This year’s Lockn’ Festival got off to a rocky start when the announcement went out late Wednesday night that the festival would be cancelled Thursday due to a severe microburst that descended upon Oak Ridge Farm. That didn’t stop the music though, just delayed it by a day. Social media was abuzz with what that meant for Thursday’s headlining collaborations The Doobie Incident made up of The Doobie Brothers and The String Cheese Incident and Billy and The Kids with Bill Kreutzmann, Aron Magnor, Reed Mathis, Tom Hamilton and special guest Dominic Lalli from Big Gigantic.
After a day of waiting to find out attendees would soon find out their hopes were not dashed even though The Doobie Brothers were scheduled to play in North Carolina Friday night, The Doobie Incident would still happen and they would open Friday right after John Popper from the Blues Traveler played a solo rendition of The National Anthem; Billy and the Kids were moved to Saturday.
Those hoping to see The Doobie Incident and were lucky enough to not get snarled in the check-in madness, were treated to a great festival opening set. Taking the stage, The Doobie Brothers members, Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons and John McFee and Guy Allison joined The String Cheese Incident and opened hard with Rockin’ Down the Highway and kept rocking with Takin’ It To the Streets. They slowed it down just a tad with Sometimes a River and then started the long crescendo to finish the set with Black Water followed by a jam of Long Train Runnin’>Texas>Long Train Runnin’ that really got the crowd jamming. They wrapped up the set with a Drum jam that led into a hard rocking Jesus Is Just Alright and kept rocking with China Grove. They finished it off with the crowd singing along to Listen To the Music.
The energy remained high the rest of the afternoon with sets by Rockn’ to Lockn’ winners Seth Stainback & Roosterfoot who was then was followed by psychedelic rockers Moonalice. North Mississippi Allstars, who never disappoint, rocked the midday crowd and wrapped their set marching their bass and snare out into the crowd giving them a real treat. They were followed up by great sets from Anders Osborne, Steve Earle & The Dukes and a final set by The String Cheese Incident before the highly anticipated evening collaborations.
Starting the evening off was one of two Phil Lesh & Friends sets. This one featuring Chris Robinson, Neal Casal, Adam Macdougall, Eric Krasno and Tony Leone. Kicking it off with a Chuck Berry cover of the Promised Land, the rest of the set was filled with a number of Grateful Dead covers like Shakedown Street, Bertha and Althea. They wrapped up the set with a cover of I Know You Rider with everyone jumping in on vocals. That set was followed up by a special 50 year celebration of Jefferson Airplane with Jorma and Jack. With a little help from special guests, Justin Guip, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Rachel Price, G.E. Smith, Jeff Pehrson, and Bill Kreutzmann, the group played hit after hit from Jefferson Airplane’s long musical history and the crowd loved all of it.
Finishing off the night on the main stage was the set that everyone had been anticipating and the field was packed. Mad Dogs & Englishmen, A Tribute To Joe Cocker was curated by Tedeschi Trucks Band and included special guests Leon Russell, Doyle Bramhall II, Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge, Chris Robinson, John Bell, Claudia Lennear, Warren Haynes, Anders Osbourne, Sonny Ortiz, and Eleven 1970 Alumni. At one point some 23 musicians were on stage.
Opening with The Letter and filling their set with vocals from Leon Russel singing Dixie Lullaby, Rita Coolidge singing Bird on a Wire and Superstar, John Bell singing Delta Lady, Warren Haynes singing She Came In Through the Bathroom Window, Dave Mason singing Feelin’ Alright and finishing the set with Chris Robinson singing Space Captain, 0the tribute took the crowd on what can only be described as a religious experience. They finished off the night with a 2 song encore which included Leon Russell singing The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen and finally Chris Robinson singing With a Little Help From My Friends.
After shutting down the main stage, those that still had the energy funneled their way through to one of two late night sessions. Mickey Hart played with Steve Kimock and EOTO out in The Woods stage and Umphrey’s McGee took the stage at the Blue Ridge Bowl playing through the last downpour of the weekend. And with that, day one of Lockn’ was in the books.
Saturday was another day of highly anticipated night time collaborations. The day kicked off with Rockn’ to Lockn’ winners Lord Nelson and were followed up with Love Canon. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe played with Chuck Leavell and then Hot Tuna and The Jayhawks wrapped it up for the afternoon sets. The evening kicked off with Tedeschi Trucks Band who brought out Bob Weir to sit in on Key to the Highway and Walkin’ Blues. Bob was sounding great and the crowd loved the synergy between him and the band. After Tedeschi Trucks Band wrapped up with The Storm, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters took the stage and played some Led Zepplin classics as well as some of their own adaptations of some Zepplin songs. It was quite the site to see him rocking on stage.
Widespread Panic took the stage next opening with Chainsaw City and would eventually bring out Chuck Leavell and Jimmy Cliff to rock the last half of their set with them finally wrapping it up with Jimy Cliff singing I Can See Clearly Now which got the crowd dancing and singing along until the end. Widespread Panic was followed up with the rescheduled Billy & the Kids set with Bob Weir sitting in and singing lead vocals on all the songs. They opened with Greatest Story Ever Told and kept it going with songs any Deadhead was sure to love like Let It Grow and Throwing Stones before finally bringing out Mickey Hart to wrap the set up with One More Saturday Night and finally Not Fade Away.
Phil Lesh & Friends took the stage next picking up right where Billy & the Kids Left off starting their set with Not Fade Away and the crowd loved it! With Carlos Santana on guitar, they continued into their set with Scarlet Begonias and then Warren Haynes helped out on vocals for Hard To Handle and Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl before they took the crowd on another trip down Grateful Dead memory lane with New Speedway Boogie, The Other One and Fire on the Mountain. They finally wrapped the set with Dark Star which led into a reprise of Not Fade Away where Carlos Santana teased the crowd with just a bit of Superstition; they loved it!
After the night wrapped on the main stage, those that were still hanging made their way to another performance of Mickey Hart’s Deep Rhythm experience on The Woods stage or took it easy at the Blue Ridge Bowl with a late night performance by Gov’t Mule; another day packed with great music would soon be in the books.
For those left with the energy to get up or just happened to be within stumbling distance of The Blue Ridge Bowl, Sunday started nice and early, relatively speaking, with Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel which featured Grateful Dead songs done in a gospel way. It was a great way to start Sunday and the bowl was packed! The rest of the day saw sets from St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Slightly Stoopid and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue before the evening sets gave the crowd a second chance to watch Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, with Warren Haynes sitting in on a couple of songs, and finally wrapped the night up with Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters.
WIth that, Lockn’ 2015 was in the books and despite the rocky start was an amazing weekend for music lovers. With epic collaborations and a stellar lineup, Lockn’ has cemented itself as a festival not to be missed for years to come.