Lock’n Music Festival is a music and camping festival in Arrington, Virginia. The four-day festival is popular with college students and many UNC students make the drive to Virginia to attend it. Staff writer Dixon Ferrell attended the 2014 festival and blogged about his experiences.
Waking up greased in a thin layer of sweat, baking in my tent-turned-oven, I can already feel myself fatigued from the previous two days of dancing and partying at Lockn’. I sigh and roll over like I would on a Monday morning, but quickly realize this is no time to snooze. Instead of skipping class, I would be missing musical lecture from some of the most talented musicians in the world. I hop out of my tent and rally our crew to scarf down a quick breakfast and get to the stage.
The four-day festival is unique in both its lineup and structure. In an age when festivals strive for an eclectic collection of talent, Lockn’ does the opposite. The festival focuses on jam bands, southern rock and bluegrass — genres that typically attract a similar fan-base. This works well for the complimentary acts and structure, both of which feed off each other. The festival, whose apt name was briefly “Interlocken,” is set up with two stages side-by-side. While one act plays, the next stage is set up, so when the band is finished, the next can immediately begin. The music “interlocks.”
“There’s a little bit of jam stuff, a little bit of classic rock, a little bit of funk, a little bit of bluegrass. It was all artists that really care about their live shows,” said UNC senior Jeff Powell, who was in attendance.
Although we miss the early morning act, Grateful Grass, we make it just in time to hear the first plucks of Larry Keel & Sam Bush, a bluegrass duo. The happy, easy-going tunes create a relaxing ambiance and are an ideal start to the day.
There is something in the air at Lockn’. I’m not talking about the tangibles like balloons, flags, bubbles or marijuana smoke, but the intangibles connecting fans to each other and to the artists alike. It is the ubiquitous feeling of freedom and happiness acting as a contagion, spreading from one person to the next. In the sea of tie-dye, Grateful Dead apparel and shirtless bodies, there is one common denominator — smiles.
“It’s a big ol’ party,” said UNC junior Stuart Castillo. “Everyone’s there to have a good time. It’s really laid back. Old guys on down to kids our age were just so nice.”
The next performance we see is the Chicago alternative band, Wilco. Its mellow, appropriately timed late-afternoon set included fan favorites “War on War” and “Jesus etc.” Halfway through the performance, after a cloudless rain, a vivid double-rainbow decorated the sky to fan admiration. Lead singer Jeff Tweedy acknowledged the rainbow by saying, “rainbows suck,” perhaps bringing bad karma toward the weather to come later.
The festival attracts a wide range of fans from people who have been seeing some of these bands since the 70s down to college students, who, perhaps, need a break from the grind of school.
“It’s a trip. It’s a chance to get away with your friends and just relax and forget about all the responsibilities you have during the week and enjoy yourself,” Powell said.
Next came one of the most exciting acts of the day, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which was led by the only female singer of the day, Susan Tedeschi. The set, which was half covers, featured Derek Trucks Band, Derek and the Dominoes, Traffic, Hambone Willie Newbern, Little Milton and Willie Johnson songs. In an emotional moment, Tedeschi dedicated a song to Brian Farmer, a guitar tech who worked closely with the band, who died two weeks ago.
During the Phil Lesh & Friends set, my friends and I decide to walk around to check out the numerous vendors of clothing, trinkets, art and local food and beer.
“There’s a little bit for everyone — music, food, arts, the community experience,” Powell said.
The Phil Lesh set was cut short after “She Said She Said,” a Beatles cover, due to an approaching storm. Thousands of fans in various states of mind were forced to evacuate the main venue, return to their campsites and seek shelter.
Already acquainted with our friendly neighbors from the University of Maryland, we did what any college student would do — we had a storm party. In true college fashion, we played flip-cup and invented other games to pass the time. It may or may not have actually rained — I don’t know — but an hour later we were back in the venue.
Lockn’ puts an emphasis on unique collaboration between musicians at the festival. Among the many sit-ins Thursday night, the String Cheese Incident preformed Kool & the Gang songs with Preservation Hall Jazz Band under the moniker String Cheese & the Gang. Friday, fiddle player Sam Bush sat in with the String Cheese Incident. Saturday, Steve Winwood played keyboard and guitar with Widespread Panic. Saxophonist Randall Bramblett also joined for a few songs. Along with other Winwood and Traffic songs, the group played “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” to heavy applause from the audience.
“That was one of the most high-energy crowds I’ve ever been a part of. Everybody really got after it during that little break and came back in for a really electric environment.” Castillo said.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers closed the night to a crowd rowdy and full of energy after a day of great music. The set included classics as well as new songs, and ended the night at the main stage with a bang. The late night after-show at a stage removed from the main venue featured Bustle in Your Hedgerow performing an entire set of instrumental jammed-out Led Zeppelin covers.
Lockn’ has something for everybody. It’s a place to see world-class musicians, non-stop, for four days. It’s a place to rage and relax at the same time. It’s a place to get away from the real world and meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. It’s a place that brings people together under one common goal: to have fun.
“I had a friend who, on paper if you will, did not fit in with the Lockn’ environment. He didn’t know a lot of the bands,” Castillo said.
“The one thing he kept reiterating — and still is reiterating — is how much of an all-around good time he had. He never stopped having a good time.”
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