Yesterday’s surprise, under the radar announcement of two nights of Phil Lesh & Friends at LOCKN’ Festival got us really excited for such a fun weekend of improvisational glory. With hugely anticipated sets by headliners PhishWeen, and My Morning Jacket, a slew of returning festival all-stars in Tedeschi Trucks BandLettuceUmphrey’s McGee, and Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and an awesome cast of newcomers in Gary Clark Jr., Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, VulfpeckWhite Denim, and Turkuaz, the potential is high for the Grateful Dead bass legend to roll out a very special set of “Friends” for to play with him at performances. So many talented musicians will be on site at that weekend at Oak Ridge Farm, and we can’t wait to see who will play in the band with Phil Lesh.

So, without further ado, here are our top 10 picks for the “Friends” lineup at LOCKN’ 2016!

10. Ryan Zoidis and Eric “Benny” Bloom a.k.a.The Shady Horns – Lettuce

This dynamic duo have been active of late, playing shows with Umphrey’s McGee and Gramatik on top of their full touring schedule with Lettuce, which has already taken them to Red Rocks and Bonnaroo this summer. It was recently announced that the pair will play with Soulive, Jackie GreeneKarl Denson and Jason Crosby as Phil’s friends for an upcoming two-night run at The Amphitheatre at Coney Island this September, so it would make sense for Zoidis and Bloom to be in the mix for one of Phil’s two shows at LOCKN’.

Check out The Shady Horns with Soulive and Chris Robinson performing “West L.A. Fadeaway” below, courtesy of YouTube user Marc Millman.

9. Jason Hann & Michael Travis – String Cheese Incident & EOTO

These two inventive drummers have a way of making sounds their own. After spending years on the road with String Cheese Incident and EOTO, Hann and Travis are masters of percussion and rhythm, and their energy and creativity would be a unique fit for the dual-drumming of the Grateful Dead catalog. We’d love to hear them on a song like “The Other One” or “Fire on the Mountain”, and of course “Drums” > “Space” would make for an unforgettable LOCKN’ moment.

Watch the String Cheese Incident play “Eyes of the World” at Horning’s Hideout in 2010 below, courtesy of YouTube user Vraciusmusicjones.

8. Neal Casal – Circles Around The Sun, Hard Working Americans, Chris Robinson Brotherhood

It looks like Neal Casal is going to be all over LOCKN’ this year, as he’s already playing in three bands on the festival lineup. Alongside shows with Hard Working Americans and Chris Robinson Brotherhood, he’ll bring his Grateful Dead-inspired Circles Around The Sun project to the festival. Circles Around The Sun will make their live debut at LOCKN’, and it’s sure to be a memorable and psychedelic late-night performance. Casal has performed with Phil & Friends before, and it wouldn’t surprise us to see his name on the lineup for at least one of the shows. Casal sitting in with Phil & Friends would cement him as a 2016 LOCKN’ MVP.

Listen to Circles Around The Sun’s “Kasey’s Bones” below, courtesy of YouTube user PANGEA.

7. Chris Robinson – Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Whenever Chris Robinson plays with Phil & Friends, great things happen. He can really belt it, and his passionate vocals add a totally different dynamic to the band. Robinson is also a LOCKN’ veteran, having performed with The Black Crowes in 2013 and again 2014 with The Brotherhood, and he also performed with Lesh at last year’s festival. He should feel right at home on stage with Phil Lesh at LOCKN’, and we hope to see him join Phil for at least one set as a “Friend”. 

Watch Chris Robinson perform a full show with Phil Lesh & Friends at LOCKN’ Festival 2015, courtesy of YouTube user BurningShoreProphet3.

6. Gary Clark, Jr.

This blues-man is modern day legend. His guitar playing is reminiscent of a bygone era, and his addition to Phil Lesh & Friends would make for an extremely interesting change of pace. Clark’s swampy, bluesy psychedelia would be an excellent fit to the band and LOCKN’ would provide the perfect setting for this once-in-a-lifetime performance. LOCKN’ is all about unexpected collaborations, and we’d love to see Gary Clark make his mark on the festival with a sit-in with the festival’s de-facto godfather, Phil Lesh.

5. Brendan Bayliss – Umphrey’s McGee

While Phil Lesh famously sat in with Umphrey’s McGee in San Francisco in 2004, no one from Chicago’s progressive-jam sextet has ever been invited to play in his “Friends”. That being said, there’s no denying that Brendan Bayliss would crush a performance with Phil & Friends. His technical skills, along with his ability to play both lead and rhythm parts during improvisation, make him a prime candidate to take on the Dead’s catalog, as he would be perfect in the “Bob Weir” role. With Umphrey’s on-site for a performance on Thursday night, it would awesome to see Bayliss get the nod from Lesh to join his rotation of “Friends.”

Listen to Bayliss lead Umphrey’s McGee through “Help On The Way” -> “Slipknot!” from UMBowl III, courtesy of YouTube user Michael Defillippo.

4. Joe Russo & Marco Benevento – Joe Russo’s Amost Dead

At this point, Russo and Lesh are a veteran rhythm section, having toured together for years in Furthur and P&F. Of course, Marco Benevento has also put his time in as a “Friend”, and he and Russo have been playing music together for years in The DuoBustle in your Hedgerow, and their current project, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. When this pair of musicians take on the Grateful Dead catalog, they breathe new life into the tunes, as their confident playing brings an undeniable energy to the table.

Watch Almost Dead perform an epic 30-minute Terrapin Station at The Capitol Theatre in 2013 below, courtesy of YouTube user LazyLightning55a.

3. Derek Trucks – Tedeschi Trucks Band

Derek Trucks is arguably the best guitar player on the planet. His playing has evolved so much over the years, and he continues to blow people’s mind’s on a nightly basis with Tedeschi Trucks band. His unique, rapid-fire style of soulful slide-guitar creates harmonic fireworks, and Phil would likely welcome him back with open arms to his “Friends”, after Trucks first performed with the Grateful Dead man in the late 90s. Tedeschi Trucks band is the only band to have played at every LOCKN’ Festival, and in the past they have brought Bob Weir out for special guest appearances during their set. With no Weir on the lineup this year, it would make sense for Derek to get his Dead-fix in by strapping-up with Phil & Friends for a legendary comeback performance.

Check out Derek Trucks as the featured guest with Phil & Friends in back in the year 2000, courtesy of YouTube user b t.

2. Any Member Of Phish

If any of the four members of Phish are announced as part of Phil Lesh & Friends at LOCKN’, prepare for pandemonium to ensue. The members of Phish and Phil Lesh have a long history of playing together, as Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell broke the Phish/Dead barrier back in 1999. Their legendary performances with Phil Lesh & Friends at The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco were a huge moment for the members of Phish, and the Dead legend returned the favor by sitting in with Phish at Shoreline Amphitheatre that same year. In 2005, Trey and Mike Gordon memorably paired with Marco Benevento and Joe Russo as G.R.A.B. to open for Phil & Friends on tour. Trey sat in with Phil on most nights, while Gordon made a few guest appearances on guitar and banjo on the bluegrass-based tunes. After last summer’s Fare Thee Well concerts, which saw Anastasio nail the “Jerry”-role for the Grateful Dead’s farewell shows, fans are clamoring for another opportunity to see him or any of the other members of Phish as part of Phil’s band. Notably, Drummer Jon Fishman is the only member of Phish that hasn’t appeared on stage with Phil & Friends, and it would be amazing to watch him tackle the dual-drum parts of Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart while locking in with Phil. LOCKN’ provides the perfect environment for collaborations, and we hope to see at least one member of Phish on the bill when Phil announces his Friends.

Watch a full set of Anastasio and McConnell’s triumphant Phil & Friends debut from 1999 below, courtesy of Vimeo user gigpedia.

1. Jim James – My Morning Jacket

Jim James is one of the best performers alive. He puts his heart and soul into every performance, and the passion he puts into his vocals and guitar playing with My Morning Jacket is a sight to behold. The band’s headlining performance on Saturday night lines James up perfectly with the first night of Phil & Friends at LOCKN’, and we can only imagine what this dream pairing would sound like. The emotional vocals of The Grateful Dead would be a perfect fit for James. We’d love to see him take “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider”, or take us into outer space with an intense version of “Dark Star”. James recently contributed to the Day of the Dead album by The National, and Bob Weir has sat in with My Morning Jacket on several occasions, so it would certainly be familiar territory for him to hop on stage and play a few tunes. Jim James brings all the energy, and a performance with Phil Lesh & Friends would be breathtaking.

Listen to Jim James & Friends’ cover of “Candyman” from the Day of the Dead compilation, thanks to YouTube user 4AD.

Who do you want to play with Phil Lesh & Friends at LOCKN’ Festival? Let us know!