Friday was a brand new day in the world of Lockn’ with all the hiccups of yesterday behind us.The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the beautiful oak tree in the middle of Oak Ridge Estate greeted us as we made our trek to the festival area. This second day of music started off with the local Charlottesville duo Founding Fathers, comprised of Andy Falco and Chris Pandolfi of the Infamous String Dusters. Following this bluegrass set, Pegi Young and The Survivors brought some country rock to that hot Virginia afternoon. With the cancellation of headliner Neil Young only a couple of weeks prior to the festival it was inevitable that Peggy’s performance at Lockn’ would fuel rumors of Neil Young actually showing up at the festival. Although she is married to the music legend, his wife of 31 years, her performance that afternoon was not overshadowed by the fanciful hopes of a special appearance that filled some festival goers that weekend.
Booty shaking, boogie funk. Need I say more? With temperatures rising in that wide open field, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Soul Rebels Brass Band turned up the heat a little more with the third set of day two at Lockn’. Both bands brought the party from New Orleans to Arrington, VA with covers like Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky and the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams.”
Where others may not be fond of story telling by musicians between songs, I do appreciate anecdotes that convey personal and deeper meaning to the musical performance. In his set following those funky bands from NOLA, Jimmy Cliff not only brought his talent but his intimate stories to the stage. Highlights of the set included “Vietnam” where he substituted Vietnam for Afghanistan, the Cat Stevens cover “ Wild World,” and Johnny Nash’s cover “I Can See Clearly Now.”
Immediately following Jimmy Cliff, The String Cheese Incident began their first of two performances that evening as the sun set over Lockn’. “Outside and Inside” was the first song of the set with Billy Nershi on lead vocals and Kyle Hollingsworth rhythmically pounding the keys. In provoking the celtic spirit, they segued into the instrumental “Valley of the Jig” which set the tone nicely for their the rest of their bluegrass and electronic infused performance. “Joyful Sound” incorporated these electronic undertones as experimental improvisations broke from the cease of Keith Moseley’s vocals. Following this frenzied dance party and impassioned jams, Kyle served us a lighthearted and funky “Let’s Go Outside,” followed by a playful “This Must be the PLace (Naive Melody). SCI’s entire first set of the evening: Outside and Inside > Valley of the Jig, It Is What It Is, Yo Se, Joyful Sound > Let’s Go Outside, This Must be the Place (Naive Melody) > Restless Wind
Furthur took the stage for their first set of the week noodling around for a moment before dropping into a powerful and funky shakedown street. The crowd erupted as Phil Lesh’s opening notes rang out. An excellent choice of opener to set the tone for the weekend. Next up was The Wheel, a personal favorite of mine written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter followed by Cryptical Envelopment into a very dark Estimated Prophet. Music had been going for almost an hour nonstop by the time the band finished Cold, Rain and Snow. More great renditions of classics followed with Cassidy, Candyman and finishing the set with Jack Straw.
The String Cheese Incident’s last “incident” of the weekend included a collaboration with American country songwriter/singer/guitarist Zac Brown and his fellow band members of the Zac Brown Band. When the “Zac Brown Incident” was first announced a wave of dismissal amongst Cheese fans swept the the Internet forums about this performance. Even in the moments leading up to the start of the set uncertainty emanated from many loyal Cheese fans that surrounded me. In attempts to not make assumptions before experiencing this “incident” I went in with the mind set of expect nothing and be surprised. And sure enough I was pleasantly surprised. Of course I have seen better Cheese sets, but Brown’s talent as an artist cannot be dismissed.
The common perception of Brown as a sold-out pop country artist was shattered, for me anyway, as the set began with “Sometimes a River,” as Keith and Brown switched between lead vocals. Throughout a interlocking set of Cheese and Zac Brown Band songs, Brown’s stage presence conveyed a sense of desire to prove his worth as an artist to the ever loyal Cheese and jam-band fans. Brown took the reins on many lead vocals and his proficiency with his guitar was highlighted throughout the evening. Brown played guitar and shared lead vocals with Kyle on “Close Your Eyes.” Although sharing the spotlight, nothing could outshine Kyle’s finesse on the keys that added to the fiery jam within the song. A soulful “When I go Away” reminiscent of deep south gospel hymn was an unforgettable and beautiful tribute to the late Levon Helm. Bluegrass merged with rock on a cover of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” which was followed by a feet-stomping and hand clapping “Born Free” accompanied with a lively fiddle. The cheesiness of the set was amplified with Zac Brown Band’s song “Jump Right In.” As Cheese fans we expect some level of “cheesiness” with some SCI songs, but this song may have taken that to a whole different level and it was my least favorite song of the set. A funky “Use Me” followed and included a surprise ending taken from Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean.” Brown took lead vocals one last time on the SCI classic and fan favorite, “Colorado Bluebird Sky,” but the culmination of the song came when Billy took back lead vocals and everyone on stage finished the set with an energy filled jam. The set encored with an island vibed “Could You Be Loved.”
Furthur’s second set started kicked up as “The Zac Brown Incident” were still saying their goodbyes from the neighboring stage. The set began with a nice jam led by Phil before dropping into “Dark Star.” This song has really enveloped the spacey and abstract sounds that The Grateful Dead were well known for. An unfinished “Dark Star” transitioned into a nice up beat version of “Eyes of the World” that featured some great work from John Kadlecik on guitar and vocals before leading into “St Stephen” and “Unbroken Chain.” This whole segment featured some some of my favorite jamming of the weekend before spacing back into “Dark Star.” Zac Brown returned to the stage once more and played his song “Free” which segued into what can only be described as a magical rendition of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” Brown remained on stage for the classic “Tennessee Jed” and later returned for an encore of “Touch of Grey.”, Furthur finished their second set with the classic “Help on the Way>Slipknot!>Franklin’s Tower” trio; an excellent group of songs that often found themselves joined together.
With Contributions By: John C. Anderson