If you are looking for another Coachella or South By South West then you have come to the wrong festival. Lockn' is fun, exciting, and a breath of fresh air to so many overly commercialized music festivals that exist these days, but, most importantly Lockn' keeps music at it's core. Music, even though it's the first word in the subtitle for these type of events, seems to be slipping away from many music festival's attention. Lockn' hasn't faltered on that end. Since 2013 when Lockn' (At the time called Interlocken Music Festival) started, the festival put the musical content of the event first.
Lockn' started in 2013 with a swath of fantastic bands ranging from jam-bands such as The String Cheese Incident and Tedeshi Trucks Band to legacy rockers such as Further and Phil Lesh. The lineup was strong for a virgin festival, and it paid off for them. 25,000 people showed up, and had a rocking time. The festival has remained a powerful name for American Jam/Rock festivals. This year the festival saw record numbers of 30,000+ attendees. Year-to-year Lockn's lineups remain similar hosting several repeat acts like Phil Lesh and the String Cheese Incident, but Lockn' doesn't let that aspect go stale. The organizers promote the acts to play together, creating super-groups and hybrid-bands. The combined groups make the festival that much more appealing for the attendees who travel hundreds of miles for this festival. Several times we were approached asking if we had heard any rumors of who may or may not be coming out on stage with so-and-so. It was kind of silly, but that is such a good thing for lockn' to be able to hold over the heads of their attendees. Lockn' can use surprise as such a powerful, non-malicious tool with their festival. That is what keeps the crowds coming. They want to see X playing with Y because one or both of those acts could be their absolute favorite. Other festivals try to change up the content of their lineups so much, but Lockn' goes for a different approach. Work with who they are comfortable with and put creative spins on how it can be produced and showcased.
Lockn' 2016 in Arrington, Virginia
Festi.World rolled into the farm the afternoon of the first day. Thursday, August 25th. The roads were organized, staff was everywhere helping direct people and answering questions, and the familiar scent of greasy food filled the air. One of the first thing we noticed was the heat and humidity. It was hot, but the throughout the weekend the beauty of the people, sights, and sunset quickly made up for that fact. We were in awe of how beautiful Oak Ridge Farm was. The alluring sunset on Thursday set the tone for the entire weekend.
We setup our area and got a move on to see everything we could. Coming down Lockn' Lane, the main road throughout the camp grounds, we passed several bicycle riders. Not an unfamiliar sight at Lockn'. Hundreds of people brought their 2-wheelers to make the trek from their camp sight to the main festival grounds. It's great that the festival and the farm allows people to use their bikes to get from one place to another. Biking is much lower impact than walking, and if you have a long trip back to your camp sight after a long and hot day of festival-ing, biking is a great solution. Sadly, we did not come equipped with our bikes. After walking the whole weekend, it'll be a no-brainer to bring ours as well.
Biking was not the only way to get from one place to another. A golf cart taxi service was also roaming the dirt roads giving people rides for $5 a seat. Believe us, that price tag became a lot more appealing throughout the weekend. Surprisingly we never succumbed to the easy way out and walked the whole time.
The festival had three stages. The Blue Ridge Bowl, The Woods Stage, and the Main Stage. The Blue Ridge Bowl hosted acts such as Joe Russo's Almost Dead, Donna The Buffolo, and Lettuce. The Blue Ridge Bowl was placed almost within the camp grounds, along Lockn' Lane. It was great for a wake-up set or if you are looking for a low-impact show that still pumps out the jams. We found ourselves here a few times, there was no way we'd miss Lettuce, and every time we were there the crowd was smaller, and less rambunctious than what you'd find at the main stage. The distance from the main grounds and the overall separation of stages was a little hard to manage sometimes. The shows would overlap with Main Stage shows and it wasn't a fast walk to get over there. Hopefully next year we can spend a little bit more time with this stage and a little less running between the two. Although, the nature of the beast wuth any music festival is that you will not be able to see everything.
At the edge of the car camping area was a large line of trees that leads into a forrest. There, the appropriately named Woods Stage lived. Luckily enough for us our camping spot was only a few yards to the entrance. At night the trees would light up blue, yellow, red, and green, welcoming festival goers to enter the area for some late-night fun. We entered and took note of a few things. There was no security checking bags, there was no wristband scanners to fumble through, and there was no shops or food vendors under the peaceful canopy of the woods. It was another breath of fresh air being able to enter a show without all of the bureaucracy and commercialization that comes with entering festival grounds. There were no lines, there was only music and it's fans. The woods allowed for people to spread out, have enough room for dancing, sitting, or relaxing in your hammock between two trees. We hope that the Woods Stage is permanent, and we hope that other festivals take notice of this style of stage.
This leaves the Main Stage for us to discuss. Now, if you know Lockn' then you know that part of their draw is having sets tie together and run into each other, creating a opening/closing set jams that are always awesomely fun. Previous years of Lockn' saw two main stages where as one band was finishing up their set, another band on the neighboring stage would come out jamming along into starting their set. It was an awesome idea to have at a jam festival because fans of those bands get to not only hear the musicians they came to Lockn' to hear, but also jam along with the other musicians on the lineup. The idea of locking sets together was efficiently scaled back this year, without loosing any of the fun and brilliance of the idea. This year there was only one main stage, but with a twist. The stage literally twisted on a turntable. While a band was playing their outro jam, the stage would begin to twist, leading in the next band on the schedule, playing along to the previous acts music. We were in complete awe as we watched Vulfpeck's Saturday afternoon set play into White Denim's set.
The sets on the Main Stage were astonishing. Absolutely everything that you could want or need from a festival's main stage and headlining acts. The lights, the artists, and the atmosphere was just out of this world. One of the few downsides of the Main Stage area, and the main festival grounds was the serious lack of shade. The weekend temperatures were getting up the high nineties. The only few sources of shade were under the two, large food vendor pavilions and a beer pavilion that were often very crowded. By point it's not much better then being out in the sun. But, when the evening rolled around and the sun was set, the weather was no longer a problem.
The Lineup and Their Music
The category of festival Lockn' belongs to makes it simpler to impress their crowds with the artists that are apart of the the lineup. Lockn' plays off their fans and noticed that they don't need a gigantic lineup. Instead the festival invites back performing friends such as Phil Lesh, Tedeshi Trucks Band, and Umphrey's McGee. This was the first year of the festival that didn't include the String Cheese Incident, a jam band that has always been on the lineup. Huge names rocked it out on the the stages of Lockn'. Ween, Twiddle, Vulfpeck, and Phish all played two sets for the festival. Festival first timers included Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaries, White Denim, Gary Clark Jr., and a just a few more. Everyone that we saw played a fun, and energetic set.
Vulfpeck showed up this year in full form. We were already excited to see them play, and during both of their sets they absolutely brought it. It probably goes without saying that Phish, Phil Lesh & Friends, Umphrey's McGee, and the other tenured acts played some of the best and crowd pleasing sets of the weekend. Ween was apart of this years lineup. Their goofily-lovable rock sets were out of this world, and everyone was moving their feet with Gene and Dean. On the first night of the festival EOTO played the day-closing set on The Woods Stage. We were mesmerized by their music and ability to play off the atmosphere of the forrest we were listening to them in. Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaries was a highlight of the festival for us. They brought the entire crowd to church, and we were all praising the mighty, raspy, bass-tones of Charles and his band.
Lockn' blew us away! We had a blast at every show we attended, and every new corner we explored. Not only was it amazing to watch two bands having sets that intertwine with one another, but was made so much greater sharing that experience with a crowd that is expecting a surprise and getting exactly what they wanted from the next band that came around on that stage turntable. We are very excited to see what Lockn' has in store for next year. So keep your heads up and ears ready for announcements. We're sure they'll be right around the corner.
For more information on Lockn' please head over to the official website here!