The lineup at the Lockn Festival in Arrington, VA, was one that could not be ignored. Phish, Phil Lesh, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Doobie Decibel System, Twiddle, Lettuce and, of course, Ween. Tunes like “Cold and Wet,” or “Japanese Cowboy” are just too classic, and Ween was prominently displayed around the festival, most notably with a massive license plate that said “Ween Me” plastered on the outside of a trailer.
Inside the trailer listed the history of musical controversy, from Tipper Gore’s Parental Advisory campaign to the infamous license plate that said “Ween Me,” which the state of Virginia ruled as sexually explicit, recanting the issued license plate.
Ween stole the show on Thursday and Friday, playing alongside Phish, Umphrey’s McGee, Vulfpeck, Peter Wolf, Charles Bradley, White Denim, Turkuaz, Moogatu, Almost Dead, Circles Around the Sun and “Jazz and Woods,” featuring DJ Logic.
Phish on Friday jammed out the round, “people mess with you everyday.” People bounce around, and the smell of weed fills the air. Venture out to the Blue Ridge Bowl for Donna the Buffalo. Past 3 a.m., and is it a shock to see them jam so late? Great set.
Met up with an artist, a former New Orleans resident, who now lives in San Diego, but is originally from nearby. He has a Vape sponsor and is doing live art. Twisted versions of Alice in Wonderland and characters strolling down the yellow brick road meet demons and tripped out characters.
Wake up to music. Got up to the front for Twiddle, who is from VT. A member in the crowd said they have a Phish influence. They brought up Keller Williams to play with them. A guy from Baltimore said they had been playing small clubs last year, but now they are holding their own on this big festival. Very strong groove with surprise change ups from fast high tune dance ditty to reggae fun, then transition to rock.
There’s no time between sets. The stage spins around, and Stanton Moore starts drumming on a solo mission to denote the change. Galactic joins in the jam, and people rush towards the stage. They have a new female singer brining that soul funk groove from NOLA. She sports a 70’s style puff afro do’.
Hard Working Americans came next, and the mind was expanded. They had good down home soul with a rockabilly vibe at times. A guy tells me to check out www.411mania.com.
Phil Lesh and Friends took the stage, with all kinds of super friends from Phish members to Anders Osborne, banjos to slide guitars that traveled. Two percussionists and a grateful groove that people can really get into, blends old hits with a breath of fresh life.
The sun goes down, pinks illuminate the sky. There are ornate umbrellas, hidden tented shade spots, all kinds of artists, from metal works to glass, jewelry and handmade crafts.
The Terdeschi Trucks band took the stage and tore the place up. The unassuming lead singer, a lil gal with glasses, grabs a guitar, has horns backing her up, and shows the place who is really in charge, commanding their emotions with rockin’ jams to grab their attention, then letting them drift on a dream-like state. Is that a flute? The keyboardist kaledeoscopes across the keys, distorting your mind from what a keyboard normally does, and it transcends to beyond with the beats of the drums crushing in your chest, pulling your heart in the direction that it wants you to go, from speeding up, to slowing down. Like animal instincts, the music guides you through the night in Virginia.
People high five and dance about, insects chirp in the background between songs, an additional audience to impress. Be one with nature by camping. LED lights the way around, guiding between the darkness.
Phil Lesh and Friends set the tone for the darkness, and the Trucks tiptoe in to guide these lost children of the world, gathering them in close with the music, uniting them with beats. The music pushes the boundaries of your own imagination, taking you on a journey of sound. Plucking guitar strings meld with tambourine, shaking past the generations, pushing the boundaries of age, unifying young with old.
True music transcends the boundaries of age. It takes you on an existential plane where riffs compel you. Butterflies of beats cricket across the plane. It melds into nature. Marching beats lead you on this musical voyage to new understanding. Forget those worries for a moment. Just listen to the music and enjoy being in the moment with the beats. Leave those cares for any other day.
That’s what this festival offers, an escape from the every day to experience something new, be it a new band or maybe an artist using new mediums to canvass their ideas. This is where the fear and loathing takes place, an escape from the humdrum of normality. Expand the mind, become one with the spirit of humanity almost at a caveman level. It’s like hunter gatherer but for music.
Pack up the essentials but forget the drama at home. Gather yourself amongst people, bonding with spiritual energy. Commune with musical communication, an unspoken bond between people, like minded at lease in music. Leave politics behind, forget about the upcoming election and campaigns that distract you. Let thoughts of finances, relationship woes, or anything that gets you down go for a moment and listen to music.
See the lights and momentarily meld into the darkness like a caveman, finding your way through the music. Let the jams carry you away to the depths of the beyond. Find the musical lows that touch your soul, then let it pass into something more. Forget about gossips and just feel the beat, jam into new planes of the mind, a journey of emotions where you commune with nature and get back in touch with your roots.
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Wrap yourself in musical creation like My Morning Jacket. Let beats envelope you like the warm caress of putting your arms into a jacket. Extend out fully, but be immersed in it, surrounded by it like a second skin of music.
“Let Me Get By” echoes through the night like a mantra. People throughout the world are saying the same prayer, “let me get by…” Be it financially, emotionally, or even physically. Moans like pleading prayers reaching out to the heavens. My Morning Jacket marched in and owned the place, as a friendly reminder to why they are headlining the biggest night. Now, it’s easy to see why American Dad had Stan becoming infatuated with the band; there’s good reason.
They seduced the audience with a Latin Salsa flare that had people resetting their minds, opening them up to the musical venture that was about to take place. They come in like a sultry lover, poised to seduce you and entrance you, commanding you venture down this musical path with them. They suck you in, then cover “What the World Needs Now, is Love Sweet Love…”
Commune into one big musical body. Then journey down this path like little kids getting lost in a forest. Swirling you in, suctioning like an octopus, wrapping all those tentacles around in an embrace very similar to how a jacket would feel, covering the skin, enveloping, pulling you close like a lover, seducing the senses with music. They rock it out a little harder, jamming into the funky groove.
What type of effects are these keyboards using? They bust out a happy almost Celtic ditty. It almost sounds like accordions or bag pipes on the keyboard. The beats pound inside your body; you can feel the bass hit your chest, changing your heartbeat to how they see fit.
Note to self: ear plugs are awesome. Feel the poof fill your ear after squeezing out the air, rolling it between your fingers like a joint, inserting it into your orifice, hard but soft as it expands.
They jar the music as if to signal that the end may be near. It’s a forewarning that their end is near, but Garcia’s Forest is yet to come. First stop by and puck up some Lettuce at the Blue Ridge Bowl, get tossed around in that mix for a while… Then it’s time to make that hike…
Nope! My Morning Jacket is not letting you go that quick. They slow it down for a seductive “Purple Rain.” Slowed down and played like gospel, then with a seductive jazz, “Honey, I know you know it…” Do a Purple Rain in a true homage style, as if knowing Prince is watching, trying their best to channel his spirit, asking his spirit to come down for one last performance on the guitar with an amazing riff that takes you to the height of the heavens.
Semi-trucks start moving about, and the groove stirs you to your core, demanding that you respect what an amazing and influential musician Prince was. They make it their own, but make you well aware that they respect the origins of the tune. They take it back on a stroll through their forest of music and wind it up, reminding you it’s time to move to the next musical adventure of Lockn.
David Bowie rebelled through the festival, questioning genders and rolls, as My Morning Jacket demanded another recognition to a great. The music grooved into the voice on the trek to see Lettuce. They brought more of a funky jazz rock vibe.
The Lettuce army stormed the stage, commanding lost souls to find their way to the music. Before long, it’s almost claustrophobic. A congestion of bodies mass towards the smaller stage.
To take a respite, venture to the woods and Garcia’s Forest. It’s like hiking Kilimanjaro, only with a ton of dust. Venture to the Holy Grail, not knowing what to expect, but get greeted by food vendors and lights. The yellow brick road stretches before you with an archway leading into the forest. Lights and sounds, tapestries hanging of the promised Jerry Garcia. Find your way through the trees, and find your way back to Lettuce, as they’re just getting warmed up. They rage into the wee hours of the morning.
Waking up Sunday morning to the sounds of Keller Williams playing the Blue Ridge Bowl was glorious. It was like being at the Church of God, non-denominational one love, feeling at one with the world and your surroundings. Tunes echoed off the hillside, stirring campers, prodding them to wake up and join the fun.
It wasn’t like heavy metal, demanding you rise and fight, but nice and melodic, suggesting you rise like the run, slowly, majestically. The peaceful groove was not intrusive, but welcoming. It made you want to venture to see the action, drawing you in, piquing your interest, leaving you wanting more. Just as Keller ended, the main stage starts up, seducing people to the main stage.
One festival goer suggests checking out the Beloved Festival in Tidewater, Oregon.
The first band was amazing. Make your way to the front, bound and determined to make it to the front before the Doobie Decibel System ends, but a sparkle catches your eye. Though you love the sound of Dan Lebowitz caressing his guitar, it’s time to shop for jewelry. Look for a ring, but listen to what calls you. The twisted design of hand-wrapped jewelry, so tightly and perfectly spun so intricately amazes, as it takes so much hand strength to do. Ultimately, it is the glass that pulls you in surprisingly.
It glimmers, but the salesman encourages you to take the pieces out into the sunlight. The dichromate shimmers different shades in the light than it does in the darkness of the tent, tucked away in protective casing. In the sun, the reds pop out brightly, the blues darken to different hues, the gold pops, shining like a star in the sky. Find a pendant that was not what you had been looking for, but it found you and said take me home oh so carefully.
Fragile tentacles of an octopus pull you in, so you can’t resist taking it home. Spend the money, tuck it away, and head for the sound of Dan Lebowitz, who you have appreciated since discovering him with ALO, and you last saw playing with Steve Kimock in Chicago. Push through the crowd of slimy people covered in a mixture of dust and sweat. Tiptoe around blankets, like dodging land mines, and try to be polite, pushing your way to the front to try to catch Dan playing with the Doobie Decibel System, which features the duo of Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby. You’re almost there when you see the stage spin. Dan is still playing as the stage spins around, Twiddle does an amazing second set, then there is the relaxing vibe, revealing the reggae band.
Familiar songs like “Buffalo Soldier” and “Get Up Stand Up” make you dance. Make your way through the crowd to jam to the next band, and acquire an awesome poster for the Doobie Decibel System along the way. It shows a train rolling in with a kid with hands up in joy. A lady looks away with a hand on her ear, as if to block the sound or looking flush, rosy cheeks like uh-oh, oh no!
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood has more of a classic rock jam style, almost Black Crowes-ish, considering it’s the lead singer of the Black Crowes, especially with the guitar. There’s more awesome keyboard effects. Dance and groove, but make your way over to the non-profit section.
They have Recycle Life, but it is not about pop cans and water bottles. They recycle body parts. There is also an organization that makes adaptable skis for the disabled, a very cool non-profit from Colorado. If you visit four non-profits and get stamps, they reward you with free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for the rest of the show! You can’t beat cold ice cream in the scorching heat, especially Ben and Jerry’s.
They had all of my favorites, Phish food, of course, but I also made a new favorite, a vegan flavor of peanut butter and cookies, made with almond milk, which was so good.
Phil Lesh came out with a new entourage. Instead of the Phish guys and NOLA classic Anders Osborne – who rocked by the way – his new entourage consisted of the soldiers from the Chris Robinson Brotherhood that continued to jam out in the heat of the hottest part of the day.
Lettuce soldiered on into the wee morning hours with a long set to lull everyone to bed or keep them up dancing all night, depending on if they passed out or stayed up to party, but at least they had the cool of night. This brutal Virginia summer heat beats down on you, creating that slime of dust and sweat on the skin.
Sure enough, with Phil Lesh, they played a Black Crowes hit, “hey little thing, let me light your candle…” “Actions speak louder than words…” Of course, they took the bones of the song and made the skeleton dance to a whole new groove, adding in harmonica and a trippy space age vibe, taking the song “Hard to Handle,” which was originally done by the Dead with Pig Pen singing, to new heights.
Along with Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes and Phil Lesh are the guys from The Cardinals. Phil likes Ryan Adams songs, so he frequently does them. Gary Clark joined them on stage to make for one hell of a powerhouse.
Chris and his brother didn’t get along, so he started the Chris Robinson Brotherhood with the guys from the Cardinals. Rumors say there will likely not be another Black Crowes band tour because of the disagreement, just like the Cardinals members did not get along with Ryan Adams. Mutual personality conflicts brought the band together. With Phil Lesh and Gary Clark in the mix, their musical journeys take a new direction into the realm of the beyond, beats twinkling into the air, drifting and morphing into new jams.
People definitely rolled out of bed to catch the band, as the crowd seemed to nearly quadruple in size. Wander around while Gary Clark’s band conquers the stage. Go find some Zane Kesey blotter art that makes you feel like you’re trippin’ just by looking at the psychedelic images. No, it’s not dipped, just the art, which is so cook, it is frameable and collectible from Mooney’s.
Wander to the Grateful Dead art tent, and pick up some Grateful Dead Bear Ears that doubles as a headband to keep your long hair out of your face as you sweat. When there’s a break in the music, push forward to the front to claim your spot for Phish.
It feels like forever as you wait for the stage to get set up. It’s like human Tetris, as people move and you try to squeeze into the spot. Claustrophobia sets in, and it gets harder to breathe. It’s worth the wait to hear Hailey’s Comet and AC/DC. Stay strong until nature calls, then give up your spot to the trooper behind you.
Chillax on the Fat Boy in the media tend and listen to Opossum. A mouse runs up to say hi and squeals out. Don’t be bothered by nature. Stretch back into the oversized bean bag, do some yoga while listening to Phish, and slurp some of the icy cold water that has been waiting for you in the media tent. With the tent located right next to the stage, the music booms just as loud as it did when you were in front row. Exchange pleasantries with other members of the media, because when the music stops, it is time to head back to reality.
The mass exodus follows the end of the set. Cars caked with dirt all pull out the same way on the road. For miles, fellow Phishers race down the road. Find your wolf pack, and see how far north they go. Hours pass, but they are still driving with you, each heading in the same direction. Lose one at Manassas. Pull into a pit stop for gas and find others. Even when you pull into rest area many miles later, there are still more that materialize. Go to the airport, and you know who has been there. There’s that twinkle in the eye, the tired look on their face, and the telltale dirt trails on their clothes.
My only regret was missing Ween. The plane on the way there had been delayed, which resulted in missing that band. Such is the joys of hurricane season, with tropical storms kicking up out of the blue.
With such a strong lineup this year, who knows who Lockn will feature next year? There’s like 15 square miles to sprawl people out upon, so there’s plenty of room for musical adventure. Visit www.locknfestival.com for more information on the Virginia music festival.
Marisa Williams is a professor and the author of more than 100 books. She earned her Master's in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University. For more by Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz.