LOCKN’ Music Festival 2019 (Lets Do The Time Warp Again and Other Shifts In Energy)
There’s always so much for me to say about LOCKN’ Music Festival here in Virginia. This festival has truly been a godsend for me and feels like my home festival. From its inception, LOCKN’ has always held a special place in my heart. As things change and evolve, LOCKN’ seems to have shifted direction and the winds of change have come to call. This year’s annual festival known as Interlocken, once upon a time, seemed much smaller in attendance size. I’m not entirely sure of the numbers but it felt more intimate and those who have been to all 7 years, felt at home and in good company. This was as much a family reunion for me, as it was a premier festival. It was unfortunate that many of my friends just couldn’t make the trip back to LOCKN’ due to funds or lack of interest in the lineup. I couldn’t miss this festival and am proud to have been to all 7.
Having officially covered this festival as a Music Journalist for 4 years now, I feel like I know the ins-and-outs of LOCKN’ from the people like, Jam Band Jimmy to all my friends in the photography pit. There is something about LOCKN’ that is undeniable communal; a community coming together and bonding through music. The music is always top notch and filled with rare sit-ins and collaborations. This year was much the same but with a few minor changes. The loss of big name acts like, Widespread Panic, String Cheese and even, Umphreys McGee was evident and there were at times, lulls in the festivals overall musical excitement level. But still the thought of Trey Anastasio and Derek Trucks playing together keeps you going and there are also plenty of distractions. I would wander to the media tent, which for some reason is not even close to the main stage; it is perhaps the furthest away from any stage I have ever been while trying to write about an event. These accommodations meant that, I spent more time in the crowd than worrying about overall coverage. With that in mind, I will share some of the musical moments that stood out to me. I will leave out the ones that didn’t quite get me there or, the ones that left me saying, “mehhh.” I will start with Khruangbin, which I have reviewed here before.
In my previous review, I have louted Khruangbin as, not my favorite live act but with the addition of Trey Anastasio, this took their performance to another stimulating and exciting level. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard from friends and others this year that Khruangbin is their favorite band right now and it befuddled me until I saw this show with the addition of Trey. I must eat my words but still would love to see more passion in their stage performance. This was probably the best show besides JRAD on Thursday but that’s only because Andy Frasco was cancelled due to another micro burst on the festival grounds.
One of the highlights was catching a glimpse of Paul Simon on the sound stage watching his wife, Edie Brickell. I had never seen him in person and although, I love some of his music, he looked liked he might have had some work done. There were many acts during Friday’s daytime schedule but it was really all about the Derek Truck sit-in with Trey Anastasio Band. Wasting no time here, I’ll just jump right in and discuss the song choices and jams of Friday. This was honestly one of the best sets I have ever seen at LOCKN’. Trey and his band were so gracious and excepting of Derek and allowed him to really shine, something I’m not sure I can say for Saturday nights reverse sit-in. Trey was much more comfortable, relaxed and his band really know how to accommodate another powerful musician. The song choice was fine but I feel some of the slower acoustics songs could have been literally anything; they could have covered any number of tunes that would have compared to “Layla” or, “Little Wing” but instead played, “More.” Watching Trey and Derek trade licks it becomes immediately apparent that Derek is quite literally the best guitarist in the world; his caliber of musicianship is rivaled only by the great blues musicians. Going right into my thoughts on Tedeschi Trucks Band with Trey, to me it felt a little uneven. Trey seemed tired and was given many opportunities to solo but would always pass it back to Derek. Don’t get me wrong these dudes are professional but perhaps their styles didn’t match up, as well as, we all had hoped. That being said, I have re-watched both shows and the music is still top-notch and phenomenal but watch the interaction, body language says it all. I know that many who read this might disagree with me so, comment and tell me about it! I’m always willing to have my mind changed.
Ok, ok, I’ll have to admit Vulfpeck might have been the best performance of the weekend and deserve respect. They have come a long way since their first appearance at LOCKN’ and can put on a thrilling performance. Although some of the crowd participation stunts fell flat, the crowd was still excited and everyone around me had fun. I don’t listen to much Vulfpeck anymore, their catalogue is a little small but they are definitely back on rotation now.
I don’t feel like I really need to comment much on Sunday. The day was laid back and at times even a lull. Marcus King would sit in with moe. for “opium.” This was an awesome rendition and basically made the whole day worthwhile. I did enjoy just spending time at Infinity Downs with friends and checking out Participation Row and the many vendors LOCKN’ has to offer. Some notable mentions for this review are St. Paul and The Broken Bones, who had an outstanding onstage, or should I say, offstage performance. I was riveted by their front mans persona and shiny cape. JRAD of course impressed but I was pleasantly surprised as they played numerous Non Grateful Dead covers. This review would be remiss not to mention Neal Casal and the tragic news of his passing after his stellar performances at LOCKN’ 2019. I was unable to make the Circles Around The Sun set in Garcia’s Forest and I truly regret it. Neal’s sit-ins with Oteil And Friends were standout and his guitar playing was always original and prominent whenever I saw him in various projects. With the loss of Neal and Jeff this year, I want to extend my sincerest condolences to all who have been affected by this. For those struggling with any issues, may it be depression, anxiety, stress or, all around mental health, just know there are so many people out there that would love to help. All you have to do is reach out and to anyone reading this; feel free to reach out to me about anything! Never hesitate. We are all alive together. Let’s keep it that way.
This years LOCKN’ felt like a shift in energy; the rift has opened and there are changes occurring. I didn’t mind the relaxed spacious atmosphere this year. It felt more family friendly and the lineup was still solid although, LOCKN’ has set the bar fairly high in the past years. Having been to every LOCKN’ I have witnessed the changes, the good and the bad but one thing remains, the spirit of community and collaboration that makes this scene turn like the main stage. LOCKN’ is still the Mecca for Jam and a place where artists can feel at home, as much as, the audience. The local area seems to support this festival and the grounds themselves are perfect for this continued musical adventure. I hope to see you all again next year for year number 8!
Thanks to Ron Adelberg Photography and Grateful Music LLC for the photos!
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.