Playing it forward: Lockn' 2014

Musicians weigh in on their Lockn' favorites

Tom Daly

In almost every interview with a person of notable artistic accomplishment, no matter the medium, there is of talk inspiration or the impetus for creativity. As fans, we are eternally curious about the artist’s muse.

All musicians pay it forward. Elvis stood on the shoulders of bluesmen, before The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Michael Jackson climbed up, and every one of today’s chart-toppers—Maroon 5, Luke Bryan, Tom Petty, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Eminem et al.—owe a debt to their predecessors. The connections throughout the family tree of popular music are exponential and have busted barriers on stage, on the airwaves, and in personal music collections. Just look at your own iTunes.

We followed this line of thinking to form our coverage of the four-day Lockn’ Music Festival at the Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, Virginia, beginning on September 4.

The festival, now in its second year, was founded by music fans and business veterans Dave Frey and Peter Shapiro. Frey said that he and Shapiro bonded over the idea of “interlocking sets” for the festival and the opportunities for unique artist collaborations.

In exploring these intended connections, we asked artists on and off of the Lockn’ stages to tell us what moves them about their peers, mentors, and musical heroes. —Tami Keaveny

Come together

by MAX COLLINS, Kings of Belmont

As a musician in a touring band, I am constantly asked: ”What music has most heavily influenced your style and songwriting?” Though it’s an important question that deserves careful consideration, my response, no matter how thoughtful, often serves to pigeonhole the Kings of Belmont into a category or genre, when the whole point of our music is to blend, bend, and transcend all types of rock ‘n’ roll. And truthfully, I am less often inspired by an artist’s album, song, or even style than I am by an amazing performance. While I don’t tend to listen to Radiohead, Widespread Panic, Wilco, or Snoop Dogg in my car, I have been blown away by their feats of musical mastery on stage.

That is why music festivals like Lockn’ and Bonnaroo are so important. Not only am I able to witness an insanely diverse lineup of musical acts in one weekend, the performances are special, as bands and artists embrace the intensity and grandeur of the festival and craft exceptionally unique sets—playing until sunrise, collaborating with other musicians for a one-time-only jam session, or just generally rocking extra hard for the screaming fans.

Where else can I see Willie Nelson alongside Wilco or a set by Taj Mahal just before one by Tom Petty? Over the last decade of attending music festivals, I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen sit in on a set with Phish; I’ve been brought to my knees by the thunderous sound of Tool just before being brought to tears during a rare set by The Police. I’ve seen The Flaming Lips cover The Dark Side of the Moon with The Wizard of Oz projected behind the stage, and I’ve been introduced to amazing new acts that I probably would have never seen or heard of if I hadn’t wandered to their stage in the rain at 3am. The huge stages, the lights, the monitors, the fans, and the bands come together to heighten each performance, creating a truly singular experience that is greater than the sum of its parts and only possible at a festival.

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Image: Danny Clinch

After four-plus decades, the Midnight Riders are heading off into the sunset. Lockn’ will be one of the Allman Brothers Band’s final shows (only an October New York City theater run follows). Despite death, drugs, and discord, Greg Allman persisted in carrying out the legacy he started with his late brother Duane in 1969, and thanks to the guitar prowess of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, the band’s latest incarnation has continually churned out some of its best music to date. At the Lockn’ Festival the psychedelic blues pioneers will revisit a beloved live album with a full reading of 1971’s At Fillmore East.

Widespread Panic thrives on spontaneity. Since emerging from Athens, Georgia’s storied music scene nearly three decades ago, the Southern jam kings have continued to find new avenues for their Dixie-flavored groove rock. For the second year in a row at Lockn’ the band will play a collaborative set with a rock legend, this time teaming up with keyboardist Steve Winwood. Before last year’s festival collaboration with John Fogerty, Panic bassist Dave Schools told C-VILLE, “in the world of Widespread Panic anything can change between rehearsal and when you’re on stage playing in front of people. The idea is to be prepared for anything.”

Nine things I love about The Allman Brothers Band and one thing I hate

by DAVE SCHOOLS of Widespread Panic

1. Gregg Allman still has the most authentic American voice I have ever heard outside of blues masters like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Just listen to him sing “Dreams.” It gives me cold shivers every time.

2. A rhythm section like a goddamn locomotive. Butch, Jaimoe, Mark, and Oteil. Any questions? I didn’t think so….damn. I mean, really.

3. The way my heart melts when the coda of “Melissa” comes back around.

4. The sound of my young brain popping when I finally realized that the 25-minute version of “Whipping Post” from the Live at Fillmore East LP faded out with the beginning of the 37-minute ‘Mountain Jam’ that was released a year or so later on the Eat A Peach album. That’s an hour-long jam and one hell of a way to end a show. I heard that Bill Graham served pancakes to the audience after that show.

5. I’m not sure if Derek Trucks is living proof of extraordinary musical ability being written into a family’s genetic code or if he is actual proof of reincarnation. Either way there isn’t another living guitarist I want to hear play a solo for 10 minutes.

6. Except for Warren Haynes. And Jimmy Herring.

7. Jaimoe can actually get away with wearing a kilt and an unbuttoned shirt onstage. Seriously.

8. ABB still takes chances on stage every night. A rare talent in this day and age.

9. The live version of “Stormy Monday” on Fillmore East was the first real modern blues song I ever heard performed by a band that wasn’t Cream or Led Zeppelin. Thank you XL102 circa 1979. Hearing this on commercial FM radio opened my ears in a big way and changed my life for the better.

The one thing I hate: Having to actually follow these guys onstage. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again. I’d rather just sit back and listen.

 

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Image: Austin Nelson

Locals on Lockn’

James Wilson (Sons of Bill) on Wilco:

As with all great music, when I fell in love with Wilco in the early 2000s, I was struck by this feeling of hearing something unmistakably familiar and yet like nothing I’d ever heard before. This is a paradox that I think true art awakens in us; a dissonance which draws us in. Listening to Wilco at that time in my life was like discovering the soundtrack to modern anxiety: skirting a familiar line between sentimental and deranged, solipsistic and selfless, violent and impotent, earnest yet unintelligible. Even now albums like Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sound like listening to the interior chaos of an extended panic attack. There was something enervating about the music and yet I couldn’t stop listening.

Wilco’s music was oddly unsure of itself—lyrically, stylistically, even musically. It was full of rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia and innocent insecurity. Jeff Tweedy, Jay Bennett, and Ken Coomer weren’t rock icons, they were fans, and they taught a whole generation of young rockers that you didn’t have to look like Brett Michaels—it was O.K. to be a fan. You were cooler just being a fan. They loved everything from Merle Haggard to Gang of Four, from Tears for Fears to Lightning Hopkins, and let all of this love bleed onto the page. Ironically they made a whole generation fall in love with rock and roll again by humanizing it and pulling away its veil.

Sons of Bill plays the Jefferson on September 27. sonsofbill.com

Adam Brock (Borrowed Beams of Light, Weird Mob, Y’ALL) on Wilco:

In college, I dated a girl who had a “friend” back home who would send her mixtapes in the mail. It was pretty clear this “friend” was pretty into her. Oh well. His tapes ruled.

Before then, I never dug too deep for my music—Beatles, Beach Boys, the odd ’90s alt-radio band like Radiohead.

The first mixtape this kid sent my girlfriend basically knocked me into a whole other level. Warp zone. Straight to Dinosaur Jr., Guided by Voices, Built to Spill, Wilco, etc. All the bands somebody was supposed to tell me about in high school, but nobody ever did. This weasel with a thing for my girlfriend basically became the cool older brother I never had. So thanks, Weasel. I hope life has been kind to you.

When asked to write about a Lockn’ artist, I quickly homed in on Wilco. And though there are so many things I could say of their albums—so many reasons they have, over the years, changed the very rubric by which I view pop music in general, from the Brian Wilson bone-xylophone symphony of Summerteeth to the post-apoc Americana skyline of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—it’s actually through the lens of those mixtapes I like to think about Wilco.

To me, they are representative of the idea that whatever your relationship to music—creator, listener, or both—you have a responsibility to dig deep. Mine your inspirations. Find the richer colors beneath the surface. Find the bands behind the bands. For every Beatles there is a Kinks, a Nilsson, a Pretty Things. For every Oasis, there’s a Stone Roses, a Pulp, an XTC. And deep beneath a Wilco you may find some Burrito Bros., Can, Sonic Youth, Townes Van Zandt, Bill Fay, or Big Star. And you’ll probably find a little of all that in my bands too—also, some Wilco.

Borrowed Beams of Light’s newest LP On the Wings of a Bug is available on iTunes or on vinyl at Melody Supreme or Sidetracks. borrowedbeams.com

Sam Bush (The Hill and Wood) on Wilco:

Hearing Wilco for the first time is a favorite musical milestone. Having been raised on classic rock and Top 40 hits, it was the first music that didn’t make immediate sense to me. Some of the songs were over six minutes long and the singer’s voice resembled that of my uncle’s, far from the digitized pipes of a pop icon.

Jeff Tweedy was one of the first songwriters I ever heard who wasn’t conforming to the general idea of “cool,” but was writing from a more honest place.

Love, hate, fear and forgiveness—when these things are all intertwined, it can make for a very confusing pop song, and yet, after hearing “Reservations,”’ with the lyrics, “I’ve got reservations about so many things, but not about you,” it felt like the only song worth listening to at the time.

The Hill and Wood performs on September 12 at the UVA Chapel. thehillandwood.com

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Image: James Minchin

As Nelson’s friend Neil sang, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” The Red Headed Stranger refuses to do either. At 81, the hard-toking outlaw bard continues to live on his tour bus and also refuses to let his musical output fall into rusty nostalgia. In June, his new Band of Brothers became Nelson’s first chart-topping country album in 28 years.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals burst onto the scene in 2005 after recording their debut album Nothing but the Water and were welcomed with open arms and standing ovations show after show. Jaws usually drop when the gorgeous, leggy frontwoman takes the stage, and they remain agape when she stands at her Hammond B-3 organ playing notes like a lead guitarist while belting out pure rock and roll with unlimited range. Her original songs are reminiscent of the late ’60s and early ’70s with a modern twist supplied by heavy distortion and youthful energy.

Ten things I love about Willie Nelson

by GRACE POTTER

1. He wrote the song “Crazy.” He could have only done that and he’d still be one of my favorite people of all time.

2. He played in a traditional polka band when he was just getting started.

3. He keeps his family close. His sister Bobbie is still in the band.

4. He has the best please-get-off-my-bus line of all time: “Well, we gotta drive West…”

5. He is a founding member of FarmAid, a cause very dear to my heart.

6. He was instrumental in putting the biodiesel movement on the map, making it possible for touring bands to lower their carbon footprint.

7. He looks great in a turtleneck. Check out the [“Ernest Tubb Show”] clip of him from his earlier years.

8. He plays Trigger, his beat-to-shit acoustic guitar, through a Baldwin amplifier.

9. His particular style of guitar playing is really unique—his solos sound like beautifully crafted accidents.

10. His legacy appreciates year after year because he’s never tried to be anything other than who he is.

Locals on Lockn’

Sarah White (Sarah White & the Pearls) on Willie Nelson:

Willie Nelson’s 1975 concept album Red Headed Stranger is a record that speaks to the power of story and simplicity in song. To a kid in the country, before YouTube, before iTunes, hell, before CDs and MTV, the world seemed a lot wider, a lot further away, a place to venture out into. Possibility loomed in the wide expanse of sky over the mountains, in the golden burn of summer fields, and in the big yellow chair beside the record player. When I sat in that chair, album on the stereo, album cover in hand, I disappeared. With sparse instrumentation and simple reverberating melodies, the Red Headed Stranger created a universe just for me with not much more than a guitar and a good story. That voice, warbled and worn and unlike any other, sang songs of broken love and murder, itinerant preachers, ponies and saddles, and blue eyes crying in the rain, crossing the river to repose in the shade of a tree, in peace. I loved that album like a patchwork quilt. It covered the life and breadth of the West—a narrative in song that is pure America.

Sarah White performs on September 12 at the UVA Chapel. sarah-white.com

Erin Lunsford (Erin & The Wildfire) on Grace Potter and Susan Tedeschi:

Two of my all-time favorite artists are in this year’s Lockn’ Festival: Susan Tedeschi and Grace Potter. I love strong female leads, especially when they are wickedly talented songwriters, instrumentalists, and generally stellar human beings. Tedeschi is an excellent blues guitarist and singer. Her Bonnie Raitt/B.B. King mix pulls your heart strings and simultaneously soothes your blue soul. Potter is a skillful organist, guitarist, performer, and singer. Potter is such a go-getter, so alive on stage. She’s probably the best live performer I’ve ever seen and if I get to meet her at this year’s festival I will cry. Oh the excitement. Can’t wait for Lockn’!

Erin & The Wildfire play Lockn’ on September 7. erinandthewildfire.com

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Image: Mary Ellen Matthews

Lockn’ co-headliner Tom Petty has been forging original rock with his band the Heartbreakers for more than 38 years. The Florida native recently talked about the influence of his friendship with George Harrison in an NPR interview: “It was like having an older brother that had a lot of experience in the music business, someone who I could go to with my troubles and questions,” he said.

Now a mentor in his own right, as he approaches his fifth decade as a frontman, Petty finds himself atop the throne of rock ‘n’ roll with a new TPHB album at the top of the charts.

Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood tells a great story. His vivid lyrics about the underbelly of the modern South often detail shady characters or rural economic plight — delivered through the force of the band’s distorted guitar attack. While enduring many personnel changes in his group’s 18 years, Hood and main songwriting foil Mike Cooley remain bonded constants — sounding as vital as ever on the spring-released album English Oceans.

Ten things I love about Tom Petty

by PATTERSON HOOD of Drive-By Truckers

Limiting it to 10 things is hard on Tom Petty, as I’ve loved The Heartbreakers and Tom since I first heard “Breakdown” in that terrible movie FM (he even had a cameo) in the eighth grade.

Here goes the first 10 things that come to mind in no particular order:

1. The Heartbreakers! I could list them all separately and that’d be fine, but collectively, including Tom, they are easily one of the top five greatest bands of all time. Taken on their own they are easily one of the top two or three greatest backing bands of all time. Individually they include one of my top two favorite living guitarists, a top five keyboardist (of all time), two of my favorite drummers (I love Steve Ferrone and I loved Stan Lynch). Loved both bass players too. Love Scott Thurston. A simply unbelievably incredible band.

2. No matter how big they became, they remained underrated.

3. Southern accents. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers always utilized their southernness without ever being bogged down by it or letting it use them.

4. “Southern Accents.” If he’d never written another song “Southern Accents” would be enough to make him one of the world’s finest songwriters. Fortunately for all of us he did write another song or two.

5. Stubbornness. Tom Petty can hold his own with anyone when it comes to sticking to his guns, no matter what. Part of his continued success is he always stuck to it and never backed down. Hell I think he wrote a song about that too.

6. He fought for what he thought was right. Always. Guess that sometimes fell under stubbornness, but deserved its own number. He fought for his independence in ’79 and they bankrupted him. He won anyway. He followed that up with “Refugee.” He fought against the raising of list price in ’81 and won. Then they raised them anyway. And burned his fucking house down. He wrote some great songs about that too. (Let Me Up, I’ve Had Enough is one of his two great underrated albums). They told him that his first solo album wasn’t commercial enough. It had fucking “Free Fallin’” on it.

7. He wrote “Free Fallin.’” They were already telling him he was past his prime. That was 1989. If he’d never written another great song after that—he did. Hundreds more great songs, but “Free Fallin’” is truly one of the great songs of all time.

8. He’s made consistently good to great albums in five decades now. Who else has ever done that? Some have been more successful than others, but there has never been a bad one. Not even a truly mediocre one.

Echo, which he says he can’t even listen to, has some amazing songs and some of The Heartbreakers best playing on it. “Swinging” and “Billy the Kid” deserve to be considered all time TPHB classics. Everyone who was big in the ’70s, sucked in the ’80s. Tom Petty was bigger and better than ever. Everyone who was big in the ’80s sucked in the ’90s. Tom Petty was cooler than ever in the ’90s. This year he had a No. 1 album and is still a huge touring draw. Tom Petty rules!

9. There’s never been a bad Tom Petty show. I challenge anyone to show me otherwise. Sure, some are better than others. I’m sure he’s been sick and there’s been issues and blah blah blah, but has anyone ever actually seen a bad one? When we toured with them, Mike Campbell collapsed from the 100-plus degree heat, on stage, during the set. They literally carried him off (with the guitar still clutched in his hand). They came back on a little while later and finished the set. They were fantastic.

10. He fired The Replacements on stage in Nashville, Tennessee. I was there. The Replacements were my favorite band at the time (still one of my all time faves). They deserved it. TPHB then went out and played extra songs (‘Because We Care!”) and blew everyone out there away. It was an unbelievably amazing show. Then Tom Petty wrote a song about a burned out wasted pop star and used one of The Replacements lines in it (The “Rebel without a clue” line in “Into the Great Wide Open”). It was kind of an asshole move, but very rock ‘n’ roll and very appropriate considering that The Replacements used to cover “Breakdown” drunkenly during TPHB’s opening slot and considering that they had played that last show wearing Tom Petty’s wife’s dresses that they had stolen off of Tom Petty’s bus that afternoon.

I could go on, but won’t. I would also use No. 10 if I was making this list about The Replacements. Nothing is better than a great story.

Locals on Lockn’

Travis Book (The Infamous Stringdusters) on Tom Petty:

Has anyone ever had Tom Petty come on the radio and not turned the dial up to 11? Full Moon Fever is not only one of the best albums of the ’80s, it is unquestionably the best road music that’s ever been made. “Running Down a Dream” is the sound of the road. Tom seems like he could just as easily be your auto mechanic or the guy who delivers your propane. There are few musicians who are more themselves than Tom Petty, and none of them make us feel the way he does.

The Infamous Stringdusters host The Festy at Devils Backbone Basecamp on October 10-12. thefesty.com

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Publicity image

There’s no mistaking Del McCoury’s high lonesome tenor. It soars as one of bluegrass music’s most cherished voices, and as he continues through a 50-plus year career, he’s coveted as a lasting vestige to the craft’s early purveyors. McCoury first emerged as one of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in the early ’60s, and today, as he fronts his own Grammy-winning Del McCoury Band (which features two of his quick-picking sons), he remains a pure portal to authenticity.

Nimble-fingered, flat-picking wiz Larry Keel isn’t quite the bluegrass star that he should be. But the under-appreciated guitar shredder—who hails from nearby Rockbridge County—has earned the respect of genre predecessors, collaborating with the likes of Tony Rice and Del McCoury. He’s also crossed over into the jam world, mainly through his Keller and the Keels project with fellow Virginian Keller Williams. With his wife Jenny on bass, Keel will kick off a big Saturday at Lockn’ with a rare set playing alongside mandolin ace Sam Bush.

Ten things I love about Del McCoury

by LARRY KEEL

1. His hair.

2. His family.

3. The fact that he recorded one of my songs, and the album on which it appears won a Grammy.

4. His G run on the guitar.

5. I like the way he talks.

6. His laugh.

7. The fact that he played with the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe.

8. Getting to sing tenor with him while he and I played a song he wrote—”Dreams.”

9. His festival.

10. I love Del McCoury for carrying on the bluegrass music tradition.

Locals on Lockn’

Jay Pun on Tedeschi Trucks Band:

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big supporter of female musicians. I’m not simply referring to anyone with a nice voice that sings pretty songs. Don’t get me wrong, I love singer songwriters but there are many female musicians who are killer instrumentalists and deserve more exposure.

Susan Tedeschi is one of those females. First and foremost a vocalist, she also knows her way around her guitar’s fretboard really well and her solos clearly speak from her soul. She and her husband Derek Trucks officially formed the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010, and together they inspire me because they are playing true music that digs deep into the soul and has no fluff.

Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun are currently working on a new CD due in spring 2015. mojamusic.net

Eli Cook on Steve Winwood and Taj Mahal:

One of my all time favorite R&B/rock vocalists is Steve Winwood. The Blind Faith album is the first supergroup project, and is rightfully an iconic recording that sets the bar very high for songwriting, singing, and guitar playing. I actually recorded a cover of “Had to Cry Today” a few years ago that never got released.

Another big influence on me when I first picked up the guitar was Taj Mahal. His self-titled debut was one of the vinyl albums in my parents collection that I put a lot of time in with. It was a huge influence on the Allman Brothers as well, so any guitarist or vocalist who wants to understand where giants such as those were coming from needs to invest in some Taj.

Eli Cook performs at E&J Pub in Waynesboro on September 4. elicook.com

Sally Rose on Erin & The Wildfire:

Erin and The Wildfire are like a bustling midnight train. Vivacious frontwoman Erin is taking the regional music scene by storm, full steam ahead. The Wildfire embodies the true heart, soul, grace, and grit of a working band—guitarist Ryan plays psychedelic, blues riffs, Matt (bass) holds steady with a funky beat, and Nick (drums) reminds a tender heart of Levon Helm with rockin’ beats and tight harmonies. With Erin’s sultry pipes, The Wildfire creates a hypnotic groove determined to make you “get up offa that thing.” I urge you to catch this local gem before you can’t afford the nosebleed seats.

The Sally Rose Band plays at the Jefferson on October 9. thesallyroseband.com

Gene Osborn (We Are Star Children) on No BS! Brass Band:

In all honesty, I’ve been influenced most by my friends growing up and in college. We’d play for hours and hours. It’s all I wanted to do. Going to shows was big and I learned a ton from the local bands in upstate New York. The players in Boulder were phenomenal and Granada, Spain was a hot bed for shred. Local friends like Lance Koehler from the No BS! Brass Band and Sarah White have definitely left a mark.

We Are Star Children perform at Crozet Pizza at the Buddhist Biker Bar on September 20. wearestarchildren.bandcamp.com

Special thanks to our contributors!

  • Dave Schools of Widespread Panic

  • James Wilson of Sons of Bill

  • Adam Brock of Borrowed Beams of Light, Weird Mob, and Y'ALL

  • Sam Bush of The Hill and Wood

  • Grace Potter

  • Sarah White of Sarah White & the Pearls

  • Erin Lunsford of Erin & the Wildfire

  • Sally Rose

  • Travis Book of The Infamous Stringdusters

  • Gene Osborn (center) of We Are Star Children

  • Larry Keel

  • Jay Pun

  • Eli Cook

  • Patterson Hood

  • Lance Burr

    One of the most confusing articles ever. Some good stuff in there but what a unfocused mess… jeez.