L-O-C-K-N’: LIVIN’ the life/ON seas of music/ COLORS of the rainbow/KICKIN’/NOW!! Part 2
PART TWO (of four parts)
The Lockn’ 2017 Talent Magazine, Inclusive, A survey of American hot music, Lockn’-Style: Delivering the Goods to the Soul: The bands and performers of Lockn’, my snapshots, interiors of the soul, mapping by angels, a complete resource, enjoy!
Lockn’ Festival: LOCKN’ Festival celebrates its fifth year in 2017. Located in Central Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the festival site is halfway between Charlottesville and Lynchburg. According to their website, “We’re a group of dedicated music fans who began this journey in 2013, aspiring to provide the ultimate atmosphere for live music and community to flourish.” It has a reputation for jamming bands, but their roster reflects a wide variety of contemporary musical expression. The festival has been singularly successful in attracting major musical artists to perform year-after-year, in addition to up-and-comers. They have also sought to effect unexpected musical collaborations such as this year’s highly entertaining performance by Gov’t Mule and Ann Wilson.
Mount Zion First African Baptist Church Choir Dynamite gospel choir leading-off the festival. Lead singer with a heaven-reaching voice, along with other fine voices, brass, and guitar.
The church itself has some major history, with special significance in light of recent events in Charlottesville. As detailed on their website: “Baptists in the Charlottesville area worshipped in the County Courthouse (1820-1831) before a brick building was constructed around 1864, First Baptist on the corner of 2nd and East Jefferson streets. In this church, although never regarded as equals in faith, the African-American contingent of the Baptists worshipped with their white counterparts. In 1832, Virginia passed a law that prohibited blacks to worship without a white minister present. They were not allowed to worship with the rest of the white community.
The African- American community, who were already suffering under slavery, had more injustices to endure. While blacks were discontent, it would take thirty years before they acted. In 1863, the 800 African-American members of the Charlottesville Baptist Church petitioned for, and were granted, approval to separate from the church and form their own congregations. Our first pastor was nicknamed the “horseback preacher” – the Reverend Spottswood Jones. He was the first African-American preacher to shepherd his congregation in Charlottesville! He served until approximately 1871.”
Co-owner-operators of Lockn’, Peter Shapiro and David Frey welcomed the crowd. Shapiro said: “Everything that’s done here, we just want you to know, while there’s people here from everywhere, the heart, the soul (of Lockn’) comes out of these Blue Ridge Hills, comes out of the great state of Virginia.”
Kendall Street Company Young, loud, and brash. Louis Smith is the cheese-cheeked, curly-headed bundle of joy leading a talented group of impossibly-young-looking brass and electric-string players and singers. Nicely done, often “jammy” music. Some sweet lyrics at times amidst the loud playing. Began in Virginia Beach, VA, then Charlottesville, with members from around Virginia and DC. Winners of the Walkin’ to Lockn’ competition.
UMPHREY’S MCGEE Famed crowd favorite, though some found them too “metal.” Originally from South Bend, IN, a part of the world very familiar to me. This hard-jamming group played impossibly long and intricately-, passionately-layered and hard-driving sets. With nearly 20 years of performing more than 100 concerts annually, the band has released nine studio albums and sold more than 4.2 million tracks online. Umphrey’s McGee formed on the Notre Dame campus in 1997. Their album, The London Session, was a dream-come-true for the members, having been recorded at the legendary Studio Two at historic Abbey Road. At Lockn’, they alternated their long jams with The String Cheese Incident.
THE STRING CHEESE INCIDENT, was another famous, jam-band and crowd favorite, though one usually with more vocals and a bit more variety than the sets they performed this time. Their performances typically have more Latin-tinged, or rappy songs, or tunes like the sweet little “Down a River” song from their new album, Believe, etc. Still, they still played the hell out of things, rocking to the nth-degree. One player looked much like the Hobbit with his height, age, long beard, and dark brown hoody. I heard complaints they didn’t bring play fiddle, but I saw Michael Kang swing some on fiddle. String Cheese’s Bill Nershi reflected on recent events in nearby Charlottesville, saying: “The more that we can stay together, be together united, the more the people who are preaching the hatred and the ugliness and the violence will feel like they’re on an island. Let’s love each other more than ever now. And, be kind to each other. Take care of each other.”
The Disco Buscuits, from Philadelphia, were a late-night offering, keeping me awake in the campground, heard good things about them. Heading to New York and, then, The Dominican Republic.DJ Jerrbrother led daily Jerry Dance Parties in Garcia Forest (all days). (Many things at Lockn’ have a Jerry Garcia or Grateful Dead connection or derivation.)
NICOLE ATKINS BAND Female heir to Roy Orbison, befriended by old friend Chris Isaak through rough times and personal abuse to new growth. I like her, though I missed her Midnight Porch performance due to the fatigue of the hour. She has some of the most provocative lines I’ve ever heard, and don’t shoot the messenger, as I quote: “My god is a son-of-a-bitch” from “My Sin.”
Danny Louis, piano on the porch, in the morning, in Garcia’s forest. Member of Gov’t Mule, on piano and other instruments. Jay Starling, acoustic player leading daily playing/picking circle in Garcia’s Forest (all days) Son of founding member of the Seldom Scene, John Starling, he’s an accomplished player on a number of instruments. Sun Dried Opossum. Rock band from the Blue Ridge formed in the ‘90s, heavy jamming. Winner of the Rockn’ to Lockn’ competition.
MARCUS KING BAND Immediate friends, Marcus and I crossed paths later, but didn’t find each other for our interview. We fell into what felt like friendship, and I received an invite from young Marcus to join-up for coffee next time he’s touring Virginia. I saw his act, his solid, beyond his years’ guitar facility and powerfully-unique blues voice. Wearing his ever-present, sparkling tan porkpie hat and with a lovely friend beside him.
Tauk 4-piece heavy, instrumental rock-fusion band from NYC. From their website, “There’s a spaciness in the songs that let’s you get lost in the sound,” says (band member) Dolan. And, while the album is endlessly hypnotic, TAUK also delivers the dynamic tension-and-release jams that have helped earn them a devoted following.” They are on a heavy tour schedule currently. Sinkane Sorry I missed ‘em. An interesting, unique band. Played NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts recently toured Europe. Wide mix ethnically and racially, men and women, and body type. Very likable, laid back, ethnic-sounding (whatever that means, say Nigerian or Mediterranean, etc.) Sinkane himself, an African American, has a high, sweet voice.
ANTIBALAS A best-laid secret that was a pleasure to discover, a world-renowned group that it seems like no-one’s ever heard of. They were house band for Carnegie Hall for concerts by Aretha Franklin and others, have appeared on most of the late night talk shows, and have many other accomplishments. Eclectic music and genre choices. Multi-ethnic band members. See Profiles, Part 4, for more.
BLACKBERRY SMOKE Blackberry Smoke is a Southern rock/country rock band from Atlanta consisting of Charlie Starr (lead vocals, guitar), Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards).They have performed throughout the United States both as headliner and as the supporting act for artists such as Zac Brown Band, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Really hard-rocking band rising rapidly with nice songs and a biting-hard playing, symphony of Southern rock n’ roll. They were fresh off a gig on the Colbert show and soon to open for Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, with whom they have mutual admiration. See Profiles, Part 4, for more.
JIM JAMES The Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket. Polished, feeling-full, rich, at times rocking- out fun, all-acoustic set following the hard rock of Blackberry Smoke. One of the rocking, fun covers he did featured both Brandi Carlisle and Joe Russo, marching around playing a big bass drum. Brandi joined him for a variety of songs, a delectable combination.
BRANDI CARLILE See above for her collaboration with Jim James. In her set, she and “the twins,” Tim and Phil Hanseroth, her long-time, dramatic, toweringly-tall partners, tore up the stage, at times moving forward on stage to heavily thump a board for dramatic, musical emphasis. At other times, pensive ballads, including a piece I’d heard before that is going on her new album about her daughter, “Evangeline.” She also mentioned her happy relationship with her wife, seeming to want to underscore the need for accepting one another as people, all with the same skeletons and make-ups. Carlisle could go on stage and sneeze for an hour, and I’d probably be happy. But, as always, this was a polished, moving, and fun performance, including her salute to Johnny Cash.
PHIL LESH and BOB WEIR Ya’ll know about Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. Founding members of the Grateful Dead. Iconic music legends, Lesh and Weir played in a number of combinations with other bands and artists – together in some, solo in others- at the Festival and were dynamic, melodic, and generous on stage, often with other legends, including Lesh’s talented so, Grahame Lesh. One night, Lesh and The Terrapin Family Band, Nicki Bluhm, Bobby (as everyone in camp affectionately called him), and others performed the entirety of “Terrapin Station.” (See more on Grahame Lesh and Midnight North in Profiles, Part 4
Nicki Bluhn “Forever grateful for the healing music brings and to play with Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and Terrapin Family Band.” Statuesque beauty (towered over me, and quite lovely) who’s done the lovely song “Remember Love Wins.” She sang in the Terrapin Station performance and other Dead-related appearances. Nicki often plays with her band, the Gramblers.
She told a touching story recently involving other Lockn’ performers: “It was Sunday night and I was playing with Phil Lesh and Friends down at his music venue Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, CA. There had been protests all weekend at airports across the country as people were being shut out of a country they know and love. Among all the despair and sorrow we were all feeling, that night at Terrapin felt like a big hug both backstage as we discussed the goings on and also in the Grate Room where we came together as band and audience to experience what we needed most that night….the healing sounds of music. I was touched and even brought to tears by the sounds and sights that occurred that night. There we all were, in that room, together, supporting each other and finding refuge from the craziness happening in our country.”
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead Joe Russo’s Almost Dead is an American rock band formed in 2013 that plays mostly the music of the Grateful Dead as well as other covers. Formed by Furthur drummer Joe Russo, the band played their first show in 2013. Also known as Almost Dead and JRAD. (Plays again later in the week) ANN WILSON of Heart Famed music icon Ann Wilson of the instrumental American band Heart performed a number of Heart’s hits with amazing power and beauty, including “Baracuda” and other songs that are now part of American culture. Her performance was with Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, a fine, power-charged combination. I’d asked Warren how much they had played together, and he said he’d only met Ann that afternoon at their rehearsal in a private spot on site.
WARREN HAYNES AND GOV’T MULE A very soft spot for Warren, who was gracious enough to invite me on his tour bus for a very special interview with this American legend of guitar and voice, who has played with virtually all major guitar artists, from Greg Allman to Phil Lesh, who had put Warren on a list of 21 guitar players he’d like to play with, which, Warren told me, led to their initial collaboration. Haynes has played solo and in other configurations but is back “home,” you might say, with his historic band, Gov’t Mule. See more in Profiles, Part 3 of Lockn’.
MIDNIGHT NORTH/THE TERRAPIN FAMILY BAND (Performed over several days as Terripen Family Band, once as Midnight North) These guys and a strikingly lovely gal named, misleadingly, gender-wise, Elliott Peck, from the San Francisco Bay Area’s Marin County, are new favorites of mine. Just played them over and over, especially new favorite song, “San Francisco Rain.” Grahame Lesh, the band’s leader and son of Phil Lesh, shreds electric guitar with his dad often, in addition to his work with Midnight North. Midnight North also constitutes The Terrapin Family Band, largely performing Grateful Dead tunes. See Profiles, Part 4 for more.
Holly Bowling, piano on the porch. Holly Bowling is a classically- trained pianist devoted to Phish. Attending over 300 shows by the band, she transformed Phish songs and live jams into solo piano interpretations. Holly expanded her repertoire into the Grateful Dead. Using classical piano technique to reinterpret these jam band luminaries, Holly’s live shows are said to create “a concert experience like nothing else in the music world.” Mighty Joshua Mighty Joshua is a winner of the Rockn’ to Lockn’ competition. From his website, “As Virginia Reggae Ambassador (2015, 2016) and Artist of the Year (2014, 2015, 2016), Mighty Joshua advocates for reggae music by sharing his love of the genre and culture with meaningful performances. Mighty Joshua’s debut solo album encourages reflection and empowerment for oneself, community, and beyond.”
Los Colognes An interesting band with an intriguing musical mission. To quote their website,
“One of the highest and rarest aspirations in popular music is to reach for the transcendental, to access the spirit. .. they succeed just this – in breaking through the conﬁnes of everyday pop song lyricism to tell a sort of holistic story. It’s not a concept piece, but it’s a brooding and still-joyful song cycle ﬁlled with philosophical rumination, effortless hooks, inspiring musicianship, and expansive arrangements. His Golden Messenger I’ve seen darker things than night. Hallelujah anyhow.—M.C. Taylor, July 2017. Tayor (Michael Taylor), AKA Hiss Golden Messenger, seems to be experiencing dark days and attempting to understand them. But, he continues to bring rich music to bear in the universe. I missed him this time in Lockn’, but have enjoyed several other performances. When not touring, he teaches folklore at the University of North Carolina in lovely Durham.
The Suffers Kam Franklin, beautiful-voiced African-American singer with her largely wind-instrumental back-up band, provide Gulf Coast soul. They bring to mind Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I believe they are OK now, but the band had to cancel their Lockn’ appearance as they are Houston-based and were stuck in the storm. I was especially sorry as they had to cancel also the interview they’d scheduled with me. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong “Pigeons Playing Ping Pong brings end-of-the-world enthusiasm to their high-energy psychedelic funk. Their infectious electro-funk grooves, undeniable live energy, and contagious smiles have their rabid fanbase, ‘the Flock’ growing.”(from their website) Based out of Baltimore, MD, PPPP pleased a friend of mine the most of all the bands, with their energetic movements all about the stage. I missed the Lockin’ set, but have heard them do some fine Zeppelin.
KELLER WILLIAMS (did a Sun. morning performance as well.) He is also known by the name K-Dub. Williams’ music combines elements of bluegrass, folk, alternative rock, reggae, electronica/dance, jazz, funk, and other assorted genres. He is often described as a ‘one-man jam-band’ due to his frequent use of live-phrase looping with multiple instruments. He has done much Garcia and Grateful Dead in recent years, and has a fine voice. On Sunday morning of Lockn’, he did a delicious set of Grateful Dead tunes, done gospel-style, with a fine group of African-American vocalists and guest players. A Lockn’ highlight for some campers.
GREENSKY BLUEGRASS Great band, doing a generous, fine show as always. I’ve seen them act like they’re never going to stop at shows without a festival schedule. One of my favorite bands, they are not so much bluegrass with a twist as they are a twist with a bit of bluegrass. Finely-written songs with dark edges and lemony joys to them. Had the pleasure of interviewing dobro player Anders Beck before their show. WIDESPREAD PANIC Great, legendary band out of Athens, GA. Jam band fame, but with a wide range. Magnificent players. I once did a one-hour phone interview with their fascinating percussionist Sonny Diaz. They played their usual dynamic, heavy-hitting, and diverse, energetic set. A favorite at Lockn’
JOHN FOGERTY I and others I talked to thought this was the highlight of the entire festival. It was a massively entertaining, explosive survey of pretty much all of Fogerty’s major works. I was knocked-out to realize just how many songs now central in our culture and part of our personal histories are John Fogerty songs and just how good they are. He sold it all with one of the most energetic of an energetic host of performers in the festival overall. And this from an artist in his seventies. Ably assisted on guitar and backup vocals by his son, Sean Fogerty, and a fine band.
Forgery said about his Lockn’ appearance, “I witnessed a wonderful energy and love from the audience while performing just a few miles from Charlottesville this weekend. I will never forget that special show and how everyone came together singing, dancing and just having fun. I am smiling with pure joy in my heart. Thank you, Virginia! We all need to come together and live as one, no borders or battles to be won. Don’t you wish it was true. Sending our thoughts and prayers in very hard times for our friends and family in Texas.”
DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND (also performed Sun.) Super brass and electric band out of New Orleans returned to Lockn’, with an intense, beautifully performed show of jazz, funk, rock, and other pleasures.
Melvin Seals, piano on the PORCH Melvin Seals of the hot, mixed-ethnic band Melvin Seals and JGB, is one of the longest members of The Jerry Garcia Band. He carries on the mantle of Jerry’s music. One bio reads, “In 1980 Melvin Seals joined the Jerry Garcia Band and remained a member until Jerry Garcia’s untimely death in 1995. After Garcia’s death, Seals took charge. Under his leadership, the slightly renamed ‘Melvin Seals and JGB’ pays tribute to Garcia by performing his songs and remaining faithful to his style. Seals says, ”We are the Keepers of the Flame!
Anthony Rosano and the Conqueroos Another Rockn’ to Lockn’-winning band. Anthony and his excellent, hard-rocking band are from Norfolk, VA, where they play many gigs in the surrounding Hampton Roads area on the Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay coasts. An excellent show at Lockn’, including a moving song that Anthony recently wrote about his mother after her recent passing. Anthony posted a message he’d gotten from a woman so moved by hearing this song on the radio while driving with her husband, she almost had her husband turn the car around to head for Lockn’ to catch the Conqueroo’s appearance. I’ve also been moved by that piece from my personal loss. Eric Krasno Band Two-time Grammy winning guitarist, musician, and producer best known for his work with Soulive, Lettuce, Tedeschi Trucks Band & Pretty Lights.
Moonalice with Jorma Kaukonen From the website, Moonalice is a psychedelic, roots-rock band of seasoned musicians mixing a variety of genres with extended musical improvisations that evoke a sense of adventure and exploration. Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen, Jr. is an American blues, folk, and rock guitarist, best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #54 on its list of 100 Greatest Guitarists. The Record Company The Record Company is an American power-trio rock band formed in Los Angeles. The members are Chris Vos, Alex Stiff, and Mark Cazorla. Solid, rocking performance at Lockn’, however not one of my favs.
JOHN BUTLER TRIO This was a favorite of mine, one of those finds I love to get at a festival. Extremely hard-working, a good-looking, fast-flying, loud, yet melodic and sexy rock music. Butler plays much of this supersonic, reverberating rock on an acoustic piece, a hard-used guitar with a hard-working pick-up. I don’t think I’d ever seen anything quite like that before. One of my shuttle drivers explained to me that Butler is legendary in his home country, Australia. JJ GREY AND MOFRO This was a great night of music. JJ Grey and MOFRO were great, mixing tempo, pace, and volume for a number of tasty, rocking, yet sometimes pensive tunes. Several other musicians I interviewed cited Grey and MOFRO as favorites of theirs. From Wikipedia: “JJ Grey and Mofro’s music has been described as a combination of blues, funk, soul, and rock. All of the songs are written by JJ Grey and reflect the region where he grew up in around Jacksonville, Florida. JJ Grey attributes (much to) artists such as Big Bad Jim and Jim Reeves, due to their style of story songwriting and how that style has influenced the way he writes his songs. Grey also credits southern rock acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Jerry Reed as artists who have influenced his style of music, as well as more soulful artists such as Toots Hibbert and Otis Redding.”
MARGO PRICE Boy, was she red hot. Most of her tunes were hard rockers, very sexy and ground-shaking, with Margo taking charge in a hot red dress and contrasting glasses, climbing up and down on stage platforms and back and forth on the stage itself. Singing, and at times accompanying herself on guitar, with her solid band behind her, including her husband on bass. Started out with her country/indy hit and my favorite, “Tennessee Song,” and including the, appropriate for Lockn’ (and dedicated to the crowd) Commander Cody cover, “Seeds & Stems.” She also did hits like “Hurtin (on the bottle)” and “Hands of Time.” Her early band, Margot and the Price Tags, included Sturgill Simpson. “Hands of Time” tells in large part her tough time trying to make-it in Nashville. Fellow Nashville musician and favorite of mine, Aaron Lee Tasjan, calls her “a singular and vital part of this scene, as a thing unto herself,” speaking of her role in East Nashville. THE REVIVALISTS These guys were another WONDERFUL DISCOVERY. Their leader, David Shaw, was everywhere, almost at once, came down to one far end of the stage where I was, covered all parts of the stage, and climbed twice into the crowd, once well into the crowd over barricades. Of course, this caused security headaches, but for us as an audience he was great. Long, lean, and angular with long hair flowing out all around his head, when he dramatically undid the bob he had at first. The sax player/singer, Rob Ingraham, also was an expressive player, hopping and bopping around, sometimes in union with Shaw. The Revivalists began, according to Wikipedia, when guitarist Zack Feinberg met frontman David Shaw. Shaw fatefully encountered Feinberg when he happened to be riding his bike. Feinberg, taking a different route than usual, found himself riding past Shaw, who was singing a song called “Purple Heart” on his front porch. The two struck up a conversation and got together later that day to play music. I had hoped to interview them, not knowing how good they were, but they weren’t taking interviews during the festival.
PHIL.MOE with Moe, Phil Lesh, Terrapin Family Band, Bob Weir, and Nicki Bluhm As prominent as they I, I was familiar with Moe only by name. To quote their website: “Moe. is the preeminent progressive rock band on the music scene today—a quintet of world class musicians, whose creative output equals that of their longevity. In a remarkable career that has touched three decades and produced a discography of 24 albums, the Sugar Hill Records recording artists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey on guitars and vocals, Rob Derhak on bass and vocals, Jim Loughlin on percussion and vibes, and Vinnie Amico on drums, continue to push the standard for performance art higher and further.”
They also write, sadly, that there are conditions limiting the band right now, seemingly to do with health issues (and possibly related vocal limitations? – don’t know, just what I’d hear around the festival). From the stage that night, the band noted the at least temporary loss of band member “Robbie,” who I thought I saw at the fest (?). Their site reads: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, moe. will be going on indefinite hiatus effective August 1st, 2017. We will play our remaining 2 shows in July (7/21 NYC, 7/28 Huckleberry Jam), as well as our Lockn’ Festival appearance with Phil Lesh. Other than these 3 shows, we will be closing our doors until further notice.”
They did a good, strong show that night in any event, with the solid and at times incredible help of stellar performances by Phil Lesh, Bobby Weir, and Grahame Lesh, and Nicki Bluhm, with the Terrapin Family Band.
THE AVETT BROTHERS with BOB WEIR One of the personal favorite bands of my wife and myself for years now. One of my favorite things for a couple of years now, too, is their regular rendition of a cover of (another personal favorite and recent friend) David Childer’s lonesomely-beautiful song, “The Prettiest Face.” It was the latest show of a long, final day at the fest, and this old-timer, who is often up late, didn’t make it to the end of the set and missed Bob Weir joining them. However, I caught a fair amount. I thought I’d hear all of the rest of their show from camp, but it didn’t work out that way. The band’s volume wasn’t as loud as some of the other, late night bands. The show had the usual Avett style, energy, flair, and feeling. They did a number of favorites such as “If I Should Die.” The band and Weir rehearsed that afternoon, and Bob joined them for a number of tunes. Their relatively new lady fiddler continues to be a fine addition. Humor combined with energy as the Avetts sidestepped together across the stage to the beat, and their instruments, including Joe Kwon’s bass, flew high in the air in pace with the fast, but melodic music. Scott, Seth, Bob, Joe Kwon, and excellent company were in their usual rare form and provided a fine dessert-like treat for the Lockn’ fans to close their 2017 fest experience with!
Please see PART Three of L-O-C-K-N’, Profiles in 21st Century Music: More In-Depth looks at some of the artists of LOCKN’ 2017: Warren Haynes & Gov’t Mule by Ron Wray, and PART Four, Profiles in 21st Century Music: More In-Depth looks at some of the artists of LOCKN’ 2017, for additional interviews.