Photo by Jay Blakesberg
After last year’s double dose of Phish, this year’s LOCKN’ once again offers a distinct focus on the Grateful Dead, the band’s influences and the next generations of musicians that the iconic San Francisco act has influenced.
Fittingly, Friday’s unending stellar sets on the main stage culminated with a performance celebrating the 40th anniversary of Terrapin Station by Phil Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band with special guests Bob Weir and Nicki Bluhm. While Deadheads are more than familiar with its six tracks, the songs understandably combined an air of familiarity with the looseness and improvisatory nature that were integral to the Dead’s music.
The familiar strains of “Estimated Prophet” was followed by the upbeat “Dancin’ in the Streets,” “Passenger” and “Samson & Delilah.” While she contributed throughout those songs, Bluhm really killed it with her featured number, “Sunrise.” After that it was the full “Terrapin Station” with its rhythmic shifts and its beautiful recurring theme that begins during “Lady with a Fan.” This version included additional verses arranged by Brian Lesh and sung by Grahame Lesh, that Robert Hunter had written but weren’t used in the original.
Earlier in the day, Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band played a two-hour set that started with “Bertha” and included “China Cat” > “I Know You Rider,” an always welcome “Born Cross-Eyed,” “Broken Arrow” and “Unbroken Chain.” The set also featured guest spots by Warren Haynes during “St. Stephen” and “New Minglewood Blues” and then Bob Weir on “Jack Straw” and the concluding “Uncle John’s Band.”
Haynes followed that appearance with a stellar two-hour set from Gov’t Mule. The quartet went back to their earlier albums The Deep End Volume 2 and Dose for their opening numbers, “Hammer and Nails” and “Thorazine Shuffle” before concentrating on their latest release, Revolution Come…Revolution Go with “Stone Cold Rage,” “Traveling Tune” and the title track.
Photo by John Patrick Gatta
Following “Game Face” > Weather Report’s “Birdland” >“Game Face” and “Soulshine,” Ann Wilson joined for a rousing double shot of Led Zeppelin covers: “Immigrant Song” and “Black Dog.” Together Mule and Wilson morphed “You Shook Me” by combining the infamous Zep version with the original one recorded by Muddy Waters.
After Wilson and Mule did Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby,” she described her appearance as an honor. The collaboration then concluded with Heart’s “Magic Man” before Mule appropriately ended the set, minus Wilson, with “Mule.”
The emotional high point of the day belonged to a (mostly) solo Jim James whose acoustic set referenced the recent tragedy in Charlottesville, a Nelson Mandela quote and contained multiple musical references and between-song banter encouraging people to unite under a more positive forward-thinking powerful force. His set included covers of Frank Sinatra’s “Young at Heart,” Woody Guthrie’s “Changing World” and Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.” James also offered a mix of solo material (“A New Life” and “Here in Spirit”), My Morning Jacket songs (“I’m Amazed” and “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)”) and a new tune that commented on social media and the internet.
Brandi Carlile joined James for a cover of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and then Joe Russo showed up on percussion as the ad hoc trio played a rousing “Give Peace a Chance.”
Photo by Ian Rawn
James returned to sit-in during Carlile’s subsequent uplifting set. She thanked LOCKN’ for having her back this year after illness prevented her from playing the fest last year. Then, not only did she acknowledge James for inspiring her with his Friday set but gave credit to the crowd for providing some of the best vibes she’s ever had. Carlile opened her performance with “Roll Over Me,” played a new tune, “The Mother” and covered Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.”
Earlier in the day, Marcus King Band played a powerhouse blues set that included a cover of Blind Faith’s “Had to Cry Today.” Then TAUK energized the crowd with their dexterous instrumental rock fusion. Sinkane’s Afrocentric rhythms came next and flowed into Antibalas, who began with “Hook and Crook” from their next album, which is out on Sept. 15. Blackberry Smoke came next and captivated the crowd with their own commanding hour set of improvisational rock.
The day began over at the Terrapin Porch shortly after 9 AM, with some early morning yoga followed by a solo piano set from Gov’t Mule’s Danny Louis. Then Virginia’s own Jay Starling led an acoustic song circle. Starling’s guitar pull is open to anyone at LOCKN’ and folks are actively encouraged to bring their instruments over to the Porch to participate at noon on Saturday and Sunday.
The day’s music eventually closed out at 3 AM, following a rousing performance by Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. The quintet welcomed Nicole Atkins for “Little Red Rooster” and “Cassidy” before Jim James made his third appearance, joining JRAD for a cover of Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing” and the Dead’s “Brown-Eyed Women.” A fitting conclusion to LOCKN’ Friday then arrived with Atkins and James sharing vocals on a sweet yet elegiac “Brokedown Palace.”