Words By: Karina Verlan
Images By: Filip Zalewski (Essence Photography)
For the past seven years, LOCKN’ has been a true musical haven for improvisation, acting as a base for some of the most famous and remarkable collaborations. This year was no exception as some of this music scene’s most influential artists came together to share moments with festival patrons that won’t be forgotten any time soon.
The atmosphere at LOCKN’ this year was unique in that the festival felt smaller in scale compared to some of the past years when the grounds were overflowing with festivalgoers by virtue of acts like Phish, Disco Biscuits, The String Cheese Incident and Widespread Panic. In a way, the experience was more intimate and special as a result, with the performing artists’ music sweeping out into the crowd to bring their audience on a journey that was curated for their experience and their memories only.
It is always interesting to see the year-to-year tweaks that the festival implements to change the mood or improve the experience for patrons. This year, the thing that stood out was the late night shows in Garcia’s Forest, which included Circles Around the Sun, Soulive and Galactic.
For those of us that have been six-to-seven year patrons of the festival, it is nostalgic to remember back to a widely favored and heralded set at LOCKN’ by the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2014 in the Garcia Forest. What a trip, so many years later, to experience the powerhouse group headlining the festival, joined by superstar Trey Anastasio as the key acts of the weekend.
Festivalgoers of this year’s LOCKN’ will forever evoke the memories of Neal Casal’s final performances, before our music community tragically lost him the Monday following the festival. This past weekend, Neal Casal performed late night on Thursday night with his outfit, Circles Around the Sun, which was orginially formed back in 2015 to record the interlude music for The Grateful Dead’s 50th Anniversary Fare Thee Well shows. Joe Russo performed a surprise sit-in with the group Thursday evening, in light of a collaborative EP that is due to release later this fall. Neal was seen again on stage with powerhouse group Oteil Burbridge & Friends, which also included Bob Weir and Duane Betts. Here is a clip of his solo on Thursday night with Circles Around the Sun:
“Interlocking” sets was the theme of the weekend, as always, at LOCKN’. Bob Weir graced a number of sets as a guest, as usual, including Oteil & Friends’ set where he sat in for “Cassidy” and a “Happy Birthday” song to Oteil; he joined Twiddle with Eric Krasno and John Popper for “Eyes of the World;” Old Crow Medicine; and Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians for “Deep Elem Blues.” Bob Weir was also “sitting in” during Joe Russo’s Almost Dead set when the camera spanned to him sitting side stage on a couch listening to JRAD’s set that included cuts like “Ruben and Cherise,” “Peggy-O,” “The Other One,” “Casey Jones” and “Uncle John’s Band,” to name a few.
Other notable moments of the weekend include one of the early sets of the weekend, when Trey played with the Thai-funk improv outfit Khruangbin, adding his legendary guitar licks to songs like, “Lady & Man” and “People Everywhere (Still Alive).” Moon Alice performed with the T Sisters and Lester Chambers and his son Dylan Chambers on Friday on classics such as “Uncle Johns Band” and “Attics Of My Life,” in addition to a few Moon Alice classics. Melvin Seals & JGB played a set together with John Kadlecik and the Pigeons Playing Ping Pong set had a sit-in from the Revivalist horns, to name a few more “Lockn’ Moments.” Honorable mentions should go to Fruition, who brought a sizable crowd to an 11 a.m. Garcia’s Forest set, finishing their performance with a crowd-requested “The Meaning.” Free Union started off the main stage performances on Saturday by inviting members of the Audacity Brass Band to play with them after their set was cancelled due to the storm on Friday.
But the weekend recap wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the extraordinary delicacy of seeing Trey and Derek performing together. Trey and Derek, certainly not strangers to each other’s guitar licks as the first time they played together was 20 years ago, had no trouble showing their respect for each other’s craft by adding the perfect additions to their respective sets. Starting with Friday night, Derek sat in for the entire second set with Trey Anastasio Band for songs like “Set Your Soul Free,” “Ghost,” and “Blaze On” with an additional sit-in from Susan on “A Life Beyond a Dream” and “Rise/Come Together.” On Saturday, Trey sat in with TTB for covers from the Derek and the Dominos’ classic album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs while TTB proper followed with “Keep On Growing,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” and “I Am Yours.”
Once again, the spirit at LOCKN’ was alive and well this year, and is rooted deeply now for the tradition to continue next year all over again.