Nothing is really more spiritual than the first time listening through Terrapin, and that’s just how the gooball melts. I gotta say though, I felt that same hopeful way when I found out about the Grateful Dead reunion shows last year with Trey, and hands-down am even more excited about this upcoming LOCKN‘. The festival where all the bands combine, and they melt into a dream. Where the best musicians bring out the best fans and we all celebrate life for a few days.
And, I think that’s just what co-founders Dave Frey and Pete Shapiro aim to do: bring everyone together to hear, feel and experience amazing music, while cultivating community in a beautiful, natural space. Set by a backdrop of the Blue Ridge mountains of Arrington, VA, (just outside Charlottesville) and a soundtrack uniquely founded on collaboration by some of the best live musicians in psychedelic, jam, and improv rock, LOCKN’ will surely be a tasty slice of Utopia.
To iron out the details that matter in life (all things rock n’ roll), I called Pete Shapiro on a palpably humid, Gold-Bond-level Wednesday in Chicago. The second day of the Mann run for him, and me just coming off a few days at Wrigley and Deer Creek, it’s a miracle we got so much accomplished.
On the topic of community, Shapiro confirmed there will be just one, big stage this year, instead of the two stage model previously employed. Labeled as a “Turntable Stage,” it will rotate 360* and offer space to two bands at a time; one in front, facing the crowd, and one in back, setting up for the next set. When the next show begins, the stage will rotate 180* and present us with the next act. For example as Ween ends, we’ll have a short break, then be presented with the foursome from Vermont. There has been a lot of buzz about Ween opening up for Phish, with lots of phans hoping for a dual-band-mashup of “Roses Are Free.” I think even though there will still be small set-breaks in between bands, the potential for collaboration is really heightened by having one, single performance platform.
In the moment it will probably seem really natural and effortless to us in the crowd, despite all the work that goes into that illusion behind the scenes. And trippy… it will definitely be pretty trippy. Just think, day-two-festival-brain + Gordo’s mischievious non-grin as the first thing you see, totally locked in, and spinning around on a stage to perform in front of you, possibly wielding his drill… ya. Just picture that. I’m so into that. I think the intention is to try something new, and keep everyone focused on one stage to avoid competition of any kind.
“This whole thing is kind of like a good jam. We evolve, and build, and change a little. This year we’re gonna try this out. We’re hoping it will be a fluid experience for everyone,” Shapiro explained. “Sure there will be little pauses, but also, hopefully it will be a little easier for everyone to see. We hope people like it, and we’re really excited about it. We’re always trying to tweak things just a little bit to make it better and different. Just like a good jam.”
When asked about worries of a technical nature, Shapiro didn’t seem phased.
“We have a great team. That isn’t even an issue,” he said. “We just figured with these big headliners, we want people to be able to see. Especially Phish, you know? We think this will help with sight-lines, and allow people to kind of… set up shop for the day as well, knowing that they’ll be able to see the stage for the band(s) they came to see. No one has to be on the other side of the field, or anything like that. We think it will be great.”
I also had to ask him about the rainbow, obviously. If you didn’t know, Pete also put on the GD50 shows last summer for the Grateful Dead 50th Anniversary. The Grateful Dead’s “Core Four,” Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart, played alongside former GD keys colleague Bruce Hornsby, Furthur keys player Jeff Chimenti, and everyone’s favorite Phish frontman, Trey Anastasio on some damn good guitar. Under the moniker Fare Thee Well, the shows ran two nights in Santa Clara, CA, near the Dead’s west-coast home of San Francisco, then moved to the midwest to play three nights over July 4th at the locale of the Dead’s final show with Jerry Garcia: Chicago’s Soldier Field. The first night of Santa Clara, as the show ended, a GIANT rainbow appeared. Since then, everyone’s been asking Pete if he paid for the rainbow.
“Was it man-made?” I asked. He again stated to me:
“It was man-made. And the man that made it was Jerry Garcia.”
It’s fair to say that Jerry has been overseeing this all, really. Since the GD50 shows, Pete says one of the coolest and most powerful things has been all the Dead-related cultural fringe that has since emerged and decorated the modern world.
“All the cool stuff that was going on in Chicago was all you guys,” Shapiro said. “The people who love the Dead. There were shows at every Chicago venue of bands playing Dead music, artists sold their grateful art outside the shows,…everyone kind of created new life out of it. It just is such a big community, full of great people. Bringing everyone together is what we’re gonna do again at LOCKN’. That, along with the integration of Trey, Phish, and the Dead world…it’s just never been done at a festival like this. That whole thing from last summer’s gonna happen again, a year later. Phish is headlining two nights, and are surrounded by tons of Dead music. In fact, this will be the first time since Fare Thee Well that members from Phish will play with members from the Dead, and we’re really excited about that too.”
One of the biggest and most recent additions to LOCKN’s already stacked lineup is assuredly Phil & Friends. As his touring days are behind him, it is a rarity to see Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead, bass) on the East Coast. He’ll be playing two shows, with two different lineups:
SATURDAY AUGUST 27: Phil Lesh & Friends
Featuring Jon Fishman, Page McConnell, Joe Russo & The Infamous Stringdusters
SUNDAY AUGUST 28: Phil Lesh & Friends
Featuring Chris Robinson Brotherhood with special guest sit-in by Gary Clark Jr
Um…. what? Pretty cool to homage the Grateful Dead’s two-drummer setup with the two best drummers in improv-rock today. Cannot freaking wait to hear Page bust out that clavinet and bring some of that nasty funk into our LIVES alongside Phil, yo. I can feel the Scarlet> Fire now and it feels really, really explosive; just bursting w energy. Not to mention that they’re all joined by one of the few bluegrass additions to the weekend: the Infamous Stringdusters. Local to Charlottesville, VA, these guys can really pick, and will add a special element to some of the softer tunes. Perhaps we’ll hear a nice, “Shady Grove,” since it would sound ridiculously awesome with a full-blown string band.
Last time I saw Joe Russo play drums at LOCKN’ (Furthur 2013), he spun me out hard and long, straight out of the show out into some sort of campground-scenario during a drums segment in the “Weather Report Suite.” We realized when we heard Phil giving his Donor Rap that the show wasn’t over and ran back for the encore, cracking up the whole way. Honestly, LOCKN’ is the best, and that’s one reason: nothing is too far away, even if you’re on Mars. But ya… that was just all just Russo’s super-powers alone. Can’t wait to see what the addition of Henrietta “Jon Fishman” The Wolfman, brings. I’m also really, really excited to see Russo rejoin with Lesh as well, who played together for about five years in Furthur, and have had only a few one-off appearances together since the band disassociated in 2014. Really getting the band back together here, if even for the first time.
ALERT: This lineup and this festival are pretty much a dreams-come-true-level situation, folks. Just a reminder.
When Shapiro mentioned he was in the crowd for Phil & Friends 4/16/99, I really hoped for some semblance of a late-90’s Phil & Friends daydream lineup, but never imagined it would be this flush across the board. Like a psychedelic rock fantasy coming true, with Saturday’s lineup being more jam-band-y, and Sunday more rock n’ roll with a touch of the blues, it is going to straight-up, rule. Sunday should be perfectly-placed, as Chris Robinson Brotherhood plays a full set prior to Phil & Friends. It should be very-much noted that Neal Casal, guitarist who spearheaded the GD50 setbreak music and associated band, Circles Around the Sun, is in Chris Robinson Brotherhood, has played with Phil & Friends before, and will also be performing the first ever live show at LOCKN. Late-night following a huge, full day of music capped by Ween>PHish> JRAD… I’m not quite sure if anything else fits as well. It is really cool to see an conceptual idea manifest into light and melody, and this is really one glaring example of that. Instrumental interludes aren’t for everyone, but to me, they’re basically everything. Having said that, the Phil & Friends lineups are also pretty all-inclusive, covering the gamut of all musical stylings present at LOCKN’. Community, man. Really keeping with the theme.
Given his relationship with Phil, from those aforementioned-daydream-years with Phil & Friends, and with Shapiro through GD50, it’s like dude, “What about Trey?” We are one Trey away from Phil & Phriends, really. As Phish bookends the weekend with shows on Friday & Sunday nights, maybe we will see some more surprise guests when the time comes in the form of a Big Red or a Cactus, or even both.
While I did directly ask about it, I did not get a direct response. “A lot of special guests and intricacies are being finalized behind the scenes still,” Shapiro said. I creepily paused for too long to be comfortable hoping he would spill his guts, but the guy is a pro. We’ll just have to see what happens in a couple weeks in Arrington.
It should be noted that this whole LOCKN’ thing, the GD50 thing, the branding at Garcia’s at the Cap…none of this is contrived, really. It’s all been a natural, organic uprising of hardworking heads who want to deliver the music and the good times to the people. I kind of love that. It shows in the vibe of the place, and how experienced it feels to be there. Everyone that works on this festival go way back it seems, and are all a big family. And they’re all Dead to the core. I had a ton of questions about the Jerry Forest that has expanded to what used to be called the Triangle Stage for the first year or two of LOCKN’, and how it will go down.
The guy they’re calling the DJ, I’m gonna call him the curator. His name is Brett Fairbrother. The dude is an en-cy-clo-pedia of Jerry knowledge and I only got to talk to him for like an hour, but you just know, you know? Wait til you go to his party.
It’s gonna be a 40 x 40 dance party tent nestled in a wooded, red cedar grove, illuminated and playing Jerry Garcia’s music at all times. Not the Grateful Dead’s music; but all of Jerry’s other workings: Jerry Garcia Band, of course, but also depending on the mood or time of day, Merl Saunders & Jerry Garcia, The Pizza Tapes with David Grisman, Side Trips, Legion of Mary, Old and in the Way, New Riders of the Purple Sage, acoustic, electric, solo, you name it, he did it. That’s why I think Brett is more of a curator; there is so much at play across a four-day festival and when you are in charge of the music, you really set the tone. To be able to thumb through a catalog that vast, and pinpoint the exact version of a song that you even know exists in the first place, is impressive.
“This didn’t just start with LOCKN’ or GD50,” Fairbrother explained. “No, no. This goes way back.”
He explained that it stemmed from an infamous Brad Sands party. Phish’s then-manager Sands was the first curator/dj, and over the years it became kind of a tradition. Because everyone listens to the Grateful Dead, but why leave out all the other Jerry goodness that can be consumed?
“After a massive Phish show, there’s not a ton you can really just … listen to, you know? It became a thing. And it’s fun for me, I love it, and Pete’s always been a fan. We saw 4/16/99 together, you know.”
And it’s all coming together and making sense. This is seriously a big, happy, family. He explained that his team at Garcia’s Forest will be a a lot of folks from Garcia’s at the Cap. I also asked how he knows what to play, and if he would compare what he is offering to a grandiose-sized trip tent? A place to chill after the shows end, or to come down? He laughed a bit, but not in a rude way. It just seemed to resonate.
“It is truly a big dance party. You should check E-tree. There is an 8-disk set on there called The Garcia Disks with the collection from the first party! I kinda have based everything off of that, but it’s been a part of my blood so long…I’m not sure how to explain it. Some stuff is obvious, though, like…am I going to drop a 6/30/85 “Shakedown” at 3PM when people are laying around? Hell no!”
Now I was laughing.
“Honestly, we’ll be going 24/7 for the most part, give or take a few breaks here or there for people working to get a breather.” Before I could ask about the Shakedown comment, he added, “We won’t ever really play the Dead over there, but the occasional huge jam might be placed at the right time . The party really gets started at midnight over by us. After the mainstage shows end, the whole forest around the tent is going to be lit up too.”
Illuminated by artist S. Jeremy Peters, as SJP Productions, the Jerry Garcia forest will look something like this:
In past years, this area has been called the Triangle Stage, but will be taking on new form this time around. According to Stef May, Coordinator of the Jerry Forest, and Marketing Manager at Garcia’s at the Cap, there is going to be vending over there, as well as bathrooms.
“We want it to feel like an extension of the main area, but we know it’s not the closest walk,” May said. It isn’t that far.. maybe 15-20 minutes to walk it, but after four days… I can see what she’s saying. “We wanted to make it as comfortable as possible, and make it inviting to come spend some time over there.” She also added that there will be tons of Garcia swag, including old photos and other relics, hung up decorating the inside of the tent. Sounds like my kinda party. Now we’ll just have to see if Brett lives up to his nickname.
“They used to call me DJ Candyman,” Fairbrother said. “That might have come from Cypress.” While at Cypress, Fairbrother’s photo was taken during 2001 as he faced the wrong way of the stage to watch the sun come up. “People were telling me to turn around, but I knew I was looking the right way,” he said. After the show ended, they raged Jerry’s music and the rest is pretty much history.
Before any of this information even came to light, the lineup for LOCKN’ this year was already stacked, but man, with these additions… it’s really unbelievable. Kudos and major thank you’s to Dave Frey, Pete Shapiro, all the bands, Brett Fairbrother, Stef May, and all the folks on the LOCKN’ team who make this possible for all of us.
Filed under: America, Concert people, Dance Parties, Fare Thee Well #GD50, Festivals, Grateful Dead, Jam Bands, Jerry Garcia Band, Jerry Garcia Forest, Joe Russo's Almost Dead, Live Music, Lockn 2016, Marco Benevento, music, Paradise, Party, Pete Shapiro, Phil and Friends, Phish, Q & A, Summer, Trey Anastasio, Tribute Bands, Umphrey's McGee