Lockn' Festival - Arrington, VA - September 2013

Lockn' Festival - Arrington, VA - September 2013
It's hard to explain the excitement I felt when I heard that a massive music festival was coming to my home state of Virginia. Amplify that excitement by some randomly-chosen large number, upon hearing Lockn’ Festival’s legend-packed lineup, and you get some idea of how important this festival felt.

Bands the likes of Furthur, Neil Young/Crazy Horse, SCI, Widespread Panic, Gov't Mule, and The Black Crowes were slated to make festival history just a few hours from my stomping grounds. And then, Young had to back out after a Crazy Horse injury!

The communal shock was obvious. Can't he fill Frank "Poncho" Sampredo's spot? Maybe he can do a solo spot? Nope, we've lost Neil... So, who is going to fill such a weighty mic/guitar time slot?
We were granted a visit by Trey Anastasio, and the reactions were varied. Having posted up about 10 feet from center stage during Anastasio's set, let me vouch for how great it was. Young's absence was a personal downer, but Anastasio's nimble riff work was more than a pleasure to bathe within. I didn't get to add another Young/Crazy Horse to my list of shows, but I did get to add one of the more memorable sets of my life. Lockn' has my eternal thanks...

As an entrenched reviewer, I cannot just celebrate the good things... There were first year hiccups (a few more port-a-johns/cleanings would have helped, and I was trapped in an unfortunate section of the entrance for about 10 hours while trying to get in -- friends of mine came much later than me and beat me to the stage by hours), but I know that those things that can be fixed will be fixed for any future Lockn' Festivals! How do I know the festival cares? Festival co-founder Dave Frey made his way to my unfortunate section and was handing out bottled water. He didn't announce who he was, but he was out there doing the grunt work, one bottle at a time; that's a man I can have faith in.

So I made it through the always-trying rough hours of a good festival trip, and I eventually found myself at my campsite. It's at this point when the journey mellows and you can enjoy the stretch that's ahead. I threw my tent together in about 10 minutes (just as the sun was kissing the trees before bed), and I speed walked my way to the twin main stages (no overlapping sets) just before Keller Williams came out for a guest spot on SCI's first set of their two-set night. They played a personally-needed "Best Feeling," and I found myself in a friendly groove that only a good festival can spark.

The night extended into a gritty Gov't Mule set, later softened by Grace Potter's flawless vocal spot on stage alongside the fellas.  The night capped with SCI's second set, ending (as scheduled) well earlier than what most festivals might consider. There was a smaller and distant alternate stage for late night surprises (including Phil Lesh and The Terrapin Family Band), but the main area headliners stopped promptly around 1 in the morning. Maybe I'm getting older, but I didn't cry over the chance to get off my stage-locked feet.

Day two brought Pegi Young to the stage as people pondered on the chance that Neil might join her; we weren't so lucky. Jimmy Cliff was a professional entertainer and educator as he walked us through a story/songs of reggae's rise from ska through the roots; Phil Lesh could be seen enjoying the historian from the side of the stage. SCI knocked out a blissful pre-sunset spot, we got our first of two Furthur visits of the night, and then the anticipated/uncertain/questioned Zac Brown Incident happened. Many fest-vets weren't sure what to make of all this. Zac Brown exists within a scene that doesn't necessarily blend with the world's wookies on a regular basis. But, I've rarely witnessed a more passionate and kind musician on stage. The man humbly but knowingly fronted the stage, kept the crowd moving the entire time, and finally thanked us all for giving him and the other musicians their jobs. I cannot hate on that, and I'm left curious for how he might decide to continue his wade into our hallowed culture.

Saturday brought more of that top-shelf option. Punch Brothers gave us a look at the gracious Chris Thile and his accomplished friends; Thile is best known from Nickel Creek fame. The Black Crowes rocked the place in familiar fashion before the previously mentioned and mind blowing Anastasio set, and then the connections of Lockn's inner sanctum continued to show, through the treats the night had in wait. Widespread Panic made a first appearance and were later joined by CCR's own John Fogerty for a spread of tracks both old and new. Furthur's third slot of the weekend included a rendition of Workingman's Dead and a visit from the day's highlight; Anastasio joined the godfathers of Furthur for "Casey Jones" and a brilliant "Scarlet Begonias" > "Fire on the Mountain," among others.

Sunday saw some guests trickle away as distant jobs called on Monday morning. Those so blessed as to be able to stay baked through the hottest day of the event. Col. Bruce Hampton and his friends got funky before Tedeschi Trucks Band showed their deep roots (Chris Robinson and Bob Weir sitting in), and finally some of the festival's giants got one last shot at the stage. In the continuing interlocking spirit, The Black Crowes were joined by Tedeschi, Trucks and Weir, Widespread Panic was joined by Trucks, and Furthur was joined by Tedeschi and their old friend, Jimmy Herring. For those so interested in who played what, the festival ended with "Brokedown Palace."

It's an interesting last song for a festival that has the potential to become a great fortress in the summer scene. Lockn's finer aspects have already overshadowed my memories of any first year learning moments, and my fingers are crossed that the magical land of Lockn' will rebuild in a year. Maybe we can get Neil Young back on that lineup! But, even if we cannot lock him in, I'll be there for another great experience, my friends will certainly be of like mind, and friends I don't yet know will certainly be lining up alongside us. Virginia needs and loves you, Lockn', so keep it coming...

Article by: Jeremy Sanchez
Photos by: Robbi Cohn