Interlocken Musical Festival cofounder Peter Shapiro feels that the major American music festivals have gotten a little out of hand. "If you've ever been to Bonnaroo and the others, it's almost overwhelming," he says. "There can be seven stages, and there's often four bands you want to see all playing at once. You can even hear music from another stage in the back of your ear while watching one band. The performers on stage hear that too. It just bothers everybody."
When plotting out his own festival, Shapiro decided to create a new sort of festival with a very simple philosophy: The music never stops. "There are no DJ tents or side stages," Shapiro says. "As soon as one band is done playing, the next begins immediately."
While many large festivals opt for diverse lineups and an array of side attractions, the inaugural edition of the Interlocken Festival - held September 5th to the 8th in Arrington, Virginia - will be centered almost entirely around jam bands, including Furthur, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident, the Black Crowes, Gov't Mule and many others. "We have nothing against EDM," says Shapiro. "But this is a rock & roll festival, though it's not strictly jam bands. We have acts like Jimmy Cliff, too."
"We're going to have two stages side-by-side," Shapiro says. "They'll basically be touching at a slight angle, so there's potential to pass the music onto the other guys. Maybe the guys in Furthur will end with 'Ripple' and pass it along to Neil Young, who might go into 'Heart of Gold.' That's just an idea, but I want the artists to have eye contact, and I don't want any pause between the sets."
The festival is in the relatively remote Arrington, Virginia. "It's a beautiful part of the state near the Blue Ridge Mountains," says Shapiro. "That time of year, the weather should be nice, nowhere near 106 degrees or anything. We're holding it at Oak Ridge Farm. The stages are on land that was going to be a race track, but they never finished it. Many fans are going to camp and stay the whole weekend."
Furthur are playing three of the four nights, and String Cheese Incident, the Black Crowes and Widespread Panic are both playing on two of the evenings. "You don't see that at any of the other festivals," says Shapiro. "We're hoping to see some very special collaborations, but we're not ready to announce all that yet."
So far, the festival has announced that Widespread Panic will perform on September 7th with John Fogerty. "I stay up late and try to think of things like that," says Shapiro. "We think this'll be a good one. John does good old rock & roll with a slight southern touch, so we thought this marriage would be a good one. Everybody agreed. John just released an album of collaborations, so he was in a frame of mind where he was open to something like this. He's flying in from California just for this."
Furthur are performing the Grateful Dead's 1970 LP Workingman's Dead after the Widespread Panic/Fogerty set on September 7th, and Neil Young and Crazy Horse will close out the night. "We're absolutely thrilled to have Neil Young and Crazy Horse," says Shapiro. "He's the perfect Saturday night headliner. I'm thinking it's going to be a monster fucking show. It's a great thing to have for our first year."
The festival is still a month away, but Shapiro is already thinking about next year. "I don't want to jinx it, though," he says. "But the way things are looking now, we're looking at the weekend after Labor Day in 2014."