Arriving at any festival site and driving right into your parking spot at 8 AM on the first is always a good sign that the weekend is going to be great. On day one of Lockn’ 2016 the weather was brutally hot and the music matched it in intensity. Only a handful of bands played, so most of the day was setting up the campsite, making friends with neighbors, and seeing old friends who you may not see as often as you would like. Another thing noticed on the first day was that it was easy to get right up to the front of the stage to watch the bands with little to on hassle. With enough space to move around the breeze that would come through every so often, really felt good.
Vulfpeck had the honor of opening up the fourth Lockn’ with a set that was drenched in funk. Watching the four members of the band have the time of their lives on stage can only make you smile just as hard as they are. Running through much of their critically acclaimed album Thrill of the Arts, the Michigan foursome had the crowd dancing throughout the large field where the main stage is. Antwaun Stanley joined the band for about half of their set adding beautiful vocals to the funky tunes. A fairly long acapella part of their hit “Back Pocket” was an amazing highlight showcasing how in tune with one another this band is right now.
A new change this year was the one stage that had a built in rotation to it so that when one band ends, another can begin as the stage rotates instead of the alternate stages they have had in years past. If there were any questions about how this would work out, they were answered when the moment Vulfpeck ended, Umprhey’s McGee started as the stage turned. Once the turn was done, a complete light show and full on Umphrey’s was taking place much to the crowd’s delight. The roar that was heard probably put the biggest smile on the organizers of Lockn’s faces as they knew it worked to perfection.
Umphrey’s set had a lot of jamming and was high energy. A special bonus during their set was Gene Ween coming out for a reunion of Godboner. The group played Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” to perfection and looked like they had a lot of fun doing it together. The great thing about Lockn’ is the collaborations that could take place daily between the bands and how it is encouraged by everyone. Ween set up shop next for an over two hour performance that looked like it was never going to end. With smoke filling the stage, the five members tore into “Transdermal Celebration” and for the following 25 songs just continued to have fun up there. The band has come back with a vengeance this year and has been making it a point to remind everyone just how good they are. The amount of genres that Ween covers is almost unimaginable. They go through the genres like candy and seem to always be able to pull out a new one at a moment’s notice. As the set continued on it got weird, especially with their wild 12 minute version of “Poopship Destroyer.”
Once the band finally left the stage, the remaining crowd went to the late night shows a fair walk away on the rest of the grounds. While some went to EOTO at The Wood Stage, many found their way to Joe Russo’s Almost Dead at the Blue Ridge stage that stretched for two and a half hours and saw them honor The Grateful Dead’s music with the highest of honors, as they always do. Starting off with a 10 minute jam that found its way into “Truckin” was great. Teasing everything from Led Zeppelin to Herbie Hancock to The Band throughout the set is what makes JRAD, as they are known to their fans, so special. The five members, Joe Russo, Marco Benevento, Dave Dreiwitz, Scott Metzger, and Tom Hamilton, have been playing together off and on for such a long time that they don’t even have to look at one another while they play. As they move through sections of the songs and jams, they just smile when one of the five do something unexpected and beautiful. They are five of the best musicians out there on their instruments and it’s always a pleasure to hear them play together. There are three days left and everything is looking positive for Lockn!
Article: Bryan Lasky