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Lockn’ Fest 2015 day 1: Jorma & Jack play Jefferson Airplane, Phil Lesh & Friends, and more (pics, review)

photos by Jessica Giovannetti, words by Andrew Sacher

Phil Lesh & Friends at Lockn’ (photo via BV Instagram)
Phil Lesh

After being forced to cancel Thursday’s performances due to weather, Peter Shapiro and Dave Frey’s Lockn’ Festival began successfully on Friday (9/11). Some of Thursday’s cancelled acts were rescheduled, so the day kicked off bright and early with The Doobie Brothers and The String Cheese Incident’s collaborative band The Doobie Incident, and music continued until after 2 AM. I didn’t get over to the stages until The String Cheese Incident were playing their own set, a concoction of bluegrass, rock, disco and at least five other styles (sometimes in one song) that really had the place moving when they got into their fast grooves. (Their slow songs, less so.) But the real highlights of day one for me were two sets related to two San Francisco bands who both turned 50 this year.

First it was The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh playing one of his Phil Lesh & Friends sets, joined by vocalist/guitarist Chris Robinson (Black Crowes), Neal Casal (Ryan Adams & the Cardinals), Adam MacDougall (Black Crowes), Eric Krasno (Soulive, Lettuce), and Tony Leone (of Chris Robinson’s other band Brotherhood). Chris Robinson handled lead vocals and even if I wish Phil sang a bit more, they were still fantastic. Like most Phil & Friends shows, the jams stay true to the Dead’s style and they packed the set with staples: “Shakedown Street,” “Brown-Eyed Woman,” “Bertha,” “Playing in the Band,” “I Know You Rider” and more were all played. We also got their sprawling rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” which had the place going wild. Phil does it again at Lockn’ today with Carlos Santana, Warren Haynes and more. The other three core GD50 members have sets today too.

After Phil, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and friends played a 50th anniversary set for their former band Jefferson Airplane. Paul Kantner (who went on to form Jefferson Starship) has been playing Airplane sets on tour all year but the Hot Tuna guys were doing it at Lockn’ as a one-off. They were joined by Rachael Price (Lake Street Dive), frequent Tuna member Teresa Williams and Furthur’s Jeff Pehrson on lead vocals, plus other frequent Tuna members GE Smith and Larry Campbell on guitars and Justin Guip on drums, and a special guest appearance from The Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann on drums for the last few songs. The biggest problem anyone doing an Airplane set without the officially-retired Grace Slick will run into is of course that no one can replace her. (Jeff wasn’t exactly Marty Balin either.) But once you accept that, Jorma, Jack and friends were on fire. As Phil Lesh did immediately beforehand, they packed the set with the songs that defined the San Francisco Sound. Of course we got “White Rabbit,” “Somebody to Love” and “Volunteers,” but plenty of other favorites too.

Jorma took lead vocals on two traditional songs he arranged for the Airplane back in the day, “Good Shepherd” and “Come Back Baby.” They opened the set on full blast with “3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds” into “Greasy Heart.” They gave us “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “Eskimo Blue Day,” and still more. Just like at a Tuna show, the best part of the show is watching Jack and Jorma when they really lock in. Phil Lesh is obviously a terrific bassist, but he never got as heavy as Jack, which Jack reminded us during the extended “Volunteers” jam when he kicked up the gain on his amp and just went off. It sounded as dirty last night as it sounds on the recording of “The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil” at Woodstock. Day 1 of Lockn’ was full of treats, but this set felt extra special.

I didn’t catch the Joe Cocker (rest in peace) tribute that happened next, but I did head over to the Blue Ridge Bowl side stage for a late night Umphrey’s McGee set. I was a complete Umphrey’s novice besides checking out a few videos that never piqued my interest, but I was convinced by a few friends to see them and their live show is pretty undeniable. It’s at times almost metal, at other times bouncy and danceable, and at other times nothing at all like either of those. And the crowd was eating up all of it.

A few more pictures below…

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Phil Lesh & Friends

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Jorma & Jack play Jefferson Airplane

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Light rig #lockn2015 #lockn

A photo posted by Row-Z (@paco_muji) on

#locknfestival #lockn #lockn2015

A photo posted by Francis Xavier Urrutia the 2nd (@darthxavier777) on

#lockn2015 #lockn slowly filtering in.

A video posted by Row-Z (@paco_muji) on

#stringcheeseincident #lockn2015 Photo by #davevann @dv_in_sf

A photo posted by Live For Live Music (@liveforlivemusic) on

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A photo posted by ℕ. Greenleaf (@nadyan.g) on

Must be a little early for the #beergarden at @locknfestival #locknfestival #lockn2015 #loveva #vabeer

A photo posted by Sarah Hauser (@virginiaflair) on

#LetPhilSing

A photo posted by Zachariah Olster (@stealyourphace) on

#umphreysmcgee #lockn #lockn2015

A photo posted by Scott (@scottharrisphoto) on

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