does, and promises this time, it will be different. Of course it will, it will have Keller’s touch! They also funked up a “Feel Like a Stranger” and a “Samson & Delilah”, both of which really featured the keys, Gerard Johnson – man he can play!
I think my favorite of the set was, “Mighty High”. It was so happy and joyful, energetic, something to really dig your feet into the dirt for. You could hear people yelping and screaming, clapping and whistling, a clear sign of letting loose. There were moments I felt like I was in a southern baptist place of worship, dancing and clapping with abandon, out in the isles with all the parishioners. I was moved in a spiritual way, feeling the deepness of gospel on a Sunday morning. There were other moments I thought I was at a Jerry Garica Band or Grateful Dead show, surrounded by happy hippies, swirling and twirling amongst the trees. I was moved in a heady, musical way, listening to each instrument connect to the other, voices blending and separating in harmonies, the totality of it all. Gosh, I’m so very glad I made it. Keller reminded us a few times that he loves us, his fans. Hey Keller, that feeling is deeply mutual. Ending with, “Promised Land”, slower and funkier than Jer’s version, and a little dirty as we would be shaking our a$$es rather than our hands…… Oh Keller, you make us giggle…..
On my way back down, I opted for more rest rather than heading to the main stage area for Erin & The Wildfire, which I think was another local band who won a chance to play Lockn’, as well as Soja (I know, I know – why oh why did I miss them. I hear they are one awesome, reggae-style gig.) But, I made it back to the main stage for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I was not gonna miss that! I’ve never seen Grace, but I’ve seen the incredible images from their shows and could sense it would be electrifying. And it was. Good lord, not only can she sing, but she’s sick on the guitar! What energy, from her and The Nocturnals. She was kind of hard to keep track of in a lens – I mean, at one point, she was back bangin’ on the drums with pretty much the entire band! I hope I didn’t unknowingly bump someone in the skull – sorry if I did!
Hard to pick a few favorites, as I really loved it all – heavy R&B, blues, rock, soul, you name it, they got it. But, I remember the, “Sweet Hands”, with a little tease of “Not Fade Away” tucked in the middle of the open jam, before the guitar rips it back in control, using those sweet hands. Then there was, “The Divide”, heavy guitar, deep to the core. Maybe even a little spooky at times, the way her voice echoed over the crowd. Yeah, she got the medicine everybody wants…. “Oh La La La La La La-la” (yes, she ended the set with “Paris” and you could hear all the girls singing with her.) I was also so impressed with her guitar mojo during “Nothing But Water”, when the entire band leaves the stage, just Grace and her guitar up there, belting it out, controlling every note from her vocal instrument to the one she was holding. She can not only rock hard, but she can also hit your soul. As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, one of the most touching, heart-felt moments for me was her tribute to Brian Farmer, someone she’s known since the beginning of her big career, when she was invited to open for Gov’t Mule. “They had tour buses, and they had a tractor trailer, and they had Farmer……” The crew makes it happen, nothing would be possible without them, without people who care as much as Brian Farmer did. Her rendition of, “I Shall Be Released”, just her up there alone, on the organ, belting it out, brought tears to my eyes. You could hear a pin drop. And, then the band comes back out, and they go into, “With a Little Help From My Friends.” I think I still have goosebumps….
Willie Nelson. Oh Willie….. What a joy to see this music icon. The number of people there to see him, hear him, enjoy him that day was a sign of love and respect. I, for one, have never seen Willie Nelson this close before. He made sure to connect to his audience, pointing and smiling at recognizable faces. He looked directly into my camera, more than once, making me feel like he wanted to be sure to connect to me. He played all of his hits, opening with “Whiskey River” and them moving directly into, “Still is Still Moving to Me”. We got, “Good Hearted Woman”, “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”, “Crazy”, “Georgia”,which was just beautifully Willie, “On the Road Again”, “You Were Always on My Mind”, again, just beautifully Willie, and one of my Mom’s favorites, so, of course one of mine.
And they were also super fun, with a Hank Williams cover in “On the Bayou” – for a moment, we were all down south, eatin’ gumbo, having some fun on the bayou. Super lighthearted and upbeat, made ya want to wiggle. And that classic Willie, being true to himself with what he called another gospel tune, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” Then the special moments, seemingly just Willie, with “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain”, or when he invited Susan Tedeschi up for “Will the Circle be Unbroken” into “I’ll Fly Away”. Lastly, ending with a little southern country gospel with, “I Saw the Light”. Praise the Lord for we got Willie, oh yes. He can still play and he can surely still sing – that voice is so perfectly recognizable, so comfortably familiar, it was special.
Day four also gave us two more sets from both Wilco and Widespread Panic, this time without Steve Winwood, which meant a full set of originals, along with covers of Neil Young and Bill Withers, the latter which brought Susan Tedeschi to the stage, giving it her all on guitar and vocals. Out of all musicians at this fest, she sure was one that took folks up on the invites to jam. WSP fans were out in number, man, that lawn was jammed! A little scary to maneuver through that with gear, at night, so, yeah, I opted to stay in the VIP area, back on one of the platforms, where I found some really nice folks each time I was up there, sharing their space with me so I could get off some shots with my big zoooooooooom. (Sidebar: I spent some time on the platform that day for Phil and Friends, so, later, during Tom Petty, I noticed the same folks. I go over and ask if I can grab a few snaps from their spot again, and they agree. I introduce myself again, being friendly, and the girl and I start talking. She asks me where I’m from, I say California but I grew up in Buffalo. “NO WAY!” she exclaims, as she taps her friend, who also grew up in that area, and who’s husband went to my high school, and graduated the same year as I did! Are you kiddin’ me!!!) Anyway, WSP also had Randall Bramblett (as John says, “from ages, dimensions, and lifetimes…”) join towards the end of their set, for “Up all Night, “Vampire Blues” and “Love Tractor”, as well as midway through the set for, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” and “Old Neighborhood,” where he added his musical touch on saxophone.
You know, “Thought Sausage” is one interesting song title, and the middle jam, well, maybe that’s what turns it all into sausage, every thought you are having is just smashed together. We had some cool down, slow down, breathable grooves in “Pilgrims”, which has a lot going on in the background, from the steady bass, drums and percussive beats, to Jimmy’s soothingly light guitar, the twinkling of the piano, to the soul in John’s voice. This moved into, what I hear mentioned as a slower version of, “Porch Song”, for a near 14-minute long jam. Just one more song to mention because it grew on me, is “Down” – there is something about the way the guitars sing in this one, and the blend of all those in front of a mic, it was just one that stood out. Did I say I love Dave Schools? The way he rocks on stage, his long hair blowing in the wind, the energy he emits with each note, and that face….. oh, that face. Ya just want to squeeze him!
Closing out Lockn’ 2014, on the Ridge Stage was none other than The Allman Brothers. Billed as possibly one of their last planned performances (they still have a little bit of a tour planned, so who knows), they were certainly one set I wanted to see. I’ve been lucky to see them on both big and small stages, one of my most memorable shows being at the Darien Lake Amphitheater, in Western N.Y., to which I would not have made it to meet up with my college buddies if it wasn’t for my favorite Canadian cousins. After all, he knew why I had to be there, he’s a musician himself! Its all about that live experience, those things you won’t forget any time soon. I remember seeing this dude with a hat, hardly moving at all, the entire show. My friend’s and I discussed who would approach him, surely he was recording. Yup! I think I still have that tape too, and when I listen to it, it’s 1991 and I’m at Darien Lake all over again. (Did I just age myself? Whatever.)
For just about 2 hours, the Allman Brothers Band took us back in time. It was time to boogie for sure, in an Allman Brothers kind of way. I’ve always said, to me, they are sunny day music. I seem to be transported back in time, to summer tour, driving down south, the sun is shining, the windows open, and The Allman Brothers Band cranking on the car stereo. I still get that feeling. Opening with, “Statesboro Blues”, an old Blind Willie McTell tune that they do so well – Warren and Derek both screaming, Greg giving you that “whah” on his organ every once in a while in between notes, and that voice, that voice – he’s still got it. They had a big ‘ole screen behind them, projecting different images of the band long ago, their famous emblem, some psychedelia for the psychedelic minds, and colors galore, to fancy your eyes. There is a killer shot out there with Derek, focussed on his strings, with a huge sunset projected behind his head. I must give credit where credit is due, Mr. Josh Timmermans!! I was too far away to grab something like that, but man, that was IT, that was THE shot.
After a few more covers (“Done Somebody Wrong” by Elmore James, “Stormy Monday” by T-Bone Walker, and “You Don’t Love Me” by Willie Cobbs), they gave us a string of Allman favs we wouldn’t forget. “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, so soothingly southern psychedelic rock, for an incredible 15 minute jam that led into a nice drum solo, before everyone came back out for a sick, “Whipping Post”, one deeply felt song, intense, angst, pain, feeling whipped by a relationship. I been run down, lied to, made a fool, and now you make me feel like I’m tied….
Taking but maybe a 10 minute breather (for them and us!), they come back on stage, where Warren begins to share his loss in Brian, and this is the moment they flash up that empty director’s chair and bring us to a moment of pure silence, pure dedication, and go into a soulful and take me away kind of “Midnight Rider.” And they all had on the Farmer shirts, all of ’em. I suppose he is now a midnight rider, in the sky.
Picking it up with a lot of jammy jam songs (not talkin’ PB ‘n J folks), I was lost in the heavens, in the soaring sounds of Warren and Derek’s guitars, the rolling rhythms of it all. I love “Mountain Jam” and I love that they came back to it, out of “Little Martha”, with a lovely, lovely “Blue Sky” in between. Take me away……
The “Lockn’” or “interlocking” concept worked incredibly well with String Cheese and Umprhey’s, String Cheese and Billy K, – you could see the other slowly getting on stage, and jamming along with the act that was playing, at times moving along smoothly into the next set without a skip in the beat. And, then there were others where we waited just a few minutes, wondering what happened to the transition. No complaints here, just a mental note I made. I rather enjoyed watching the later band sneak out, pick up instruments, start jamming along, even though they weren’t plugged in yet, having a great time as if they were actually on the other stage with everyone else! The best in show was the transition between The Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band – PHJB came out on stage to join Del for a song, and before we knew it, they were all lined up, strutting their stuff from the Ridge Stage over to the Oak Stage, where Del and his band stuck around for a few more songs, before slowly fading away. Then there were the shared moments – Lettuce’s guitar player out with The Revivalists, Susan Tedeschi sitting in with Widespread Panic and Willie Nelson, Taj and Keller with Bill Kruetzmann, or Michael Travis and Jason Hann just hitting it along with Billy during one incredible drum solo (then they snuck behind Billy on stage, one on either side of him, standing up and pointing at him, egging the crowd on to cheer even louder!)……. and can’t forget Sam Bush sitting in with The String Cheese Incident for Nershi’s newest, “Colorado Bluebird Sky”.
One more thing, I’m loving when these fest get the ASL folks up on stage, to sign the lyrics for those in the audience who could not hear. Very well placed. They seemed to have folks who were fans of the band they were signing for, seemed to be right in with the groove, portraying the lyrics and emoting the song in such a beautiful way. There were certainly times I was watching that rather than the stage.
Those who want full set-lists can seek them out online on sites such as Setlist.com or our friends at Live for Live Music – maybe not all sets from all bands, but certainly set lists from bands that have fans who are awesome at doing that! Oh, and you can hear some of the sets from the weekend, up on Panic Stream dot net – and like the set lists, not all are there, but enough to make ya feel like you can be there, all over again……
And, finally, I share my list of most notable covers (that I can remember): The Revivalists – “Shelter” by the Rolling Stones, Umphrey’s McGee – Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”; Wood Brothers – “Ophelia” by The Band; Tedeschi-Trucks (acoustic) – “You Got the Silver” by The Rolling Stones; Chris Robinson Brotherhood – “Hard Rain is Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan; Phil Lesh and Friends – “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” the night before Steve Winwood could mutter a verse, and I’m really liking the way Phil does “Let it Ride” by Ryan Adams; Sam Bush, Larry and Jenny Keel – “One Love” by Bob Marley; Tedeschi-Trucks Band (electric) – “Keep On Growing” by Derek and the Dominos (I would have said the Traffic cover, but, well, like I said, I missed it); Widespread Panic with Steve Winwood – “The Ballad of John and Yoko” by The Beatles (gotta luv it, Widespread Panic covering Traffic covering The Beatles….); Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n Roll Star” by The Byrds; Grace Potter – “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane; Willie Nelson – rocking it out on “Hey Good Lookin’” into “Move it On Over” by Hank Williams; and a HUGE one from The Allman Brothers Band – “You Don’t Love Me” by Willie Cobbs – man, I remember being mesmerized by Derek for this one….
Who’s ready for Lockn’ 2015 – say it with me now!