What We Do When We Go to Lockn’
29 Sep 2015

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A Story from Lockn’ Music Festival

Oak Ridge Farm, Arrington, VA

September 11th – 13th, 2015

Written by Alex Kratzert

*

“Magic is what we do. Music is how we do it.” – Jerry Garcia

Also from Jerry,

“What we do is as American as lynch mobs. America has always been a complex place.”

*

Thursday

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The rain stopped when night came and we were driving south toward Lockn’ Music Festival. I was with one friend and we had been listening to a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Phish (Halloween ’14 with all the spooky sounds), and when we were almost out of Pennsylvania, I checked to see if there were any updates on the schedule. We had left from Connecticut and would be stopping to rest in Baltimore, and we had just driven past a tall, well-lighted white cross by a church on a hill, and there was a sign that had the words All Are Welcome carved in painted wood. We had also passed a sign shortly afterwards that was missing some letters and read (in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in June): SUPREME COURT WRONG: GOD CONDEM_S HOMOSEXULTY… and a few other spotty lines of stupidity. It also said,

GOD _LESS _MERICA!

Complex place.

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Thursday’s performances were cancelled due to weather (you can see why by checking out this video clip), and an eager audience awaited news of redemption for the lost shows. Thursday’s lineup initially included the String Cheese Incident, Billy & the Kids with Bob Weir, Soulive, Strangefolk, and the much anticipated Doobie Incident featuring the Doobie Brothers and the String Cheese Incident. But all that was now gone and the remaining days had little space to spare.

Some people were upset, and they said so on Facebook.

But the majority of people were positive and thankful, pointing out the truth that such horribly inconvenient things can happen, and it’s good to be Grateful about it all (see some comments here).

What can you do?

Fine light of Friday morning

Fine light of Friday morning

The Lockn’ crew went to work; my friend and I drove and so did plenty others; the stranded ones camped in nearby parking lots; a lucky few in Charlottesville enjoyed a Billy & the Kids show, and we all (ideally) did our best to realize our good fortune and appreciate our shared experience. Before long, the Doobie Incident was added to Friday and Billy & the Kids was added to Saturday, and at six in the morning on September 11th, 2015, thousands of free people got in line and patiently waited to be together on a big farm for a little while.

Friday

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My friend and I parked at our campsite at around one o’clock in the afternoon, and we were very hungry and tired. Choosing not to set up camp until later on, we shared warm bourbon whiskey and factory-dry Wheat Thins before hustling along the rolling orange and green earth to the Doobie Incident. It wasn’t the finest fuel, but you do what you can.

“I think we’re gonna just make it,” I said in line earlier that morning. We would end up missing John Popper’s “National Anthem” and hearing only the last bit of “Sometimes a River” on our commute, stepping onto the main stage grounds at the kick of “Black Water”. We would also miss the Doobie Brothers’ “Rockin down the Highway” and “Takin’ it to the Streets”.

I should have said “knock on wood” that morning. From the words of Steve Carrel’s character Michael Scott on The Office:

“I’m not superstitious…but I’m a little stitious.”

When I checked the schedule the previous night I also said, “At least they’re opening the campgrounds at six. It’ll probably move quickly.”

Doomed us all.

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The Doobie Incident

What can you do?

You can have some fun, and so we did.

We were treated to Doobie Brothers classics like “China Grove” and “Listen to the Music,” as well as the String Cheese Incident’s “Texas.” The two bands melded well in a set of non-stop energy and free-flowing jubilation, and it is no wonder that these “Incidents” keep popping up. It was all very short, but fine and sweet under the blue sky and the beating sun, and hats off to the acts who stepped up to follow it.

The Doobie Incident

The Doobie Incident

“Woo-wee.”

Many people made it in for the Doobie Incident (heard here), but a wealth of others were stuck in a cattle walk just down Oak Ridge Road. Some had been in line since the campgrounds opened and were still there at the time when my friend and I took our first groovy steps on that soft, sun-soaked lawn. I felt sure that there would be some restlessness brewing in the Pabst-thirsty guts of all the frequent-flyers who were stuck in the halt, taunted by the flares of distant stage sounds.

But what’s to do?

You keep going, and so it did.

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After that rocking Doobie Cheese Accident (as Pat Simmons of the Doobie Brothers put it), my friend and I returned to camp to refuel for the long night. Others, either just getting to the shows or in it for the long haul, kept the afternoon groove with Seth Stainback & RoosterfootMoonalice, North Mississippi Allstars, Anders Osborne, and Steve Earle & the Dukes. Festival producer Peter Shapiro was invited to the stage during Moonalice’s performance and he said, “We got knocked down, but we got up again.”

Evidently, it seems that Peter Shapiro may also be a fan of Chumbawamba.

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North Mississippi Allstars brought the “blues-infused rock and roll” with tunes from the ripping jams of “Shake Yo Mama” and the eerie, rhythmic tones of “Psychedelic Sex Machine,” to the jazzy drums and soulful vocals of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah.” They filled the day with energy and life, and Steve Earle & the Dukes and Anders Osborne (who North Mississippi Allstars just recorded and released an album with) did a fine job at following such a great performance. John Kadlecik and Scott Metzger (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Bustle in Your Hedgerow and WOLF!) joined Anders Osborne in a powerful jam on Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” and Steve Earle and the Dukes left the crowd with Billy Roberts’ “Hey Joe” before the String Cheese Incident was set to perform.

The sun had fallen low and a cool breeze sliced through the last of the day’s warm rays, and the audience seemed well energized for a performance from the String Cheese Incident that was scheduled to last only one hour. But those who have seen SCI know what you do when you get to hear this band play, even if it’s only for a short while.

You boogie.

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“I” for “Incident”

They opened with a triumphant jam full of texture and momentum, the many instrumental voices chattering melodically through a smooth groove that landed on a raving “Come as You Are” (a String Cheese original, not to be confused with the Nirvana song). This tune has many layers that fuse with funk, disco, salsa and that stringy cheese that has flavors all of its own, setting a full and lively tone for the rest of the set. They played “Little Hands” next, and after flying high through the usual climbing, fiddle-fed jam, they dropped into a prominent walk – a smooth waltz down the cool euphoria of a bluesy road, jumping and drifting by the beat. Billy Nershi’s winding riffs warmed the rhythm while Michael Kang’s violin delivered calm, drawn breaths, and as I watched the whole scene, seeing the sky grow darker into blue toward the orange aura of the sun and the contour of the trees, I smiled and moved and closed my eyes, all the while wondering if it was all really happening, was it even real? Opening my eyes to see a glowing stage and vigorous life in a colorful world, I decided that it was plenty real enough, and I hoped that it all mattered and I laughed anyway.

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The band wasted no time and jammed into “Sweet Spot” – another ripping tune that hops by the thump of the bass and steps by the tap of the high-hat, Michael Kang’s ascending lines flying wildly and expeditiously, but still sharp and to the point. It ended with triumphant organ from Kyle Hollingsworth, and then came “Rosie” and “Close Your Eyes” before a “Colorado Bluebird Sky” finish. There was a spectacular span of improvisation between the final two songs – it was a reflective, free-flowing composition of simple and elated melodies, winding slide riffs, keen snare hits, walking bass lines and deep piano, and it all made the splendor of life remarkably intimate and apparent, the kind of thing that makes you walk proudly and look around. The groove then shifted to a high-hitting, grassy acceleration of thrill and revelry – a vast sight of movement and release that sailed into the spirited “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” It was all lively and triumphant until the end, and you can relive it here.

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Phil Lesh & Friends graciously allowed the String Cheese Incident an extra twenty-or-so minutes to play, and then Phil – joined by Eric Krasno and the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (minus Mark “Muddy” Dutton) – led the way with his intricate, thumping bass lines on the first Grateful installment of the weekend. Thousands of Dead Heads came to Lockn’ to see the core-four, and those who didn’t catch Fare Thee Well would get their fair share of Dead in the following days.

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When the show started, I asked my friend what he would like to do, and he responded that he’d like to cross the field for a better view of the second stage. I agreed and then we started through the maze as the band kicked into Chuck Berry’s “The Promised Land.” We strolled like madmen through that crowd – sliding, hopping, twisting and shuffling through the shifting lanes of the labyrinth as if Chuck Berry himself were leading the march, crouching down and kicking his feet across the stage like a rocking rooster, king of his domain. The path was alive and animated, and when we reached the other side, I looked back to see my friend’s wide eyes and stretched smile.

“Wow,” he said. “I’ve never really done anything like that. It’s really something.”

“Cheers,” I said, and then I passed him the whiskey.

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The set continued with songs like “Shakedown Street,” “Brown Eyed Women” and “Bertha,” all of which kept us moving in the same groovy manner. Eric Krasno’s guitar rambled convoluted melodies, playing off of Neal Casal’s own shredding lead with Chris Robinson’s vocals sailing in the rhythm that followed the direction of Phil Lesh. The last half of the set brought an incredible line of tunes:

  • “Althea,” “Bird Song” –> “Gimme Shelter” (The Rolling Stones) –> ”Morning Dew” –> “I Know You Rider”

It all carried a stirring tone that would last throughout the weekend – one of loss, one of sorrow and one of longing, but still one of triumph and conviviality. As it was the anniversary of the attacks on September 11th, 2001, the American flag was hung high by the stages and curled gently in the cool night breeze, catching yellow light on the red, white and blue and reflecting back down to the sea of free bodies and this side of the American dream. From the weighty rock of “Gimme Shelter” to the solemn melancholy of “Morning Dew” and the sweet redemption of “I Know You Rider,” the band paid a fine respect to the notion of where we were then and where we are now, and on we go unto the next (listen to the show here).

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Next would be the celebration of fifty years of Jefferson Airplane, with Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen of the original band and Hot Tuna. They led the way on this very special occasion by the company of Rachael Price, GE Smith, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Jeff Pehrson, Justin Guip and very special guest Bill Kreutzmann, playing tunes such as an inspiriting “Good Shepherd” and an elusive and tremendous “White Rabbit…”

“…Feed your heaaaad!”

They also performed a lively and free “Volunteers” that included a ripping, jazzy drum duet before a rocking finish…

“…Got a revolution!”

“GOT TO REVOLUTION!”

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Following this incredible event (heard here) was the very special performance of Mad Dogs & Englishmen: Celebrate Joe Cocker hosted by Tedeschi Trucks Band, with the company of Leon Russell, Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge, Chris Robinson, Claudia Lennear, John Bell (Widespread Panic), Warren Haynes, Eleven 1970 alumni & more. This was an especially emotional event – a tribute to a man that was loved by many, whose energy and voice brought life and purpose to an audience of equals. As he put it, “God, I’m just a fat bald guy, 60 years old, playing the blues, you know?” For those who don’t know, Joe Cocker was a brilliant musician who passed away on December 22nd, 2014, and you may recognize him from this version of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from my Friends,” played at Woodstock 1969. And as Max Yasgur – owner of the Woodstock Festival farmlands – says to the crowd at the start of the video (full speech seen here):

“I’m a farmer, I don’t know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world — not only to the Town of Bethel, or Sullivan County, or New York State; you’ve proven something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We have had no idea that there would be this size group, and because of that you’ve had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth. Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you’re taken care of… they’d enjoy a vote of thanks. But above that, the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids — and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you are — a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I – God Bless You for it!”

Sound familiar?

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The set included songs from the 1970 live album Mad Dogs & Englishmanincluding The Band’s “The Weight” and The Beatles’ “She Came in through the Bathroom Window” with Warren Haynes on vocals and shredding lead. Dave Mason was invited to the stage to perform his and Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright,” which rocked and rolled high and loud into the cool night – a blast of exhilaration shaped by popping drum tub thumps, powerful vocals, rich and rolling piano, and tight, flowing lead guitar from Derek Trucks. Derek Trucks’ slide abilities remain outmatched in my opinion, and his vibrant, wailing notes, curling from the bend of his glistening slide, cry with a blissful fortitude and a warming tremor. The many fine vocals would belt soulful expressions of life’s blues right along, especially in the rendition of Joe Cocker’s “Space Captain” that finished the set (full show heard here).

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Chris Robinson and Susan Tedeschi lead the vocals for the final tune – an astounding rendition of “With a Little Help from my Friends.” In the solemn moments, the organ would hum light melodies while the vocals sang softly, Derek Trucks’ slide guitar telling a wishful story by elegant, fluid means. And then, as the drums and the energy would pick up, so would the many voices, and Derek Trucks’ smooth notes would climb and slice through the resounding chorus of horns, cries and crashes, building by the roll of the snare like an accelerating train on a track bound north – a thunderous display of light and color and joy. There seemed to be a unanimous recollection that good things could happen and could always be found in the madness, and most importantly, it was a comforting reassurance that regardless of the circumstances of our struggle through this life, there was one true and decent way for everyone to get by.

“With a little help from my friends!”

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The night ended with sets from Umphrey’s McGee at the Blue Ridge Bowl, and the Mickey Hart Deep Rhythm Experience with EOTO, Steve Kimock and visual artist Android Jones at The Woods. My friend and I fell asleep rather shortly after the main events, and with so much excellent music in the one day, it was difficult to hold any disappointment about Thursday being cancelled. There was plenty done and plenty to go, and we were making a damned fine thing of it.

Umphrey's McGee

Umphrey’s McGee

Saturday

Melvin Seals and JGB with John Kadlecik opened the day at the Blue Ridge Bowl, and things were generally wet and grey. It had rained quite a lot at night – turning to a downpour toward the end of the Umphrey’s McGee set – and my friend had the misfortune of falling asleep with his legs outside of the tent right where a small waterfall had been leaking down from the canopy.

“Looks good,” my friend and I said on Thursday after setting up.

“Shoulda hit the damned wood,” we’d later say.

Melvin Seals and JGB with John Kadlecik

Melvin Seals and JGB with John Kadlecik

I had also listened in to a difficult scenario in our neighbor’s campsite as I tried to fall asleep. I heard a male individual who spoke from a delusion in authority saying, “Just give me everything you have and you won’t get arrested.” I also heard one say, “You are on private property and you surrendered your rights when you came here.” I IMG_7998spoke to a neighbor the next day who said that he was dancing in the aisle by his campsite and his friends, and two officers who had just dismounted a glorified golf cart approached and asked him in an offensive, aggressive tone what he was doing. He said that he responded calmly that he was dancing, but the two brutes subsequently searched the peaceful bunch and confiscated some of their weed. I gave him some rolling papers as we spoke, so I assume they didn’t get cleaned out.

This sort of thing would happen more than once throughout the weekend in nearby campsites, and I kept envisioning some pompous, plump couple of hot heads racing around the colorful landscape of Oak Ridge Farm instilling fear and injustice on the humble travelers, intoxicated by their own foul odor and menacing in their disregard for the basic human right to catch some vibes – Johnny Law in all his insecure, playground glory.

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“Luckily,” the neighbor said, “they didn’t find our doses.”

“Good thing.”

Knock, knock, knock.

So what do you do when the rain comes and fools are on the loose?

You keep going with what you have, and so they did.

Melvin Seals, John Kadlecik and JGB gave color and warmth to a grey morning – good vibes, cheer and smooth grooves all around. They played “Sugaree,” “Reuben and Cherise” and “Midnight Moonlight,” and the Jerry GarciaIMG_8015 smile seemed to be plastered on whoever was listening. That was almost everyone on this one. The rest of the afternoon included Lord Nelson, Love Canon (who played the Grateful Dead’s “Touch of Grey”), The Jayhawks, Hot Tuna, and the shredding funk of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. After that was another fantastic performance from Tedeschi Trucks Band (who were joined by Bob Weir), as well as one from Robert Plant & the Sensational Spaceshifters. They rocked several Led Zeppelin tunes including, “Black Dog,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and “Rock and Roll,” between which they’d jam like good mad Englishmen. There was also one point when the band ripped and roared on a spacey, electronic groove, much like what many of the jam bands in the scene delve into. The crowd raved in return, and Plant was sure to introduce the keyboardist John Baggot when the song ended – the one who did “the trippy shit.”

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Widespread Panic took the stage next for their first performance of the weekend, which was scheduled to include Jimmy Cliff. The sun had peaked through the titanic masses of clouds, and the sky was then cast with an epic, glowing portrait – the curled edges of the rolling grey puffs gleaming with a silver aura hued in gold, the kind of light you catch when the sun is not yet set and beams low from the west, casting a shadowy, thick blaze past all the pieces that turn to silhouettes from the east. As the day progressed into night, the tinge of the hanging sun illuminated the western sky, casting a full spectrum of color across the strokes of painted space before falling into a deep orange glow.

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It was a fine scene for Panic, and they did their rocking thing for a while before Jimmy Cliff joined the band, kicking into a favorite tune of mine called “Tall Boy” right as I stepped into a tall, blue port-a-john. When Jimmy Cliff took the stage, they played his tune “Sitting in Limbo” with Chuck Leavell to accompany, and Leavell also joined Cliff and Panic on “The Harder They Come” before closing the set with Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now.” Jimmy Cliff fit right in and Panic looked to their reggae reserves, backing Jimmy with high life rhythms and wild expedition. It is no wonder why Panic has such a massive following, but more on that later on.

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Bob Weir and Billy & the Kids followed this first installment of Widespread motha-lovin’ Panic, opening the set with a rocking “Greatest Story Ever Told.” With Bobby on stage it would be a Bobby-style set, fully in the rock and low roll of the Dead, and they continued with tunes like the happy flight of “Cassidy,” the funky step of “Dancing in the IMG_8765Street,” the bittersweet sail of “Wharf Rat,” the hop of “One More Saturday Night,” and the stomp of “Throwing Stones.” This was an incredibly tight set: Bobby nailed the vocals and rhythm, playing off of Billy’s subtle, yet full and jaunty beats that were right from his top game; Aron Magner gave breath and texture to the progressions with his organ and piano, droning and fluttering in wandering exploration; Reed Mathis’ bass lines laid down the path and pattern for all the wide space, and Tom Hamilton’s fleet guitar riffs screamed wild melodies through the groove, elevating the bliss to an electrifying degree that Jerry would very well have enjoyed (enjoy it all here).

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Billy & the Kids with Bob Weir

There was a point during “Throwing Stones” where the rhythm turned to a steady, beating bliss, and Bobby started singing the line, “We are on our own!” again and again. It was true and sad in a sense, but it was hopeful still. We are really on our own here on this planet – flying through space at an exponential distance from every damned thing else – and as much as we often look outward to find an answer to all the madness, the simplest answer has always been there in the music, the colors, the movement, and our affinity to be together in all this noisy business. After all, when we sing “We are on our own!” high and soulful into some cool night in Virginia, “we” is thankfully still part of the whole pretty picture.

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Next was the much anticipated performance of Phil Lesh with Carlos Santana, Warren Haynes, John Molo, Barry Sless, and Rob Barraco. The band started right off with a “Not Fade Away” jam, which Bobby, Billy & the Kids had finished with. Phil dropped his inimitable, finely rambling bass walks while Carlos Santana, Warren Haynes and Barry Sless traded licks with each other – an intricate tangle of bent, winding notes and fluttering melodies that was all iced with the celestial tones of Rob Barracco’s keys and the pulsing heartbeat of John Molo’s drums. The jam went directly into the groove of “Scarlet Begonias” and did not return to the usual following “Fire on the Mountain” until several songs later.

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In the meantime, they played Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle,” Sonny Boy Williams’ “Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl,” and the Grateful Dead’s “The Other One.” The furious end of “The Other One” dropped directly into Phil’s popping groove for “Fire on the Mountain,” and the direct result was a sea of free motion – all the heads smiling, bobbing and weaving like buoyant hoofers, professional by their own accord and ecstatic to the highest degree. Warren would wail a solo with the classic Jerry wah-wah and Santana would hang back humbly, watching with respect and joy just as he would for anyone else. But after the second verse, his face-melting Santana crunch would sing and fly, reminding us why he is one of the many kings of the game – a voice that stands uniquely his own. He also reminded us, by the side of the rest of the band, that “Fire on the Mountain” absolutely fucking rocks.

“To the thin line beyond, which…”

“You really can’t fake!”

And so on and so forth, and let that fire keep on burning!

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The band eventually moved into Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” by the pop of John Molo’s snare, who brought the energy to the manner of the Jimi Hendrix take. Carlos Santana attacked the intro riffs with purpose and crisp tone, and the song escalated and fell again and again one bellowing organ medley and one screaming guitar lick at a time. He would rip through tight, sizzling progressions and then apply balance and support for Rob Barracco’s keys or Warren Haynes’ sailing lines, all by the base of Phil Lesh (intended), John Molo and Barry Sless, who sat on pedal steel for this tune. The song had a big finish, and the set ended with a drift through “Dark Star” and a roaring return to “Not Fade Away.” The band then faded off stage and it was on to the next, but the moment never fades (especially when it’s all here!)

Mickey Hart with Steve Kimock and Android Jones

Mickey Hart with Steve Kimock and Android Jones

The night ended with sets from Gov’t Mule and another installment of the Mickey Hart Deep Rhythm Experience with Steve Kimock and Android Jones. Gov’t Mule had a special treat for those who stayed up with them, playing tunes like Bob Marley & the Wailers’ “Lively up Yourself” and The Doors’ “People Are Strange” and “When the Music’s Over.” They also played Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” with a “Hey Jude” tease and a “Hunger Strike” reprise – incidentally my third time missing “Dear Mr. Fantasy” at Lockn’, none of which I wish to discuss.

“Shit,” I thought.

But what’s to do? You keep going and smile and toast to all the rest, and so that’s what I tried to do and things went on just as they would have anyway.

Sunday

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Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel with Jon Kadlecik

Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel with John Kadlecik opened Sunday morning with a bang, giving cheers to the holy day with soul and feeling. They played “Eyes of the World,” “Franklin’s Tower,” “St. Stephen” and “Samson and Delilah” before finishing with a high-energy “Ripple” (listen to the set here via archive.org). The highlight of the set for me was their rendition of the tune, “Mighty High” by the Mighty Clouds of Joy, which one YouTube subscriber (memeexclusive) described by saying:

“Take this cut and put it in the dictionary as THE definition of soul.”

The morning sky was blue and patched with marching powdered sugar clouds, and the sun cast a yellow glaze over a jubilant audience – all smiles and bouncing knees with hands held high from our heaven, belting those fine words in welcome unison:

“Ride the mighty high!”

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And such was the beginning of another excellent day of music, the kind of friendly end that you can only welcome and enjoy. Slightly Stoopid played at 4:20 with Karl Denson, and the rest of the afternoon included the Southern Belles, the Oh Hellos, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and Fishbone. Fishbone put on a particularly energetic experience of reggae, funk and all kinds of their own vibe – the lead singer happening about the stage in a righteously free and wild manner, kicking and curling his legs out and across the stage in the matching olive drab jumpsuit that they had all been wearing. He also had this to say when introducing a tune:

“This next song is about junkies. And if you’re a junkie…I know you won’t be raising your hand, but in your heart you know you’re an asshole…ya dumb-ass motha fucka.”

Listen to the man. Don’t be an asshole.

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Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave took the stage after Slightly Stoopid, and my friend and I had only just set off toward the show. Hustling down the gravel raceway where horses once ran, wagers were once place and egos were once stroked (brains, too), we could hear the velocity of the New Orleans spirit giving a new life to the song “Brain Stew” by Green Day. The horns piped the melody and the rhythm boomed into a fantastic display of energy and good grooving, tapping in to any reserve energy that listeners may have held for the rest of the night.

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Such a night would include sets from Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic and Robert Plant & the Sensational Spaceshifters. Gov’t Mule rocked the sun down with an appearance from Jimmy Herring and his off-white Paul Reed Smith guitar on “Stratus” by Billy Cobham, and they also teased Santana’s “Oye Como Va” during “Thorazine Shuffle.” After a great rendition of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Soulshine,” Widespread Panic took the party with an absolutely rowdy set of walking rock full of crunch, thump and madcap possibilities. This rang most true during “Shut Up and Drive,” where the beat steps with great intensity and the riffs march along in an eager malice. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to fly down some flat, westward road with the windows down and your head in the clouds, a Cambodian Marlboro cigarette burning low from the three dollar packs that a short blonde woman in the crowd had been selling. And then the world suddenly slows, and only briefly while the melting notes of Jimmy Herring’s PRS ripple with crisp sincerity like a lost plea that’s found a new light. Eventually, these cries fly high with the path, bound and sailing with a fueled sustain toward the madness of the climb and the light of the peak, only to fall back down to some sound that you know and recognize but somehow feel differently, and beautifully still.

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Gov’t Mule with Jimmy Herring

After a prodigious finish from Widespread Panic, Robert Plant closed out the festival with another excellent set of music, playing Zeppelin greats like “Going to California” and Joan Baez’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.” It was a crisp, cold night and I awoke at five the next morning in a frigid daze under my thin fleece blanket, unable to move without receiving a shock from some cold, damp piece of fabric.

Well what can you do.

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I burned the midnight torch – so to speak – and waited for the sun to rise over the rolling green landscape that sat like a smooth blanket, quilted and freckled with rows of cars, tents and canopies – flags flying like the banners of a wild army of peaceful ragers, rockers, rollers, and all the other wonderful adjectives of an exciting bunch that’s bound and bearing down a bumpy road. The sky had shifted to a light blue with pink, red, orange and yellow drifting over the far peak – a fresh sight to an old view – and as I had really been burning the midnight torch (sunrise wasn’t until seven) I laughed in cheer of this whole crazy scene. There are a million different ways to spend your time being free and alive in this complex place that we are so very lucky to be struggling with, and somehow, by some stroke of luck, we found this way.

Good thing!

Knock, knock, knock.

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Monday

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With the rise of the sun came the rise of the tired heads, most of whom wasting little time before packing for the trip back to a bed, a shower and that smooth porcelain that we all often take for granted. Others slept and some chose to relax, soaking in the final breaths by the cool peace of a slow mosey. From what I saw, campsites were left in fine form, trash neatly organized and to a relative minimum. But that was only my corner of delight, and lord knows there’s a hell of a lot else going on.

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I must admit, too, that throughout the weekend, I walked past far too much waste that would have been very easy and simple to pick up and properly dispose of. Thankfully, though, there was a group of grand individuals who were happy and willing to clean up the mess, and for that we are all very much obliged.

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I also feel obliged to mention and thank the staff and the musicians for dealing with the righteous SNAFU of the first day. In defense of the crew, one person had written of their experience as a part of the Phases of the Moon team and the difficulties and amount of hard work that went into recovering from the harsh weather. Having gone to Phases of the Moon myself – as well as Wakarusa 2013, aka: “Swamparusa” – I can say that we are completely at the mercy of Miss Mother Nature, and cheers to the Lockn’ crew and the nearby community for coming through for everyone.

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And so at last we have the festival-goer – all those who smiled and rambled on toward the goal with prowess and cheer, mute of any complaint or disregard. That certainly wasn’t everybody – one guy tried to cut in line upon entering the festival on the first day and was not tolerated: “Let me through!” he squealed – but I felt confident that even he would come around, and I still do.

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I want to thank you all – all of you mad people who never cease to reverberate life and seek truth and the beautiful, interesting sights and matters that bring energy, joy and meaning into this strange existence – and I’ll say that without your drive and your spirit, such a grand thing as Lockn’ would not be happening. When I look at all this life, all this color, all this music, and all this love that springs there and in places and times far beyond three days and three nights on a farm, I smile and sometimes think aloud,

“Good thing!”

Knock, knock, knock.

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Photos by Alex Kratzert – click here for full album

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