One of the things that makes Lockn’ Festival special is the “interlocking” aspect of the weekend. Organizers have set it up so that one band plays right into another, making for roughly 12 hours of non-stop music per day. This can sometimes create jarring transitions, but it can also lead to some interesting moments.
At this year’s festival, help September 4-7 at Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, Va., there were fewer unannounced sit-ins than last year. Two notable sit-ins this year were the Del McCoury Band literally walking from one stage to the other to join the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Susan Tedeschi joining Widespread Panic Sunday night for “Use Me”. But there was a moment early Friday afternoon that showcased two of the smaller bands and how bands of different genres can interlock with the best of them.
Tauk is an instrumental 4-piece from Long Island. Led by the dynamic and driving drumming of Isaac Teel, the band plays a funky, jazzy type of prog rock. They had the first hour long set on the Ridge stage Friday and they used every minute to their advantage, moving from one song to the next, often without any pause. The set was dark, driving and almost brooding. It felt like a gritty, gray and rainy New York City day. As Tauk worked toward the end of their set another band was setting up over on the Oak stage.
Cabinet is sextet from Pennsylvania known for energetic and bright bluegrass. They have been establishing a loyal fanbase in the Northeast built on a tour heavy schedule. With two studio albums under their belt, Cabinet is on the cusp of breaking out from being a regional band to going national.
These two bands shared a moment that likely wasn’t planned and may not have even been that noticed by most in attendance. As Tauk finished their set (a few minutes late) with “Mindshift” (which is in rotation on SiriusXM’s Jam On), “Heavy” and “The Chemist”, Cabinet immediately began. This is where the boys who bill themselves as “High on Pennsylvania Bluegrass” showed themselves to be accomplished musicians who can play more than jaunty, upbeat and happy mountain music.
Starting with “Celebration” and moving into “Susquehanna Breakdown,” the band seemed to be projecting a more moody side of bluegrass. These songs, normally a bit brighter and more bouncy, seemed to be played a touch slower, a bit darker. In doing so, it provided a more seamless transition between two sets of very different music. Maybe they planned it that way or maybe it was like that only to my ears, but as they moved into “Eleanor>Mysterio” the music became brighter and happier, as if clods had parted revealing the blazing Virginia sun that beat down on the festival patrons.
In spite of the heat, people were dancing and smiling. In spite of the difference in style these two bands showed the spirit of a festival dedicated to improvisation and interlocking. Both Tauk and Cabinet played their hearts out that day and hopefully garnered some new fans in the process.