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Sunday’s weather was nice to everyone and it didn’t get as hot as the previous three days. We all still hid in the shade
from time to time, but the harshness of the sun was dialed back a bit. I forgot to mention in my day three review that
the organizers had added misting fans throughout the main venue; they were wonderful places to feel a cool breeze.
The Sunday festival lineups tend to be a bit more spiritual than the other days. Traditionally LOCKN' has started
Sundays off with Keller Williams and Grateful Gospel and this was no different. This project presented gospel inspired
covers of classic Grateful Dead tunes and really brought some extra heat to an already hot morning, just before noon.
Just think screaming Hammond B3 organ and killer backup singers.
LOCKN' Festival : Day Four
Oak Ridge Farm : Arrington, Virginia : August 28, 2016
At twelve, The Dharma Initiative got things rolling in the main venue and provided fans with a set of music that
traversed the realms of reggae and psychedelic jam-tronic. Things mellowed out a bit following an introduction of
Doobie Decibel System by Sam Cutler, former touring manager of The Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead.
Doobie Decibel System involves the collaboration between Roger McNamee, the lead singer of Moonalice, and
Jason Crosby who has been a member of Robert Randolph and the Family Band and the Susan Tedeschi Band,
among others. Their project explored originals as well as covers of The Beatles' “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!.”
Neil Young's “Ohio” and “Beware of Darkness” by George Harrison. I was glad to see that the lawsuit the Doobie
Brothers held against them was dropped after last year's festival when the two bands shared the bill; it was a nice
example of how LOCKN' can bring people together for the better.
As the stage rotated, Twiddle, from Vermont, crushed there way into the ears of the audience for another shift in the
vibe, taking things towards reggae in a similar way to bands like Slightly Stoopid and Sublime. Their show would wave
between upbeat reggae infused rock and shredding guitar solos, along with well planned out and tightly played
arpeggios. After Twiddle, The Wailers took the stage and transported the audience to Jamaica as they explored a
best of collection of Bob Marley music. The setlist opened with “Natural Mystic” and “Buffalo Soldier” and eventually
arrived at “Exodus” with the audience jamming along the whole time.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood road the lazy susan around the stage next and erupted into “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go”
by Hank Ballard and The Midnighters. This set was a rocker, but in a much mellower way then the Black Crowes treat
rock and roll. This rock is rooted in psychedelic blues rock and folk and harkens thoughts of the Grateful Dead in the
way that they allow for space to exist in their music. The band also displays piles of dripping wet organ work. It’s just
an all around more open sound than the Black Crowes. As their set rocked along, fans raged through the heat and
didn’t stop moving to the boogie. Midway through the set, the band led fans through a cover of “Precious, Precious”
by Jackie Moore and eventually found their way to another cover of Bob Dylan’s, “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.”
Following, appropriately, was a second helping of Phil Lesh and Friends including Chris Robinson, Neal Casal, Adam
MacDougall and Tony Leone of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. as well as a sit in from Gary Clark Jr. who would
later take the stage with his own project. Neal Casal was everywhere this weekend with a total of six performances.
Phil provided fans with a hell of a set that felt a lot like a first set at a Grateful Dead show. Gary Clark sat in for
versions of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” and “Wang Dang Doodle” and provided an interesting bluesy dynamic to
the tunes. Other notable moments during the set were “Fire on The Mountain” and “St. Stephen.” Phil ended the set
with “Turn on Your Lovelight,” which offered a nice transition to Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. road the stage wheel around to the front and opened with a hot version of “Bright Lights” which got the
crowd moving to the kind of slow lurching blues that he can be known for. People tend to put him in line with
Jimi Hendrix, but I have to completely disagree... Gary Clark Jr is a blues man and Jimi was not entirely, because of all
the psychedelic noise he tended to make and explore. Gary's sound is a lot cleaner. Gary Clark treated fans to an ultra
smooth cover of “If Trouble Was Money” by Albert Collins midway through his set and the high point of the set came
with an absolutely blistering version of “When My Train Pulls In.”
After Gary Clark Jr. the audience was given a little rest while stage crews assembled the lighting rigs and sound
checked for Phish. By 8:30 p.m. the sun was down and fans were eagerly awaiting their second dose of the Vermont
native band and the finale to an incredible weekend. I’m not sure what really happened during the first few songs
because of an incident during the first notes of the show with a collapsing fan in front of us that caused me to climb
the soundboard fence in search of medical assistance. This year Phish introduced a video layer to their touring stage
design that reminded me of how Radiohead designed their stage in 2006 and requires two technicians to drive.
I’m pretty sure that I interrupted the man who was driving the LED video screens on stage as he was standing behind
Chris Kuroda who runs the cans. While I waited for help to arrive, I spent my time among the technicians and saw how
they worked together as a singular mind to direct the audio and improvised light show that make Phish sound and look
the way they do. Primarily, I was standing on the rails so that I could help flag down medical personnel arriving from
the back, but was also captivated by how focused the crew were as they were surrounded by thousands of
enthusiastic Phish fans. Medical arrived and treated the severely dehydrated fan who recovered and I eventually
made my way back over the rail into the fray of things. While this incident was chaotic and insane in a way, fans and
technicians united beautifully to aid in the situation, even though it did take a second call for help to notify medical.
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When I tuned back into the first set of the Phish show, the band was jamming their way through “The Moma Dance.”
My girlfriend told me that I had missed “Sample In A Jar,” “Martian Monster,” and “Axilla.” After she told me that, I knew
that this was going to be a rock oriented Phish set. At this point the band was cranking at full speed and transitioned
into “Halley's Comet” which they jammed out, and then into “AC/DC Bag.” “Fuck Your Face” came next to thunderous
applause as this is an old favorite from “The White Tape.” The first set raged on and found its way to a combo of
“Limb By Limb” and “Possum” that came with huge eruptions of glow sticks thrown into the air by fans at specific
climaxes during the song; it was a good glowstick war. Phish ended their set with the always heavy hitting “First Tube.”
During the typical setbreak of about 40 minutes, I found my way up to center, halfway between the soundboard and
the stage. People were sitting tightly packed among the standing and at times reminded me of classical renaissance
paintings of groups of people. Phish took the stage and everyone stood up interruptus fashion to be greeted by
a rocking version of “Carini” which transitioned into “Chalk Dust Torture” and then into “Twist” and “Light.”
“Light” opened up into the most explorative jam of the evening and traveled through some interesting places, light and
dark. This set was an all-star rocker from the Phish catalog. Later on in the set, we were treated with a cover of Led
Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” and “Also sprach Zarathustra,” which is a regular for the four piece. Also, when you get a
“Tweezer” somewhere in a show, you are pretty much guaranteed a “Tweezer Reprise” as a set ender or an encore.
We received the former and the band left the stage. After a long bout of cheering, Phish retook the stage and thanked
the crowd before playing the ever fitting cover of “Loving Cup” by the Rolling Stones to end the festival. Fans left the
venue wading through a sea of thousands of glowsticks.
Overall, this was an excellent year for a festival that some said needed to leave a mark to hold its ground. I’ve never
personally been a skeptic, but I have always seen a few changes that needed addressed. Each year just gets better
and better organized; they made a ton of changes towards how things were run. There were so many porta potties this
year that some in the back of the pods were clean even after the headliners performed. Oh, and every toilet was under
a tented roof, so they never felt like elevators to hell. Signage was better, food was better, vending was better.
They were a little tighter at the main venue gate this year, but I heard you never really got stuck in that line unless you
waited until the headliner to enter the grounds with the rush. Organizers even made changes on the fly. Piles of rocks
were poured into mud holes at watering stations the following day. Misting fans were added mid festival. The only
thing I really missed was the massiveness of the sound that they had from the previous three years. Having two stages
next to each other allowed for a double wide broadcast of audio and this year felt a little narrow with the single stage.
The sweet spots among the crowd were a little more evident than past years. It was still top notch sound, just not as
filling. I love this festival: “What a beautiful buzz, what a beautiful buzz.”