Beginning stages: Five acts making a Lockn’ debut

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CREDIT: Jacob Blickenstaff - Brooklyn, NY - October 5, 2015 - The Record Company (Alex Stiff, Chris Voss, Marc Carzorla) CREDIT: Jacob Blickenstaff – Brooklyn, NY – October 5, 2015 – The Record Company (Alex Stiff, Chris Voss, Marc Carzorla)

The Lockn’ Festival returns to Arrington this week, bringing four days of music to Infinity Downs Farm from Thursday through Sunday. The jam-friendly festival is largely returning to its foundational roots, with headlining slots featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident and Gov’t Mule, which will perform a special collaborative set with Ann Wilson of Heart (see page 39). Looking deeper, the festival’s roster has plenty of new faces—bands from a range of genres that will bring touches of bluegrass, country, folk and blues to the big improvisational rock party. Here are five acts appearing at Lockn’ for the first time.

The Avett Brothers

It was a bit of a surprise that The Avett Brothers decided to forgo their near-annual sellout at the Sprint Pavilion in favor of a set at the jam-centric Lockn’. But the high-energy outfit, led by brothers Scott and Seth Avett, has demonstrated an affinity for the Grateful Dead. Notably, last fall the group joined guitarist Warren Haynes to play a full show of Jerry Garcia tunes at an arena in northern Virginia. At Lockn’ the band will also likely play the Dead, as its Sunday headlining set will feature a guest appearance by Bob Weir.

Since forming in the early 2000s, the group has expanded from a primal acoustic trio, known for heartfelt, ragged harmonies, into a seven-piece folk-rock machine that has headlined huge rooms, including Madison Square Garden. The Avetts have stated in recent interviews that they’re currently working on a follow-up to last year’s Rick Rubin-produced, Grammy-nominated album True Sadness.

Margo Price

Margo Price (left) turned heads in 2016 with the stunning debut Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, which blended reverence for vintage country with hearty, soulful grit. A longtime working-class singer-songwriter in Nashville, Price’s solo debut, full of intensely honest songs like the standout single “Hands of Time,” was released on Jack White’s Third Man Records and soon after catapulted her on stage with the likes of Kris Kristofferson and John Prine. Ahead of her highly anticipated next record, Price dropped a surprise EP, Weakness, last month. The new effort offers a nice sample of Price’s honeyed voice moving between lonesome ballads, old-school honky-tonk and rowdy rockabilly. In between tour dates with Chris Stapleton and Willie Nelson, she’ll perform with her band on the Lockn’ main stage on Sunday.

Marcus King Band

At just 21 years old, blues-rock wunderkind Marcus King has already hit enough musical milestones to make most veteran players jealous. Last year’s eponymous debut by his Marcus King Band was produced by Warren Haynes and features a guitar assist from Derek Trucks. This past Saturday, King and his crew opened for Haynes’ band, Gov’t Mule, at Colorado’s famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The weekend prior at the Peach Music Festival in Pennsylvania, King participated in an all-star tribute to Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks, two founding members of the Allman Brothers Band who both passed away earlier this year.

At a time when many Allman Brothers fans are feeling a void, King, who plays the Blue Ridge Bowl stage at Lockn’ on Friday, is a refreshing new face. As the son of a South Carolina blues man, the young musician has fierce guitar chops and a husky, soulful voice—talents he uses to lead his band through a mix of experimental R&B, Southern rock grooves and country porch songs.

The Record Company

Fast success has been found by this Los Angeles-based power trio (pictured above) that delivers full-throttle blues-rock. Lean-and-mean arrangements propel the songs on the band’s 2016 debut, Give It Back to You, which notched a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album. At times, the group channels the minimalist thunder of recent predecessors The White Stripes and The Black Keys, but lead singer-guitarist Chris Vos occasionally dips into a clean falsetto that gives songs like “Off the Ground” an R&B-pop heart. After a recent stretch opening for John Mayer, the band leads off the main stage lineup on Sunday.

Greensky Bluegrass

This year the Lockn’ lineup is a little light on the acoustic side of the jam scene, so anyone seeking a bluegrass fix should catch the Saturday set by this adventurous quintet. Now into its second decade, the Michigan-formed group uses nimble string picking to embark on psychedelic tangents, but that’s only part of the band’s musical equation. The group’s de facto frontman, mandolin player Paul Hoffman, sings like a wise and weathered troubadour and has a knack for writing insightful lyrics. Both anchor the impressive roots-based songs on the band’s latest album, last year’s Shouted, Written Down & Quoted, which was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. Beyond originals, the band likes to showcase an impressive array of covers in the live setting, offering inventive, acoustic takes on tunes by Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd, among many others.

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