The concept of a “vibe” can sometimes be more hyperbole than an earnest assessment of an environment. But sometimes positive momentum proves entirely real and can permeate an entire gathering of people.
Saturday at LOCKN’ found such momentum in this corner of Virginia, with the aspiration to spread it to all corners of the great Commonwealth. It first became manifest on Friday from the moment My Morning Jacket’s Jim James stepped on stage with the classic “Young at Heart.” “That’s just what I needed,” Brandi Carlile said as she took the stage after James’ incredibly intimate and personal acoustic set.
Maybe it’s what we all needed, as the positive wave triggered by the Kentucky rocker rode its way into Saturday with a very special slate of artists who embodied the very essence of the message that LOCKN’ set out to deliver.
Yet again, musicians found themselves on stage with a purpose, not only reflecting on the recent events in Charlottesville but also in response to those affected by Hurricane Harvey (Houston rockers The Suffers were forced to drop out of the festival due to the weather).
Nashville rockers Los Colognes got things started on the Relix Stage with some patented Grateful Dead-style rock-and-roll that included their version of “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” a cover that’s gone viral in the social landscape as the band added their heartfelt touch to the Dylan classic.
As the sun heated up, Hiss Golden Messenger did their best to cool things down by reviving the smooth sounds of The Band as they previewed their new album Hallelujah Anyhow with an engaging set that included some commentary on current events, including a song dedicated to the Gulf Coast area (the band took some of the slot slated for The Suffers).
Hiss Golden Messenger is the brainchild of Durham, NC singer-songwriter M.C. Taylor but he smartly brought along a number of stellar musicians including Phil Cook of Megafaun fame. The set took a decidedly energetic turn when Cook went from piano to electric guitar, turning it into a triple-guitar attack and injecting energy into tunes like “When the Wall Comes Down,” which included a quip about Donald Trump’s promised wall, as Taylor proclaimed, “That wall isn’t getting built.”
As Hiss Golden Messenger turned morning into afternoon (with a finale seemingly influenced by “Franklin’s Tower”) it was Pigeons Playing Ping Pong that brought their driving jams to the Relix Stage before the main stage lit up with the eclectic sounds of Keller Williams.
Over the years, Williams has spent his time adding immense depth to his catalog, drawing on various genres. He showcased all of these during his 90-minute solo performance from the funk-heavy “More Than a Little” to a bluegrass cover of Weezer’s modern-day classic “Island in the Sun” (the lyrics of which were changed to “LOCKN’ in the sun”) and the storyteller vibe of “Doobie in My Pocket.” Williams’ set concluded with some of his staples like “Freeker by the Speaker” and “Best Feeling.”
One acoustic instrument then gave way to several of them as Midwest jamgrass stalwarts Greensky Bluegrass followed Williams. Greensky energized the crowd with one crackling jam after another, including a lengthy “Leap Year” as well as some of their best live material, such as “In Control” and “Windshield.”
Photo by John Patrick Gatta
Greensky has proven to be one of the preeminent bluegrass acts in the scene today and they made the most of their LOCKN’ debut with a wonderful showcase of the breadth of their talent before John Butler Trio delivered a set promoting peace and love with tunes like “I’d Do Anything,” “Better Than,” “Used to Get High” and of course, Butler’s stunning composition “Ocean.”
Elsewhere on the grounds in the early evening, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh reprised their 2015 performance in the Super VIP area as they played a guest-filled acoustic set that opened with “Me & My Uncle” and “Looks Like Rain.” Then they brought out Joe Russo (who played with both members in Furthur) for “Deep Elem Blues,” “Easy to Slip” and “Loose Lucy” before Lesh’s son Grahame joined the fold on “Lazy River Road.” Russo then helped out on “West L.A. Fadeaway” before Grahame returned for “Bird Song” and they all brought the set to a close with Elliott Peck also appearing on “Mountains of the Moon.”
As night fell, rock legend John Fogerty returned to LOCKN’ for a slew of classics including “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” and “The Midnight Special.” Throughout his 90+ minute set, Fogerty and his band combined classic rock hits with arena rock quality jams and a multi-guitar attack on such familiar tunes as “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Down on the Corner,” “Proud Mary,” “Center Field” and “Fortunate Son.”
Fogerty gave way to his 2013 LOCKN’ collaborators Widespread Panic, who delivered a tight, two-hour set to close out the main stage as they mixed in songs like “Fishwater” and a politically-charged “For What It’s Worth” along with fan favorites like “Ride Me High” and a cover of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” While Fogerty and Panic didn’t reprise their collaboration, the band did bring the main stage to a rousing finish.
Photo by John Patrick Gatta
Then over at the Relix Stage, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead returned for their second late night set. The quintet opened with “Althea” and then Bob Weir returned the favor from earlier in the day, emerging for “Black-Throated Wind,” “Good Lovin‘” and “Jack Straw” before JRAD moved into a sequence that segued from “The Wheel” into “Bertha” and “Throwing Stones.”
All told, Saturday at LOCKN’ showcased the very best of what the festival has to offer, not just in a musical sense but also through the energy of the crowd. Ultimately, positivity will push us through and days like this make that outlook seem all the more likely and imminent.