Photos And Review | Lockn’ Festival Sunday And Final Thoughts
Words by: Bill Clifford
Lockn’ Festival -Day Four and Final Thoughts :: 9.08.13 :: Oak Ridge Farm :: Arrington, VA
On Sunday, the final day of the festival, temps were smokin’ bodies thanks to a blazing sun under a cloudless, azure sky with barely a trace of wind. It was the festival’s most stellar, rounded lineup musically however, from the first act to the last. Despite the temps, fans strolled down from the campgrounds early on to support The Hackensaw Boys. The fourth Virginia-based bluegrass band of the festival to get one of its days started stood semi-circle around a few tall microphones, plucking away on stringed instruments such as mandolin and banjos, fiddles, guitars and upright bass. “Rocky Mountain Mama” had the assembled crowd clapping along in unison, while the lovely acoustic strains of “Keep It Simple” were in contrast with the amped up ethos of “Dance Around.”
Col. (Ret) Bruce Hampton, along with an eight-piece band that included drummer Jeff Sipe and bassist Oteil Burbridge -both original members of Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit -as well as Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno, among others, played a jazzy afternoon set that included classic Hampton originals such as “Compared To What” and “Without Temptation,” with each featuring a funk-laden jazzy groove. Krasno stretched out on “Basically Frightened,” while upbeat closer “I’m So Glad” was doused in funk guitar and loose fills. Disappointingly, original ARU guitarist Jimmy Herring, on hand at the festival with Widespread Panic, did not make an appearance with Hampton and Friends.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band brought soul-drenched gospel to the festival. Susan Tedeschi has a strong and bellowing, gospel-rooted voice, as demonstrated on lovely songs such as the soulful “Midnight In Harlem,” and the doo-wop styled “Part Of Me,” with brassy horn fills. Eric Krasno sat in for a gorgeous reading of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” which Tedeschi dedicated to the late JJ Cale. Chris Robinson and Jackie Greene of The Black Crowes and Furthur’s Bob Weir sat in on the rousing closing number of “Sing A Simple Song > I Want To Take You Higher.”
The Black Crowes greatest hits tour continued, as they kicked off their Sunday set with a aching and bluesy rendition of “Seeing Things” that saw Adam MacDougall lean all over his organ and piano keys. “Ballad In Urgency > Wiser Time” was the jam/improv segment of the set and included one of the finest musical transitions in modern rock. Having just finished a double bill tour, the entire Tedeschi Trucks Band and The Crowes got together to sing the Ashford & Simpson penned “Let’s Go Get Stoned” made popular by Ray Charles, with Robinson and Tedeschi trading verses and bellowing the chorus together, while Derek Trucks ripped a soulful solo. Bob Weir joined the ensemble for a run through Bobby Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light,” which, played here with the TTB Horns blowing and gospel-backing vocals, sounded eerily similar to the original recording.
There is just something astoundingly awesome about seeing and hearing a live set from Widespread Panic in a dusty field in the South as the sun is setting. The second set of the weekend from the Southern jam kings certainly had this one-time Atlanta resident reminiscing on Panic festival sets of the past. “Conrad The Caterpillar” and “Pleas” were rocking enough openers; the latter moving directly from “Pleas” into Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” which saw the ever-versatile Jimmy Herring tear through finger bleeding guitar feedback.
Derek Trucks joined Panic for the final three numbers. A rumbling bass roll from Dave Schools led into “Chilly Water.” Herring and Trucks were seamless in time, tone and melody, as though they’d been performing together for years – they do have a history of playing together, just briefly. Jimmy stepped back on the low, bluesy “Me and The Devil Blues,” a Robert Johnson tune, which gave Trucks a moment to shine on the slide guitar – a perfect fit. Panic brought the energy back with a fiery run through “North,” giving 25,000 fans and freaks the moment to sing-a-long once more.
Taking the headlining spot originally meant for Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Furthur’s festival closing set was one to remember. Loose tuning moved into “Terrapin Station,” a classic Garcia/Hunter composition. Vocalist/guitarist John Kadlecik’s vocals and guitars were on the mark – not an imitation of Garcia, but a fine and passionately delivered reading of the classic Dead tune. Jimmy Herring joined the band on “Brown Eyed Women,” giving the tune a southern twinge on guitar and sounding every bit like Duane Allman reincarnated. “Let It Grow” was a high point, an upbeat and rousing rendition that had the crowd singing along. Furthur closed the set where it began, rolling through “Terrapin Flyer >Terrapin Reprise.”
“May The Four Winds Blow You Safely Home,” said bassist Lesh, in way of an encore. But rather than “Franklin’s Tower,” the song which the lyrics were quoted from, the band serenaded the fans with a beautiful, acoustic take on “Brokedown Palace,” with lovely vocal harmonies on the sweet lullaby. It was a glorious and sentimental way to close the musical festivities of the first Lockn’ music festival.
Final Thoughts on Lockn Festival:
So I’m intrigued with the question I pondered here last week when I arrived at Oak Ridge Farm to cover the Lockn festival. Have promoters Dave Frey and Peter Shapiro created the ultimate festival experience?
Location, Location, Location!!!
Situated in the Mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast, just a mere 35 miles south of Charlottesville, VA and approximately 100 miles south of our nation’s capital city, the farm is centrally located and easily accessible from all directions, and judging by license plates, fans indeed came from all over the country. The privately-owned estate property has more than 4,800 acres, plenty of size on which to grow the event in the future. The lush, green, rolling hills and countryside that surround the grounds make it stunningly beautiful. If you camped in the car camping section, there was quite a long walk to get into the concert site, and rumors abound about five to eight-hour long traffic lines to enter the festival grounds, but each of those dilemmas are to be expected with an event of this magnitude.
The actual concert field is absolutely massive, stretching as long as six football fields, and a good portion of the field was unused, certainly offering room to expand upon in future years. With the two stages of exact size situated right next to one another, rather than a stage here and another in a far off direction, festival patrons didn’t have to choose between one or more of his/her favorite bands, nor rush to make a set time at another stage.
The concert field is surrounded on all sides by many kinds of festival merchandise, craft beer vendors and wine and cider distilleries and locally sourced food vendors. One huge tent, directly to the back of the concert field, housed local vendors such as The Rockbarn Butchery, The Blue Toad and Blue Ridge Kettle Korn (yum!). Starr Hill Brewery and Wild Wolf Brewing Company were two outstanding local breweries that offered delicious beverages. Out round about the concert field you could choose from Asian Sensation, Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint or Outback Kate’s (delicious Three-Cheese Mac & Cheese) just to name a few of the plethora of food choices. One never had to leave the concert field from the day’s first act through the last.
There were no fancy art installations, carnival gimmickry or strobe flourishes or banners to distract one on your way in or out of the concert site. And the entrance was wide, which made for easy egress at the end of the concert rather than a massive bottleneck with more than 25,000 fans leaving at the same time. There could have been more than one entrance/exit to the concert grounds, but even the walk in through the security checkpoint was never really an issue.
Besides the festival music, there were a plethora of other activities to partake from. The Mobile Disc Golf Experience offered free loaner discs to play the six-hole course set up on the festival grounds, shuttles shuffled folks to the scenic Tye River for swimming, Dish Network set up a tent with wide screen TVs for sports fans to view their favorite teams over the weekend and there was yoga provided in the mornings in the camping Triangle, among other activities.
But to be sure, the Lockn’ Festival was all about the music. Without question, this was a jamband and bluegrass fans’ dream lineup. Summer music festival mainstays such as The Black Crowes, Widespread Panic and Furthur were outstanding headliners, though Neil and Crazy Horse were certainly missed. The dual set between The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Soul Rebels was a funk-tastic early afternoon dance-a-thon, and the early Sunday afternoon jazz set from Col. Bruce and Friends was a great way to ease into the last day. And beginning each day with a local bluegrass band was a super way to highlight the sound of the Blue Ridge region. The question now is this: what bands will they invite to the second edition of the festival and not have it be a repeat of the first year? The obvious choice would be The Dave Mathews Band, with their Charlottesville roots. Or, with Frey’s obvious H.O.R.D.E connection, maybe something a little more Phishy?
Lockn’ certainly delivered on its promise of sets of outstanding music and astounding collaboration and artist interaction amongst band members. Oak Ridge Farm was a beautiful and astounding location for a festival, and the weather could not have been better. Frey and Shapiro have succeeded in their mission to create a music festival they would want to attend, and approximately 25,000 festival fans agreed and came from far and wide. Have they created the ultimate music festival experience? This longtime festivalgoer already plans to attend again in 2014, if the event returns, of that much I am sure.