Mumford & Sons (Jeffry Konczal photo)
Five quick thoughts on Mumford & Sons' sold-out show at the LC Pavilion festival setting:
(1) The sound was robust. The value of four-part harmonies cannot be understated. Furthermore, say what you want about bands abusing old-timey instruments like banjo, brass and accordion; Mumford & Sons know what to do with those tools. Their music might not be all that original, but they've mastered this particular formula for bourgeois catnip.
(2) Speaking of formula: Supposedly the band performed 17 separate songs last night, but I'm still not entirely convinced they weren't just playing the same one over and over again. "They all sound the same" is typically a remark reserved for genres you haven't taken the time to explore (rap fans who can't hear the slight aesthetic differences between indie rock bands and vice versa, or metalheads who don't understand the subtleties of minimal house music and vice versa, etc., etc., etc.). So while I hesitate to level that particular criticism, I've spent a lot of years listening to folk-rock bands in the same vein as Mumford, and I honestly was struggling to discern which song was which last night. People have compared the band's vaguely Christian lyrics to worship music, and this show struck me as samey in the same way the church music I grew up with now feels samey. Mumford's one song is growing on me, though.
(3) Keyboard player Ben Lovett mentioned that throughout the band's five-week North American tour, they are only revisiting three cities they've played before, and Columbus was one of them. Apparently we "know how to party" here in Columbus. We'll have to take his word for it that it was Mumford & Sons' decision and not some businessman's call, but the band certainly seemed to have acclimated themselves to Columbus life on stage last night. (Perhaps they're thinking about moving here?) Banjo player Winston Marshall was rocking a Columbus Clippers T-shirt from Homage, and Marcus Mumford never tired of baiting the audience with "O-H!" chants. "You don't understand the instant gratification that comes when you go, 'O-H!'" Mumford said. Oh, we do.
(4) Dawes' first album, "North Hills," was a gorgeously mellow folk-rock collection that doubled as a perfect background music for homework or chilling out. Since then, they seem to have evolved into a more roots-rocking sound suitable for the bigger venues they're playing now. That's probably smart — they made enough noise to fill the open air just fine, and singer Taylor Goldsmith out-wailed Mumford when he guested on "When My Time Comes" — but I still prefer them in their quieter moments.
(5) There was a lot of hubbub ahead of the show about PromoWest's decision to expand this show from the 5,500-capacity outdoor pavilion to the 10,000 capacity "festival setting" in the parking lot (or "carpark" as the Brits put it) behind LC. Some fans were worried about a loss of intimacy or the discomfort of standing in a parking lot versus luxuriating on grass. Those concerns were founded in part; due to a weird dip in the landscape, those up front or way in the back could see the band, but many in between had to crane their necks or settle for occasional glimpses through the cracks. Still, the videographer did a good job capturing an intimate perspective, and the light show was awesome no matter where you were standing. (The people watching from Huntington Park's balcony actually had the best view, and all they had to buy was a $6 baseball ticket.) Would I have preferred to see them in the LC amphitheater? Sure, but it wasn't like my night was ruined or anything.
In fact, I'd like to see PromoWest try more events in this setup. Seems like if Columbus is ever going to get our own answer to Bunbury, the LC complex could host it pretty easily. Throw the headliners in the parking lot, second-tier bands in the amphitheater, schedule some others at A&R and (sigh) The Basement, and maybe get Huntington Park involved too? Tell me that wouldn't be awesome.
LC Pavilion festival setting (Jeffry Konczal photo)