From the Saturday ‘LOCKN ‘ Times’: Everything’s Right
photo by Jay Blakesberg
Trey Anastasio and Derek Trucks crossed paths onstage for the first time just over 20 years ago, when Trucks joined Phish at Charlotte, N.C.’s Blockbuster Pavilion for a pair of songs during the Vermont Quartet’s encore. At that point in his singular career, Trucks was just a few weeks into his tenure with the Allman Brothers Band and about to open up his bluesy Derek Trucks Band to incorporate a range of Eastern, African and fusion-inspired sounds. Anastasio had also recently launched his first tour with the combo that would blossom into his longtime solo band, focusing on a similar mix of open-ended originals, loose covers and guitar-rock improvisational vehicles. Trucks sat in with Phish for their encore on two blues-rock songs from their catalog, including former guitarist Jeff Holdsworth’s “Possum” and Son Seals’ “Funky Bitch.” Anastasio’s three bandmates had already shared the stage with Trucks during the previous two years.
As time went on, both guitarists’ projects evolved, with Anastasio expanding his outfit into the orchestra-size Trey Anastasio Band and Trucks partnering with his wife, Susan Tedeschi, to form the similarly soulful and horn-abetted Tedeschi Trucks Band. The musicians have shared the stage a few times over the past two decades—mostly with the Allman Brothers Band, though Trucks guested with TAB in 2002, and Anastasio returned the favor at New York’s Beacon Theatre in 2017. But it wasn’t until last night that the two musicians shared the stage for a full set (for which they spent multiple days rehearsing).
Trucks blended in seamlessly with the Trey Anastasio Band from the start of their second set, using his trademark slide skills to color the group’s layered arrangements and take a number of well-placed solos. Their joint performance opened with two relatively new Anastasio compositions that Phish has also embraced, “Set Your Soul Free” and “Everything’s Right,” and then shifted to three Phish originals Anastasio has added to TAB’s canon since rebooting the group last year after a short break: “Camel Walk,” “Ghost” and “Blaze On.”
Both “Camel Walk” and “Ghost” served as perfect vehicles for Trucks, who accented the former song’s bluesy roots and added a new, spooky feeling to the latter Story of the Ghost gem. (Interestingly, Trucks has now joined Anastasio for both of Holdsworth’s lasting contributions to the Phish repertoire.) As he continued to find his way around TAB’s full sound, Trucks shined on the meditative “Dark and Down” and the Phish-adopted groove-vehicle “Sand.”
Though she was not originally billed as part of today’s lineup, Susan Tedeschi emerged as the song came to a close to sing on a tender moment from Anastasio’s Ghosts of the Forest project, “A Life Beyond the Dream,” and another tune that hugs the Phish and TAB worlds, “Rise Up/Come Together.” Finally, Anastasio, Trucks and the members of TAB closed the main portion of their show with the high-energy rave-up “Push On ‘Til the Day.”
Another element Anastasio has added to his TAB shows with more frequency since touring as a solo act in recent years is an unplugged encore segment. Last night, the guitarists returned for acoustic duets with Trucks on the Ghosts of the Forest number “Brief Time” and a newer Phish song that has recently grown into a dependable rocker, “More.” Most of TAB then returned for another Phish favorite, “46 Days,” and Anastasio’s horns slid back onstage for the classic show-closing celebration “First Tube.”
The day’s main-stage musical offerings kicked off over 12 hours earlier with Rockin’ to Lockn’ winner, Washington, DC’s Surprise Attack, who offered a high-energy set of their trademark “Mountain funk.” (Elsewhere onsite, it has already been an eventful day: Joe Russo emerged during recent recording partners Circles Around the Sun’s late-night show in Garcia’s Forest around 2:45 am, and about eight hours later the Doobie Decibel Duo held court on the Pianos on the Porch nook.) Soon after, the New York–based Greg Humphreys Electric Trio, whose namesake has deep ties to the improvisational world through his previous projects Dillon Fence and Hobex, provided the day’s first interlocking set when they kicked off their performance while circling toward the audience on the venue’s rotating stage.
Lockn’ has built its reputation on its unique collaborative performances and, after the trio’s set, Moonalice offered the first of several special “Lockn’ moments,” welcoming the sweet-voiced T Sisters and legendary soul singer Lester Chambers and his son Dylan at various points during their performance. The T Sisters shined on a swirl of the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band,” “Bird Song” and “Attics of My Life,” while Lester and Dylan helped Moonalice and the singers close their set with two songs long associated with The Chamber Brothers, “People Get Ready” and “Time Has Come Today.”
Unfortunately, after the ensemble’s set, the concert field was cleared temporally as the second storm of the weekend passed through the area. Music resumed after a short delay, although a few acts ended up playing slightly truncated sets to help put things back on schedule. Melvin Seal & JGB and their current featured guitarist, Furthur’s John Kadlecik, welcomed fans back with a set comprised mostly of classics from the Jerry Garcia Band songbook, kicking off with staples like “Cats Under the Stars,” “Run for the Roses” and an appropriate “Mission in the Rain.” Their set came to a close with a Garcia-Robert Hunter tune from outside the traditional JGB well, “Eyes of the World,” before turning over the stage to the recently reunited Edie Brickell & New Bohemians.
Brickell has a long history with the Dead world, having collaborated with Garcia and opened for the Dead, but it’s been a while since she has been on the jam circuit. Yet, at the end of their performance, Brickell & New Bohemians brought out Bob Weir for a choice take on “Deep Elem Blues,” marking his first appearance with the group. (Earlier this month, Weir sat in with Brickell’s husband, Paul Simon, at San Francisco’s Outside Lands and TAB percussionist Cyro Baptista has been part of his band. Though he did not perform, Simon was on hand for his wife’s performance.)
Form there, the rest of the evening’s focus shifted to some of the leading lights of the modern jamband and roots scenes, beginning with funky Mid-Atlantic favorites Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. The quartet, who were energized by their enthusiastic crowd, ran through “High As Five,” “Porcupine” and a segue from “Somethin’ For Ya” into “Julia,” before bringing out their previously announced guest, Vulfpeck associate Cory Wong, for “Lightning.” Soon after, The Revivalists horn section joined the members of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong for a run from “FU” into Prince’s “1999,” before returning to “FU,” before PPPP closed their show by themselves with “The Liquid.” The group also took the opportunity to announce two big December gigs: a stop at Washington, DC’s The Anthem and their first area date, New Year’s Eve at Asheville, N.C.’s ExploreAsheville.com Arena.
Several members of the day’s next entertainers, Old Crow Medicine Show, used to live in nearby Charlottesville, Va., and the musicians opened things up appropriately with “Carry Me Back to Virginia.” The early part of their show was filled with theatrics and sing-alongs like their signature tune “Wagon Wheel,” but things peaked when they brought out Weir for acoustic-guitar driven takes on “Mexicali Blues,” “Cumberland Blues” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” Old Crow founder Ketch Secor described the surprise sit in as a “dream” from the stage. The main stage’s penultimate act, The Revivalists, kept the evening’s energy up, spicing their set with a cover of The Who’s “Eminence Front” and their own crossover hit, “Wish I Knew You.” In recent years, The Revivalists have grown to embody the festival spirit with their mix of string, brass and improv-schooled energy, and frontman David Shaw took advantage of the band’s surroundings, moving to the lip of the large Lockn’ stage to address his audience several times.
Before welcoming Trucks for his second set, Anastasio and his seven-person backing band ran through a mix of classic TAB songs during what he jokingly described as the “shortest set ever.” The octet kicked things off with “Cayman Review,” one of the standout tunes from Anastasio’s 2002 solo release, and charged through rhythmic, Afro-beat influenced originals “Mozambique” and “Alive Again,” as well as “Valentine,” “Night Speaks to a Woman,” “Simple Twist Up Dave” and the 70 Volt Parade-era single “Tuesday.”
After the final note of “First Tube” drifted into the ether, much of the crowd moved to Garcia’s Forrest, where Galactic had set up shop. Meanwhile, Anastasio, Tedeschi and Trucks were preparing for the second part of their two-set, two-day collaboration.
You can follow Mike Greenhaus on Instagram @Greenhauseffect3