by Dean Budnick on August 27, 2016
Bassist Dave Schools is one of those musicians who has performed at every Lockn’. From 2013-15 he appeared with Widespread Panic and this year he’s here with Hard Working Americans. Schools has a special connection to the festival as he grew up in Virginia. He reflects, “I love the location. Not only am I from Virginia but Widespread Panic spent countless hours driving up and down the highways and byways, playing all these colleges and everything. “The festival takes place at a beautiful time of year. I know last year they got pummeled by shocking weather—and this might just be that home team spirit—but it’s just some of the most beautiful country there is as far as I’m concerned.” Here Schools looks back on his past appearances at Lockn’ with Widespread Panic and offers some thoughts on what people can expect on Saturday from Hard Working Americans as well as his Super VIP performance with HWA, Phil Lesh and Mike Gordon.
2013: Widespread Panic with John Fogerty
Creedence was some of the first music I ever loved. I’m talking about when these songs were coming out because my parents were cool enough to take me to Standard Drug in Richmond where they sold singles and LPs alongside prescription drugs and whatnot and they’d buy me something. My parents loved the fact that I liked the Creedence stuff. It wasn’t as frightening to their ears as The Who or Deep Purple, some of the other stuff I liked.
So I was buying these singles when they came out—they had like 13 number one single in their heyday—and when I was 4, 5 and 6, I was playing those songs. So when the festival organizers suggested Fogerty, I was like, “Fuck Yes.” Literally, “Fuck Yes.” And it marks the only time other than telling Jack Casady what a profound influence he was on me that I encountered someone who was a profound influence and decided to drop my “I’m a peer musician thing” and go for the whole “Can I just take five minutes to butter your toast completely?” That’s what I did with Fogerty. I’d learned how to play bass by playing along with those Creedence songs. They never left my wheelhouse. When we were rehearsing at the Jefferson in Charlottesville the night before the gig he was like, “I think we got that one,” and I said, “Let’s play it again!” It was so cool.
One more Fogerty side note: John Bell is fond of wearing flannel shirts and it’s also one of John Fogerty’s trademarks. So we were sitting in the trailer waiting for John Fogerty to show up for a little last minute brush-up on the material at the festival site and he walked in wearing the exact same flannel shirt that John Bell had on. I think John’s wife might have thought for a second that we were poking fun but we told her that no, John Bell has a closet of these things, too. The funniest thing of all was that John Fogerty was like, “No matter, I always bring a spare” and he whipped out a different one and put it on.
It was great, one of the highlights of my life. I’ve played with a lot of amazing musicians and I’m lucky enough to count some of my biggest influences not only as friends but as associates but with Fogerty I was on cloud nine the whole time.
2014: Widespread Panic with Steve Winwood
This was another honor, although we’ve had dealings with Steve Winwood before, we played with him at the first Bonnaroo.
Steve Winwood is a consummate musician. He’s this jovial academic who’s an expert on ancient music and traditional music. He likes to make everything cool, by showing you all the different ways something can be interpreted, which is awesome because I’m always in the business of trying to learn more. It was great.
2015: Widespread Panic with Jimmy Cliff
Playing with Jimmy Cliff was just incredible. He’s a walking rainbow. He’s from the school of “Show up and just smile.” He didn’t show up with arrangements of those songs that he wanted to push down our throats, he was just like, “Do it however you guys want to do it.” Some of those songs have been with me since I can remember. The Harder They Come album is so great and it was such an honor to get to do those songs. It’s not like we were covering them, we were doing them with THE GUY. He was just so sweet and accommodating and whenever he walks on stage and opens his mouth the clouds just roll away.
2016: Hard Working Americans
The original idea was to put a record together of songs curated by Todd Snider that he thought were really special and that had this theme tied around “salt of the earth Americans.” The idea behind the whole thing was, “These are great songs. We’re going to deconstruct them and rebuild them in our own image.” The idea behind the live show was to give people something to dance to so they can get away from all of this spoon-fed fear and all this election cycle bullshit, just come to the show and forget about it.
We had never played a single show when we got out there and shot that movie The First Waltz about a band playing their first show. What we found out was that we really brought it on stage. You never know—people who can play well together in the studio might not be able to play well together on stage but this band killed it. We were enthusiastic about it, so we played 15 shows and at the end of a little mini tour in Chicago we went right into the studio. Todd had all this poetry he had written and the band just built songs around these poems and it was something completely different. Then over two years we created Rest in Chaos. It’s a monolith of a record and we’ve managed to get some leg on these tunes live and some of them have changed rather dramatically. Now we’re recording everything on multitrack and hope to put together a live record. If get we get lucky and capture a whole show that’s awesome and if we put the record together from various sources, that’s awesome too. We’re busy working on new songs, some of which might get worked into the live set and some of which you might not hear until we put out the next studio record. But we are a real band and all of us are super excited.
2016: Super VIP Performance with Phil Lesh and Mike Gordon
I’m hoping it’s extraordinarily experimental. Phil and Mike and I have been talking about things that we could do, ranging from the obvious to the not-so-obvious to the utterly shocking and surprising. I think it’s really cool. I’m honored to get to stand side by side with Phil. It’s awesome and I’ve never done that with him. I can’t call Phil an influence in anything other than intent because to try and play like Phil would be to undue his entire intent. But to understand his intent and to honor that in some way that I filter through my own thing is awesome.
I’ve loved Mike ever since all those shows we did with Phish. I could talk with him for hours about everything. We’ve played in various things over the years, sometimes he’s played a baritone banjo or something. Later, I helped him out with the Deep End movie he was doing and we had some really good times catching up and talking. We stayed in touch and we’re both really psyched to honor Phil and be honored by Phil’s presence.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, I know it’s going to be cool and anyone who is there will hopefully get something they never expected and hopefully walk away with a cool memory. I know I will.