Peter Shapiro is one of the few promoters in the live music space that doesn’t get freaked out by his own big ideas, especially when those big ideas also happen to be potentially awesome.
His plan to expand the LOCKN’ Farm festival from three days to three weekends is both big and awesome and the kind of idea most promoters would immediately talk themselves out of because of the risks. The thought of expanding a major jam festival from three days to nine days — with camping — just a few months after a pandemic, without either the Grateful Dead or Phish‘s involvement (both bands are touring this summer), is enough to cause crippling heart burn for most indie promoters.
But Shapiro has a few things going for him that make the expansion of LOCKN’ Fest, on 387 acres of farmland he owns in Arrington, Va., seem pretty smart. Besides being the best known promoter in a music community known for its spending power and strong demand for live music, the bands headlining each weekend of LOCKN’ — the Grateful Dead influenced Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (Aug. 13-15), fast-growing indie groove road warriors Goose (Aug. 20-22) and legendary Southern rock and blues standard bearers Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks who perform as Tedeschi Trucks Band (Aug 27-29) — sold thousands of tickets per concert prior to the pandemic and moved a ton of pay-per-view streaming tickets after COVID-19 hit, often on Shapiro’s Fans.Live platform.
“Now feels like the right moment to do something new and a bit more intimate, while keeping the best parts of what the one-weekend festival has offered since 2013,” Shapiro tells Billboard. Coming out of the pandemic, demand for live music is bigger than its ever been, Shapiro notes. And because he owns the Brooklyn Bowl venues, the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, Relix Magazine, plus his work on projects like the Fare Thee Well, Grateful Dead shows in 2015, Shapiro has marketing reach and a database allowing him to communicate directly to jam band fans across the country.
In terms of expansion, Shapiro said the best analogy is to take a three-day festival, and then expand each day of the festival into its own festival, branded around the headlining band who will perform multiple times over the weekend.
“From day one, we have been developing the site to host more events. Given the realities caused by COVID-19, now feels like the right time for us to convert LOCKN’ from a single, large-scale festival to a venue for intimate, band-centric festivals,” he tells Billboard. “The last year has been rough, but maybe some positive things really can come out of it.”
That includes boosting the profile of festival site, which is spread across two farms — the Infinity Downs Farm and Oak Ridge Farm — at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about 40 miles southwest of Charlottesville. Shapiro says the beauty of the site is unparalleled and hopefully becomes a year-rond festival site. Fans wont be able to camp at the site during the week, but he said he’s hopeful some fans will accept the challenge of attending nine days of live music over a 16-day stretch.
If they do they’ll see Joe Russo’s Almost Dead perform six sets over three days with The Slip each night of the opening weekend, followed by Goose presenting FRED the Festival with Dawes performing Black Sabbath’s Paranoid plus a performance by Vasudo, bringing back their feel-good, Jamaica meets Nashville sound after an eight year lull. The first weekend will also include night late-night jam sessions in an area of the farm called [Jerry] Garcia’s Forest with improv jam sessions hosted by John Medeski and Billy Martin. Joining Goose on the second weekend will be Dr. Dog, Golden Messenger, Cory Wong, Grateful Shred, and Sammy Rae & The Friends.
Closing out LOCKN’ with Tedeschi Trucks is Academy Award-winning musician Jon Batiste, The Marcus King Band, Lettuce and Gabe Dixon Band.