Day 3: Hit Me Again Please
When I reached the Lockn’ Music Festival at Oak Ridge Farm that day I did my now routine entrance through the media tent, hopped through the Hang area besides the stage grabbing cold brews on the way and set out to find my group of friends.
Another day in paradise, besides the heat that wrapped you in its humid embrace until a seat in the shade or a blessedly cold beverages brought your internal temperature to a more satisfactory level. Still, I was chomping at the bit once again to get rolling around in the thick of it all. More to the point I was giddy at the thought of seeing the musical collaboration of Phil Lesh, Jon Fishman, Paige McConnel, Joe Russo, Anders Osborne and The Infamous Stringdusters. A harmonic science experiment that couldn’t produce anything but wonderful results.
Riding the Crest of the Wave
The crowd was feeling the heat that day though. I wandered through the campsites and everywhere groups were under easy ups hiding from the invisible rays of ultraviolet. Still as much as it affected people by slowing them down, everywhere I turned I saw smiles and laughter, hugs and kisses. A little heat couldn’t stomp on these folks. The camaraderie there was tangible, a commodity in abundance within these fields. That is what these people sought, not just music but a feeling that gets to your heart, a soul expansion, sharing an experience like this bonds better than super glue. These fields were sown with fellow road trippers, whose tricks of the trade and ideas quickly joined my playbook.
From being immersed in the crowd to leaning over the side of the stage-side perch I watched talented performers play their hearts out under the Virginia sky to an audience that couldn’t get enough that day.
It’s a unique experience to be one story higher and above the stage getting a view of not only the bands but a bands-eye view of the thousands packed in front of the stage. The line to get up there was sometimes long during the headlining performers, but the Hang area as it was called besides the stage was not only equipped with a bar but D’Angelico guitars and a tent set up with seats, a TV with the live stream of the stage and a bunch of guitars to play! Twiddle’s jams and Galactic’s funk amongst a slew of artists brought the masses their daily doses of musical vitamins with a wild carpet ride that did Aladdin proud.
Phil Lesh and the above aforementioned friends started a little bit late around 7:15, when the sun just began to round third base and head for home until the morning. A crowded stage with the all-star team sent their notes to sky and showered the crowd with a diverse mix of styles combined into songs of the Grateful Dead. It seemed that the majority of attendees were packed in one moving wave, an anthill of epic proportions swaying to the same nectar that Apollo once granted the Ancient Greeks. The two drummers traded looks and smiles as they set the beat while the guitarists strummed and picked their way through a variety of Grateful Dead songs. Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks joined in the fun adding female vocals to Sugaree.
The Tedeschi-Trucks duo returned to the stage next with their own band and Susan’s invigorating vocals blew sparks across the Saturday night crowd. The group of friends from Massachusetts I was with began to loose some steam from the unrelenting heat of the past few days and the lateness of the previous night’s endeavors.
As My Morning Jacket took the stage, we had to shake one of our friends from sleep on the grass. We left the field with the skillful down tempo music in our ears, sidestepping swaying bodies avoiding other exhausted patrons who had taken the moment to catch a few z’s. We could still clearly hear the harmonies back at their campsite as we relaxed and caught our breath.
Harmony Beneath the Oak Trees
But I was never one to idle long and as the main stage wrapped up its Saturday fare, to the Woods I went.
Across the fields of temporary abodes I strolled, soaking in the cooler night air until the wall of trees in front of me loomed close. A cascade of colors lit my vision, an ethereal sight as the rainbow of lights highlighted the trees and as I watched staring in awe people began disappearing beneath the foliage. Of course I followed the elves or whoever they were into the hippie version of an Ewok village.
Hammocks full of people swung a few feet off the ground, while a band played on a small stage and people seemed to transcend to a far mellower plain of the mind while their bodies still swayed to rhythmic notes of the forest. The band was Khruangbin and they seemed to have the subtle talent of making the music appear from all around, the life pulse of the woods converging in this clearing. I was wired though, hopped up on a wave of emotion and fueled by caffeine I set off for the energetic funk of Lettuce at the Blue Ridge Bowl.
The hill spread before me was lit up not with multicolored lights this time but the wide eyes and glittering teeth of thousands of smiles as the funk did its magic. I strolled into the photo pit for a front row seat among the camera lenses and film crew, the occasional glow stick flying into my lap. Lettuce’s deep funk and horns had whipped new life into the tired crowd, someone had turned the tap on full blast and my eardrums were undergoing an enjoyable meteor shower of sound. I stayed as long as I felt I could function and still make the drive back to Charlottesville, but by 3AM I had thrown in the towel, spit in the bucket and tossed $5 to one the golf cart cabbies (that will drive anyone from A to B on the grounds) to bring me back to the gates. I set off for the comforts of a bed and with the horrible feeling that the next day was the last.
I am all for too much of a good thing.
Day 4: The Last Hurrah
Sunday morning I made a last mad dash to get back to the festival to have time to soak my soul in this great gathering before heading back to the northern Atlantic shores the next morning. I grabbed a cold brew from my new friends at High Brew and set of to do what I do best – wander.
Home on the Range
I tried to hit the far flung parts of the grounds that the heat had prevented me from exploring the previous day’s. As I took a road untraveled by me I found myself up on a hill surrounded by RV’s and a panoramic view below. I ventured into the trees to discover the woods camping area and I thought this is the place to be if you’re going to camp, the natural shade makes it feel ten degrees cooler. Hammocks were stretched from tree to tree and people dozed in the slight summer breeze. The sleepy forest allowing one last rest before the headliners of the afternoon and evening.
My tour eventually led me back to the main concert field and my hunt for a souvenir or two to remember these heavenly days in Virginia. I could imagine some medieval town centuries before Internet shopping where people congregated on the square to conduct the day’s commerce, where ideas, food and art were prominently displayed and conversation flowed freely. Brightly colored tapestries adorned many stalls, the displays included everything from metal work to framed posters and prints.
Twiddle’s resident live music painter Heilig had a canvas set up backstage as he painted to the music’s flow, an astonishingly talented artist he kept at it all day, moving to the VIP section to paint during Phish. His hand inspired by the music to create a mesmerizing swirl of color around a transformed terrapin.
That day was the coolest it had been all weekend and standing in the sun while performers graced the festival with another day packed full of stella musical explorations didn’t faze me. Phil and Friends with Gary Clark Jr. and the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, The Wailers and Doobie Decibel System all rocked out. I queued up for backstage in the Hang area for a tantalizing pig roast while Gary Clark Jr’s own band flooded the air, music to gobble BBQ by for sure.
Phish on Sunday night was everything it should be.
A charged lightning rod overloading with excess electricity. I was caught up in a whirlwind of happiness, a cyclone that wrought not destruction but pure bliss fading everything else to a background hum of inconsequential noise. The crowd was immersed in the music, wearing the soles of their shoes thin through the erosive power of dancing. Glow sticks flew through the air in cadence with the chorus of the songs and if their was a frown in that audience I couldn’t have zeroed in on it. They encored their set with the Rolling Stones cover, “Loving Cup” and I think most would agree with the lyrics, “oh what a beautiful buzz, what a beautiful buzz”.
Sing Me Home
After Phish threw down their energizing set on Sunday night a drop of sadness threatened to kill my musical high. It’s over, I thought, the music done and the crowd is scattering to the four winds. Then I received a text from a friend at Garcia’s forest. It turned out that the Sunday night party in the woods was actually just beginning. I headed there through the fields of tents almost forlorn at the empty spaces vacated by people departing. That is until I saw the lights and eyes shining brightly ahead and the electrifying sound of the Dead hailing all to enter the mystical forest.
The post-Phish crowd poured into the trees, guided by the hum of the festival goers who weren’t quite ready to call it quits. We danced, we talked and we gazed at the crescent moon that had shown bright every night and peaked through the canopy of trees. The music kept going until past four in the morning and a new day would soon be upon us. The stars above still filled the sky as I walked towards my car. I searched for the ones that would guide me home but I realized it was futile; I was already there.
I would like to thank Virginia Tourism, Lockn’ Festival and all the individuals who made this a such a wonderful experience. For more information about visiting Virginia or Lockn’ Festival click the links above. See you all next year! Professional photos by Dave Vann.