By Max Stewart
Photos by George Trent Grogan
The third day of LOCKN’ kept the collaborative musical momentum rolling along, featuring a very special Bob Weir guest appearance in the wee hours of the evening with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.
Earlier in the afternoon, Pigeons Playing Pong Pong played an animated, cosmic Rock set that flew on the wings of singer Greg Ormont’s fun-loving charisma. Their performances of “Melting Lights” and Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” soared and made it clear that the sky is the limit for how high this funky outfit will fly.
“I think this is officially “Flockn” … thanks to Pete [Shapiro] and Dave [Frey] for making this the coolest event of the summer,” Ormont said, as yet another musician couldn’t deny the power of LOCKN’.
Keller Williams got to play some original material, a break from his normal Grateful Grass or Grateful Gospel routine at LOCKN’. His wizardry of the loop pedal, unique live orchestration skills, and tongue-in-cheek lyrical themes made Williams’ set a really entertaining first show of the day on the Main Stage. His tale of a wild woman’s run-in with the cops on “She Rolls” was a particularly fun groove, where his vocal range and falsetto aptitude was front and center.
Greensky Bluegrass was the ideal late afternoon set. They talked about how in 2016 they were on the couch streaming the festival and were excited to be joining in the fun this year. As one of the best new Bluegrass outfits out there, this Michigan group can pick their stringed instruments like the best of ’em but also bring a Rock ‘N’ Roll spirit and sound to their live show.
It was a treat getting to see Australia’s John Butler Trio play an extensive “Oceans,” where Singer / Guitarist Butler signature 12-String Acoustic style was on display. “This is an absolutely amazing time to be making music, right now. Nice time of the day. How y’all going? Y’all coming on all the rides?” Butler asked of the crowd while taking in all that the serene farm setting had to offer. John Butler Trio’s rootsy acoustic songs with extended jams fit in seamlessly amongst the LOCKN’ bill, the band even getting some major crowd participation on “Zebra” as the audience and Butler’s voice echoed over the rolling green hills in the distance.
John Fogerty played with Widespread Panic at the first year of LOCKN’ in 2013, but this year he performed all of the timeless Creedence Clearwater Revival hits just before Widespread Panic’s set time. “Up Around the Bend” and “Looking Out My Back Door” both are perfect examples of why we love these American Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll tunes so much: much like Robbie Robertson, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty, Fogerty’s songs are infectious but also have a way of cutting deep into the heart of the American psyche. Even for generations removed from the time when these songs topped the charts, a tune like “Fortunate Son” continues to hold up and be relevant today. Some folks that got a little too much sun couldn’t help but stand from their lawn chairs and dance on the lawn as Fogerty played guitar-heavy versions of the CCR classics. These songs defy generations and will be around for years to come.
Widespread Panic has played LOCKN’ a few times, but this was their first headlining Saturday night at the festival and they did not take that responsibility lightly. This was not a “Greatest Hits” festival set that headliners sometimes phone in to appease the festival masses, but the Saturday night set dug into the band’s extensive catalog and really let the instrumental sections of the songs breathe. Some highlights of the night included “Fishwater,” “Junior,” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” The closer, “Chilly Water,” was a welcomed end to the music on the main stage as people splashed the remainder of their day’s water supply in the air, as is customary during the song’s chorus. Widespread Panic is pulling back the amount of dates they will tour and will focus on festivals and multi-show runs, making nights like Saturday where the band performs musically-tight sets that much more special.
In the most ‘What is happening?’ / meta moment of the evening, Bob Weir sat in with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead for five songs during the late night set, practically making himself at home on stage with his former bandmate Russo (they previously played together in Furthur). The strong renditions of “One More Saturday Night,” “Jack Straw,” and “Black Throated Wind” led to late night rejoice and glee from fans watching from the hill at the Relix stage. For a band that plays almost entirely Grateful Dead songs, for JRAD to have one of the Dead’s founding members join their live show in the moonlight must have been a real trip. The energy was clear and the band all seemed to focus their efforts in the presence of Weir, bringing passion and focus to their individual jams. It was very cool for Weir to not call it a night early (especially given he did not perform at all Saturday), but instead give fans a once-in-a-lifetime memory as the Virginia stars shined brightly overhead.
Stay tuned to Live Music Daily for recaps and coverage as the festival wraps up!