Written by Maria Ekaterina
Photos by Roger Gupta
Dave Frey and Peter Shapiro brought the world a little closer through world class music, phenomenal food, craft beers and wines all around an uplifting atmosphere on a beautiful Summer weekend in August. This was especially welcomed in light of recent events of inequality and separation in our country and in Virginia’s own Charlottesville, only 40 minutes from Lockn’ Music Festival. After almost a year of planning, the unforgettable four day event in it’s fifth year at Infinity Downs Farm in Arrington, Virginia filled thousands of lives with inspiration, unity and Love. Amplifying the much needed healing energies of music, Lockn’ gave people an opportunity to enjoy legendary live music amidst the picturesque view of the Blue Ridge Mountains while indulging in a few of Virginia’s best treasures. This year cooler temperatures, public misting stations and localized layout, brought bigger day crowds with the help of shorter commutes between campsites and stages.
The Grateful Dead’s new documentary “Long Strange Trip” directed by Martin Scorsese warmly welcomed thousands of Deadheads to catch up on the past in the main field, late Thursday afternoon, while the sunsets golden rays started to descend behind the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Mount Zion First African Baptist Church Choir from Charlottesville, opened up the main stage with unified harmonies of “Amazing Grace”, “America The Beautiful” and “When The Saints Go Marching In”. Peter Shapiro and Dave Frey stood in a moment of silence along with thousands of attendees in memory of Heather Heyer who lost her life at a hate fueled protest rally in Charlottesville the previous weekend.
First to take the stage Kendall Street Company, winners of this years Rockn’ to Lockn’ took their turn on the rotating main stage. Their mix of catchy vocals glide with the intertwined tides of electric guitar & bass tones, upbeat sounds of sax, keyboards and rhythmic percussion resonated throughout the grounds. Taking their turn on the main stage Thursday night The String Cheese Incident and Umphrey’s McGee smoothly interchanged their finely calibrated sets. Umphrey’s McGee masterfully delivered their original singles such as “Mantis”, “The Floor” and “Remind Me” elevating the underlying theme of this years Lockn’ -LIVE MUSIC & LOVE. Gratefully Bill Nershi, Guitarist of SCI, shared a few inspirational words with the crowd before they got on stage for their second emotionally riched set of the night.
“We want to say for those of us that don’t feel that same hatred towards each other, we need to be united. We need to stay together more now than ever. The more that we can stay together, be together united, the more the people who are preaching the hatred and the ugliness and the violence will feel like they’re on an island. Let’s Love each other more than ever now and be kind to each other. Take care of each other.”
Throughout the two sets, SCI masterfully blended their complex psychedelic talents with laid back jams keeping the crowd raging for more. During SCI second set, members of Umphrey’s McGee (Joel Cummins and Andy Farag) joined forces on the Allman Brothers classic song “Jessica” in tribute to Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks. The music continued on, after midnight at the Relix stage with The Disco Biscuits having their grand debut at Lockn’ Music Festival. Opening their set with “Hope> “Save The Robots” the crowd went wild. This year transitioning from one stage to the next was a breeze as both Relix & Main stages could be viewed from the VIP viewing area, as well as most places throughout the main field.
The Woods, illuminated by beautifully colored twinkly lights at night, held the magic of Garcia’s Forest. Lined with food vendors such as The Sexi Mexi, serving finger-licking burritos 24 hours a day, interconnected late night dance parties with early morning mat sessions. Opal Yoga welcomed everyone to grab their mats and join them Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning at 9 am in the shady Garcia’s Forest for morning stretches. While patrons enjoyed their morning cup of coffee, the Terrapin Porch Stage welcomed sublime pianists such as Danny Louis (keyboardist for Gov’t Mule) who unraveled psychedelic and multi dimensional tones under the forest shade Friday morning. Holly Bowling masterfully enlightened the morning atmosphere with her soulful and sophisticated set Saturday featuring “Bird Song” and “St. of Circumstance” before closing out with everyone’s favorite “Terrapin Station”. Melvin Seals, widely known as a former member of Jerry Garcia Band from 1980 until 1995, brought to life his lifelong roots of soulful jams and smooth melodies into fruition, on the Terrapin Porch stage Sunday morning.
On a cool yet dusty Friday morning at Lockn’, fans welcomed Sun Dried Opossum, winners of Rockn’ to Lockn’ and their bold Rock style to the Relix stage. Marcus King Band brought their passionate rock-blues before TAUK infused the afternoon crowd with their percussion-soaked set. From sunrise to sunset, legendary world class music moved from the Relix to the Main stage with ease. The rotating main stage allows more time to choose what to do, and where to be as one stage interchanged Friday night sets between legends such as Ann Wilson with Gov’t Mule. Phil Lesh invited special guests Bob Weir and Nicki Bluhm to join him on stage with Terrapin Station family band. In honor of the 40th anniversary of The Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station, Phil Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band, special guests Bob Weir and Nicki Bluhm finely collaborate “Dancin’ in the Streets” in perfect harmony, following a mind blowing performance of “Estimated Prophet” Friday night on the main stage. Their entire set created a historic moment for Lockn’ as they recreated the six track album with their raw improvisions and scaled melodies. Gov’t Mule conveyed a groundbreaking set, inviting Rock and Roll hall of fame legend- Ann Wilson of Heart on stage covering Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and “Black Dog”. Ann Wilson also treated Lockn’ patrons to the legendary Heart single “Magic Man” after which Gov’t Mule rocked the crowd with their closing rendition “Mule”.
While clouds continued to provide glorious shade at Lockn’ contributing to an enjoyable and temperate summer festival experience for those in Virginia, Hurricane Harvey sadly brought major devastation to those in Texas. The Suffers from Houston were forced to cancel their Saturday set on the Relix stage to be with their families during these devastating times. Saturday afternoon bands on the Relix Stage had extended their sets due to the unfortunate cancellation, finding a silver lining in this cloud of grey. Mighty Joshua got everyone dancing with rhythmic reggae on the Relix stage before Los Colognes brought their smooth, upbeat Rock to refresh the afternoon. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong took everyone to their psychedelic funk town with “Couldn’t we All” and “Sail On” closing out the Relix stage in the late afternoon.
Sun rays broke through the clouds as Keller Williams one man show, radiated clever vocals amidst his layered guitar, keys and percussion. Improvising the lyrics to Weezer’s “Holiday in the Sun” to “Lockn’ in the Sun” brought patrons into a groovy afternoon funk. Greensky Bluegrass brings raw healing energies to life through their intertwined bluegrass and rock melodies. With songs like “Windshield” tugging heart strings and closing out their set with “Atlantic City” leaving thousands overflowing with Love. As the sunset kissed the Blue Ridge Mountains before the last sunrise at Lockn’, John Butler Trio took the stage. Ranging from tantalizing guitar strums mixed with sharp percussion during in “Blame It On Me” to bouncy string jams throughout “Livin’ in the City” before closing out their set with the invigorating “Funky Tonight” they set the mood for a phenomenal night to follow. Well known for his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, John Fogerty brought soulful and at times poignant moments in light of devastations and darkness in current events with “Who’ll Stop The Rain” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Widespread Panic pumped out a thunderous set including “Blue Indian” and “B of D” as they closed out the main stage.
In just a blink of an eye continuing on a Lockn’ tradition, Keller Williams Grateful Gospel opened up the Relix Stage bringing out everyone in their Sunday’s best. A light overcast slowly drifted into a glorious day, as shakedown street started to fill up with people finding the perfect gift for themselves or their special someone. Known for his time as the manager of Rolling Stones as well as The Grateful Dead, Sam Cutler casually conversed with festival goers while smiling and sharing pieces of his personal taste in music and life lessons with anyone willing to listen. Mouth watering aromas infused the nostrils with smells of pizza, tacos, fresh biscuit sandwiches and burgers throughout the afternoon and into the late evening. Welcoming the early sunset rays, The Revivalists mix their authentic New Orleans Rock, invigorating stage presence and heart tugging lyrics through their songs “Stand Up”, “Wish I knew You” and “Criminal”.
Carrying on the exploratory and visionary spirit of the Grateful Dead and their iconic jams, Phil Lesh & Friends with moe filled festival goers with reawoken sounds of Folk, Rock, Psychedelic, Metal, Classical, and Punk elements into a once in a lifetime Jam of “The Music Never Stopped” intertwined with voices of Bob Weir, Nicki Bluhm and Phil’s son Grahame Lesh. David Shaw, Rob Ingraham and Michael Girardot of The Revivalists, contributed their rock and multidimensional tones as they joined Phil with his detailed and booming bass lines bringing The Band’s “Ophelia” to life. Phil Lesh and Bob Weir channel into their Grateful Dead roots through “Sugar Magnolia”, “Scarlet Begonias” and imaging “Sunshine Daydream”. Bob Weir was happily welcomed back on stage during the The Avett Brothers sophisticated set for a cover of Jerry Garcia’s “Mission In The Rain”, Bob Dylan’s cover “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and from their “Emotionalism” album, “Go To Sleep”. The Avett Brothers sturdy banjo strums cradle emotionally rich lyrics in singles such as “Murder In The City” and “Ain’t’ No Man” bringing peace of mind to wounds of the soul. The eighteen song set encouraged Bob Weir to join them to close out with a two song encore featuring “I Know You Rider” and “I Shall Be Released”.
Through the legendary company Dave Frey and Peter Shapiro invited to Infinity Downs in 2017 we all felt a little bit more joy, appreciation of another and filled the atmosphere with a down to earth feeling of home. Amidst the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, artists poured out their love for Virginia during their mind blowing sets. Legendary music, Virginia’s best food and beer artisans rooted in a uplifting atmosphere contributed to the best Lockn’ Music Festival yet.