The seventh annual LOCKN’ festival proved that this Blue Ridge Mountain weekend has something for everyone, not just Deadheads and hippies.
Growing up in Lynchburg, Virginia has taught me a lot of things. It made me appreciate the Blue Ridge Mountains, bluegrass music, the beautiful scenery, the diverse environment, and the southern hospitality that Virginia has to offer. Granted, there are things I don’t care for, but as I grow older, I find myself appreciating it much more. I suppose it’s bittersweet.
There’s a certain serenity to the area that I appreciate. There’s nothing like breathing in the mountain air, experiencing the wildlife, walking through the diverse forests, and diving into the winding rivers or local watering hole that quite soothes the soul like it.
The inaugural edition of LOCKN’ — then known as Interlockn’ Music Festival — was announced seven years ago. With great acts such as Furthur featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, The String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic, Black Crowes, and so many other bands that I loved set to play less than an hour away from my hometown, I couldn’t believe it. It was almost too good to be true.
Before going to LOCKN’, I feared I would be greatly disappointed by the reality not living up to my expectations. If anything, it was the opposite. My experiences through this festival have shaped my life in ways that I can’t even explain. Being around all of my friends, amazing music, and right in my backyard was the recipe for a life-changing experience.
Today, there are not many festivals that make me happier than LOCKN’. Maybe I’m biased because I have lived most of my life in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or because I’m an avid fan of The Grateful Dead and other similar artists, but I have fallen in love with this festival. Plus, getting away from the hustle and bustle of living in Richmond is a nice escape.
But honestly, this festival is not just for Deadheads and hippies. There’s something for everyone. With a vast range of genres and once-in-a-lifetime collaborations, it’s a festival where you can go from rocking out with your elders to having your elders rock out with you. This year’s edition of LOCKN’, held Aug. 22-25, featured acts such as Vulfpeck. This band’s hard-bassline math-rock-esqe witty funky jams sound like what I can best describe as Dick Dale on acid, and they have a playful sarcasm that will get everyone around you dancing and prancing like a unicorn.
Then there was Khruangbin (which in Thai translates to airplane, or literally “engine-fly”), hailing from Texas, who had a go-go-dancing funky Thai rock fusion and were joined by a sit-in collaboration from Phish front-man and guitarist Trey Anastasio. They’ll have you whisked away on an airplane to funky town, and feeling like you’re on the set of a Quentin Tarrentino movie.
There was also St. Paul & The Broken Bones, from Birmingham, Alabama, whose soulful gospel-like brass and retro soul music will transport you into a serendipitous 50’s and 60’s present day. Leader Paul Janeway’s ridiculously awesome stage antics and opera-like vibrato pull you into a performance that rivals an Elton John show.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong was joined by Cory Wong of Vulfpeck. Mind-melting guitar solos and funk overload had me shaking my booty to their psychedelic jam funk. They were reminiscent of Parliament-Funkadelic with a new flair for stage antics, like stage synchronized swimming with an anecdotal hilarity.
For the nocturnal folks, late night over at the bright dayglo neon Garcia’s Forest hosted acts such as Circles Around The Sun, an instrumental jam band with a wild juxtaposed composure, sounding like Booker T. & The M.G.s and the Grateful Dead’s jams mashed together. On Friday night, Galactic’s funky jazz electronic fusion brings with it a dance party to remember. Saturday had Soullive ft. Infinity Horns, an awesome bluesy soul-jazz and jam fusion.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I could go into all of the amazing performances and collaborations that happened throughout the weekend, but really, for me, the best part of going to LOCKN’ is not just the music — it’s the community. I’ve been going to music festivals for over a decade, and this is the only one where I can both bump into people I grew up with from my hometown that I haven’t seen in over five years, and make new friends that I continue to bump into each year. It brings this familiarity of a family reunion — but one where everyone feels like your family.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: I lost my wallet on the Saturday night of the festival, and was really distraught by it. Worrying about having to sit in the dreaded DMV, and waste my life away on countless automated phone lines trying to replace all of my credit cards, almost ruined the night for me. But I pushed it out of my mind, hoping that there are good people out there.
The next day, I went down to their Lost and Found, and sure enough, my wallet was waiting for me. It even had the cash and everything else the way I had left it. Inside, a small note was tucked in, saying “Happy Lockn! – Anonymous.” It gave me a reignited hope for humanity.
There’s a certain sense of community at LOCKN’ that you won’t find anywhere else. People are smiling, dancing with each other, helping each other out, and creating lasting memories that leave you eagerly waiting for LOCKN’ to come back around again.
I can’t wait for next year’s family reunion.
Photos by August J. Heisler IV of August J. Photography
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond