Lockn’- Arrington, VA

lockn sunset
The interlocking music festival in Arlington VA is the brainchild of Peter Shapiro (the man behind Fare Thee Well, Brooklyn Bowl, and The Wetlands Preserve club in NYC) and Dave Frey. My third year highlighted the sway a lineup can have on the audience and the value fan feedback has on running a festival.
Umphrey’s, String Cheese, Phill, Bobby, John Fogerty, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and Antibalas were enough to get me to buy tickets. In fact, the Jerry dance party and Grateful Gospel may have been enough. A major force impacting the crowd last year was 2 Phish shows and Ween. This year’s draw was Widespread Panic and Moe. While there is some overlap, they are distinct fans. I find Widespread fans are either older, southern, or both. I’ve only met 2 hardcore Moe fans but know there are more. I’ve seen both bands a few times each but couldn’t pick out one of their songs. All this is to say that the fans were scattered across age and interest range. Having a festival in Virginia also swayed the vibe. 
The entire layout shifted which made the arrival process borderline delightful. In previous years we were corralled in 10-15 rows of cars for hours. 10 cars per row entered the venue which means people who were on line for minutes got in before those waiting all morning. I drove down Wednesday night and stopped at a hotel 60 miles away. Thursday morning I was on the road and by 8 am I was online to park. Within 2 hours I was setting up camp.
The new layout shifted the two main stages to an area that once housed the smallest, tertiary stage. Camping surrounded the stages and also provided close access to the woods stage on the other end of the space. My spot was equidistant from the main area and the woods with bathrooms, water, vendors, and ice all close by.
After a nap and some food, the first night provided an Umph/Cheese sandwich before the Disco Biscuits played their first Lockn. Alternating sets of Umph then Cheese included a terrific 2nd Umphrey’s set and a collaboration with members of Umph on stage with Cheese for the final set. The main stage is equipped with a turntable making the set changes seamless (interlocking music festival). The Disco Biscuits were terrific and their last song provided the score for my walk back to camp. Word was there was no late night music in the forest and I was happy to rest.
That was the best nights sleep! I woke up by 8:30 to a gorgeous day! Car camping has its perks such as air mattress and a popup over my tent to block the sun. Tauk was on early and they were great but as the day went on, the bands started to miss their start times. All the morning music was on the smaller stage which required stage hands to reset the stage after each act and do a new soundcheck. Antibalas suffered and only had time for 2 songs. I felt bad for them as they had to get 12 members down from Brooklyn. They nailed the Bob Marley classic Rat Race though.
Jim James played solo on the main stage. I had missed My Morning Jacket at Peach and Lockn was the anniversary of my first time seeing them. He played a relaxing, quiet set that only barely filled the space. Later someone asked me who he was and had assumed he won a contest to play Lockn. I had to explain how different he is with a band and recommend his solo album as well as the entire My Morning Jacket catalog. This person was surprised to learn how intense their fans can get.
The night was Dead heavy. Phil played then Govt’ Mule played with Ann Wilson of Heart (who seems to be a big Zeppelin fan based on all the covers she pulled out) followed by Phil and Bobby playing the entirety of Terrapin station to celebrate 40 years since its release. Last but not least was JRAD. Always a great show and tonight offered an interesting twist including Jim James singing Been Caught Stealing.
My camping neighbors and I started the day in our hammocks in the woods. The small stage was built as a replica of the Terrapin Station album cover. Holly Bowling played her set for us as we gently rocked in the breeze. Holly finished and the Lockn open mic session began for the day which morphed into a sing-along. We stayed till 2 so we could get to Pigeons Playing Ping Pong on time. Of course, they were excellent, they had a strong fan showing as well for their first time at Lockn. One highlight was a fantastic cover of Psycho Killer.

Oh shit! #pigeonsplayingtalkingheads #52showsayear

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The night was full of exciting tunes including Greensky Bluegrass and John Fogerty. I asked a friend who is a huge Greensky fan what she thought of the set. “I dropped my panties.” So there’s that. I left during Widespread Panic even though I wanted to see JRAD. I realized I had tickets to see them at Red Rocks in a few days and could hear them from my tent.
One of my favorite parts of Lockn is Keller Williams doing Grateful Gospel. When I first heard it three years ago I spent the next few months re-listening to the set each Sunday morning. I did the most dancing of the entire weekend there. Essentially, he gathers an amazing band including John K. on lead guitar and backup singers to play JGB and Dead tunes. The mix includes spiritual tracks like Samson and Delilah, Ripple, Mighty High, etc. Here is the audio from 2016:

I left Lockn shortly afterwards to get home at a decent hour and eat dinner with friends on the way. Overall, the temperture was far cooler than 2016 (it was over 100 then), the dust still covered everything, the layout changes were great and it was a relaxing and fun weekend. Lockn is becoming a festival that is safe to buy early.

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