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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 19th May 2015 at 6:00 pm
While on holiday the last 2 weeks, I had a great many discussions about Mumford and Sons and their new, banjo-less (and to me, shockingly double bass-less as well) direction with friends and industry folk alike. In March, John mused over the questionable decision by Reading and Leeds 2015 bookers to have the formerly tweedy nu-folkers headline the August bank holiday festival. However you feel about Marcus Mumford and his crew, their third album ‘Wilder Mind’ is not going anywhere anytime soon, whether it be from the physical and online record shops where it has already achieved a #1 placing or mainstream radio. Therefore, it probably behooves you to at least give some of the new material a shot. Hey, at least you tried, right?
‘The Wolf’ is the next single from Mumford and Sons, due out the 29th of June on Gentlemen of the Road / Island Records. In the official promo for the song, the band plays live and without their trademark tweed, looking more Kings of Leon than themselves. Odd? Good? Bad? Have a go below and let us know what you think.
Do you remember between the ages of 15 and 18(-ish) when you’d sit glued to the antipodean drawl of Zane Lowe on a dark night around the middle of February? Waiting in awe to discover which titan of popular culture would be gracing the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds? You sat there ready to tweet, Facebook and text your friends about which clashes you were gutted about and which ones were glaringly obvious: I mean who WOULDN’T want to catch Black Flag over Arcade Fire on the Main Stage? They’re a punk rock institution, for god’s sake!
Now, regrettably in drips and drabs, before the bill is inevitably leaked by some cretin on Reddit, the line-up seeps out producing excitement levels tantamount to that first sleet of February. The kind of sleet where it starts and you think it’s going to snow, but instead it just dusts your porch for 5 minutes, then just goes back to being incredibly cold. That kind of faux-excitement.
Now coupled with the lack of a spectacle, we’re subjected to the damp squib that are Mumford and Sons headlining the Main Stage. A band who’ve released two mediocre albums that has led to them headlining Glastonbury and making inroads into the U.S. market that only Harry Styles and co., alongside Mumford, could dream of. Yes, I liked ‘Little Lion Man’, and it’s sure to provoke a pretty good reaction. But did anyone see the tame, lacklustre set the band threw out at Glasto? I did. You can drag out as many string quartets as you want, but when you’ve only got two records of material to run from, it’s never going to shock or surprise, let alone entertain.
Yes, Marcus Mumford has been brushing shoulders with Elvis Costello and Jim James of My Morning Jacket, but are the band any closer to releasing any new music? It doesn’t look that from where I’m sitting… In fact, coupled with Metallica’s booking, that’s two artists headlining the Main Stage who are likely to release a grand total of jack shit this year. Quite similar to Blink 182 last year as well; this smacks of bands being booked simply to bump up the bank balance before other projects. Is that what we should be expecting from £200+ worth of tickets? It’s an example of where those behind Reading and Leeds have fallen into the same trap that other festival bookers have done in the past. Going for what they assume is a safe booking over a genuine wild card contender, someone who can come on stage and be THAT SET that people are still talking about a decade on. Can you really see yourself in 10 years’ time telling friends and colleagues about a rousing rendition of ‘The Cave’? No, me neither. We all know that Sonisphere are just treading water until they can justify booking one of either Slipknot, Iron Maiden or Metallica again. It’s all just very safe. But why should festivals stick to what’s safe? (OK, so yeah, profit margins, but they aren’t cool.)
It’s probably unfair to just focus on where the institutions that are Reading and Leeds have just gotten it wrong. In 2013, the bookers got it ABSOLUTELY right. Biffy Clyro topped the bill on the Sunday, off the back of the incredible success of their most recent release, their double album ‘Opposites’.
Up until then they’d punctuated the middle of the roaster, teetering on the edge of doing better, but never receiving the backing to rise farther up. In 2013 though, the bookers at Reading and Leeds after a few 7/10 shows at recent festivals took a gamble; they elevated Simon Neil’s threesome of slippery pliant Scotsmen to the lofty heights of headliner. The result was arguably the best headline performance at Richfield Avenue in 2 decades. Every song was an anthem, every ballad a soulful sing-along, every riff a rollicking ripper (try saying that at the end of a festivals worth of stale Strongbow and warm vodka). It was a rousing success and elevated The Biff to the kind of heights that now has them touted as potential Wembley Stadium headliners. Now of course while Noel Gallagher “can’t live in a world where Ed Sheeran sells out Wembley Stadium”, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind seeing this sweaty topless threesome – what an image – screeching their balls off at the venue.
That’s the kind of effect a strong, edgy booking can have. That’s what can be achieved by going against the grain. It can stick in your memory and affect the careers of the artists involved. What does Mumford and Sons headlining Reading and Leeds mean? Probably a better turn out for the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage, if I’m honest.
The head honchos at Reading and Leeds should take a leaf out of the books of groundbreaking festivals books like Bestival, Secret Garden Party or Latitude. Exclusive sets from out-of-the-ordinary acts like OutKast or The Chemical Brothers are far more likely to excite and inspire sales. In a time where pockets are pinched and times are tight, you’ve got to do a lot to encourage your average tweenager to spend £200 on a festival ticket and not a week-long blowout in Malia spent grinding on strangers whilst sipping on buckets of Red Bull mixers.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 7th August 2013 at 6:00 pm
Mumford and Sons have become an all too easy target in the music world. So that’s why the promo video for ‘Hopeless Wanderers’ impresses me all the more. Instead being the band that everyone seems to love to hate right now (which is pretty unfair IMO) in their own music video, Mumford and co. hired impersonators.
Well, some pretty famous stars: Arrested Development/Juno/The Kingdom actor Jason Bateman deputises for Winston Marshall, The Office/The Hangover star Ed Helms plays Ben Lovett, and former Saturday Night Live in-house actor/comedians Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte play Marcus Mumford and Ted Dwane, respectively. This ain’t no ordinary promo video. (One has to wonder if these celebrities have been watching M&S at their high-profile festival performances as of late…) Watch it below.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 1st August 2013 at 4:00 pm
Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit appeared in mid-July at the Live at the Lewes Stopover 2013, sponsored by Gentlemen of the Road, Mumford and Sons‘ record label. So it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination that Marcus Mumford made a surprise appearance, ukulele in hand, when Flynn’s band were ready to play their song ‘The Water’ in the lovely town of Lewes. This rendition’s beautiful, it gave me chills. Watch the performance below.
Flynn and band go on tour in the UK and Ireland in October.
By Mary Chang
on Saturday, 13th July 2013 at 10:00 am
Love ’em or hate ’em, the Mumford and Sons crazy train of mainstream popularity rolls on. As does the promo video for ‘Babel’, which literally scrolls to your right for the duration of the black and white visual. Watch it below.
2012 had it all, didn’t it? London 2012, the Diamond Jubilee, James fucking Bond returning in a blaze of balls-out guts and glory and some great music to boot (we’re ignoring Muse’s Olympic song ‘Survival’, don’t worry).
Had it all though? Every classic British summer needs something, and 2012 was drastically missing it: that cornucopia of eccentricity and old-school values, Glastonbury. Where were Mssrs. Eavis squared, where was the Pyramid Stage, where was Worthy Farm? Healing, nursing its wounds. In preparation for a shindig 26-30 June 2013 that’ll remind the British populace of the importance of the institution that is the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.
To make it a year to remember, though, one thing is certain. That the bands they are going to have must have that clout that makes punters stand erect and to attention. Enter Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, a year after the Rolling Stones‘ 50th anniversary. They’ve never played the legendary Pyramid Stage and it seems that finally the Eavises have gotten their way and secured easily one of the biggest draws that the music industry has to offer.
Joining them atop the almighty Pyramid are a band who have already set tongues a wagging once with their Glastonbury exploits. We are of course talking about the Arctic Monkeys (pictured at top), who are now four albums strong and flaunting their new-found maturity. The most surprising and probably most controversial bill-topper is the biggest marmite act around at the moment: The USA-smashing Mumford and Sons, riding high on the crest of the wave of success of last year’s ‘Babel’, and wading through the swathes of critical approval.
But with Glastonbury, you know it isn’t all about the headliners, with over 1,000 artists appearing across a multitude of stages over the weekend. Arctic Monkeys not floating ya boat? Check out The Smashing Pumpkins instead. Pyramid Stage too mainstream for you? Portishead will be bringing their trip hop stylings to the farm in a set surely not to be missed at any cost.
Further down the bill you’ve got math rockers Foals, Enter Shikari, Mr. Controversial Tyler, The Creator and crooner Maverick Sabre.
That take your fancy? Well, if it does, resale is closing up, so get that hammer out and give your piggy bank a good smashing, as this festival is *not* one to be missed.