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A Snapshot of Lockn Festival 2013

by Kaylee Zielinski

photos copyright Roger Gupta


Typically, Arrington, Virginia is a small town populated by about 800 people, but for the next four days it is transformed into stomping grounds for 40,000 Deadheads, Spreadheads, Phish Phans, and hippies alike. This is the first annual Lockn’ music festival. The lineup features star musicians such as Bob Weir and Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead, Kate Hudson’s ex, Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, and a special sit-in with Credence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty with Georgia natives, Widespread Panic.

Lockn’ music festival was held on Oak Ridge, a 200 year-old farm with vast land stretching 4,800 acres. There are RV’s, car camping and preferred tent camping which makes accessing the stage and vendors close and easy as opposed to the hour long walk attendee’s have who are in Camping 2.

Golf Carts whiz by and dust flies everywhere clogging your throat and making your lungs feel like you smoked a pack of cigarettes in five minutes. The next day, your boogers are black and drinking something warm to ease your throat is unfathomable in the 90 degree weather with almost 80% humidity.

Security is lenient on Thursday, but by Friday night they start grabbing patrons around the waist, which feels violating. They say they are looking for weapons and make a man in a Furthur shirt throw out his pocket knife. He is baffled and on the verge of yelling but because he is moments from seeing his favorite band in the world, he obliges and throws it in the trashcan.

A man small in stature with a big ol’ belly sports a bright blue, yellow and purple tie dyed shirt and begins to set up his chair and pulls out a bottle of Dr. Pepper. His shirtless buddy without shoes tosses him a bottle of E & J. He takes a swig and the smell is strong. So strong that you can almost taste it. He rolls up a joint and sparks it. They pass it back and forth. He begins to laugh and proclaims “I’m havin’ me a baby in one month! This is the last hurrah!”

People are sardined side-to-side the closer you get to the stage. This is the spot to be for many who crave a sense of nostalgia as they worship their favorite musicians as one would in church. However, many hang to the back leaving open room for blankets, dancing, and hula hooping. A man selling bootleg Lockn’ shirts wanders through the crowd shouting, “Half priced shirts! Only 15 bucks, people!” His skin is tan and he looks worn out. Sweat drips and he takes out a red bandana with stealies on it and wipes his forehead. The man having the baby spots him and runs over. He buys two. One for him, one for his absent wife who couldn’t make the trip due to her last-trimester state.

As the day moves forward and the tangerine sky sets in, one would think that exhaustion might take over for many since the music has been blaring since noon. But they aren’t. In fact, they are dancing harder and better now that the alcohol has kicked in and the music is in full swing.

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Billy Nershi, the lead guitarist and vocalist for The String Cheese Incident, takes the stage and welcomes the patrons of Lockn’. “How are ya’ll doing? We are so excited to be here from Colorado. We are gonna play you a little song, one I wrote when I was on the road and feelin’ in love.” He plays what most say is the theme song of Cheese’s native state “Colorado Bluebird Sky” and the crowd boogies into a hoedown.

It is now pitch dark out and only the structures from the stage are creating light. LED toys like hula hoops and frisbees sparkle and fly by in the background. However, it is still impossible to walk without stepping on someone or running into a chair. The toys light up and take over the night sky, and with barely any light pollution, the stars create a backdrop that stretches for miles.

The man in the tie dye, whose name is Scott, is still going strong. With another boisterous swig of the E &J, he takes off running into the crowd singing along to Widespread Panic covering CCR’s “Born on a Bayou” and before you know it, he’s gone.

There is still more to come as Furthur takes the stage and plays their signature 1970 release, Workingman’s Dead, in its entirety from start to finish. Some tunes, such as Uncle John’s Band, New Speedway Boogie, and Cumberland Blues appear fairly regularly in Furthur sets, but other tracks like Black Peter and the tripped out country western freight train that is Easy Wind are less frequent, and were real treats for Deadheads.

Like a bat out of hell, Scott shoots from the crowd and plummets in his chair. “I was way up front! That shit was crazy!” he yells to his shirtless buddy. His partner in crime tells him that he’s “the man” and he wants to be like him when he grows up.

Furthur continues on and the album closer Casey Jones gets some help when Weir introduces “our friend Trey” and Trey Anastasio from Phish joins the band. This gets everyone on their feet including Keith who has never seen Anastasio before.

Anastasio stays for five songs and encores with his beloved idols who molded him into the musician he is today. They close things out beautifully, sprawling a version of the classic well-loved combo Scarlet Begonias into Fire on the Mountain.

Scott is still in his coveted spot and although he hasn’t left physically, mentally he is gone. “My legs feel like jelly, I dun even KNOW what’s happenin’ now”. We look around and so many others are swaying, losing themselves to the music, losing themselves to a moment that will be frozen in their mind forever.  Some people may call Lockn “the best festival” they’ve ever been to, but we can all agree that it was a life-changing experience.