I was among the lucky music fans at the first Lockn’ Festival last year. When we heard the first announcement of the lineup for this new music festival in Arrington, Va, (near home) in spring 2013, my wife and I bought tickets. As the lineup filled out, we felt we’d hit the lottery! Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Furthur, John Fogerty, Jorma Kaukonen, Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident, Gov’t Mule, Trey Anastasio, Tedeschi Trucks, The Black Crowes, Zac Brown, and on and on – Amazing!
We went into Lockn’ 1 expecting to have a great time and we did! Yes, they had a few problems, as can be expected with any first time event. Early on, the name changed a couple of times, morphing from the “Interlocken Music Festival” to “Lockn’” without explanation less than a month before the event. This led to a good bit of confusion for some fans, but in the end didn’t have much effect on the festival, although it must have played havoc with the festival merchandise. Then, just before the event, headliner Neil Young cancelled because of an injury to Poncho Sampedro, Crazy Horse’s guitarist (although Peggy, Neil’s wife, and her band, the Survivors, appeared, as scheduled, and were great.)
There was also a first day parking/security fiasco, which was a perfect storm of a hot day, long lines to enter the property and chaos when many volunteers walked away and left the traffic and parking in a state of anarchy. I don’t know for certain what happened that first day, and the festival wasn’t particularly informative about it, but here’s what I saw from my limited perspective:
With music scheduled to start at noon on Day One, we left home in time to arrive at the festival site at around 9am. When we arrived, the line to enter the festival site was about 5 miles long, and it quickly got much longer. It took us about 2 hours to enter the parking/security area, where we found only one forlorn fellow trying to direct traffic. He directed us to some long lines of cars and we complied, but my wife quickly figured out he had directed us to the camping security lines (we only wanted day parking). We were able to get the couple of cars behind us to let us out of the line and we quickly drove to the far opposite end of the field and parked near the exit road. Several other cars followed us (one left us a note thanking us for saving the day!). We walked through the bizarre scene to the day gate and waited another hour or so before things got organized enough to open the site. We saw lots of disorganization, some overheated cars, and lots of overheated customers stranded in the hot sun and blocked by other cars from any escape. Despite the frustration, everyone was peaceful, if not calm.
We heard later that many campers did not get into the site until very late afternoon and lots of people were upset. There was lots of chatter on the internet about this if you are interested, but in the end the festival was SO GOOD that I doubt many fans had their overall experience ruined by the first day problems. From what I saw, the festival organizers reacted quickly and decisively (and at significant expense) to the problems, bringing in professional security people to replace the missing volunteers and correcting the problems efficiently. I don’t think anyone should let the “bad press” relating to these first day problems deter them from going to this year’s festival. I will be very surprised if last year’s problems aren’t sorted out this time.
As for the festival itself, the lasting memory is that it was one of the best I have ever attended. The music was amazing, with all those great bands doing full sets, back to back on adjoining stages. There were innovative combinations, like John Fogerty doing a set with Widespread Panic, and Zac Brown joining String Cheese for a “Zac Brown Incident” set, and there were dream jams, with Trey, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi sitting in with Furthur, Grace Potter joining Warren Haynes fronting Gov’t Mule, Derek playing duets and trading solos with Jimmy Herring during a Panic set, and much more. The staging and the sound system were first rate and the crowd was great – a peaceful and energetic combination of young, old and in between, all floating on the amazing sounds, the beautiful weather and the gorgeous scenery (no comment as to what else they might have been floating on). You can’t ask for much more than that. All in all, Lockn’ 1 was a big success from my perspective and what I saw last year has me really excited about Lockn’ 2.
Although I would have bet that they could not top last year’s lineup, the lineup for Lockn’ 2 is arguably better than last year. There is the disappointing news that Bob Weir has had to cancel shows for an extended period. I know that’s a disappointment for Bob and his fans, and we all wish him all the best and a quick return, but the other mainstays from last year will be there – String Cheese, Widespread Panic, Tedeschi Trucks, Phil Lesh (this time with Friends), Jorma Kaukonen (this time with Hot Tuna Acoustic), Grace Potter (this time with the Nocturnals), and Chris Robinson (this time with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood). New this year are The Allman Brothers Band (in what appears to be one of its final touring performances), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Drive-by Truckers, Umphrey’s McGee, Wilco, Gary Clark, Jr., Lettuce, Soja and many others. Also new this year is a move to diversify into roots/bluegrass with the addition of the Del McCoury Band, Larry Keel and Sam Bush (this might be one of the highlights because both of these guys are amazing musicians) and Grateful Grass featuring KellerWilliams. Personally, I would love to see Larry and Sam sit in with String Cheese, but the schedule might not allow that. What a stellar lineup!
“…New this year are The Allman Brothers Band (in what appears to be one of its final touring performances).”
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Lockn’ takes place on the Oak Ridge Estate, south of Charlottesville Va. Oak Ridge is a 4,800 acre estate lying just to the east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The story of the building of Oak Ridge and how the estate has managed to hold together for over 200 years is an interesting story that can be found at www.oakridgeestate.com The land is rolling, open and wooded, allowing great camping spots and beautiful views. The stages are set at the South end of the infield of a huge horse racing track (yes, there is a full private horse racing track on the place). It is a large flat area that allows concessions and services around the perimeter and lots of room for fans. The reported 25,000 fans had plenty of elbow room last year. That said, the area close to the stages was packed and it required a good deal of strategic thinking to find a position where you could see both stages as the action moved from side to side. Whatever you think about “seeing” the music performed, the sound was great wherever I went on the field.
Lockn’ got some unwanted press recently when the Virginia ABC board held hearings relating to Lockn’s alcohol license. Apparently there were a number of undercover ABC agents in the crowd and they documented a number of violations at last year‘s festival. Apparently, Lockn’s alcohol license was revoked, but because it is under appeal, there won’t be any effect on this year’s festival and beer and wine will be available. With the alcohol license in the balance, expect stricter enforcement of rules relating to alcohol and drugs at this year’s event.
When we have time, my wife and I have a habit of taking less traveled roads to festival sites. We find the back roads and slower pace gets us in the mood for the festival. If you have a little extra time coming or going to Lockn’, try one of these routes (I’m going to describe them generally, so use your maps and nav programs. From the South and West, consider getting off Interstate 81North of Roanoke and get on the Blue Ridge Parkway or old Rt 11. Both roads are beautiful and lightly traveled and both intersect the West/East-running Interstate 64 between Staunton and Charlottesville. Rt 11 runs through numerous picturesque towns while the Parkway is completely rustic. Either road allows easy access to Rt 29 or Rt 151 to the festival site. From the North, consider leaving Interstate 81 at Harrisonburg and taking Rt 33 East to the Skyline Drive (toll), which you can take South to Interstate 64 between Staunton and Charlottesville. From the East, you can leave Interstate 64 West of Richmond and take Rt 250 through Charlottesville to Rt 29 or Rt 151. From the South and East, consider taking Rt 460 which runs East-West and intersects with Rt 29 at Lynchburg.
Virginia is a state where traffic safety is a high revenue business. The Virginia State Police and County Sheriff Departments are pretty aggressive when it comes to enforcement. It seems that music festivals in general are not universally popular with local residents as they are with festival goers and this can lead to even more focused enforcement of traffic and other laws at festival time. Be careful when you are not on festival property.
The festival site is within a short distance of some major attractions historic attractions, good food, wine and beer, and entertainment. For those who might have an extra day or two or who want to stop somewhere interesting on the way in or out, I have a few favorites.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is less than ½ hour North near Charlottesville. It is an amazing architectural effort that Jefferson designed and redesigned multiple times during his life. It is a major tourist attraction and worth a visit.www.monticello.org
Ash Lawn, 2 miles from Monticello, was the home of President James Madison. Ash Lawn is owned by William and Mary College and is open to visitors. www.ashlawnhighland.org
The Rotunda, Lawn and Ranges– University of Virginia. This is the original campus designed by Jefferson and has been faithfully protected and maintained by the University. It is an impressive, unique and individual statement in terms of architecture and educational philosophy and is worth seeing. www.virginia.edu/academical village
Jefferson’s getaway home, Poplar Forest, is about ½ hour South of the festival site. It is a beautifully restored octagonal house that Jefferson designed as a private retreat on the site of agricultural property he owned there. It is open to the public.www.poplarforest.org
For those travelling from the North or East, Montpelier, the home of James Madison, is a little over an hour away in Orange County. Montpelier recently was restored to its Madison period form and is an outstanding place to visit, set in the beautiful countryside of the Virginia Piedmont. www.montpelier.org
Staunton. Staunton is a small town in the Shenandoah Valley at the intersection of Interstates 81 and 64. Fans coming from the West and South, or taking Interstate 81 from the North will find themselves near Staunton and should consider stopping there for great food, shopping and one of the prettiest downtowns you will ever see. My personal favorites are restaurants Zynadoa and the Shack. The American Shakespeare Center, a professional theater company that performs in the only recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater, the Blackfriars Playhouse, performs several repertory cycles each year and performs Wednesday through Sunday each week. www.americanshakespearecenter.com
“The restaurant is gaining legendary status on Virginia’s rapidly expanding farm to food circuit.” – Virginia Living
Charlottesville. Great shopping, a central pedestrian mall with great shops and food, wonderful restaurants everywhere and a thriving live music and cultural scene make Charlottesville a great place to visit. In addition to major music venues like UVA’s 15,000 seat JPJ Center, the 2500 seat NTELOS Wireless Pavillion, the 1200 seat Paramount Theater, the 750 capacity Jefferson Theater and the 200+ capacity Southern Café and Music Hall, Charlottesville has an abundance of bars and restaurants featuring live music all the time. Check www.c-ville.com or www.thrillcall.com for live music listings.
Nelson 151 Wine and Beer Trail. Rt 151 runs more or less parallel to the West of Rt 29, which is the main road to the festival site. There are numerous vineyards, breweries and cideries along this route, which is accessed off Rt 29 South of the festival site and off Rt 250 West of Charlottesville. From Rt 64 take Exit 107 and head west to the Rt 151 intersection. My favorites along this route, in no particular order, are Cardinal Point Winery, Veritas Vineyard, Wild Wolf Brewing Company, Devils Backbone Brewery (home of the Festy roots music festival) and Bold Rock Cidery. Wild Wolf and Devils Backbone both have outstanding restaurants. www.nelson151.com
Be aware of the speed limits on Rt 151. Nelson County is very aggressive when it comes to speeding. The speed limits on many of the County’s roads, including Rt 151, make no sense at all, decreasing frequently and for no apparent reason (other than revenue). Don’t avoid the area because of that – the food and drink are outstanding – just be mindful of the speed limit signs, be careful and keep drive patiently. The scenery here is so great, you won’t mind slowing down!
Everyone who loves jam bands, improvisation, unexpected musical combinations, a great setting and an interesting crowd has to come to Lockn’. It is nearly too much fun to endure! You have only yourself to blame if you miss it. Four day tickets are still available and single day tickets are on sale, though I have no idea how you can decide which day to choose when you look at the schedule.
See you there!
By MusicFest Duo Al & Suzy, FestPop, Staff Writers
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