At Lockn’ Music Festival, All You Need Is Love


(Video links below)

Recently, I went to the fifth annual Lockn’ Festival in Arrington, VA, put on by Dayglo Ventures (Brooklyn Bowl, Capitol Theater, Relix Magazine). The festival, which took place about 40 miles outside of Charlottesville, kicked off at sunset. The opening ceremony took place on the main stage, which was clad with a giant American flag. Festival organizers Peter Shapiro and Dave Frey honored those affected by the recent events in Charlottesville by inviting first responders onstage, leading a moment of silence for Heather Heyer and the other victims of the violence, and asking Charlottesville’s Mount Zion First African Baptist Choir to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Amazing Grace”. It set a beautiful tone for the next four days.

Ahead of the festival, Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead said: “I think you are going to find that the folks who attend the festival and the folks who play the festival are all of one solid opinion in regard to what happened in Charlottesville… I would expect there would be some attention given to that issue, but it will probably … come with the song selection.” He was right —  many of the artists did, in fact, address the recent events in their comments and song choices, including Jim James, The Record Company, String Cheese Incident, The Avett Brothers and more.

It’s an event I would definitely attend again, and I highly recommend that you check it out next year. It wasn’t easy to narrow down, but here are ten of my favorite things about Lockn’ 2017:

1. The setting. Lockn’ takes place on Infinity Downs Farm at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is a dream location for sight lines. The organizers clearly put a lot of thought into how to best use the natural landscape and arranged the stages such that the viewing areas were on a slant. You could see the stage no matter how far back you were.

2. A turntable stage. This essentially doubled the use of the main stage and meant that the crowd didn’t have to trek around from stage to stage as they do at most music festivals. I’ve never seen this before, and it was genius. Not only was it functional, but it was cool to watch and meant no breaks in the music.  The artists clearly had fun with it too. Major points on the novelty factor.

3. Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. Both of these founding members of the Grateful Dead performed throughout the four days, each with his own bands, sitting in with other bands, and playing together.  They never seemed to tire.  Watching them perform “Uncle John’s Band” will forever be on my list of coolest festival experiences. Lockn’ in many ways felt like a Grateful Dead festival, i.e. a dream come true for many of us.

4. John Fogerty. It was nostalgic to watch him perform many of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s iconic hits alongside his son Shane on guitar, with whom he seemed to have a total blast, the two riffing off each other throughout. The crowd was delighted when Fogerty played a baseball bat guitar during “Centerfield”.

5. Ann Wilson of Heart. The classic rock legend joined Govt Mule onstage, using her powerful voice to cover Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin songs as no one else could. She then ended her cameo with Heart’s 1976 hit “Magic Man”.

6. Greensky Bluegrass. They had a great set and even covered one of my favorite songs, The Band’s “Atlantic City”. If you’ve followed NYCMelody at all, you know about my love of The Band and that song. I also happen to really love Greensky Bluegrass, so it was a special moment for me.

7. Jim James of My Morning Jacket. I’ve been seeing him for years, every chance I get. He sang some My Morning Jacket songs, some of his new solo material, and also some other protest songs.  He included “Give Peace a Chance,” joined by the great Brandi Carlile (whose voice and energy are something else), Joe Russo and most of the crowd.

8. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead with Bob Weir. JRAD, a Brooklyn Bowl favorite that is essentially a Grateful Dead cover band, was joined by an actual member of the Dead, Bob Weir, late night on the Relix stage.

9. The Avett Brothers. They closed the festival with a tight and animated performance, joined again by Bob Weir. Lockn’ ended in a special moment when they all performed a two-song encore of the Dead’s “I Know You Rider” and Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”.

10. The Heal Charlottesville Fund. Throughout the festival, fans in attendance and those watching the free live stream at home, were encouraged to donate. $20,000 was raised. Clearly the tone set on that first day continued to the very end.

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