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Lockn' Festival in Arrington, Virginia is viewed by a majority of its patrons as an annual all-star gathering of their
favorite bands. This year's incredible lineup was headlined by the likes of Ween, Phish, and My Morning Jacket who
shared a single stage this year instead of a pair of identical stages. How is it possible to run a festival of this size on
one stage... after each set, bands were given a ride on a rotating stage that presented them rather monumentally to
their roaring fans. This year Lockn' took place on Aug. 25 through Aug. 28, two weeks earlier than previous years.
The way festival regulars talked, it sounded like there was concern that Lockn' needed to have a perfect year to really
solidify their presence in the festival industry which seems to be replacing the act of touring in the summer. The goal
this year was evident: Provide the most fluid event possible. Lockn' 2015 was quite literally destroyed by a microburst
storm the night before showtime and organizers were very close to cancelling the weekend entirely. Rumors say that
organizers worked until show time installing brand new audio equipment that they had to ship in overnight. They ended
up just cancelling Thursday’s music and adjusted the lineup for the rest of the weekend. On top of the storm trucking
through the grounds, minimal toilets caused huge lines and lack of signs caused confusion. Some people were upset
by mother earth, but in the end Lockn' 2015 was still amazing.
So lets talk about this year from the start. There aren’t many festivals that can boast a 30K attendance and funnel
people in from the highway and the their campsites in less than 30 minutes. The last time I personally experienced this
sort of swiftness entering a festival was Phish’s Super Ball IX in 2011 and that was a full 24-hours before the first Phish
show. A few changes aided in the swiftness... First were the volunteers, they battled the enthusiasm of the entering
fans for hours and hours. Second was that organizers separated VIP and RVs from the GA entrance and allowed RVs
to park a day early for a $20 fee. Separating traffic seemed to help a lot.
Our camp site was built by 11 a.m. Music didn’t start until 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and fans were really happy about all
the extra time. All this time allowed fans to hang out with their neighbors, make new friends and prepare for the night.
It was incredibly relaxing. The only problem was the heat, which pinned most to the shade. Lockn' was cursed this year
with incredible heat throughout the first two days that simmered slightly less for the last two. It is rough when 95 feels
As 7:30 p.m. rolled around, the party started to migrate from the camp grounds to the concert bowl for the first
performance of two by Vulfpack. Lately the jam band community has been discovering this band and appreciating them
for their general funk genre, nerdiness and goofy stage antics. Vulfpeck were joined throughout the set by Antwaun
Stanley. They were an excellent opener for the incredible weekend.
LOCKN' Festival : Day One
Oak Ridge Farm : Arrington, Virginia : August 25, 2016
At 8:30 p.m. Umphrey’s MCGee taught the audience how to start a show on a lazy susan. As Umphrey’s McGee
started to perform, the stage started to rotate and the crowd was presented with what looked like a row of locomotive
headlights shining out over the audience. It was quite monumental and at that moment throughout the crowd I heard,
“I can’t believe this is happening!” Then when the rotation stopped, the band opened with an extended “1348,”
a track from the band’s 2009 release, Mantis. A rendition of “The Triple Wide” followed a relatively new song
The peak of the set came towards the back half of their time slot, with the band exploring their classic “2x2,” which
transitioned into another new track “Speak Up” before returning to “2x2,” which has been with the band since their
inception in 1998. The rest of their set included higher-energy songs like “Puppet String” that dipped into one of their
newest compositions “Roctopus,” a spin off from the largely fan controlled event, UMBowl, an event that allows the
crowd to vote how the evening should go. Next, Umphrey’s McGee welcomed out Gene Ween, to revisit their God
Boner collaboration which occurred at Summer Camp Music Festival in 2015. On this night, Gene Ween led
Umphrey’s McGee through a cover of Billy Joel’s “The Stranger.” The group closed out their set with “All In Time.”
Ween is a strange band, but a thoroughly good band; they are capable of sounding outright disgusting and beautiful
at the same time. Gene and Dean Ween spent the early years of their careers making music that was intended to be
obnoxious and they use this mechanism among their catalog of music. Throughout their 30-year career, Ween grew
alongside the progressive bands of the '90s and conjured thoughts of Primus and Phish during the performance.
Instead of love songs they might be hate songs or something else. Opening with the 90's rocker “Transdermal
Celebration“ was like the band opening a curtain to another universe and saying 'step on in, we won’t tell you what is
really inside, it’s safe in here, we promise.' While Ween is generally categorized as an alternative rock band, they are
known for their highly eclectic catalog of songs inspired by funk, soul, country, gospel, prog, R&B, heavy metal, punk
rock, and more. I found it remarkable how serious the understanding of these many genres were while at the same
time implementing songs with absurd genre twists and lyrical exploration. This left the experience with Ween as
Thursday night’s Ween set was filled with surprises. The show started out relatively straightforward and silly,
but gradually disintegrated into chaos. Theirs sense of humor showed throughout the show with songs like “Mister
Richard Smoker” (introduced as Dick Smoker), “Puerto Rican Power,” “Pushin’ the Little Daisies,” “Japanese
Cowboy” and “Poopship Destroyer” among others. I thought of Zappa a lot throughout the show with limitless
narratives explored. Late in the show people seemed to be migrating from the front of the venue to the back,
not out of disgust, but out of fear or being overwhelmed. The next morning a long time fan told me that he thought
Ween was intentionally pushing the audience into fleeing. It was just that. Ween was able to control and throttle
people emotionally with their music; for many this was a first time experience, me included. I liked it a lot.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
Bands were two for two, collaborating with a third and fourth following Ween, as bassist Dave Dreiwitz made his way
to the Blue Ridge Bowl to perform late night with Joe Russo's Almost Dead, an already collaborative act and
superband. "J-RAD," as festival goers called the set, explored the vast catalog of Grateful Dead music with musicians
who aren’t traditionally practiced in Dead music. J-RAD consisted of musicians Scott Metzger, Tommy Hamilton, Dave
Dreiwitz, Marco Benevento and Joe Russo. Renditions of “Saint Stephan” and “Brown Eyed Woman” took the music
to unpredictable places, exploring jazz and rock to the limits. These were goose bump inducing tracks. Fans were also
given an entire “Terrapin Suite” to close the night. After the show, fans streamed to the tail end of EOTO or their tents
to call it an evening. We still had three full days of music.
Looking back on the evening critically, I think that having one PA system instead of two stages of audio made for an
audio experience that wasn’t quite as powerful or filling as previous years. That being said, it still sounded incredible.
There were also huge changes to the concert bowl as the VIP no longer held a hockey rink sized plot of land in front of
the soundboard that they received the previous year. Everything was general admission this year except for a small
zone stage left and it allowed everyone to move freely and experience the shows from wherever the pleased.
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