ARRINGTON – Soulful spirituals drifted through a sparsely wooded concert area at Lockn’ Sunday, drawing drowsy festivalgoers through a row of vendors to a late morning service.
Tents rustled and camp conversations turned from solos and musical transitions from the previous night’s shows, including Widespread Panic with Steve Winwood, Phil Lesh and Friends, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, to deciding to walk a few campground blocks to watch Keller Williams Grateful Gospel.
These gospel-style Grateful Dead covers provided an opportunity for a form of Sunday worship setting an old-style tone for the Nelson County festival’s final day that included country legend Willie Nelson and Southern blues-rock pioneer The Allman Brothers Band. The Allman Brothers are said to be toward the tail end of their final tour.
The band’s retirement foreshadows a nearing end to the era that birthed large music festivals in the 1970s. Large festivals such as Lockn’ are common among many genres.
The Allman Brothers are a bluesy example of the improvisational style of musicianship known as jamming exhibited by artists throughout the weekend. While a band starts with a particular song, musicians adjust and interpret the melodies and harmonies, sometimes transitioning seamlessly into other tunes. The method is common to jazz.
Peter Horwitt, who visited Nelson County from Canada, said he came this far south to make sure he saw the band before they hung up their guitars.
“It means a lot to me,” said Horwitt, of Calgary, Alberta. “I’m not religious but it’s almost like a spiritual experience.”
Ron Butler, who came from Ontario with two friends, didn’t know the Allmans were calling it quits until after he bought a ticket.
“It’s an incredible experience to see something you grew up with and you love before it’s done,” Butler said.
The festival, which drew between 25,000 to 30,000 people, had been going logistically well, according to Lockn’ media representative Stacie Griffin. She focused mainly on the entrance issues that caused backups on U.S. 29 last year.
One change from early Saturday to early Sunday was an increase in searches of backpacks and folded blankets for alcohol in the main stage area.
Patrons were allowed to bring alcohol into the festival grounds, but not the main stage area where beer vendors bookended the field.
“I don’t think it’s a reaction to something,” Griffin said.
She said she believed the more meticulous search method was to deal with more day patrons coming to see Nelson and the Allmans.
Alcohol Beverage Control has come down on Lockn’ on accusations of violations in last year’s initial festival. Lockn’s ABC permit could be at risk next year.
One complaint by patrons was an extended wait in water lines around the car camping area toward the back of the venue. Only two of the fountain’s six spouts were working on the scorching Saturday and lines backed up further than previous days. The problem continued into Sunday. The fountain was near pay showers. The free water fountains generally worked at the festival.
Griffin said Sunday she hadn’t heard of the problem but said she would check on it immediately.
“It might just be a matter of nobody has reported it,” she said.
Most of the portable toilets were out of hand sanitizer by the festival’s second day. Extra portable toilets were brought in mid-festival.
At each night’s end, the dimming stage lights reflect off the plastic bottles and cups and aluminum cans littered throughout the main stage area. Griffin said Lockn’ started a trash for cash program this year in which volunteers can sign up to pick up trash for $3 a bag at a venue with $3 apples and $8 beers.
“You’re here, you fill up three trash bags, and there’s your dinner money,” Griffin said.
Patrons spoke highly of the festival, in particular the lineup. They also noted the higher number of vendors comparatively.
Griffin was also positive, saying negotiations for next year have already begun.
“We hope to be here for a long time,” she said.