Friday, September 12, 2014

Lockn' Festival Review, Weekend Picks: Whirr, Matisyahu, Molly Hatchet, Bill Kirchen, Jim Lauderdale, 43rd St. Festival of the Arts, Luekemia Lymphoma Benefit

Lockn', Lockn', Lockn'! Another successful Lockn'. The music was as good, if not better, than last year and the organizers improved the logistics and infrastructure greatly, leaving much promise that things will improve even more next year.

Rolled in early Thursday AM and was set up by 10:30 AM. Not a bad view out of my back window. We were in almost the exact same place as last year.

Time for beer and breakfast. That's Perl manning the griddle.

Thursday was largely spent drinking beer, taking a nap, and drinking more beer while we waited for the music to start at 4 PM. It began in an RVA way with a great set by No BS! Brass Band. The crowd was a bit sparse due to the heat and people still getting in, but No BS! had everyone grooving in no time. They really won the crowd over with their version of Led Zep's "The Ocean".

I would have stayed down there if it wasn't so damn hot. I wanted to save my energy knowing things had just begun so I headed back to camp to chill out in the air conditioned cool of the RV until sundown. On the way, I ran into a replica of Ken Kesey's Furthur bus. I found out later that it's tradition for people with vials of liquid acid to rub some on the outside of the bus. That way those who want a quick hit can lick the bus and go to never-ever land. No, I didn't lick the bus.

String Cheese Incident & Umphrey's McGee were each doing two alternating sets that night. The first set from each was good, but the second sets from each were excellent. From Umphrey's second set here's Puppet String > Higgins > Puppet String. Most of the videos from Lockn' will be audience shot but this is official video:

Umphrey's followed that with an absolutely fantastic version of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". They built the tension magnificently in the opening.

Then it was time for String Cheese & the Gang, String Cheese Incident's tribute to Kool & the Gang with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and JT Taylor, who was the lead singer of Kool & the Gang from 1979 to 1988. The set opened with two songs sans JT which were hits before he joined K&TG; "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swingin'". I was primed for "Jungle Boogie" and they didn't let me down. Perl, more of a bluegrass guy, was not as enthusiastic (OK, he hated it) as I was, but his wife, Jill, and I were getting down like it was 1984. Perl was a good husband and stuck it out for Jill's sake. Jill and I kept working the "Jungle Boogie" lyrics (Me: "Jungle Boogie! Jungle Boogie!", Jill: (in deep voice) "Get it on!") into sets throughout the rest of the weekend, just to bug poor Perl. He's a good sport. JT and his female backup singers then joined them for hits like "Fresh", "Ladies Night", "Joanna", and "Get Down On It" and I felt like I was back at the high school dance. We did escape before "Celebration". Perl had had enough and I don't need to hear "Celebration" ever again after dj'ing at weddings for 7 years. And besides we had to get back up the hill to the Forest Triangle stage to see Taj Mahal acoustic. Here's a taste of "Hollywood Swingin":

Up to the Forest Triangle stage, to see Taj Mahal's acoustic set. I made it through most of the set, before the long day of beer and heat caught up to me and I had to head back to camp to pass out. Here's some Taj:

I really wanted to see People's Blues of Richmond's short opening set Friday morning at 12:30. However, my overindulgence the night before and the heat caused me to opt for a nap. But thanks to the stages facing towards the campgrounds this year, I was able to hear the set and a great "Cocaine Powder". Here's their video for that one:

We did make it down by 2:45 in time to see a smokin' bluegrass set from Del McCoury Band, They were joined by Preservation Hall Jazz Band for a few songs (they did an album together in 2011) at the end of their set and they took advantage of the interlocked, or should I say interlockn', stages. Both bands continued playing and walked from one stage to the other without missing a beat and finished the song on the stage where PHJB would perform. It was very cool and a lot of fun. Del McCoury Band would come out again during PHJB's set and join them.Here's a taste of Del McCoury Band:

After PHJB, one of my favorite bands, the Drive-By Truckers came on. Though plagued by some sound/mix issues early in the set, I thought they did a really good set. It was weird to see them in the daylight, under the hot sun and I do prefer them at night when we are all (me and the band) a little tipsy. But they did some of my favorites, including openers "Lookout Mountain" and "Gravity's Gone". They also did powerful versions of "Bulldozers and Dirt" (the best song you'll ever hear about a drunk trying to pickup his stepdaughter), "Puttin' People on the Moon", "Sink Hole", "Zip City" and the song that closes their latest album and closed the set, "Grand Canyon". Wasn't any footage from Lockn' but here's DBT doing "Grand Canyon", a song written for long time member of DBT's touring family, Craig Lieske, who died suddenly of a heart attack in 2013. Also, some pictures I took of the band on stage at Lockn'.

After DBT, String Cheese did their third set of the weekend, then it was onto Bill Kreutzmann's (former drummer for the Grateful Dead) Locknstep Allstars, which included Oteil Burbridge (bassist for the Allman Brothers), Aron Magner (keyboards for Disco Biscuits), Steve Kimock, Tom Hamilton (guitarist for American Babies, who really shone), Col. Bruce Hampton and EOTO. Things started well but unspectacularly with Let the Good Times Roll (Sam Cooke cover), Big Railroad Blues, and They Love Each Other (with Keller Williams). Things started to get a little deeper with a nice version of Bird Song with Keller. Taj Mahal then joined the band for Further On Down the Road and Stagger Lee (the traditional version, not the closely related Grateful Dead version). Then, things really took off with the highlight of the set Help On The Way > Dark Star > Wharf Rat > Slipknot > Franklin's Tower. Dark Star featured a drum duet with Bill and Michael Travis of String Cheese playing on the two seperate stages. Wharf Rat was sung by Papa Mali. At first, his voice struck me as odd and I wasn't sure it would come off well. But he sang the song with such soul and passion, I was completely won over. The Slipknot featured lots of exploration before bringing it all back home with the best Franklin's Tower of the night (more on that later). Couldn't find video of the band from Lockn' but here's Bill Kreutzmann's 7 Walkers with Papa Mali doing Bertha > Wharf Rat a few years ago:

String Cheese Incident then came on for their fourth, final and best set of the weekend. I always enjoyed seeing SCI but they never really stuck with me. During this set, I finally "got it". It was just a fun, funky set all the way through and they played with a lot of passion. Bassist's Keith Moseley's "Joyful Sound" was the highlight of the set for me and had the whole crowd singing the "Na, Na, Na's". Here they are doing that one in 2009:

Phil Lesh and Friends (Warren Haynes, John Scofield, John Medeski, Joe Russo) were next to close out the night. Highlights included an epic, jammed out "Unbroken Chain", "Mountains of the Moon" (mellow, but appropriate with the almost full moon rising opposite the stage), "The Other One" and "Sunshine of Your Love". I'm still not a fan of Phil's singing, especially when Warren could sing some of the Jerry songs so much better. I also had to wonder whether Phil just didn't pay attention to the other bands playing Lockn' or didn't care. He played two Traffic tunes, "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy", both of which Steve Winwood and Widespread Panic would play the next night. They were both played very well, but was it a tribute or an f-you? Then. he played "Franklin's Tower",which Bill Kreutzmann had done, and done better, two sets before. Very curious. Here's the "Unbroken Chain":

Headed over the to Shakedown Stage at 1 AM for the groovy set from Chris Robinson Brotherhood. They have perfected the mid-tempo groove, or, as Wyatt put it, the "walking beat". The Shakedown Stage was a bowl amphitheater that held what we estimated was about 3000 people. It will be perfect for future one-off concerts out there, if that is a direction the owners decide to go in. Highlights included the opener "Shake, Rattle & Roll", Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall" and "Rosalee". Here's the band doing "Meanwhile In The Gods" (sorry about the heavy bass on this, but this is the only video):

The next day was another hot one, but this was the day to get down there bright and early (OK, noon was bright and early at Lockn'.) We all wanted to head to the main stage to see Sam Bush with Larry and Jenny Keel and we weren't disappointed. The great thing about the early shows is you can walk right up to the front of the stage. Sam Bush's incredible fiddle and mandolin playing worked great with Jenny's at times funky bass and Larry's expert guitar picking and off the wall songs especially "Culpeper Woodchuck". Here the are doing Larry's "I'm No Doctor":

Freeman, Aaron Freeman from Ween's new band, was next. The first tune was a bit harsh, turning off the flower power crowd, with some f**ks and hates in the lyrics of the song. But he seemed to win over the crowd as he went along with some more melodic songs and his humor. I was disappointed he didn't do Ween's "Mutilated Lips" which would have gone over well with the early trippers:

After a brief 15 minute delay when they thought there would be some nasty weather (nothing developed), Gary Clark Jr. took the stage and after a few songs to warm up, melted some faces with his Hendrixian blues. Here's Gary doing "Bright Lights" at the Crossroads Festival in 2010 and some pics I took:

Tedeschi Trucks Band (who are coming to Richmond's Carpenter Theater on December 11) brought the blues/soul next and put on their usual great show. Highlights were the Derek and the Dominoes cover "Keep On Growing" and the closer "The Storm". Here they are doing "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning":

Wilco was up next and delivered one of the sets of the festival, not just for the music, but for the sun shower that briefly cooled things off and the double rainbow that developed because of it. Jeff Tweedy was playfully upset at the rainbow upstaging the band and joked "Rainbows suck", which was one of the best lines of the festival. I wondered how they would go over with the jam band crowd but their blend of off-kilter alternative country and sometimes psychedelic rock really went over well. Here's some shots of Wilco I took, one a pro took with the double rainbow and then video of the band doing "Dawned on Me":

Phil Lesh & Friends then came on for their second and final set of the weekend. "Mississippi Half-Step" and "Eyes of the World" were the highlights, with the band particularly nailing the "Across the Rio Grande-o" part of Mississippi Half-Step. Then the storm came.

Phil & Friends were interrupted when they were doing the Beatles' "She Said She Said" by the announcement that a major storm was on the way and the concert field had to be evacuated. The crowd filed out in an orderly, calm manner and everyone headed back to their campsite. While we did get some moderate rain, the winds and lightning thankfully bypassed the festival site and soon the announcment was made that the show would start again in 25 minutes with full sets from the final two bands. The break actually worked well serving as a kind of happy hour, with everyone going back to their campsites, reconnecting with friends, having a couple beers and whatever else and getting ready for the rest of Saturday night. And what a night it was.

I got back to the stage just as Steve Winwood was joining Widespread Panic for a great set with Randall Bramblett joining on sax. They started with "Glad", then did "Low Spark", "I'm a Man", "Can't Find My Way Home" (the last two were the highlights), "Surprise Valley" (Panic song), "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and "Gimme Some Lovin'". Winwood's voice is still crystal clear. This is "Can't Find My Way Home":

Then, the much anticipated set from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Hit after hit after hit. Opening with the Byrds cover "So You Want Be A Rock & Roll Star", the set never let up. As an added bonus, the three new songs he played from his latest album, "Hypnotic Eye", stood up right next to the classics: "American Dream Plan B", "U Get Me High", and especially "Shadow People". Besides those tunes, highlights were "Free Fallin'", "Woman In Love", "Refugee", "Runnin' Down a Dream" and the set closer, "American Girl". These guys are still playing at a top level and had the crowd eating out of their hands the whole night.

Sunday came in much cooler than the past three days and we hit the concert area at 2 to see the beautiful and powerful Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Highlights from Grace included "Nothing But the Water", a cover of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", "The Lion The Beast The Beat", "Paris (Ooh La La)" and "I Shall Be Released" into "A Little Help From My Friends", the last two of which were dedicated to recently deceased guitar tech for Warren Haynes, Brian Farmer, who was also paid tribute to in the Tedeschi Trucks Band set and in the Allman Brothers set.

Shot toward the stages:

Looking back toward the vendor tents:

After Grace, was Willie Nelson. Willie did a good Willie set. He's an icon, but he's a little tired now, I hate to say. The set was fun, but not very meaningful. A fine midday set to kick back in your chair, enjoy a beer and smoke the things that Willie smokes.

Wilco did their second set then and I think it was even better then their second set. Perhaps the pressure was off and there was no rainbow to compete this time.

Widespread Panic did the penultimate set of the weekend as Perl and I took up positions on the opposite stage to prepare for the Allman Brothers set. But our position there did give us a good vantage point for Widespread's set, which included a lot of highlights including "Pilgrims", "Pickin' Up the Pieces" (with Randall Bramblett on sax), "Pigeons", "Love Tractor" (Randall Bramblett on harmonica) and a cover of Bill Withers' "Use Me Up" with Susan Tedeschi.

Perl & I got ourselves a nice spot relatively close to the stage for the final set of the weekend, the last festival performance for ABB, the last performance south of the Mason-Dixon Line for ABB, and one of the last performances period for the Allman Brothers Band. They certainly delivered the goods. Despite some reservations about how well Gregg Allman would be, he was in fine health and voice and the band sounded great. They ran through the songs from the classic "Fillmore East" album in order (my highlight was "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed") and then gave us a"Midnight Rider", an exquisite "Mountain Jam" which sandwiched "Blue Sky" and "Little Martha". A fittting end to the festival and a fitting end to a band I've been seeing since 1986 (show in Fairmount Park, Philly) and a lot of people in the Lockn' audience have been seeing a lot longer than that.

My Lockn' Festival ended up on the hill at our campsite. I had one last beer while I stared at the full moon, the Harvest Moon, while a camper nearby played Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" on his stereo. Just far enough away to feel like it was floating through the air, a lullaby to put me and the festival to bed for another year. Can't wait until Lockn' 2015.

Well, that took me a few hours to write so I'm going to run down the weekend highlights quickly. No links. You people can use Google.

Classic Southern Rock band, Molly Hatchet, is at The Beacon Theater in Hopewell on Friday night staring at 6 PM.

The Wine & Beer Classic is at Maymont on Friday starting at 7 PM.

Great boogie-woogie Americana guitarist Bill Kirchen is at Ashland Coffee & Tea Friday at 8 PM.

The 43rd Street Festival of the Arts goes down at Forest Hill Ave & 43rd St on Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM.

The Chesterfield Craft Beer Festival takes place as Westchester Commons in Midlothian Saturday from noon to 6 PM.

Center of the Universe Brewery celebrates Oktoberfest at the brewery in Ashland on Saturday from 3 PM to 9 PM.

Alternative/indie/dreamy/pop band Whirr will be at Strange Matter Saturday with Cloakroom, The Snowy Owls and Keep. Doors open at 6, it's $10 in advance, $12 day of show. Here's Whirr live in August of last year:

Americana great Jim Lauderdale will be at Ashland Coffee & Tea on Saturday starting at 8 PM.

Sunday, the Central Virginia Food Truck Rodeo is at Chesterfield Towne (do we need the extra e?) Center from noon to 7.

The Shockoe on the Half Shell oyster festival is on at the 17th Street Farmers Market from noon to 5.

Tuesday, Hasidic rapper Matisyahu is at The National starting at 8 PM.

On Wednesday at The Broadberry, there is A Benefit For The Luekemia And Lymphoma Society With Dj Williams Projekt And Fear Of Music: A Talking Heads Tribute with The Lovecats, Lucky Stiffs, Red Light Rodeo, Dj Agent, The Vendors. That starts at 5 PM and tickets are just $10 and for a good cause. Here's DJ Williams Projekt in May at the Broadberry:

Have a great weekend!

Tony Jordan