News Column

Inaugural Lockn' festival starts the fun a day early with pre-party warmup at Jefferson

August 30, 2013


Aug. 30--Imagine you're putting together a multi-day music festival, and a few weeks before liftoff, you learn one of the main attractions has to bow out.

The gut-punch trauma of that bit of news recently was experienced by organizers of the Lockn' music festival, which opens Thursday at Oak Ridge Estate in Nelson County and continues through Sept. 8. The headliners, Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse, had to cancel their much anticipated appearance at the festival when the group's guitarist, Frank "Poncho" Sampedro, broke his hand.

Then late last week it was announced the name of the event would be changed from the Interlocken Music Festival to simply Lockn' music festival. And at the beginning of this week, word was put out that single-day event passes are now available.

Prior to that recent bulletin, only four-day general admission passes and special packages were available. Single-day tickets are good news for those unable to enjoy the festival in its entirety.

The founders of the festival, Nelson County resident Dave Frey and Peter Shapiro, are veterans of the abrupt turns and unexpected glitches often inherent when putting on huge events like music festivals. Frey is the founder of the HORDE Festival, and Shapiro owned the well-known rock club Wetlands Preserve in New York City and is also the proprietor of Brooklyn Bowl and the Capitol Theater in New York.

Lockn' promoters are expecting as many as 40,000 people to attend the festival, which offers a diverse lineup of big-name acts and musical styles from rock to country to bluegrass to reggae. Groups scheduled to perform include the Black Crowes, Zac Brown Incident, Jimmy Cliff, Gov't Mule, String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic (with John Fogerty sitting in) and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, as well as Furthur, featuring former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. Virginia bands also are well represented by groups such as Love Canon, Hackensaw Boys and Keller and the Keels.

The latter trio consists of Fredericksburg native Keller Williams and husband-and-wife combo Larry and Jenny Keel. Williams will be presenting the official Lockn' pre-party warmup at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Jefferson Theater.

"My performance at the Jefferson Theater the night before the opening of the festival is what I call my day job," Williams said during a recent telephone interview from his home in Fredericksburg. "That is my straight-up, solo acoustic dance music show.

"I'm really grateful to be opening the music festival with Larry and Jenny Keel. We'll be playing what we call psychedelic Appalachian bluegrass with a light emphasis on the psychedelic.

"I'll be playing mandolin, Larry is on guitar and Jenny plays bass. In 2006, we released the album 'Grass,' and, in 2010, 'Thief.' "

Williams has 19 albums to his credit, each one bearing a single syllable title. His 2007 album, "Dream," was recorded with people who had influenced him musically, including Weir, Charlie Hunter, Bela Fleck, Michael Franti and Victor Wooten.

"My idea from the beginning, when I released my first album, 'Freek,' in 1994, was to describe the vibe of the record in one syllable," Williams said. "The short answer to how I describe my music is to call it acoustic dance music.

"The long version is that it's deeply rooted in solo acoustic guitar and singing. And every other song having a backbeat and walking the fine line between solo acoustic and full-on electronic dance music."

Williams is something of a modern-day one-man band. He has perfected what is called "looping," which enables him to create a multi-level full-band sound during live performances.

"Basically what [looping] is is a machine that my instruments and microphone are plugged into," Williams said. "I'll step on a button and play or sing something, and at the right moment, I step on the button again and it repeats what I just sang or played.

"I have to step on the button at the right time, or the timing of the loop will be off. Once that initial loop is created, then I can layer on a bass line or drums and percussion. When I started using this technology, I did it simply because I couldn't afford to hire actual humans to play with me.

"It allowed me different avenues to go down musically. What it does is create a full band sound with just me playing. It's amazing fun."

Williams has performed at major music festivals such as the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and the Elysian Fields Music Festival. He said performing in a theater is completely different from going on stage at a festival.

"With a theater gig, you get to go in early, feel the place out, do a sound check and dial in the tones you need," Williams said. "A festival is very much set up and go -- run and gun.

"And at a regular performance, people are paying to see you, whereas at a festival, there will be many people who will be seeing and hearing you for the first time. Both venues are amazing and important.

"To be able to dial it in and get it exactly how you want it at a theater is great, but so is turning people on for the first time at a festival. I know I've been turned onto so many bands and musical acts for the first time at festivals."

Lockn' music festival is an ambitious undertaking that will feature two main stages. Performers will present full two-hour sets, and some of the featured artists will play more than once during the four days.

The festival also has focused on sustainability. A press release states, "This simple yet powerful ethos of sustainability will be integrated into camping, lodging, food, drink, transport offerings, as well as specialized on-site activities."

Wickles Pickles has announced it will make a $5,000 donation to the Nelson County Pantry in the hope that festivalgoers and others will match the donation. According to Marian Dixon at the Pantry, the pickle company's donation will enable the group to distribute nearly two months' worth of food to needy people in Nelson County.

If all goes well, the Lockn' music festival may become an annual event. Williams certainly hopes so.

"I think the amount of energy that's going into this festival is really going to pay off," Williams said. "It's a real positive thing, and a fantastic use of beautiful land.

"The folks putting this festival on know what not to do and exactly what to do to make it a success. And I think they're really cool in the sense that they're opening each day with a Virginia act."

Williams' official Lockn' pre-party show at the Jefferson Theater will be presented at 8 p.m. Wednesday, with doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the doors, with all ages welcome.

The Lockn' music festival will be held from Thursday through Sept. 8 at the Oak Ridge Estate in Nelson County. The major acts will include the Black Crowes, the String Cheese Incident, Zac Brown Incident, Jimmy Cliff, Widespread Panic with John Fogerty, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Furthur featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead. Virginia bands include Indecision, Love Canon, the Hackensaw Boys and Keller and the Keels.

VIP and "Super" VIP packages ranging in price from $1,099 to $699 offer a variety of perks, such as air-conditioned bathrooms with flush toilets and showers, snacks and access to a private acoustic performance by Furthur. Single-day passes are $99 for Thursday and Sunday and $119 per day for Friday and Saturday. Daily shuttles to and from Charlottesville are being offered. For tickets, information and a complete lineup of acts, go to

The Lockn' Pre-Party

featuring Keller Williams

with Pegi Young and the Survivors

8 p.m. Wednesday

Jefferson Theater

$20; $18 advance



with the String Cheese Incident, Gov't Mule, Warren Haynes Band and Keller and the Keels

Opens Thursday; more acts scheduled for Sept. 6, 7 and 8

Oak Ridge Estate in Arrington

$285 for four-day tier 2 pass, $180 students, $99 single-day ticket in advance, free for children ages 12 and younger



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