Jam Central Station: Lockn’ Festival Review
With the lineup that Lockn’ put together this year, it would have been nearly impossible not to have a great time. The bill was a mix of legends, veterans, and top-notch rising bands, with enough oddities to keep everyone on their toes. While the lineup was put together specifically to please the Relix-reading jamheads, Lockn’ didn’t rely on one genre to make that happen. Rock, funk, soul, gospel, and classic jam were all on the bill, and Lockn’ fans gave proper respect to each artist that came down to the Virginia farm for the festival. Lockn’ was one of the best collections of jam bands put on the same bill in recent years, and no one disappointed.
Thursday started for me with a nearly 8 hour drive out to the farm. I was thrilled that, after a long drive, the process of getting my ticket at the will-call and getting parked was fast and simple. The staff was ready to direct folks and there were no issues getting situated. The walk into the grounds had a small shakedown outside of the gates and fast-moving lines to get into the field. Vulfpeck started out the weekend with a high-energy funky set featuring plenty of crowd participation. I spent the time wandering the grounds to see what shops, food vendors, and organizations were around. I was excited to find some great food (including my first Jerry Roll in a couple of years), plenty of local non-profits to learn about, and a great organization called Be You Love Life that was offering a shady place to sit with fans and free infused water to refill water bottles. In the heat it was great to have access to more options than just the water offered by the festival (which was plentiful and rarely had long lines). There was a lot to see and do at the festival, and, with most of the music centralized around the main stage, fans were able to explore the different options throughout the weekend at their leisure.
The new rotating stage at Lockn’ allowed Umphrey’s McGee to get their start literally as Vulfpeck was ending, with their lights and sound going while the stage was still rotating. The band opened with “Nipple Trix” into “1348″ for a powerful start to the set. The band only had 90 minutes at this Lockn’, so they pulled a full “all killer, no filler” set. “1348″ saw the band settle into a nice groove on the jam. The band started out “Attachments” with a nice crunchy feel before mixing in their own funk and allowing Jake to take an extended solo. The band kept bringing out some of their best known tracks, including “2×2″ directly into “Speak Up.”
The set hit it’s climax with the “Puppet Strings” run, starting out with the first 2/3rds of the song and then leading into a jam and preparing for a sandwich. They moved into “Roctopus,” which was a nice fit with “Puppet Strings.” Instead of moving directly back into “Puppet Strings” the band brought out Gene Ween for a reprise of their Godboner set from a couple years back. Gene led the band through a cover of Billy Joel’s “The Stranger,” which Umphrey’s then transitioned back to the end of “Puppet Strings.” The Billy Joel cover was spot on and a great choice of a cover, well-known to fans of Billy Joel but obscure enough to not be obvious. The crowd was on fire after the surprise cover and the excellent transition. The band closed out their set with a solid “All In Time,” a great closing track for the set. Umphrey’s made the most of their 1-set show, and had one of the obvious highlights of the weekend with the Gene Ween collaboration.
Ween followed Umphrey’s in one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. The recent Ween reunion has had fans scrambling to see the band live, and, with 2 sets at the festival, Ween had the opportunity to bring many of their different styles. Ween took the opportunity to bring out some of their weirdest and oddest songs for their Thursday night show. Gene sounded on point all night, starting off with “Transdermal Celebration,” “The Grobe,” and “Mr. Richard Smoker” and acting every bit the frontman. From there the band decided to get weird, including songs like “Happy Colored Marbles” and the balladesque “A Tear For Eddie.” The band wasn’t playing for a generic festival crowd, this was mainly a set for Ween fans looking to get brown. “Baby Bitch” kept the more casual fans engaged, but from there they ran the gamut of weirdness and eccentricness that has defined Ween throughout their career. The only “well known” track from the latter part of the set was “Push Th’ Lil Daisies,” which is far from an accessible song for the average person. The end of their set included an insane “Poopship Destroyer,” which was a highlight for Ween fans and probably the final straw for any non-Ween fans waiting for “Roses are Free.” I don’t think that Ween won many new fans with their Thursday night set, but I know that fans that were there to see Ween walked away very happy.
I forced myself to get up early on Friday in order to make it to the main stage for Turkuaz. I was very happy that I did. The 8-piece band is one of the best funk bands around, with excellent hooks and danceable grooves. They kept the energy up as the crowd filled in and gave them a reason to move and get sweaty in the heat of the early afternoon. Vulfpeck came out afterwards for their second set of the weekend. It was nice to have them back out if you hadn’t caught their Thursday set. Unfortunately, the band did a lot of the same crowd participation and many of the same songs, which was surprising since they have a pretty extensive catalog for an up-and-coming band. Still a good set, just not a great idea to not mix it up.
I spent the afternoon relaxing while catching White Denim, Charles Bradley, and Peter Wolf from various shaded areas of the grounds. The heat was pretty intense, and it would have been nice to have some more shade available on the grounds. Charles Bradley lived up to his nickname as the Screamin’ Eagle of Soul, bringing some tremendous passion into his afternoon set. He’s an authentic and top-notch performer, always worth checking out. I was less impressed by Peter Wolf. He didn’t do much to bring the crowd along with his set, and the J. Geils Band material didn’t do much to get the crowd going. Classic rock is fine in this type of setting, but it needs to be a little more well-known than Peter Wolf.
I wouldn’t say that Ween’s second show at Lockn’ was better than the first, but it was somewhat more crowd-friendly and accessible. There were plenty of great dance party songs, including “Touch My Tooter,” “Take Me Away,” “Bananas and Blow,” and “Voodoo Lady.” Phish fans were thrilled to hear “Roses Are Free,” and “Piss Up A Rope” was a great highlight for the set. Dean was shredding all set, and I was extremely impressed by the band overall. Great live performance and chemistry. One final note on Ween. The festival had a sign language translator near the front of the stage for most of the sets, including both Ween sets. Watching Ween in sign language was almost as interesting as watching the band on stage. It was a very cool service to offer from the festival, and even more interesting since Ween was on the bill.
Of course Phish was the biggest draw of the weekend, and after a much-welcome break they took the stage in front of a massive crowd. Nearly everyone from the festival was there. Despite all of my years of show experience, this was actually my first Phish show. I didn’t get into jam much until after the breakup, and I continued to miss Phish for one annoying reason after another over the past few years. Phish certainly made my first show memorable. They opened with “Wilson,” which, if I was asked before to choose one song I would like to hear over the weekend, would’ve been the song. So everything on top of that was gravy. The sound was a little off early on, with Mike’s bass not coming through well in the mix, but the song was energetic and the crowd was thrilled to see the band on stage in a rare festival experience. Trey had a flub heading into “Down With Disease,” and that along with the mix problems had me concerned, but by the middle of “Disease” everything seemed to start to come together. “Free” was solid and I loved Trey’s guitar at the end of “Wolfman’s Brother.” “Tube” was one of the primary highlights, with Paige standing out on one of the best jams of the festival. They hit a nice groove early on and built it nicely. “It’s Ice” hit another snag before coming together in the jam. Speaking with some friends after the set it seemed like “It’s Ice” often has problems in the main part of the song but gets jammed out very well. “Simple” was another great song that I was very happy to hear, and it built into an a capella “Space Oddity” to close the set. For my first Phish set I got to enjoy some of my favorite tunes, a few Phish flubs, and a tremendous set closer with “Space Oddity.”
The second set included a better run of jams and some top-notch moments, and fewer things that had me doing a double take. “Punch You In The Eye” got things started off on solid footing, and the newer tunes “Blaze On” and the ever-present “Fuego” were both solid. The two jams gave the band a lot to work with, and they kept the segues going nicely. “Ghost” and “Bathtub Gin” provided another jam highlight and a solid half hour of music from the band. Everything flowed nicely, and “Bathtub Gin” continued to build up to a breaking point before coming back. The band made a good decision, in my opinion, of stepping into a familiar “Backwards Down The Number Line” to give the crowd a chance to release some of the energy that had built through the earlier jam. They closed the second set with a solid “You Enjoy Myself,” and I noticed a lot of variety with the secondjam. I particularly enjoyed Mike’s bass jam while Trey danced prior to the final extended. They encored “Character Zero” to close out the night. Nothing too crazy from the song, but a solid cap on the night.
I passed up Joe Russo’s Almost Dead to catch the debut performance of Circles Around The Sun. This was potentially a once in a lifetime thing, and I didn’t want to miss it. The band moved through instrumental pieces with ease and comfort, going from mellow to heavy and bringing the crowd along with them. I hadn’t listened to much of the Fare Thee Well setbreak music, so it was all new to me, but I understand why this music was so appreciated by the fans. A great way to end the night in the woods after Phish.
Saturday started out with Keller Williams doing a Grateful Grass performance in the morning. It was too early for much of the festival to be up and moving, but for those who made the trek to the Blue Ridge Bowl it was a great set. Keller shows a lot of respect towards the Dead catalog by bringing the songs into different settings. He’s also a great bandleader for a bluegrass supergroup, able to call out the changes and keep everyone on the same page. Grateful Grass is always a fun way to start the day and a great kickoff to any festival morning.
I spent the early afternoon relaxing in Garcia’s Forest, a small wooded area in the campground where tapestries were hung and where Grateful Dead was playing 24/7. It was a nice place to chill and get out of the sun for a while. With the heat of Virginia in August the organizers were smart to take advantage of whatever wooded areas they had available to them.
I headed into the main area just in time to catch the end of Twiddle. They brought Keller out to do an extended “Best Feeling,” which was well appreciated by the Keller fans in the crowd. From there, Galactic took the stage for a nearly 2-hour set in the sun. This is a band accustomed to playing extended sets late into the night, so a couple hours in the heat wasn’t a big deal to them. They had Erica Falls providing the vocals where necessary and Lee Oskar jamming on the harmonica for much of the set. Due to some scheduling changes they had an extended time slot, and they made the most of it with funky jams and giving everyone in the band a chance to shine. Falls did a great job taking on songs from a variety of vocalists with various styles, and she shined on songs like “Dolla Diva” and the infectious “Right On.” Oskar fit right in with the horns, and the band gave him ample time to show off his skills as well. During a weekend with a good amount of funk, Galactic showed why they’re some of the kings of New Orleans.
I found refuge from the sun during Hard Working Americans, knowing that I had a long night coming up. The band continues the solid tradition of American Southern rock that the various members have been exploring for decades. After a delay (due to flight issues), Phil Lesh & Friends finally took the rotating stage with members of The Infamous Stringdusters as well as Anders Osborne, Joe Russo, Jon Fishman, and Page McConnell all in support. It appeared that Osborne had some issues early on, resulting in an early Fishman/Russo drum duo. Phil spent the set directing traffic and running up and down his bass in ways that I had rarely seen in the past. This was another shorter set, just about an hour and a half, and the band did a great job of keeping the energy up for the entire show. “Scarlet Begonias” was a great opener, and “Dire Wolf” showed off some of the bluegrass chops that the Stringdusters brought to the table, as well as being one of the few songs where Paige made a significant impact. With so many folks on stage, the opportunities to step out were few and far between, but Phil gave everyone at least a couple shots throughout the set.
The second half of the set was the truly golden with an excellent “Uncle John’s Band” with everyone hitting on all cylinders. The vocal harmonies were on point, led by the Stringdusters and their familiarity with one another. The Stringdusters also had a chance to lead the jam for a while, with multiple layers playing off of each other at the same time. They kicked things up another notch next, by bringing out Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks for “Mr. Charlie” and “Sugaree.” Tedeschi provided some amazing vocals and truly owned the songs as she sang them. Trucks for his part showed why he’s the best damn slide player alive today, and the rest of the band gave these two plenty of room to work with. Susan actually took the first solo on “Mr. Charlie” and showed once again that she can stand toe to toe with her husband, and Derek proved that God put him on this planet to play the slide. The focus was on Tedeschi’s vocals for much of “Sugaree,” although Jeremy Garrett’s fiddle did stand out during parts of the song and Andy Hall got a nice dobro run. Tedeschi and Trucks left the stage and Osborne took over to lead the band through “Shakedown Street.” They closed things with a soulful “Terrapin” with Phil singing. His voice has certainly lost some strength over the years, but he’s still capable of leading the band through some chops. It was a nice end to a really great set from Phil & Friends.
After the two-song performance that Derek & Susan had put on with Phil, I was very excited for the full Tedeschi Trucks Band set. They absolutely proved their worthiness as a pre-headlining band with a 2 hour gospel, blues, and soul infused set that saw both Tedeschi and Trucks pushing themselves to great heights while the rest of the 12 piece band held things down and stood out when required. I can say without a doubt that I had never seen this type of blues and soul rock performed at anything close to the level of this band. Not only do you have two exceptional players with great chemistry in the duo of Tedeschi and Trucks, but the rest of the band has no problem keeping up. There were dozens of highlights, particularly those moments when you’d see Tedeschi edging on and pushing Trucks through various solos. The band moved through everything from full gospel-revival style versions of cover songs, particularly their take on “The Letter,” to downtempo bluesy jams. Present throughout the entire set was Trucks’ slide and Tedeschi’s riffing, with percussion, horns, and keys all stepping in at times to add to the musical layers. I wasn’t all that familiar with their material prior to the set, and I don’t know that I’ll spend much time listening to their studio albums, but this was a live performance that will put this band on my “must see” list whenever I have the opportunity.
My Morning Jacket ended the night on the main stage. With such an electric set from Tedeschi Trucks Band they had a hard act to follow, but they did a great job with it. If anyone wants to say that rock and roll is dead, all you have to do is take them to a My Morning Jacket show to prove them wrong. These guys have tons of energy, a great sound, and they are completely focused on bringing the crowd with them on a ride. While I only have limited familiarity with the band, they were another one that proved their worth without a doubt. Along with some of their better known songs like “One Big Holiday,” “Off The Record,” and “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream” they added a nice list of covers to their set. The one I think they pulled off best was their take on David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” but they also threw in “Purple Rain,” “Could You Be Loved,” and “What The World Needs Now.” They went well past midnight, and they kept their crowd for the entire set.
I went for more funk in the late night with a set from Lettuce. In a weekend full of top-notch funk acts, Lettuce brought their best to the party. Lots of horns, lots of solos and jams, and plenty of surprises. Nigel Hall came out for a couple tunes to provide vocals to the typically instrumental band. The band mixed funk, hip hop, and a bit of psychedelic to provide a wild closing set to Saturday night.
I unfortunately had to leave early on Sunday, which left me missing quite a bit of music. I was able to catch Phil & Friend’s second set (featuring the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Gary Clarke Jr.) and much of CRB’s set on my drive home (thank you Sirius/XM Jam On for that). I streamed the Phish set, which didn’t quite live up to the old saying “never miss a Sunday show” but was still a very solid set nonetheless. I’ve never missed a full day of a festival before, and I wasn’t happy about missing this one, but I was thrilled about the three days that I did see.
Along with a top-notch musical lineup, the festival hit all of the other necessities well. The sound, lights, and screens were all high quality, giving fans a great view no matter where in the main concert area they were. While it would have been nice to have more smoothie/ice cream options due to the heat, the food was varied and the prices reasonable. Water lines never got out of hand, the camping areas were easy to identify and maneuver around, and the staff got folks in and out quickly. The grounds are big and there were plenty of fans attending, but it never felt overcrowded. They kept the grounds (and bathrooms) clean, there were no piles of trash, and I felt as safe and secure as I ever do at a festival.
Lockn’ without a doubt puts the emphasis on the music and makes it as accessible to the fans as possible. They have a group that they’re catering to, and every year they’ve put together a festival that would satisfy jam band fans of any stripe. They reached for the stars this year with two nights of Phish on top of a stacked lineup, and they hit on all accounts. They weren’t trying to be a multi-sensory extravaganza or arts festival, and there were limited options for entertainment outside of the music. But, as a music festival, Lockn’ 2016 will be very, very hard to top.
Electric Forest announces 2-weekend expansion
Electric Forest will expand to 2 weekends in 2017. The festival will return to Rothbury, MI on June 22-25 and June 29-July 2. The festival announced that, while there will be many artists playing both weekends, there will be unique features to each weekend. They will also be reducing the ticket sales for each weekend to help reduce the crowds. An initial lineup will be announced for each weekend prior to tickets going on sale.
Phish announce Big Boat
Phish will release Big Boat on October 7. The full tracklist hasn’t been released but fans can expect at least some of the new tunes that the band has been introducing to their sets recently.
Umphrey’s returns to Chicago for NYE, announce new album
Umphrey’s McGee will be spending New Years in the hometown of Chicago for the first time since 2010. The band will play 12/29 at the Riviera Theater before heading to the Aragon Ballrom for 12/30-31. Tickets, including VIP packages, go on sale 9/17. They also announced that their new album Zonkey will be released on 11/11. The album will feature studio versions of various mashups that the band has done over the past few years.
Mike Gordon, Greensky Bluegrass, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Break Science Live Band, Dopapod, Perpetual Groove, Kung Fu, The Werks, Zach Deputy, Orgone, The Nth Power, The Main Squeeze, TAUK, Broccoli Samurai
Bear Creek Bayou
September 30-October 1
Mardi Gras World
New Orleans, LA
The Flaming Lips, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Lettuce, Soulive, Foundations of Funk, Dumpstafunk, The Floozies, Lotus, The Nth Power, Papadosio, Earphunk
Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival
Eureka Springs, AR
Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, The INfamous Stringdusters, The Travelin’ McCourys, The New Mastersounds, Turkuaz, Larry Keel
The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
3 nights of The String Cheese Incident, My Morning Jacket, Umphrey’s McGee, STS9, Big Gigantic featuring The Motet, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Lettuce, Grensky Bluegrass, The Revivalists, Snarky Puppy
Breathless Beach Resort & Spa
Umphrey’s McGee, The Disco Biscuits, STS9, Joe Russo’s ALmost Dead, Lotus, Lettuce, Shpongle, The Floozies
Strings & Sol
Puerto Morelos, Mexico
Yonder MOuntain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Keller & The Keels, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass
Sailing from Miami, FL
The Original Meters, moe., GRiZ, Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Benevento Russo Duo, Lettuce, Kamasi Washinton, The Revivalists, The Motet, Beats Antique
Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Three Concerts On The Beach
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Panic En La Playa
February 27-March 3
Hard Rock Hotel
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Widespread Panic, Orgone, Southern Soul Assembly, Playa All Stars
Electric Forest I
Electric Forest II
June 29-July 2
Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and