With another monumental weekend of music firmly in the books, it is time to take a look back at the thrilling adventures of Lockn’ Festival 2015.
After a furious rainstorm caused a delayed start, Lockn’ Festival finally opened its gates at 6 a.m. on Friday morning to an eager crowd that was ready to make up for lost time.
John Popper started off the weekend that afternoon with the national anthem, and in honor of 9/11 he welcomed a crew of first responders to the stage as an American flag was raised by a fire ladder, where it remained throughout the night. A few moments later The String Cheese Incident and The Doobie Brothers took the stage as The Doobie Incident, an act that was rescheduled from Thursday’s lineup. The sun was out, the sky was clear and these 11 artists played several Doobie classics intertwined with SCI’s “Sometimes A River” and “Texas,” acknowledging that Lockn’ 2015 was now underway. The String Cheese Incident came out once more for a lively happy hour set that covered crowd favorites “Come As You Are,” “Rosie,” “Little Hands,” and “Colorado Bluebird Sky,”
Darkness blanketed the sky as Phil Lesh and Friends captivated the crowd with a set-opening “Promised Land.” Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes managed lead vocals with an angelic presence and sound that made for a riveting series of Dead tunes, including “Shakedown Street,” “Brown-Eyed Women,” “Bertha,” and “Playing in the Band,” as well as an electrifying version of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”
Following Lesh and Friends was a 50th anniversary set celebrating the former band Jefferson Airplane. Original members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady were accompanied by Rachael Price of Lake Street Dive, Teresa Williams and Furthur’s Jeff Pehrson on lead vocals, plus other frequent Hot Tuna members and a special appearance from The Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann on drums for the final few songs. Between “White Rabbit,” “Somebody to Love” and “Volunteers,” there was no shortage of Jefferson Airplane favorites during this commemoration.
Perhaps the most unforgettable set of the night was still to come. Performances of the day on the Main Show stages ended with Mad Dogs & Englishmen Celebrate Joe Cocker, which lasted for over an hour and a half and featured many of music’s biggest heroes in soul, rock, gospel and blues. At times there were over 15 musicians on stage recreating classics with a sense of togetherness and timeless spirit that Lockn’ has a way of creating. The set culminated with some of the best vocalists in music on Joe Cocker’s favorite covers of The Beatles, The Band and Leon Russell hits, all fronted with the powerful voices of Susan Tedeschi, Warren Haynes, Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge, Claudia Lennear and Leon Russell himself.
There was little time to refuel at camp before Umphrey’s Mcgee came on at Blue Ridge Bowl for what would be nothing less than a late night rager, complete with a soaking downpour during an encore that wrapped up the set after 3 a.m.
Much different than the previous years’ stifling heat and sunshine, Lockn’ 2015 was more cloudy, more chilly and more muddy. On Saturday bails of hay were constantly being raked out across festival grounds to keep people from losing their shoes in the slippery mess.
Day two started off with Jerry Garcia Band at the Blue Ridge Bowl. Accompanied by Melvin Seals and John Kadlecik, JGB readied everyone for the day with sing-a-long Dead classics and Garcia favorites like “Sugaree” and “Midnight Moonlight.”
After a groovy day with memorable fun from Love Canon and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, the evening was underway when Tedeschi Trucks Band took the stage. Between Susan’s belting vocals and Derek’s entrancing guitar strokes, the power couple did not disappoint. Weir joined them onstage to close out the performance.
The much anticipated Robert Plant and Sensational Space Shifters gave the crowd a slew of Led Zeppelin tunes complete with “Dazed and Confused,” “Whole Lotta Love” and a “Rock and Roll” encore.
Jimmy Cliff joined Widespread Panic halfway through their set and boogied through good time hits like “The Harder They Come,” “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” “Many Rivers to Cross” and “I Can See Clearly Now,” to name a few.
The night grew to a climax as Kreutzmann’s Billy & the Kids took the stage with Weir. Drummers Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart both sported their party shirts, and the group of long time friends played together with the same magic we all know and love. Among the groovy numbers was “Dancing In The Streets,” “Let It Grow,” and a “Not Fade Away” to close the set. Next door on the Ridge Stage, Haynes, Carlos Santana and Lesh were ready to segue the “Not Fade Away” into “Scarlet Begonias,” followed by their own set of Dead renditions. This performance was full of prolonged jams that allowed Santana to explore between bridges, lending a taste of his true ability to rock n’ roll in “All Along The Watchtower.”
This Sunday at Lockn’ was about as bittersweet as, well, Sunday at Lockn’ 2014. Only one more full day of music and Lockn’ magic, and then the countdown begins to next year.
Keller Williams took us to church with his Grateful Gospel, playing soulful numbers of our favorite Dead tunes on the Blue Ridge Bowl stage. Quickly becoming a Lockn’ staple, Keller and his Gospel debuted last year’s Lockn’ Sunday morning, where the perfect match was first discovered.
Opening up the main stage was one of three Rockn’ to Lockn’ contest winners The Southern Belles, who came out in their prime, ready to give Lockn’ their all with some funky, southern rock jams. Lockn’ 2015 won’t be the last time this four-piece group appears under a big festival playbill, but it was a huge first for this aspiring young band. Mention The Southern Belles around Richmond, and you’ll hear all about their monthly Friday shows that max out capacity at The Camel.
Closing out the festival were the jam giants Gov’t Mule and Widespread Panic, with the final set going to the Led Zeppelin legend Robert Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters playing more Zeppelin favorites that included “Black Dog,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Going To California.”
After a fitting ending to a historic weekend of music, it will be exciting to see what founders Peter Shapiro and Dave Frey bring in 2016. Until next year, Oak Ridge! You are always worth the wait.
Featured photo courtesy of Bradford Watkins