When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music Festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia, where two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spent four days together in music-loving harmony.
The festival itself seems like a time capsule. Musicians like Robert Plant, Carlos Santana, and members of the Grateful Dead grace the stage, while Robin Blomquist and other nostalgic fans remember going to concerts like this back in the 1970s.
“I went to college in upstate New York and you could go to a show every night and still make it to class the next day," said Blomquist.
But this music also strikes a chord with a new generation of fans, like Jalen Michals Levy, who says “my mother actually raised me on rock and roll."
Most millennials weren’t even alive during the heyday of these musicians. They come to festivals like this one, joining people who could be their parents or grandparents, donning ’70 style tie-dye and denim and make up a new generation of jam band fans.
Videos of many of these bands’ live sets, going back decades, are out there on the web. Blogs and Facebook groups connect like-minded music communities where older fans tell stories of the good ol’ days and hope to inspire a new generation to experience festivals like these, and re-capture the activist spirit of the '70s.
"I [grew up during] the beginning of television. You know, I’ve seen people get more and more remote. It seems to me as far as personal interaction, a telephone emoticon. I need to hear your voice and see your face," said Salinda Whiddon.
"The baby boom generation was really big on acting. Our generation they think that sharing a post on Facebook or something is gonna, I mean more people see it, it spreads awareness but it doesn’t put any[thing in] action, there’s lots of potential in our generation but no one’s making moves to make it happen," said John Wisnewsai.
Lockn Festival co-founder Pete Shapiro points out that millennials, who are known for being tied to their smartphones, like to unplug just as much as boomers do.
"In this day and age we all have these things. I think that people want an opportunity to put that away and be in the openness, be in the Blue Ridge Mountain range," said Shapiro.
And what do these young millennials make of these ‘old hippies’?
"We’ve met a lot of the original dead heads. It’s pretty cool to hear all their old stories, and you know, hear what they’ve done. Times haven’t changed that much really," said Lindsay Barry.
"A lot of these people were in the front lines of social issues back in the 60s or the 70s, but as you get older you get more jaded. And I’m very passionate about social justice and social issues and sometimes it’s hard to see that passion in the older generation but you know I think it’s still there," said Levy.
With music to bring them together, the generations might find a way to work together to rekindle the passion that changed society nearly half a century ago.