British folk-rockers Mumford & Sons and a handful of eclectic bands concluded the American portion of their tour, Gentlemen Of The Road. The tour is the brainchild of the band and also derives its name from their own record label. The band developed the tour in an aim to target a few small American towns and celebrate the local culture. This years American tour featured four stops: Portland Maine, Bristol VA/TN (the town borders two states), Dixon Illinois and lastly Monterey, CA. With minimal stopovers and plenty of time in between shows, the format of the tour allowed for a little bit of “play time” and some time for the band to discover the local culture. Members of Mumford & Sons took a little time away from the stage to walk amongst the tourists on the historic Cannery Row, reveled in the sights at the aquarium and even paid homage to nobel laureate author John Steinbeck with a talk at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas the Friday before the show.
Joining Mumford & Sons were a host of other bands. Female trio Haim took to the main stage first. They wasted no time in creating a fervor and elevating the festival patrons’ energy. Part vocal harmonizing, part girl band and all rock and roll, the sisters of Haim set the tone for the rest of the festival. This concert reviewer can clearly recall a male patron state, “These girls are good, I’ve never seen so many dudes rocking out to a chick band.” Following Haim on the mainstage was The Apache Relay. A Nashville outlet with strong indie roots and lush harmonies that carry the listener to far away worlds, even in the midst of thousands of people.
Highlighting a stage which can hardly be called “the second stage,” but could more appropriately be called an alternate main stage was Grouplove. A fantastically fun band with mainstream popularity, unbelievable vibrancy and big sound. The band had every last viewer enthralled and dancing as they launched into their current single, “Tongue Tied.” Following up Grouplove on the main stage was gypsy punk specialists Gogol Bordello. These self proclaimed “Immigrant Punks” travel the world spreading an energy with music that transcends borders and races. Frontman Eugene Hutz and company brought out a commonality in the sprawling diverse crowd; and it was dance. Hutz and the rest of his cast had the crowd swaying and chanting.
Then it was time for the ‘gentlemen of the road’ themselves. You could feel the buzz of the crowd as thousands awaited their arrival. With a humbleness that is all their own Mumford & Sons launched into Lovers Eyes in complete darkness. It wasn’t until the second chorus that the stage lights lit up the arena and the crowd roared with enthusiasm as they caught their first clear glimpse of the band. The group followed with Little Lion Man with a mesmerizing and enthralling energy that seems indigenous to the band. They owned the crowd, the audience belonged to Mumford to with as they wished. For the next hour the audience forgot they had been at a festival all day long and quickly forgot any fatigue they might’ve been enduring. The band ended with their rendition of The Weight by The Band and had the rest of the lineup join them onstage.
Ending the night on the ‘alternate stage’ was global pop band The Very Best. Instead of leaving dull and tired after Mumford’s set, the crowd was treated to delightful pop rhythms with a west African influence. The Very Best had the remaining crowd dancing with utter delight all the way to their cars as they spilled out of the fairground gates. To say that Monterey County was starving for a world-class tour as this one is an understatement. The quaint coastal town that hosted Monterey Pop in 1967 that saw Jimi Hendrix cremate his guitar in one of the most iconic rock moments in history was treated to another festival 45 years later that has many wondering, “Can this be an annual thing?” This music reporter sees no reason why it can’t be and many will be lobbying for many more shows such as this or at the very least for the Gentlemen Of The Road to make their way back to this Pacific town.