Friday at Lockn’ started with some more local talent, as Charlottesville, VA based duo The Founding Fathers provided some improvisational bluegrass to get fans bouncing and in the mood. The duo, made up of Andy Falco on guitar and Chris Pandolfi on banjo, are also members of the Infamous Stringdusters, so they are no strangers to the early day festival scene. The second set of the day came from Pegi Young and The Survivors. Although Neil wasn’t able to join the festivities, Peggy, his wife of 31 years, showed up to play and put on a great show, with songs from her solo albums filling the set.
Next, it was time for the energy to really start to escalate. It’s almost impossible to to feel the beat and move your feet when New Orleans shows up to the party. Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Soul Rebels Brass Band, both NOLA natives and mainstays, strutted and boogied across the stage, horns blazing and crowd participation fully encouraged. Lots of “Who Dat!” and “Yeah, you right!” was going on during their two hour collaborative set. Standards like “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Party” had folks jumping, and interesting cover choices such as Daft Punk’s summer hit “Get Lucky” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” filled out the set. The groups joined forces for a rousing rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” to close things out, and fans turned their attention to the right for a real treat from a reggae legend.
Jimmy Cliff took the stage to the pulsing rhythmic beat of several drums and percussion pieces, arriving in prime fashion, decked out in red, green, and yellow. He told story after story, giving the crowd history lessons and anecdotes before each song he played. Some were sweet, some were informative, and others carried a powerful political message of love, peace, and no more war. He made it current and relative, for example, switching out Afghanistan for Vietnam during his classic anthem “Vietnam.” He also paid homage to some of his friends and collaborators, covering Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” and “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, which Cliff himself recorded in 1993 for the Cool Runnings soundtrack.
The String Cheese Incident took the stage for the third time, opening their late afternoon set with favorite “Outside and Inside.” A choice and appropriate cover of the Talking Heads’ classic “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” had the crowd singing along with all the words, as they felt that right where they were standing was most certainly the place to be. Standard bluegrassy “Restless Wind” provided the soundtrack for the stage shuffle as fans began turning their attention and gearing up for the first appearance of Further, fronted by original Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.
Further gave the fans exactly what they wanted, kicking off their set with a funky get-on-down version of “Shakedown Street” into “The Wheel.” An almost perfect jammed out “Cold Rain and Snow” highlighted the talents of guitarist John Kadlecik, former frontman of the Dark Star Orchestra. Kadlecik pays homage to the late Jerry Garcia in every way, while still maintaining his own musical identity within the confines of the catalog. Dead classics such as “Cassidy”, the slinky seductive gem “Candyman”, and epic tale “Jack Straw” closed out their first set.
It was time to turn back to the left and get involved in an “Incident,” the term String Cheese uses to describe a collaborative set between them and some of their friends. Zac Brown joined the party, along with band members Jimmy DeMartini on violin/fiddle, John Driskell Hopkins on bass, and Clay Cook, playing a little bit of everything. Cheese original “Sometimes a River” led into Brown original “The Wind” and then the cover party started. Tribute was paid to the late great Levon Helm with “When I Go Away”, and a grassed up version of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” had the crowd singing along. Bill Withers’ hit “Use Me” got fresh and funky, complete with a “So Fresh, So Clean” Outkast rap from Brown at its conclusion. The encore of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” provided once last chance for Brown to show off his vocal talents, exchanging verses and chorus with Cheese frontmen Michael Kang and Bill Nershi. It’s safe to say that people who thought Zac Brown was simply a pop country artist left that stage with changed minds and big smiles. He and his band tore it up and made their mark on jamband devotees.
The closing set of the night belonged to Further, and with the darkness and chilly temperatures now completely enveloping the crowd, it was time to fully commit to the Dead zone. An epic “Dark Star” started things off, and would be re-visited throughout the set, following “Eyes of the World” a few songs later. It appeared again after a blazing “St. Stephen” with long, drawn out dark and dirty jams, just as it is meant to be. Zac Brown returned to the stage with his song “Free” segueing into Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic”. He stayed on stage for Dead sing along classic “Tennessee Jed” but departed for perhaps the most well known three song sandwich in all of rock and roll: “Help on the Way>Slipknot>Franklin’s Tower,” better known simply as “Help>Slip>Frank.” 80’s Dead hit “Touch of Grey” was the encore, and Brown returned one last time. Judging by the smile on his face and his “We’re Not Worthy”-esque bows at the feet of Phil Lesh, he had himself a real good time.
Saturday brings some new blood, with The Black Crowes, Trey Anastasio, and Widespread Panic set to arrive and change things up. Something says this is going to be good!