As the scorching Virginia sun set on the final day of Lockn’ Festival 2017 bringing much needed respite from almost unbearable heat and humidity, thousands of weary but excited jam fans waited for the final main stage act – The Phish from Vermont. A well-played show two nights ago had many expecting a heater show to close out the festivities. Could they top the absolutely monstrous set from My Morning Jacket the night before? It’s up to you to decide whether they delivered.
As was the case two nights prior, Phish declined to participate in the “rotating stage jam” setup as some other bands had, with about a 30 minute pause between them and previous act, Gary Clark Jr. Soon enough, however, we were off with a “Sample” opener, cooled down and ready to rage.
Overall the first set was concise, tight, and “song-y”, as some would say. Included in it were fan favorites such as “Halley’s Comet”, “AC/DC Bag”, “Axilla” and the relative rarity “Fuck Your Face.” One of history’s greatest set closers otherwise known as “First Tube” ended the frame, with little jamming to write home about.
Set two kicked off with the always welcome “Carini” which had a few minutes of typically evil jamming before leading into “Chalk Dust Torture.” The 8-minute “Chalk Dust” led into an 8-minute “Twist” which, while more interesting than the preceding tunes, had many wondering when or if we were going to get some real deep-space exploration.
Trey booted up “Light” making it 4 jam vehicles in a row. The crowd was vibing, and we felt that this was the one to go places – and it was. This song has turned into one of the most dependable songs in the Phish repertoire, almost guaranteed to be interesting and to bring something different every time. There are many versions worth listening to, and this one is absolutely worth your time.
After a composed section with some off playing from Trey, and a minute or two of typical “Light”-like jamming, minute 6 brings us to uncharted waters. The band syncs up around a dissonant “bap-bap” pattern and the tension starts to build. Trey is playing some hot licks over a solid base from Mike and Fish. At 7:30, things quiet down as a footing is found for the next section. Mike throws on his “wet” effect and builds a beautiful groove with Fish, Trey and Page adding color on top. Just really nice, easy listening here. Gordon is king in this section with some standout playing that is very reminiscent of his performance at Magnaball. We’re past 10 minutes here and locked in – the crowd could tell that this thing had legs.
Not to be outdone, Trey plays some nice licks high up on the neck, accenting the low end. Everyone’s grooving on the train to Peak Town now. 14 minutes…shredding Trey to big peak. On the aud I’m listening to, you can hear a guy howl “Holy shit!” Definitely some good stuff right there. Page switches to organ, adding to the grandiose factor, and as the jam quickly mellows out and comes to a satisfying end, Trey whips out the Tweezer riff. Jeez, the boys we’re pulling out all the heavy hitters tonight!
A short Type 1 Tweezer led to another string of crowd pleasers – “No Quarter,” “2001,” “Hood” and “Tweeprise” to close it out with a bang. There’s no doubt that we left the main stage wide-eyed and satisfied. “Light” was the clear consensus highlight of the night, as I heard many a fan discussing it with superlatives on the way out of the show.
And with that, the Lockn’ main stage festivities came to a close. Could there have been more deep jamming? Maybe. Did we have a grand time? Uh, duh. Are we glad that Phish drew us to an amazing festival that we otherwise might not have attended? YES! Even though Phish is not coming back for this years’ installment of Lockn’, I certainly will be! So thank you Phish, and thanks for reading!