Words by Dr Hank Finkel, Photography by Steven Philips
The first text came while we were still in route to Arrington, VA to attend the third Lockn’ festival. It read, “Had just finished setting up camp and a huge storm came through and wrecked all my gear. It’s a big mess here, clean up in effect.” Then several more texts followed by the official announcement: Lockn’ Festival Delayed Due To Storm. Thurday cancelled. Gates to open at 6:00 am Friday.
At this point, tens of thousands were making their way to the festival but now had to scramble to find alternate accommodations. Attendees were diverted to several area facilities with large parking lots that had agreed to welcome the attendees and would permit them to camp. What would become of the bands scheduled for Thursday? This included Little Feat, The Doobie Incident, Galactic among others, would they be rescheduled? Then the announcement that one of the bands, Billy and the Kids would perform at a small theater in Charlottesville for $25 but those tickets went in just a few minutes.
All festival attendees converged on the Oak Ridge Farm early Friday. Some had an easy check-in, others not so much. But, the festival started as re-scheduled at precisely 1:00pm with John Popper commemorating 9/11 with a group of first responders and a Jimi-esque rendition of the Star Spangled Banner followed immediately by the rescheduled Doobie Incident. The Doobie Incident combined the 5 members of the Doobie Brothers with The String Cheese Incident. The product was a well-rehearsed and well-received set of good time classic hits including, Takin’ It To The Street, Black Water, Long Train Running, Jesus Is Just Alright, China Grove, and Listen To The Music. The set included several String Cheese songs as well. The afternoon proceeded with Seth Stainback & Roosterfoot proudly displaying why they won the Rockin’ To Lockin’ battle of the bands to earn their spot on the main stage. Moonalice and The North Mississippi All Stars made for a pleasant afternoon before Anders Osborn delivered a terrific bluesy set followed by the equally entertaining Steve Earl & The Dukes.
It was then time for String Cheese Incident, who again delivered a very solid 75 minute set of their own. This was followed by first of two Phil Lesh sets scheduled for the weekend, each featuring a different set of friends. This time he had Chris Robinson, Neal Casal, Adam MacDougall, Eric Krasno and Tony Leone. The set included a 15 minute Shakedown Street, a beautiful Birdsong and a very hot cover of the Rolling Stone’s Gimme Shelter.
Following that, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy celebrated 50 years of The Jefferson Airplane with a Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Rachel Price (Lake Street Drive), GE Smith, Jeff Pehrson, and Justin Guip. The set featured special guest Bill Kreutzman sitting in on “Come Back Baby”, Volunteers”, and “Feel So Good”.
And if the day didn’t already have enough nostalgia for you the final main stage act of the day certainly would. The tribute to the 1970 Joe Cocker Mad Dogs And Englishmen tour hosted by Susan Tedeski and Derek Trucks and including 11 original members from the 1970 tour was off the charts! Featuring Leon Russell, Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge, Warren Haynes, Chris Robinson, among others, with each taking a turn at one or more songs from the original tour, made this set a personal highlight in a weekend of highlights!
Late night, the music continued at the Bowl stage with a solid, rocking Umphree’s McGee set and at The Woods stage with Mickey Hart, featuring Steve Kimock and EOTO. All in all, an amazing day of music and fun.
After more overnight rain Lockn’ woke with excited expectations as Saturday’s line-up was no less impressive than Friday’s. Starting things off over at the Bowl Stage was Melvin Seals & JGB featuring John Kadlecik. The twin Oak & Ridge main stages opened the day with Lord Nelson, Love Canon, and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe with Chuck Leavell on keyboards. Jorma & Jack then mellowed things out with an acoustic Hot Tuna set with a set that included fan favorites “Hesitation Blues” and “I Know You Rider”.
Midwest rockers The Jayhawks picked up the tempo before The Tedeski Trucks Band returned for their second set. That Susan Tedeski’s voice is strong and Derek’s slide guitar riffs sweet was proven Friday night as it would be again during this set. It would have been considered a more standard TTB set had they not brought out guest Bob Weir to sit in on “Key To The Highway” and “Walkin’ Blues”.
At a festival of headliners, the next performer deserved to be the standout giant. Robert Plant brought his Sensational Space Shifters to the stage and opened with Led Zepplin’s “Trampled Under Foot”. He continued to intersperse Zeppelin tunes with the new material throughout the set…”Black Dog”, Dazed And Confused”, “Whole Lotta Love” and as an encore, which he introduced as an “English folk tune” “Rock and Roll”. His voice was strong, arrangements original and he was personally engaging. While slotted as the closing act of the festival, on this day he served to transition from the day bands to the night time jam bands.
Widespread Panic took to the stage at sunset. Chuck Leavell sat in as a guest for several songs, including personal favorites, “Tall Boy” and “Surprise Valley”. They also did a slow, sweet cover of Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me”. They then brought out special guest star, reggae legend Jimmy Cliff and launched into a string of Cliff’s better known songs. The vibe was great as he delivered such reggae classics as “The Harder They Come”, You Can Get It If You Really Want It”, a soulful “Many Rivers To Cross”, and an upbeat sing-along that had everyone in attendance up and dancing, “I Can See Clearly Now”. And for good measure, The Clash’s “Guns Of Brixton”.
Though that sounds like a full evening, the night was far from over. Bill Kreutzman took the stage with his hot new band, Billy & The Kids. Special Guest Of The Day Bob Weir fronted for the band throughout most of the set. Sounding fresh, strong and tight…this relatively new configuration took the crowd to the next level with standout tunes “Cassidy”, “Dancin’ In The Streets”, “Let It Grow”, “One more Saturday Night” brought Mickey Hart out to join his former bandmates. “Not Fade Away” ended the evening on the Oak stage and led right into the the opening of Phil Lesh and Friends on the Ridge stage picking up the beat while the crowd continued the “YOU KNOW OUR LOVE WILL NOT FADE AWAY” chant until breaking into “Scarlet Begonias”. Phil’s band on this night was Warren Haynes, Barry Sless and special guest Carlos Santana on guitar, Rob Barraco on keys and John Molo on drums. While Carlos’ guitar sounded so sweet mixed in with some my favorite Grateful Dead songs, in my humble opinion, he seemed tentative and took a back seat to Haynes who was clearly more familiar with the songs. The set also included, “Hard To Handle”, “Good Morning Little School Girl”, New Speedway Boogie, The Other One”, “Fire On The Mountain”, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”, a smokin’ hot “All Along The Watchtower”, a very spacy “Dark Star”, and matching Billy & Bobby encore for encore by finishing with “Not Fade Away”.
This amazing day and night of music closed with Gov’t Mule at the Ridge Bowl stage.
Sunday opened with Keller Williams’ preaching and singing Grateful Gospel songs with four female back-up singers and one John K on guitar playing to a packed Ridge Bowl. Hippies will wake up early for church if Keller is preaching the Grateful Gospel.
The bands on the main stages this day included The Southern Belles, Fishbone, The Oh Hellos, and St Paul and The Broken Bones…all strong solid performances. Slightly Stoopid delivered a tight ska/reggae set with guests Ian & Ivan Neville, Karl Denson and Don Carlos (Black Uhuru).
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue kept everyone dancing with his New Orleans style jazz. Karl Denson was having so much fun as he played in the horn section throughout this set, as well! Ivan Neville was a standout on organ. Gov’t Mule followed with their second set, followed by a second hot set by Widespread Panic. All leading up to the closing act of the festival by the very deserving of the spot, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters again bringing a mix of new and Led Zeppelin songs with interesting arrangements.
I can’t say enough good things about my first (but certainly not my last) Lockn’ Fest. The producers and staff really seemed to be on their game, even in the face of disaster. This time around it’s Lockn 1 and Mother Nature 0.