Surviving Lockn’ 2013

The Lockn’ Festival, held in the beautiful and scenic Arrington, Virginia, celebrated it’s inception with glorious shows, lovely weather, and a weekend of fun not soon forgotten.  A first year festival is always a roll of the dice, but I think all attendees can agree that even with the inevitable first year mishaps, the festival was a total success.

Entering the festival was the only part of the weekend that was a complete disaster.  The traffic situation was wildly underestimated.  Most festivals which have music beginning on Thursday have the option for early Wednesday arrival, however this was not offered at Lockn’ so all vehicles seemed to get in line within a few hour of each other, causing major chaos.  This was further exasperated by the fact that none of the staff, police, or volunteers seemed to have any idea what was supposed to be happening.  That many cars with no plan quickly led to total meltdown by some of the festival attendees as well as police and staff. When traffic seemed at a permanent standstill, I decided to hop out and walk to find Will Call and get my wristband squared away.  When I found Will Call I was told that Media check-in was now moved to a few miles away on the other side of the highway.  My vehicle was stuck in line towing a 32 foot travel trailer, so getting in a car and driving was not an option.  Walking was also not an option as Troopers refused to let any pedestrians cross the blocked off highway.  In the end the nice folks at Will Call gave me a wristband that they said would work and I was on my way.  I walked up to the front of the line to check out the situation and see how things were moving only to discover they were not.  The festival had placed about 8 or 9 “Toll Booths” along the front, which is where after being checked out by security all attendees could trade their tickets out for wristbands and be directed to the proper campground.  These were completely empty of vehicles, though well staffed.  I stood in front of the toll booths and watched in amazement as the ocean of cars remained stagnant.  It seems security had not mastered the art of checking a car quickly, marking it, then moving on to the car behind it.  After all was said and done we spent a total of about 8 1/2 hours to move the approximately 2 miles from the highway to the campground.    This is obviously not an ideal situation, but one that I have every confidence will be remedied before next year.  More disappointing than the line was how many terrible attitudes I witnessed.  Yes, everyone was certainly hot, tired, and frustrated, but there was nothing that could have been done at that point.  I commend the awesome people who took it with a grain of salt and just started their festy weekend right there in line.  Berating each other and staff members did not help anyone, so congrats to those who made the best of an unpleasant situation.  With that in mind, always remember to have a full tank of gas, easy to grab snacks, and cold frosty beverages available before getting in line at any fest.  Also be sure to locate suitable bathrooms before you start drinking, as this was an issue for many people in that chaotic line.

Once we arrived at our home for the weekend, we started to set up.  We were in the RV grounds, so setup was pretty easy.  One issue that occurred was that the RV power hookups were a different size than the Lockn’ website recommended.  This could have been a major problem had the festival staff not been at the ready with adapters for everyone.  It was quite a while before we found any staff to help us, but once we located the electric guy, he was super polite and helpful even though many people with already frayed nerves were screaming at him.  He brought over an adapter and we were all set. All camping areas, including ours, seemed to have plenty of space to set up.  Once all the hoopla of getting in and setting up was out of the way, we were more than ready to hit up some music!

By the time we entered the festival venue, things were in full swing.  Govn’t Mule was in mid set and Warren was tearing it up, when the lovely Grace Potter graced the stage for an amazing version of Dear Prudence, right into Gold Dust Woman.  What a fabulous way to kick things off!  The shows continued to delight until about midnight when they packed it up for the night.  For all the trouble with traffic, I can say these promoters did not skimp on sound quality one bit.  The music came through crisp and clear all weekend, and the roadies seemed to run like well oiled machines.  As soon as one band ended, another began on the second stage without missing a beat.  Some festivals that have been around for years still have problems with sound quality and timing issues, so to see a first year fest excel was impressive.  From anywhere in the venue you could hear the music perfectly as well as see the performances on all of  the 4 huge screens.

With bands of that caliber hitting the stage, great sound was a must.  I still get chills thinking about some of the sets I had the pleasure of witnessing over the weekend.  The only thing better than having Furthur, Widespread Panic, String Cheese, and Trey Anastasio Band  in one place is to see them all sit in with one another.  It was truly an execution of the interlocking music experience that the promoters had in mind.  I could not even breathe when Trey came out with Furthur and performed a whole block of “greatest hits”, or watching Zack Brown get so nervous when joining Furthur for a few songs.  It was humbling watching a performer who has enjoyed great personal success, sold out huge arenas, and headlined tons of shows, get choked up at the prospect of sitting in with some of his idols.  As far as once in a lifetime covers, jam sessions, and collaborations, I dare any fest to live up to what Lockn’ served up.  Check out the set lists to pick your favorites, but how can you even pick between John Fogerty sitting in with Panic, Trey with Furthur, Cheese doing Talking Heads, Panic doing Neil Young, Zack doing Van Morrison, Gov’t Mule doing the Beatles…my head’s gonna explode with awesomeness overload if I continue, but you get the picture.  Every band stepped it up and put on stellar performances that will live forever in our memories.

The music was the biggest win of the festival but the overall organization of the fest was well done, more specifically the bathrooms and camping situations.  The festival did a very nice job of keeping the porta-potties inside the venue clean and well kept.  The entire weekend I did not have the displeasure of stepping into a disgusting porta-potty or waiting in line even once.  This may not seem like a big win to all, but to me it’s the little details that make a festival really great and I was glad to see that this detail was not overlooked.  Some of the campgrounds faced a problem of having no nearby bathrooms.  My friend was in Car camping and unfortunately the nearest bathrooms were about a fifteen minute walk, which was less than ideal.  Luckily, they brought one of those portable camping toilets which ended up being one of the “lifesavers”, as he put it, of the weekend.  All campers seemed to enjoy plenty of space to spread out and make a very comfortable site.  Tent only camping was right down the hill from our spot, and the cars only seemed to be parked a matter of feet from the campsite, making setting up much easier than expected.

With the exception of entering the festival, security went very smoothly as well.  A quick check of your bags and pockets occurred when walking into the venue, then I do not remember seeing many if any security personnel inside the venue.  They seemed to search much more thoroughly as the weekend moved along.  For example the first day they may have just patted down your pockets, but by Saturday night you may have had to show your waist band and open your pack of cigarette’s.  They seemed very efficient and polite though, which is always appreciated.

The festival offered a nice variety of yummy food and cool shops to cruise.  The price tag on food and beer items were pretty standard for the festival scene, food around $7-$10, beers at around $6.  Shops were set up providing shoppers with everything from hoops and clothes to artwork and stickers.  Some bands also had trucks set up where attendees could grab some free swag and music downloads.  For those on the straight and narrow, there was a Sober Lockn’ tent for that little extra support.  My favorite shop was set up by a non profit group called Eden’s Rose.  They offered really cool items, all with a story, all with proceeds going to various charities.  One item I purchased was from the “Women’s Empowerment” line of bracelets from The Macrame Project.  To sum it up, the organization provides materials to women caregivers of impoverished children in Ecuador and teaches them a craft, then sends all proceeds of the sale of those crafts back to them to provide basic care and sanitation for the people of that region.  It’s really a beautiful thing and it’s great to get something cool for a good cause.  Conscious Alliance has a similar method, providing original festival art to those who donate non perishable food items or money to help replenish local food banks.  Bringing fun and charity together is a wonderful thing to see in our festival community.

After experiencing this event first hand I have the highest hopes that Lockn’ will become a yearly tradition.  I know I will certainly be looking forward to next year! Hope to see you all there!