Ah. Summer festival season is coming to a close very soon but not without one more trip to Infinity Downs & Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, Virginia.
The skies opened up early in the day preventing some of the acts to either, unfortunately, be canceled or postponed, It takes a whole village to make sure a festival is run smoothly, and the staff at LOCKN' brought their “A-game” on Thursday when it came to everyone’s safety. Of course, people were bummed that they were not able to see acts such as Andy Frasco & The U.N. and Midnight North because of Mother Nature, but safety comes first at a festival.
The show must go on! At 8 PM LOCKN' was kicked into high gear with a rousing performance by Khruangbin. The Texas group wasted no time getting the crowd energized as they filtered in the entrances. The Houston, Texas trio typically do not have special guests but with a number of musicians that are around festival grounds they made an exception. The one and only, Trey Anastasio, joined the trio for the remainder of the evening. You could tell that the Phish legend was paying close attention to the other musicians on stage as they brought smiles across the field in the opening set.
Gary Clark Jr. who is known for his deep lyrics and rip-roaring guitar licks. Clark, also from the Lonestar state, gave thousands of Thursday night attendees exactly what they were looking for. A heartfelt, soulful performance. You could feel the emotions running from the stage and bouncing around the Arrington, Virginia field.
Closing out the first day of the festival was the one and only, Grateful Dead tribute supergroup, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Designed to be a “one time only” spin-off at The Brooklyn Bowl a few years back, the band has been paying homage to the legends for six-plus years. The same can be said for the Thursday night closing sets. Rounding out the band is guitarists Scott Metzger and Tom Hamilton, bassist Dave Drewitz, and long-time friend, Marco Benevento. From the opening (Bob) Dylan tune, “Hard Rain,” to the 1:30 AM finale of “Never Been To Spain” (Three Dog Night), the band and audience were vibing as one. Like any Grateful Dead show, it’s hard to pick a highlight, because the music hits everyone differently. The talent from the stage was unbelievable on “Peggy-O,” “The Other One” and “Greatest Story Ever Told.” In typical JRAD fashion, the teases were abounding all night, but the biggest surprise was paying homage to Led Zeppelin with an “A+” rendition of “Immigrant Song”.
After Day 1, the vibe was electric, and everyone was ready to spread the love all weekend.
Even though the first day was a little disrupted by Mother Nature, the vibe going into Friday was as high as ever. Creators Peter Shapiro and David Frey are always thinking of the next best idea to bring to their fanbase. One of the coolest spots at LOCKN' is Garcia’s Forest.
As festival-goers were getting out of their tents, Oregon based, folk/Americana outfit, Fruition, were giving their diehard fans 110% in the forest. As far as the eye could see people were movin’ and groovin’ to the tunes.
The mid-afternoon sets featured several exceptional guests. Starting with Moonalice, led by venture capitalist and founding member of the Flying Other Brothers, Roger McNamee. Along with McNamee was his bandmates: Pete Sears/Barry Sless/John Molo/Jason Crosby. If these four musicians are a powerhouse, to begin with, but joining them for their set were the T Sisters (Chloe/Erika/Rachel) along with Lester & Dylan Chambers. The energy was through the roof as the San Francisco based sisters’ vocals resonated on classic Grateful Dead tunes, as the band was firing on all cylinders.
Keep the special guest theme, Melvin Seals & JGB were next on the docket. Studying Jerry Garcia’s style, John Kadlecik knows The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia catalog like the back of his hand. With the veteran, Seals, tickling the ivories, the band was giving the LOCKN' crowd a lovely afternoon delight. Edie Brickell and The New Bohemians started over three decades ago, and are still going strong. With the sun peeking through the clouds after a short weather delay, fans made their way up front to see what the legend had in store. Edie’s band was on top of their game for their shortened Friday night set. Married to Paul Simon, it was natural that rumors were flying around that he may make an appearance. He did not (except from the side of the stage), but during “Deep Elem Blues,” the one and only, Mr. Bob Weir came out. Brickell and Weir sounded like magic during the early 1930’s Cofer Brothers tune.
Performing a few hours outside of their hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, have been getting major press in 2019 for their electric and energetic live performances. Throw in guitarist, Cory Wong, of Vulfpeck; you get a show that is sure to get your body moving. The crowd sure got funkified as the quartet let Wong let loose during a rendition of the Prince popular song, “1999”. The beauty of LOCKN is that it blends genres from all over the spectrum.
Old Crow Medicine Show, some would throw under the category of bluegrass/Americana, but the guys know how to go in every direction. Things heated up when Weir popped onstage for a trifecta of tunes that included a sing-along with fans and the band during “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” Pure rock ‘n roll enthusiasts enjoyed The Revivalists, led by David Shaw. Forming in New Orleans, knew how to engage the festival-goers with the upbeat, sing-a-long lyrics, that gave a chance fans of all ages to show their dance skills throughout the farm. One of the most anticipated acts going into LOCKN was the Trey Anastasio Band headlining sets on Friday. It may be the Trey Anastasio Band, but over the past two decades when the band started out as Eight Foot Fluorescent Tubes in Vermont, the guitarist has shaped an all-star cast behind. WIth one of the best brass sections in the business, Natalie Cressman, Jen Hartswick, and James Casey brought their energy and strong background vocals during the headlining set, along with some stellar percussion work by Cyro Batista and Russ Lawton. Founding member of TAB, Tony Markellis, sat in the foreground, giving some enjoyable bass notes that hit the soul throughout the set as Ray Paczkowski, as he made it extra funky on the keys stage left.
After a very brief intermission, the band entered with extraordinary guest, the masterful, Derek Trucks on the guitar. It was a guitar players dream come true on Friday: Trey and Derek together. The stars aligned. Mr. Anastasio said that Trucks is one of his favorite guitar players on the planet. You could tell as Trey looked at Derek with all smiles during the closing set. It was like a kid in the candy store. Anastasio was soaking in all the notes off of Trucks’ guitar. The real cherry on top was when Derek’ wife, Susan Tedeschi, led the supergroup in “A Life Beyond The Dream” and “Rise/Come Together.”
Adding to the extra special night was Trucks and Anastasio sitting with two acoustics as a hush came over the thousands in attendance as they serenaded the crowd with two tunes: “Brief Time” and “More.”
After almost two days on the farm, you could feel that fans of all ages were coming together and just enjoying the company of one another.
The weekend is here, and it’s time for everyone to let loose. A band that did just that was Cory Henry & The Apostles. If you were ready to get down ‘n funky in the mid-day, Henry, along with his top-notch group, brought the heat. Historically speaking, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, has been bringing their New Orleans vibes to audiences across the nation for over five decades. As the sun was beating down in Virginia, the audience was vibrating with the legendary musicians. If you closed your eyes, you could feel like you were right in The French Quarter.
Twiddle has been gaining steam and recognition in the jam community over the past few years thanks to making connections with some veterans in the scene. On Saturday they gave the nod to harmonica master, John Popper to join them onstage. If having the long-time Blues Traveler member on stage wasn’t enough, Bob Weir brought the energy up to “11” with a jam-filled version of “Eyes Of The World.”
Peter Shapiro always has a way of bringing the music to the fans. WIth the opening number “Run For The Roses,” Oteil (Burbridge) & Friends, were brought the Jerry Garcia vibes to Infinity Downs. With the number of guitar players around the scene during the weekend, it seemed fitting that Duane Betts sat in with the supergroup for a smoking Allman Brothers Band cover, “Jessica.”
Mixing it up and getting down to the nitty-gritty, Vulfpeck, showed exactly why they are one of the hottest live acts today. They just bring the funk hard, and on Saturday, a full-fledged dance party ensued on the farm. LOCKN' was at full force on Saturday; all the bands were bringing a level of superb musicianship.
The set that everyone was waiting for: Tedeschi Trucks Band with very special guest Trey Anastasio. Heading the act is husband and wife duo, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. During the first set, they brought the soul and blues to the forefront of their set. The legendary slide guitarist, Trucks and soulful vocalist, Tedeschi, may be the leaders, but their supporting cast on stage never miss a beat.
As Trey Anastasio joined Tedeschi Trucks Band for the second set, the opening number, “I Looked Away” written by Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton was an interesting choice. As the band dove into “Bell Bottom Blues” whispers went through the crowd: Could it be! “Are they covering “Layla” in its entirety?” The answer was: Yes. Jaw dropped. This was perfection (if you ever knew it). Trey and Derek together but playing a Clapton album was the cherry on top. Joining in on the fun was Doyle Bramhall II on the third guitar. Three epic guitarists on one stage, everyone was in their “live music glory” on Saturday evening. Highlighting the set was an electrifying version of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” along with the set-closing “Layla,” where everyone traded off solos.
Sunday. The last day. An emotional day for many as the music and the relationships they have made throughout the festival will just be etched in their memories soon. Starting the day at high noon was the barefoot acoustic guitar, Keller Williams, bringing his morning mass with his Grateful Gospel friends. There is nothing in this world like pulling out some old school Jerry Garcia tunes (and covers) like “Midnight Moonlight” and giving them a nice bluegrass flare. The beauty of LOCKN' is that it offers a wide variety of genres throughout the weekend. Friends get to see each other and sit in during each other’s sets. One of the unique pairings were reggae legends, Steel Pulse being joined by Bob Weir for the classic tune, “Don’t Let Go,” to open up the afternoon Sunday set. Joining in on the fun later in the set were brass band, The Soul Rebels, blended nicely with the reggae vibes that were being given off by Steel Pulse.
Led by soulful singer Paul Janeway (St. Paul), St. Paul & The Broken Bones filled LOCKN' with soul on the final. If you weren’t up and dancing already, the group changed that very quickly. One of the many highlights of the set was when the frontman, made his way to the soundboard area, to sing the final number with the crowd surrounding him. Veterans moe. Came out of the gate on fire, with oldie but goodie, “Plane Crash” that segued into “Spine Of The Dog.” Wielding his tan cowboy hat, young guitar wizard, Marcus King, showed why he was chosen to the very special guest on Sunday night during “Opium.” The Buffalo, NY band throw in a beautiful rendition of Pink Floyd’s, “Fearless.” Grammy award winner, Jason Isbell, who is known for his solo work as well as a past member of rockers, Drive-By Truckers, brought “400 Watt Unit” to the forefront as the sun was setting on the Virginia farm. Throughout the set Isbell showcased his skills as well, his backing band especially flatpicker, Browan Lollar.
Throughout the weekend, Mr. Weir guested with several bands and played a few VIP sets, so it was fitting for him along with Don Was and Jay Lane to close out the festival as, Bob Weir & The Wolf Brothers. It was a real treat to hear Weir penned tunes in a very relaxed setting. Highlighting the two-set venture was when Susan Tedeschi joined the group for second set on the Bob Dylan number, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” as well as John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” then segued into “Sugaree.” Joining the trio was harp virtuoso, Miakela Davis, made classics like “China Cat Sunflower ---> I Know You Rider” into a beautiful journey.
Overall, LOCKN' 2019 was a huge success, musically speaking and the vibe that encompassed the festival over the four days on the farm. Peter Shapiro and Dave Frey bring magic to LOCKN' every year. Packing up the car and heading out, is emotional, but the memories that were made will last a lifetime.