Jam Central Station: Lockn’ Music Festival Review
The increase in music festivals has been reaching a critical mass over the past few years. Newer festivals, often featuring larger mainstream acts, have been popping up. Festivals come and go, sometimes leaving chaos and disappointed fans in their wake. It’s hard to see exactly what will appeal to a wide enough base to support an event. Some festivals are going for the “bigger is better” approach, with multiple stages and plenty of activities and events outside of the music. Others, including the Lockn’ festival, are going the opposite direction. One band at a time. No significant breaks in the music. No major attractions outside of 4 days of straight, uninterrupted music. It’s a risky move, but it’s wonderful when it works well.
It’s not easy to put together 4 days of music without using multiple stages. You need to make sure that the entire lineup works. If a significant portion of the fans don’t like whatever band is on at 6:00 on Friday, that’s a problem because they don’t have any other options. You’re giving yourself one shot to get it right. Luckily Lockn’ knows it’s audience and pulled off a very difficult task. 4 days of music for jam band aficionados, and not a dud in the bunch. 4 days of fun and dancing, and no need for much in the way of outside entertainment. 4 days in the beautiful hills of Virginia with nothing but the music.
Five years ago Lockn’ set out to be a festival first and foremost about the music. 2 stages, so no breaks. Plenty of guest appearances and surprises. No overlaps or conflicts. A setup specifically for folks looking to focus on the music and nothing but the music. There has been plenty of growth over the years, including the addition of a forest area, the introduction of the rotating stage, and, in 2017, a complete re-mapping of the grounds, moving the main stage to be in the same area as the side stage. They tightened up the festival footprint, made the grounds easier to navigate, and made 2017 a rebirth of the event. This led to a festival that felt in many ways like a big community gathering, and the organizers and bands throughout the weekend did their best to cultivate that feeling.