29 August 2013

Musical delights (and non-delights) Review: Day 2 Gentlemen of the Road and Mumford music in Lewes

Day 2:  I had not slept so well in a long time.  I think it was the darkened, quite room coupled with the busy day before...the amazing thing about festivals, and outdoor concerts in general, is meeting people.  Friday evening I had met a group of blokes from Liverpool out for a mates weekend with plenty of beer and music. They were quite a memorable bunch particularly two who offered up their shoulders so that I could see the stage.  I politely turned them down, but running into them again the following night wished they had remembered the offer as I would have clearly taken it to see Mumford and Sons!
My goodies bag which kept me pre-occupied
on that first night.
That night, however, I turned it down; I was completely obsessed with watching over my bag which I had had to abandon next to others' and Mr. Do-you-want-to-sit-on-my-shoulders #1 kept giving me quite a hard time about it; it made for an interesting night. 

The town of Lewes seemed to be transformed.  My quiet gem in East Sussex had turned into a haven for concert-goers; I was one of them!  The pedestrian traffic was like herded sheep and  by the time I was out and about grazing through town, restaurants, shops and the streets were filled with campers and visitors enjoying the morning air and their bits of food before the afternoon/evening of music.  It was astounding, and if I was in shock, I couldn't imagine what the local residents were thinking (with luck it wasn't anything too nasty).  After some food, I headed down to the Union Music Store to check out,The Self Help Group (see 3 August post).  It was then time to return to the concert site and a whole new set of bands to hear; with any luck they would be quite different from the night before, and indeed they were.  The music met expectations, shocked untrained ears and, even was at times underwhelming--in the end, however, a bit of something for everyone.

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit- Johnny Flynn has been on my radar for a little bit, actually.  His solo album, Been Listening, had me hooked from the first sound of the glaring horns on Kentucky Pill to the steady beat of the mesmerizing drums so well included for a song named Drum. I was excited to see him on stage (a music not theatre stage where I had seen him a few months before) accompanied by his band. 
Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit on stage.
It did not disappoint.  Flynn backed up by the Sussex Wit was a highlight, and I wasn't the only one enjoyed it for directly behind me a fan of the group was singing along with every single song!  I felt somewhat a bit out of the loop not having known any of the songs save for the last, but Flynn and the Sussex Wit share the same sounds and style so where could it go wrong?  It didn't.  Flynn, with and without the Sussex Wit, is one of the best of folk to be coming around as far as I am concerned.  

The Mystery Jets- The name suits as this band was a bit of a mystery to me.  Maybe it was because the relatively nice, semi-calm crowd had turned into a mini-mosh pit of jumping and bumping teenagers.  Gone was my mellow crowd from Johnny Flynn just some moments before.  My size and lack of enthusiasm for the music at hand had me fearing that I was going to be squashed by drunken, jumping youths.  But, I held my ground using my arms as a shield and, consequently I suppose, missed out on the majority of the set. All I gleamed from the music making it's way from the stage was a pop-type sound that really didn't want to make me jump up and down; it just left me underwhelmed.  Nothing to spectacular, nothing to write home about...even though I am writing about it.  No, I certainly don't think I'll be hitting a hangar to see these Jets anytime again.

Deap Valley- Quick and to the point. This band had possibly the most unmusical sound coming from instruments, natural and made, that I have ever heard.  From the moment that the first sound came from the stage, I knew it wasn't the type of music for me and, if the thought of losing my place among the sea of concert-goers hadn't been on my mind, I would have taken that opportunity to get more alcohol (perhaps then I would have enjoyed it more). As it was, I sat, yes sat, staking out my place in the sea of Deap fans.  The ear-cringing, blood-curdling sounds coming from instruments and female singing (or was it yelling) on stage were enough to drive one mad.  My solution: drown out the sound on stage by losing myself in my iPod and a more pleasant sound.  It worked and I survived. I wasn't the only one seeking a musical life boat in the sea of fans, someone next to me was clinging to her ear buds as well; we only had to look at each other to understand that we were in the same boat...hanging on till the storm passed.  

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros-
Crowd gets groovy with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Redemption!  After the Mystery of Jets and traveling to the death Valley of Deap, it took a while, but musical redemption was achieved with the delight that is Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Now these are tunes one can dance, jump, groove, boogy, jive, or however else anyone moves to music.  Sharpe has been around for awhile and, I must admit, had only heard one or two songs, but hearing them live has given me a whole new appreciation for the fun and quirky band that got the whole crowd dancing and grooving (yes, that is the word that comes to mind with them--groovy!).  Yet another music purchase to be made...

Evening turned to night with more music though hunger and a thirst for cider overtook me so, honestly, I just didn't pay that much attention to the act between Sharpe and the main attraction, sorry Vaccines.  Then a familiar sound boomed on stage, the crowd went crazy, and movement towards the stage commenced once again.  Even with using the Liverpool blokes, as a make-shift place holder and fibbing a bit by saying I was trying to get to a group of friends, I was still frequently blocked from getting closer to the stage.  Come on folks, what's the deal, I mentally screamed to the wrong-doers.  Eventually though I made my way to the spot I had come too earlier and could enjoy the main event...

Mumford and Sons- The main attraction didn't disappoint.  The mere hint of the first familiar notes of a song had the crowd going forward and I barely made it back from my pre-determined place amongst the crowd.
Mumford and Sons light up the stage and the festival grounds
 I have a 'live' album, but seeing them for myself was its own experience.  I will not diss the big screen at a large concert anymore...without that it would have been a less pleasant experience.  Staying back does have disadvantages, but I do not have any complaints (save for the gits that would get on others shoulders; now I really wished the shoulder-blokes from Liverpool would have offered me theirs).  The music was pure Mumford.  As brilliant some yards away as it, no doubt, would have been a few feet away. I soon found myself bouncing to keep up with the crowd, and finding that it was indeed fun when you liked the music you were jumping too.  I knew every song and could sing along with them...as many around me did.  And, when asked by Marcus Mumford himself to sing along we all happily obliged!  That was the most joyous thing, and a phenomena I feel is distinctly European--singing along.  I experienced it in France and now here in England.
A view of the band with the help of a camera zoom
 In the US, it may be occasionally experience with particular crowds and particular bands, but here the audiences are so into the music (and not doubt beer and cider helps) that singing along becomes natural and doesn't seem at all odd.  Americans need to take a cue from Europeans on this concert and festival-going practice.  It makes the experience so much more memorable to sing and be part of it with your favourite band.  So, next time you find yourself at a concert and you are asked to join in, don't hesitate and do it!  You'll find you will be happy you did.  It will be a delightful experience.

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