Lockn’ Music Fest raged Virginia last weekend and provided some killer music, amazing peeps, super heady vibes, and some somewhat hectic times too. The weekend started off shaky at best. Full Thursday cancellation, for barely any rain, and we had to wonder why. Granted, the night before had an unexpected weather explosion that messed up some best laid plans, but still….first day totally done-zo? A touch disappointment. This minor snafu did have some benefits, in that the crunch for time spawned many unique artist collaborations, which otherwise would not have taken place. So that was great actually, and one of the most appealing aspects of this festival is the collab jams you can’t catch anywhere else.
They allowed people to start arriving at 6am on Friday, but since everyone was showing up at the same time, there were serious delays, with some waiting up to six hours, missing music in the process. This concludes most of the shaken, not stirred, period of the fest, though later that night it should be noted the festival closed the will call/box office; people couldn’t get their tickets or get into camping when they arrived Friday late night. This caused a bit of angry confusion, but everyone seemed to work it out in the end — hopefully.
Now the good stuff: the music. String Cheese tore it up on Friday night, and it was beyond a wowing performance. Michael Kang was shredding on the mandola, which could be easily mistaken — by me at least — for a guitar, stellar either way. It was like a non-stop solo and while the band supported, he truly outshone; not in a weird way, just that he was that in the zone. The set could have been later and it would have been epic if they had gotten more time. Long story long, they were incredible and few other acts at the fest seemed to reach their level of passion and musicality.
Phil Lesh and Chris Robinson, and other greats, were a solid evening group, but they, nor any of the dead acts of the fest, were really next level amazing. They all played well, and maybe this is just from coming off the glory that was Chicago this summer, but this semi-reunion was somewhat anti-climactic. As predicted, the original members never were all on stage together, but there were some close calls throughout the heavily rotating rotation.
Late night Umphrey’s McGee was energized, tight, and infused with the soul of the fest. First nights are magical like that, and so were these dudes. The lights were wild and intense and the whole late night stage area was superior to the main stage area, in my opinion; it was intimate, woodsy, looked, better, sounded better, just better.
Widespread really shined with Jimmy Cliff on Saturday, but I questioned how many audience members knew of this legend because they weren’t nearly as hyped as Cliff, though in their defense it is hard to bounce around to his bubbly level. Bob Weir was the surprise guest who played with Billy and the Kids that night, and this was met with mostly enthusiasm with some minor Bobby famous takeover moments. The guys all sounded great and it was perfect to have Bobby in the mix, but the song choices and some aspects of their delivery were surely influenced by the great and powerful Weir.
Government Mule, late Saturday night, was by far the surprise highlight of the festival. Warren Haynes was on fire, literally Trey level good. The show lasted past 4am and they seemed to play longer than any other band at the fest, which honestly, was the right choice and set the perfect scene.
Trombone Shorty was a great Sunday addition and really took us all to New Orleans, with a rocking touch. Robert Plant had another solid set that day, unlike the day before when Tedeschi Trucks Band played before him and I couldn’t tell when she stopped singing and he started — they have a similar voice is what I’m getting at. Jimmy Herring is a beast at least and honestly stole Sunday…he stole it good. Despite Government Mule sounding quite tight again, nothing could really compare to their mind blowing set the previous evening. As music ended that last night, all in attendance felt blessed and musically charged to have experienced such a full weekend, together.
A final disappointing layer may have been the recycling situation however. There were only a few recycling bins, no composting, and the remaining general bins were presumed to be sorted, but I could never get a full answer as to what was being done with the plastic and cans. A few people I spoke to assured me they were sorting, but others who seemed more knowledgeable believed that nothing of the “sort” was going on. The situation concerns me and the environmentally active community greatly and needs addressing still. The fields were littered with so much plastic it was hard to believe that amount of people could produce that much waste. It was an average of eight trash articles a head. The scene was madness…depressing at best really and something that is crucial to a truly green fest scene. It can’t be ignored and needs to be brought to the attention of Shapiro or whomever else is involved. We want answers, for people and planet! The non-profit section did have some very decent hippie outlets, and the presence of Headcount was a reassuring force, especially now with less than a couple weeks left to register to vote. Crucial stuff!
The people at the fest were a close second to the music. Wonderful neighbors, trading wads of parmesan and tequila shots, and everyone I encountered seemed in touch and touching. Genuine, kind, and unified, we truly felt a part of each other, ourselves, and some insanely good music. Despite some definite hurdles, in the end,