POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 4, 2013:
More than just another festival tour
Labor Day has come, and while that normally marks the end of the summer, it surely hasn't marked the end of the concert festival season. If anything, it seems to kick off a second wind for those who are all about disappearing for the weekend and immersing themselves in music. In fact, there's a festival pretty much every weekend this month.
In Oklahoma, the festival that everyone has been talking about all year long (Literally all year long -- tickets went on sale in February and sold out almost immediately) is the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover in Guthrie, headed up by Mumford and Sons. Of course, there's more to this tour than Mumford and Sons, but when one of the biggest bands in the rock and pop worlds finally makes its first stop in the state and does so with a show of this stature, it's one that no one wants to miss.
So exactly what is a Gentlemen of the Road Stopover? It's a concept that Mumford and Sons came up with and instituted in 2012, making it summer tour just a bit bigger, by grabbing a group of friends and other bands and taking the show to a smaller town that normally doesn't get a big concert and essentially taking over the city.
When speaking with Mumford bassist Ted Dwayne in February, I asked him about the concept.
"Last year, we played out first string of Stopover dates and were able to do four of them across America," he said. "It was a great way for us to play some bigger shows, outside of the 15-20,000 we were already playing to. It turned out to be a great time and although it took a lot of commitment, it allowed us to connect with audiences on our own terms."
Placed in more out-of-the-way locations, the tour brings travelers in to converge on a smaller town and create a more intimate vibe, even amidst the large crowds.
"We try to pick interesting places to visit," Dwayne shared, "and we really encourage local businesses to get involved as well. We try to find some towns that are kind of off the beaten path, because it gives it all more of a community feel."
Surely, the impact of a tour of this size converging on a small town can make a huge impact on the community and its economics. When asked about the band's awareness of its effects on the cities it plays, Dwayne acknowledged the impact.
"We played Dixon, Ill. last summer, and it doubled the population of the town for that weekend," he said. "After the tour, we had some people thank us and tell us 'We were on the cusp of closing our doors, and we made enough that weekend to stay open through the end of the year. You helped us navigate through a really tough time.'"
Although those effects are appreciated by the band as well as the community, Dwayne shared that the best part of the shows was the experience itself, which is why the band has brought it back for a second year.
"There was an immense learning curve, but the crowds were amazing and it was all very fun," he said. "Now we're looking for ways to grow the formula, but we don't want to make it too huge, so we're capping attendance. We're also making it two nights, so there is more value for the audience."
The biggest challenge has been "getting the right bands -- that's a huge thing. You can't just jump out there with anyone, but the most fun part has been choosing the line up."
Although Mumford & Sons headlines and there are a few common band, each Stopover does have a few unique guests as well. When the Gentlemen of the Road arrives in Guthrie, Oklahoma this weekend, campers and festival goers can expect a stellar lineup all weekend, as gates open at 5pm on September 6 to welcome Willy Mason, Justin Townes Earle, and Phosphorescent while Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros will headline and close the night.
Saturday's lineup is even more impressive. Gates open at 1pm for a day of music that covers everything from dance to folk to garage infused rock. The second day's bands include Bear's Den, Those Darlins, Half Moon Run, Haim, The Vaccines, and Yacht Club DJs. The night is capped off with dual headlining sets by Alabama Shakes (who are only appearing on the Guthrie stop and recently sold out Cain's Ballroom with an electrifying performance) and Mumford & Sons.
That's a stellar lineup for anyone following current music trends, but beyond that, it also provides a diversity to the lineup while each of the acts tie together in some way and complement each other.
Of course, the big draw of the weekend is Mumford & Sons, the English folk-rock band that formed in 2007, but exploded when its debut album, Sigh No More, was released in late 2009 in the UK and Ireland and February 2010. That album was an international hit, peaking at No. 2 in the UK and U.S. and garnering a a total of six Grammy nominations in 2010 and 2011 (including a "Best New Artist" nomination in 2010), but it wasn't until 2012 that the band finally took home a trophy from the RIAA for Album of the Year with its sophomore effort, Babel.
The indie-folk genre has exploded in the U.S. over the last few years with bands like The Lumineers following in a path that has been set by artists like Mumford & Sons and Avett Brothers, but that has been something of a turn from the alt-rock of Foo Fighters, a good example of what was previously dominating rock radio just a few years ago.
Before wrapping up the interview, I had to ask how the group decided on Guthrie, Oklahoma for a tour stop. Aside from sharing that the group was looking for interesting and out of the way locations, Dwayne stated "...and Guthrie? Well, I think that one probably explains itself."
I didn't have the heart to tell him that Woody Guthrie was from Okemah. After all, their hearts are in the right place, are they not? And who knows? Maybe after visiting Oklahoma and getting a little true dustbowl education, they'll make an effort to return and visit Guthrie's hometown on the next tour. As for now, we can all enjoy a weekend with one of the biggest folk-rock bands in the business and fistful of hand-picked friends to helps us kick off round two of the festival season.
The Gentlemen of the Road Stopover lands in Guthrie, Oklahoma this weekend for two nights of performances on Friday and Saturday, September 6-7. Although the event sold out quickly in February, a limit number of additional tickets were recently released and still available as of press time. Tickets for the festival, as well as late-night events such as the "Late-night Bluegrass Jam" at Double Stop Music Hall, "Improv Comedy Troupe" at Same Old Moses, and "Adele Wolf's Burlesque & Variety Show" at Boneyard BBQ" can be purchased online at: ustickets.gentlemenoftheroad.com.
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