Review: 2018-08-26 - Lockn' @ Infiniti Downs and Oak Ridge Farm - Arrington, VA
Locked in for Lockn’
Oh, the magic that is Lockn’!!! A reminder of the days when the large music festivals were filing their lineup with jam friendly bands and packing the side stages with every regional and local act they could find. Certainly, it is one of the few larger festivals that caters too those who crave improvised music. I was absolutely delighted to see Spafford on the lineup for Lockn’ as it is one of my favorite festivals to attend in general and I know the scene watches this fest closely.
Sunday afternoon is not the day I personally would have picked for Spafford. True, they are rather new to the scene, this was evident in the fact that most of the people I talked to throughout the weekend many had only heard OF them, not actually heard them. My personal theory on this has to do with age. Wait a second and hear me out. I am over 40 myself so this is not a slight, just my observations. It seems to me that Spafford sits in a grey area between age gaps. Not quite electronic dance music but not quite just full-out rock and roll either. So, it seems to me that they sit in the middle of the age spectrum yet still gather fans from either side. I think this makes them perfect for Lockn’ as that is a perfect age group for the fest to target.
Personal theories aside, I was eagerly anticipating this set. I knew it would be a short one but what would they do with it? I had our vendor neighbors excited to see them as neither of them had before. So, I enter the concert field at about 2:00 and quickly head to the soundboard area. The heat pushed a lot of people back to the shade after Keller’s Gospel set, so the field was only spattered with people at the end of the Judy Chops set. As the final note rang out, the stage began to turn, and the boys were already jamming as they spun into sight. The sound switched over to them and we were off to a running start.
Broken Wing opens up the set. You can hear it as soon as the main sound system picks them up. It was a hot tempo too. Brian can be seen sending back monitor adjustments. A short intro jam leads into the main body of the song There were some technical difficulties at the beginning. First a loud POP from the system at one point that was quickly fixed and then in between verses it looked like Brian lost a cable connection or something as he had to bend down and fix it. The song itself was a feisty little romp but fairly safe and standard. I like this song a lot and think it has potential for some huge jams, but I personally think this song might fit better later in a setlist. The song ends strongly, although I can’t help but feel that there might have been a little frustration at the tech stuff that took Brian out of the mindset for a second.
Red stands and waves at the crowd which has now filled in the central pit of the main stage and the crowd goes nuts. More younger people in the field overall but some of the older heads are there to check out this quickly rising band. The opening phrase of Slip and Squander greets us as the 2nd song of the set. I have mixed emotions about the placement and choice here. It was played beautifully, and Red’s voice was on point for sure, however, after the rockin’ intro it seemed to take the vibe down a little in the crowd. The lyrical section was tight as always and the instrumental build was patient and well-crafted but Red’s voice is the strongest part of this version to me.
A short break after SaS and the quick-tempo, funk-strut of Electric Taco Stand graces our ear holes. This song immediately breathes new life into the crowd and despite it being the hottest day of the festival, people get up and start to dance hard. I think ETS also hit a higher gear for the boys too. Brian finally seems to let loose a bit more adding little flourishes here and there that were less noticeable earlier. Jordan’s bass sounds amazing! Really clear and heavy yet not overpowering. After the first few minutes of sound issues, the mix was perfect in the field. I could easily hear Red’s keys tinkling down over the crowd as clearly as I could hear Brian shred and feel Jordan drop bombs. ETS certainly brought the heat. Again, I notice the communication between the group, especially between Brian and Cam. At one point I see Brain actively trying to pick up the tempo in the jam section and Cam immediately responds. Not much of a change but just where it needed to be. They really seem to be firing on all cylinders now. Brian is dancing around as they patiently make their way to the build. As they wind back into the melody of the song, building into a huge crescendo the guy standing next to me dances over and says, “This drummer is on point!”, then dances back to his blanket blissfully smiling. As the song ends the crowd erupts and even those that were laying down getting some sun were on their feet.
With about 20ish minutes left in the set it seems like the perfect place for All In. Sure enough, right after I think that, they drop into it. I’ve never seen this song fail to win a crowd, especially as the end of a short set. There are so many styles they happily wander through that there seems to be something for everyone. The composed, heavy section ends and they ease into that rolling reggae feel. Everything feels really light now. Red has descending runs down the keys that seem to peek out of nowhere. Brian’s fingers seem so nimble as he switches back and forth from strumming to picking, slowly pushing the jam forward and up. Really beautiful, patient jam. You can hear Cam pushing things slightly, but it’s balanced by Brian’s longer tones. This is my highlight of the set and everyone is up dancing around now. The build to the end is large and finds Cam and Brian playing off each other to perfection as Red fills in the sound to give them a landscape to play on. The song and the set end on a massively high note and with authority.
As the stage spins back around, I begin the long walk back to the booth I was working, handing out slaps as I go. After that ETS and All In, with Pete Shapiro watching and smiling from the side of stage, I have no doubt that Spafford will be back at Lockn’. I know for a fact that they gained many fans. I’m hoping for a better time slot honestly. Maybe even a night spot so we can see the amazing light shows as well. Personally, I’m hoping for them to slide into that late-night Saturday spot. Two nights of JRAD late night and a night of Spafford late night? I’d buy tickets just to go to late night!!!!