The third year of Lockn’ Music Festival brought together another year of incredible jam and classic rock acts to a crowd of aging Deadheads and jamband lovers in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. The location was as ideal as you could get – mountains for miles on a hilly expanse with room for tens of thousands to convene for four days. Lockn’ has taken the lineup and style of the first few years of Bonnaroo and brought that formula back for fans of a wide range of jambands alongside special guests and classic rock acts that few would be able to see otherwise. Despite weather that cancelled Thursday’s music, the weekend was a great success for patrons and musicians alike; Lockn’ is all smiles, all the time.
The microburst that blew threw on Wednesday evening caused a significant amount of damage that disrupted festival arrivals from setting up campsites until Friday morning. Cancelling Thursday’s music was a necessary step for organizers so that they could assess damage, make repairs and ensure that the festival goers, once allowed inside the grounds, would be safe and the festival would not have lingering issues to address during arrival.
Although the music was cancelled on Thursday, bands made an effort to placate fans who were stranded in Charlottesville, VA, about a half hour away from Lockn’s home in Arrington, VA. Billy and the Kids, featuring Bill Kreutzmann, Aron Magner, Tom Hamilton and Reed Mathis took over The Jefferson Theater, selling the show out shortly after being announced that same day. They brought up friends Jason Hahn, Eric Krasno and John Popper for portions of the night as they drifted through the Grateful Dead catalog with a fresh take on the classics. Down the street Strangefolk performed for free at The Whisky Jar, entertaining a packed house and outdoor patio that brought to mind the band 20 years ago on the college circuit in New England, although now with a wider catalog and ardent fans singing along with the band. The Southern Belles, MOOGATU and Kings of Belmont all performed at The Ante Room in Charlottesville, making the best of the situation. Even though the bands had their Thursday sets cancelled, they made lemons out of lemonade while the music never stopped.
Arrival on Friday led to five hours of traffic on winding back roads, which hardly tested the patience of the older fan base – five hours of traffic is a walk in the park if you went to any of the first three Bonnaroo’s or Phish’s festivals in the late 90s and early 00s. While traffic made it seem the crowd was sizeable this year (28,000 per co-promoter David Frey), it was slightly down from last year, due in part to Fare Thee Well (another Pete Shapiro promotion) being a destination event that some attended instead of Lockn’. The festival was VIP heavy with the gen pop given a view from car camping on the hill overlooking the Oak and Ridge stages, giving a glimpse at how the other half lives – closer to the stage, in glamping tents and RVs that were even more proximal to the venue. Indeed Lockn’ is a festival designed to attract a VIP crowd with VIP tastes.
Friday’s music was streamed briefly in the car and once campsite was setup, the folk rock of Anders Osborne circulated over the RVs and up the hill, a serene sound to mellow the stress of car confinement away. String Cheese Incident took the stage at dusk, fresh off their rescheduled Doobie Incident set earlier in the day, which many were disappointed to miss due to Thursday’s cancellation. Cheese played a six-song set over an hour, ending with a 1-2-3 punch of “Rosie,” “Close Your Eyes,” and “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” Phil Lesh and Friends performed a set that felt more like a Chris Robinson Brotherhood show, aside from when Eric Krasno and John Molo drove the set, notably on “Playing in the Band,” “Gimme Shelter” and the transition from “Morning Dew” into “I Know You Rider.”