Thursday morning was an exciting one for music fans and festival goers. A day that has been highly anticipated since the announcement of the first-ever Lockn’ music festival (formerly Interlocken), taking place in Arrington, VA on the spacious pastoral Oak Ridge Farm. Lines of cars wound through the gravel roads, and despite the long waits, once fans got inside, it was all worth the wait. What’s a first year festival without a few speedbumps along the way, after all?
Festival mainstay and Fredericksburg, VA native Keller Williams had the privilege of kicking off the music, along with husband and wife duo Larry and Jenny Keel. Keller and the Keels treated fans to their brand of often silly bluegrass, led by Williams on his acoustic guitar, tinkering with his tech toys at times as well. It was a great way to start off an action filled evening, with The Warren Haynes Band taking the reins next on the second stage set up adjacent to the first. The two stages, essentially side by side, are an integral part of the “interlocking” ideology at the heart of the festival. No bands overlap, and there are no lengthy walks between stages, both commonplace at other large music festivals. This allows the fans the opportunity to see all of the music without forfeiting one experience for another, and also gives the artists the availability and freedom to play with and off each other as they feel inspired to do so. Both novel concepts in an age where festivals sometimes have as many as 100+ bands on the schedule.
Warren and his band, including members Nigel Hall, Ron Hollloway, and Alecia Chakour, laid down a set full of jazzy, soulful sounds, filled with horns and of course, Haynes’ blistering guitar. He doesn’t overwhelm his band, however, giving each member time to shine in their own musical way. Tunes from his solo release “Man In Motion” peppered the set, along with a few choice covers and naturally, lots of jamming and improvisation.
As Haynes introduced the band members and made his rounds, activity began on the other stage, as members of the String Cheese Incident got tuned up and settled in for the first of two sets they would play that evening. The energy in the crowd was palpable from the Cheese devotees, and the hula hoops and smiles were out in full force. They kicked off the set with fan favorites “Desert Dawn” and “Black and White”, and broke in the “interlocking” band idea when they invited their friend and longtime collaborator Keller Williams to the stage. A fun, bouncy “Best Feeling” gave listeners the warm fuzzies and brought the energy up even more. The set closed with “Texas” and that was just right. The second appearance of SCI would be a little bit different, and much more raucous.
First, it was time for Haynes to return to the stage, but this time it would be with four piece rockers Gov’t Mule. This would mark the first time that Haynes played with both the Warren Hayes Band and Gov’t Mule in the same day, literally within hours of each other. With the sun disappearing and giving way to dark, Mule filled the air and space with sound, from Haynes’ electric, the keys of Danny Louis, and pounding steady heartbeat emanating from Matt Abts’ drum kit. Opener reggae tinged “Step Lightly”, rocker “Broke Down on the Brazos”, and lyrically relevant “Captured” pulled the crowd into their zone. The real treat, however, came during the third verse of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” as Grace Potter ethereally glided onto the scene to lend her amazing pipes to the mix. Foregoing her usually mini dress stiletto look, potter looked like the love child of Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin, and sounded even better. Taking on Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” was no challenge, as Potter has covered that tune several times with Mule. A true highlight of the entire night came when the group covered former Lockn’ headliner Neil Young’s “Southern Man.” Simply perfect. Haynes’ “interlocked” his two bands at the end, with an expected rendition of “Soulshine” that really allowed Chakour’s voice to shine, showing Potter wasn’t the only female songstress star that evening,
The closing set for the initial night came from Cheese, as they took the stage the second time that night, and seemed almost like a completely different band. They brought out the electronica toys, opening with a blazing “Rosie” that got everyone in the crowd getting down amongst glow sticks and thick smokey haze. The dance party continued with a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Shake Your Body to the Ground” sandwiched between bluegrassy “Black Clouds”, and the field was literally pulsing with the energy lit by the epic light show. Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” again brought the headbanging rock, and the “Barstool>Search” ending was fitting and on point.
Despite a few minor delays and inconveniences, Thursday at Lockn’ got everything kicked off musically in just the right way. The next few days are sure to bring more awe-inspiring collaborations, interesting instrumentation, and merriment in general. The weather could not be any more beautiful, and the vibes and energy are on point. Lets see what Friday brings!