February 13, 2013
The Patriot Center
Fairfax, VA USA
Review by Brittany Fornof
Photos by Craig Hunter Ross
Mumford & Sons
Fans Can't Be Silenced
There is a great disturbance in the force where millions of music fans are crying out and they cannot be silenced.
This subtle ripple in the musical fabric of the cosmic universe is gradually affecting us all. The energy force behind this hybrid sound of blues, country and folk binds a galaxy of humans together in ways never seen before. Its sound has penetrated our very being. The invaders perpetrating these aural assaults are unassuming, yet dangerous to behold. Once you are ensconced in their light, there is no escape. The culprits pretend to be a family, but they're not. Beware of the revolution these creatures have unleashed under the nom deplume, Mumford & Sons.
Okay, maybe that was a corny build-up, but let's face, this British folk rock act consisting of Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane literally came out of nowhere the past couple of years to cast an undeniable spell with their back-to-basics approach to music. This band accomplished this monumental task without a monster guitarist (three of them perform a variety of stringed instruments), or a flamboyant lead singer prancing about the stage. They did have a great hit single, but it took two years for radio to figure it out. Refreshingly, this lot of down-home musicians from across the pond accomplished stardom the old-fashioned way. They stripped away all the trappings of wealth and presented themselves as openly and honestly as possible. The approach struck a nerve.
Mumford & Sons brought their unassuming brand of Americana music to the Patriot Center in Washington D.C. for two sold-out engagements. Though the capital city itself is full of intrigue, the two-hour performance this band put forth tonight certainly was not.
If anything, the foundation for Mumford & Sons tremendous success and appeal can be traced directly back to the motion picture soundtrack O Brother! Where Art Thou? Released in 2000, this multi-platinum disc of classic folk style songs sparked a renaissance of Depression era music at the time, but slowly lost its panache over time. Marcus Mumford and his mates deserve a lot of credit for breathing new life into this combination style of country, bluegrass and gospel music rolled into one. With only two albums under their belt, this British quartet has managed to capture the warmth and bittersweet simplicity of music again. It also earned them a Grammy in 2013 for best album of the year in Babel, as well as a legion of adoring fans from coast to coast, if not worldwide.
As demonstrated this evening, Mumford & Sons are gladly spearheading the roots music movement toward the center of today's pop culture. Simple music is en vogue. Dexterity with multiple instruments, especially the stringed variety, is cool. I'm not sure what area of the subconscious this band has tapped into with their music, but tonight the undeniable appeal of the music was on display for one and all to enjoy.
Mumford & Sons is one of those rare bands to witness live on any occasion. For this sold out crowd, it didn't matter whether it was date night, solo night or hang out with your friend's night, everyone was welcomed to join in on the festival of fun. You didn't have to be a student of Mumford's music to enjoy it either. If you appreciate harmonized songs presented in a raw, pure form then this was the place for you.
As evidence by this adoring crowd, it's clear that this London quartet is feeding a hunger that has long lay dormant in the wake of the aforementioned O Brother! Where Art Thou? Mumford takes you back in time before technology and the Internet disrupted everyone's lives. The times were simpler and the music was distinct as well as comforting. Tonight, this audience witnessed a band that didn't try to dupe them with superstar trappings or a gimmicky stage show. The clothing these four wore on stage was typical of the music they performed - straightforward and honest.
There isn't anything challenging or musically ambitious about this group, and that's why it works. In a unique way, Mumford & Sons have built up a unique trust with their audiences. Yeah, these British lads were all privately educated, and one even comes from a very privileged background, but none of their hi-brow past comes across in the music. The group is feeding an insatiable hunger that has also enabled other upstarts like The Lumineers and Alabama Shakes to carve out their own musical niche in the Americana universe.
Sometimes a band gets lucky and captures exactly what it intended to do on record. With Mumford however, there was no luck involved. This band didn't check with the gatekeepers of music when it decided to pursue a musical direction focused on vocal harmonies and acoustic instruments. As demonstrated throughout the course of this night, an unpretentious approach to songwriting can indeed be beautiful when presented in an uncomplicated way.
For too long, music has been an assault on the senses where the loud and bombastic approach was used to get your attention. You instantly became disposable once you reached the mainstream, but at least you got your 15 minutes. As Mumford & Sons clearly demonstrated tonight, honesty in the way you carry yourself, and the modest way in which you create a sound will take you a long way. I know the 15,000 in attendance tonight couldn't agree more. May the force be with them!