L-O-C-K-N’: LIVIN’ the life/ON seas of music/ COLORS of the rainbow/KICKIN’/NOW!! Part I
PART ONE (of four parts)
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 of Heart.
40 Years Ahead, Woodstock, Move Over!
They wore short skirts way above the knees, and others wore long, clinging gowns. And, that was just the guys.
But then, some sported the bushiest black beards and curling mustaches, walking with the swagger of lumberjacks. And, that was just the girls.
They wore bee costumes, and cubby bears, bears, pandas, and penguins. And, some of the kids wore outfits too.
They carried peace flags with doves skimming pale blue skies, huge American flags, John- Fogerty heads on fan-like shapes atop long poles.
There was a sea of tie dye reaching across the sunny horizon.
And, the smoky dust of thousands of lit reefers spreading an aroma I’d not smelled so prevalently since the late 1960’s or my two trips to Negril, on the Jamaican coast.
Lockn’ 2017, the festival, met all my dreams and nightmares of the imagined experience, and then some.
Even the nightmares weren’t that bad.
I had such a rocking good time, let me quickly qualify the “nightmare” reference. Lockn’ was mostly the stuff of dreams and a glad, musically, almost impossibly rich experience.
As it is, I’m sitting here listening to Grahame Lesh and Elliott Peck and their talented partners in Midnight North singing their way into my heart after having met them at Lockn’.
The nightmare piece is simply the reality of (1) the huge crowds (I heard an estimate of 20,000 and 30,000 the year before when crowd-favorite Phish was there).
And (2), all the cigarette, hemp, hash, and cigar smoke, that I, as a former Latakia, rich English pipe tobacco, smoker, drawing in from fine-crafted pipes, left behind in entirety years ago. I personally wished that there wasn’t the pervasive reliance that seemed to exist among a large portion of the crowd on smoking cigarettes and on (seemingly) staying always high on reefer, hash, etc. (I never did see any tobacco pipes.) This seemed much greater here than other festivals I’ve attended. Perhaps, that was a reason I saw less children here than at other festivals, though there were certainly children, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.
And (3), the difficulty of negotiating the gravel paths and very un-even terrain off those pebbly paths, something that previously Lockn’, I was told, had a solution. Previously, at least a few shuttles were allowed to transport the more strongly disabled like myself across the venue (now allowed to shuttle us only to a location along the venue exterior.) Some shuttle drivers used personal discretion to get me at least to more accessible access points, especially if my shuttle trip was professionally-designated, i.e. to get to an interview, etc.
There were also (4) the ever-present porta-potties, but they were no better or worse than any festival’s poop holes.
Not that bad
Even the crowds were not so bad, since people by and large were extremely happy and largely quite kind, even though there were so damn many of us.
And, we campers were stacked up, almost sitting on each other, yet that wasn’t too bad, since, again, people were largely friendly, cordial, and welcoming, if at times higher than proverbial kites, and occasionally stayed up too late talking loudly in adjacent tents.
Hairy Legs and Short Skirts
I’ll also admit to some slight exaggeration. While I did see men in short skirts – and not the couple of men in leather and chains (in one instance) and plaid (in another) kilts. Yes, guys in mini-skirts, with the jarring-est of hairy legs showing beneath hemlines and bras under their diaphanous tops.
A couple of young men wore long, gown-like men’s shirts reaching almost to their sandals, I’m guessing a new style that hasn’t yet reached far beyond the hipper elements of nearby Charlottesville perhaps.
But the beards were exaggeration, the women and girls dressed often in very little, but with no beards or mustaches. It just seemed the type of thing that wouldn’t catch one by surprise at this Woodstock throwback, enclave-colony of deadheads and jammers.
Let me jump back to the dream. In part, that includes the wonderful staff there at Lockn’. The shuttle drivers and hosts at the ADA campground. My enormously helpful new friend and partner on the Lockn’ trip, Lee, whom I was turned-on-to by our mutual friend Ted, who couldn’t come.
The security/event staff at the stages and photo pit. Most of them young, though not all. I fell in love with just about the whole group. Some of the burliest, powerfully-built young men were among the kindest, most helpful and congenial to me, among the mixed-race security group.
The drivers and I shared our musical experiences of the day , including our favorites, from what they managed to catch on the run, such as Quentin, I think his name was (there was also Sam and Ryan, among other guys and girls), with whom I shared opinions that John Fogerty might have been the highlight of the talent-and-fame-laden week, and told me, that while The John Butler Trio might have been a new fav for me, he had grown up listening to and idolizing Butler in Australia, where Qentin was from and where he received his (like mine) journalism degree. I wish I could have spent more time with Quentin. He, young as he was, at times seemed to have similar knowledge of contemporary music as myself, and was great fun to talk with.
While I was a writer/photographer, my colleagues in the photo pit were largely photographers, and they were another cordial group. They accommodated me and my rollator/walker in a crowded, highly-excited space, all of us struggling to get the perfect shots, most of them with lense attachments that would have eaten both of my entire cameras for breakfast.
And, the festival, I found to be supportive of us in the media, with a useful media tent centrally located, access to the photo pit, and an un-discouraging attitude to reporters like myself doing interviews with their distinguished, as well as their up-and-coming, artists, including, in my case, a couple of interviews done on the artists’ huge tour buses in the artist compound areas.
The artists themselves were the perhaps the best, with the rich, open conversations I had with them and the graciousness experienced, whether one-on- one on a tour bus or in the media tent, or at the comfortable stage-side “hang,” that I, thankfully, had access to and used for some of my interviews.
One man later asked me confidentially, what I was being interviewed about, and I told him that it was I doing the interviewing. Another, rather inebriated, man in The Hang, told me he’d been watching me all week and admired my professionalism and tenacity, though not quite knowing what I was doing. In real life, he owns and runs a highly successful restaurant in the area. Another, highly inebriated, man, from nearby Charlottesville, was all over me, again saying he respected me, but wanting to force bottles of water down me to be “sure you are hydrated.” He gave me several ferocious backrubs, before I could say yes or no. Lee asked me if those backrubs (which he observed) had been good or torture, and I told him “both.”
And finally, a lady who also said she’d been seeing me all festival and admired how I managed what I did in spite of my (neuropathy) disability. She bought me a beer, saying she wanted to provide me something, water, a beer perhaps. Folks were so kind in getting me water already that I accepted the good Northern Lights IPA from there in the Yard.
Woodstockian Dream State of Mind
For such a live crowd, everything was DEAD, nearly DEAD, Dead and Company, MOE DEAD, or, sometimes, Not DEAD Yet. Still, the DEAD were loud enough to keep one awake in camp late at night.
Women showed long, lean bellies, perhaps with a ring on or near the belly button, flexing into flowing, long tie-dye or other colorfully-designed skirts, made to swirl provocatively to the endless wash of music. Some wore wide-brimmed, crushable hats over short or long hair.
Men seemed to cultivate facial hair almost as a code, and they were dandies. By and large, they looked sharp. Some men wore stovetop hats, round furry hats, or Uncle Sam chapeaus. Oh, yes, one with a Native American-derivative headdress (not a Native American).
There was Sam, a beautiful, young blond with rosy cheeks and flowers in her hair, walking her wiggling toy dog. She introduced her dog Lucy to me, and she said Lucy liked me. She then put Lucy on top of her lovely blond locks for a photo I’d asked her for. (She sometimes walked with Lucy on that top-of-head perch.)
Emergency first responders were honored at the opening ceremony, and state police had a good perch at one point, given the opportunity to watch from the photo pit. John Fogerty waved to them from the stage. But their fun was paused when they began running to one end of the pit as they got a call about some disturbance elsewhere at the festival. I also saw one girl being carried to an ambulance hurriedly, seemingly from an overdose but I don’t know.
The security guards took off with the police at a gallop. Those same guards hovered protectively around one artist who insisted on climbing into the crowd while performing. They also watched the crowd and guarded the “pit” vigilantly. Yet, they looked after the crowd, too. One of them used his thumb to “spritz” water from plastic bottles on to the hot crowds standing at or near the photo pit/stage. Another, squeezed bottles to pump drinking water into audience members’ open mouths.
There was a mix racially in the makeup of staff and artists, which I was glad to see, This is something I think sometimes is overlooked as festivals devoted to roots or a range of music develop rosters that don’t reflect the broad mix of voices and ethnic instrumentation that has gone into the development of American music. I salute especially the broad racial and ethnic mix in the Lockn’ excellent roster of artists!
There was kindness, drunkenness, friendship, exhaustion, exuberance, old, young, children, who were all very cute, infants, and those with disabilities of many kinds. It was a dream-like gathering of the iconic, the famous, and the up-and-coming makers of American music. And, there was the music itself ever and always, THE MUSIC.
Please see PART TWO of L-O-C-K-N’ (2017 Talent Magazine) by Ron Wray for a COMPLETE LOOK AT ALL THE ARTISTS on stage at Lockn’ 2017. Also, Parts 3 & 4 for Profiles/Interviews of Warren Haynes and other Lockn’ artists.