Category Archives: folk

a little tennis with mumford

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c is currently dancing her socks off in the middle of the country to Mumford & Sons as part of their Gentlemen of the Road series.  Not being there has put me in a Mumford mood and while watching a dozen, or maybe, eh, twenty-three videos of their performances, I remembered that I FORGOT TO WRITE ABOUT THE TIME I SAW THEM LIVE LAST MONTH.  Some jammer I am, right?  will have a debriefing of tonight’s performance by noon tomorrow.  Here is mine…a month overdue…

When Mumford & Sons come to NYC/NJ/Metro-area, they do so in style.  Not the signature tweed vest, flannel, bowler hat kind of style, but the we’re-going-to-perform-sold-out-shows-in-the-vaguest-venues-during-ominous-weather-that-will-make-headlines-in-the-newspapers kind of style.  Remember Pier A in Hoboken last year?  On August 28, 2013, the quartet did it again.  They revitalized Forest Hills Stadium, a tennis court with amphitheater seating that magically held 17,000.  The venue was frequented by The Stones, Joan Baez, and The Beatles during the ’70s and until the British invaded again this August, the stadium had not hosted a concert since 1997.  Don’t call it a comeback.

Getting off the LIRR at Forest Hills was like walking into Magic Kingdom after a curious ride on the Monorail at Disney World.  Roads were adorned with M&S logos; streets were shut down and packed with blissful twenty-somethings patiently (yes, patiently in NYC) waiting to enter the Romanesque site.  After receiving tennis sweatbands as souvenirs, the sold out crowd hopped on line to buy craft beers, artisan pizzas, and probably turkey legs and/or frozen lemonade.  Unfortunately, the Gentlemen of the Road (who should reconsider the lottery system for ticket sales) and the Bowery Presents realized far too late in the game the “growing pains” of the night’s dynamic.  Refunds were offered to anyone who did not enjoy their trip to Disney the Stadium.

However, those of us who came for the music had nothing to complain about.  Bear’s Den (who are worth listening to) and The Vaccines (eh) opened and due to a neighborhood curfew, M&S finished the encore by 10:00pm.

Set list:
Lovers’ Eyes, Babel, I Will Wait, Winter Winds, Whispers in the Dark, Little Lion Man, Below My Feet, Timshel, Lover of the Light, Thistle & Weeds, Ghosts That We Knew, Hopeless Wanderer, Roll Away Your Stone, Awake My Soul, Dust Bowl Dance, I’m On Fire, Reminder, Holland Road, The Cave.


1.  Marcus botched a verse during “Winter Winds” and the crowed helped him through.  This is why you go to live shows.  “For fucks sake,” he’s not Mickey Mouse.

2.  “Dustbowl Dance.”  Even though Marcus resembles either Tebow or Hilter or both, he makes even my sister speechless during this performance.  Mmmhmmm watch it.

3.  “I’m On Fire,” a Bruce cover.  If you’re a musician and you come to NJ or NYC your choice in covers better be spot on.  Between “New York, New York” in Hoboken last year,  “Atlantic City” in February, and “I’m On Fire” in Queens, these guys can do no wrong.  I couldn’t find the version from this show, but this is the reason I give them even more props because they kindly asked in their British accents to put the cell phones down and just be present for this encore.  Or maybe it was something like “fucking enjoy the concert.”  We sure did, we sure did.


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To the man who opened the most historic musical gathering of the 20th century, may you relive Woodstock memories with your buddies Jimi, Ravi, and Janis in heaven, Richie Havens.


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blairstown revival

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Listen to the whole show here.

I’ve always admired this guy I know who thinks nothing of eating dinner alone at a restaurant.  The more I think of the idea of it, the more I wonder why I ever thought it was such a big deal.  Think about how many things you do solo.  A lot, right?  So why not go eat dinner by yourself if you go shopping by yourself?  Why not eat dinner by yourself if you go to a museum by yourself?  Why not do the things you want to do even if you have to do them by yourself?  That’s why I went to a concert all…by…myself.

MoBoogie featured a video of Elephant Revival quite some time ago.  Since then, I have been hooked on this eclectic Coloradan folk music.  Remember this post?  Bonnie Paine (the most fitting moniker) the lead vocalist, easily seduces you with her modest charm and entrancing washboard (and musical saw) rhythms.  Her voice has tones of Jewel, Alison Krauss, and Grace Slick that together, traps you in a vivid lullaby.  Bridget Law brings the room to life with her quick fingers on the fiddle.  Oh, she sings, too.  In fact, every single band member plays multiple instruments–incredibly well–and sings in their own, sort of romantic way.  Singularly they are good, but together, especially during an instrumental, they are great.

On February 27, Elephant Revival played nearly a three hour set to a cozy Historical Blairstown Theater in Blairstown, NJ.  It was a treat to have John Skehan of Railroad Earth, join for a few songs!  This is a humble band that has so much natural talent that you must go to a live performance to get a handle on how good they truly are.  Between the old theater’s allure, the eccentric and welcoming crowd, and the music, the night was a very special experience.  So, hey, go do something by yourself.


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sigh no more, camden

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As told in Rolling Stone‘s recent Mumford & Sons story, “The members of Mumford & Sons have no trouble saying sorry.  ‘We’re not, like, hard men,’ Marshall says.  ‘We’re emotional, weeping pussies.  We’re not, like, rock and roll.  If AC/DC had ever apologized, that’d be the end of their career.'”

If you haven’t read that story, I highly suggest you do because you’ll learn every band members’ strengths, and their weaknesses (of being weak) as a band.  You’ll also learn why the second album, Babel, sounds very similar to their first, Sigh No More.  If you listen closely,  every song tells a different story; they are much more instrumentally sound on Babel.  This is what it is like to be an artist.  It’s the same reason why painter Mark Rothko’s work is a variation of another.  It’s important for everyone who says that “every song sounds the same” to understand that they were simply not ready to stop making the music they wanted to make.  Why would they stop if it sounds so good?

The sold out show at Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden on February 16, was a w e s o m e.  Mumford & Sons have some Jersey mojo because when I thought their kickoff show in Hoboken was outstanding, they just had to put on another outstanding show in South Jersey.  Haim opened the show for Ben Howard who preceded Mumford.  Haim, a band of sisters, didn’t do it for me, although many of the Philly hipsters were thrilled to see their dramatic performance.  While I favor this tribal-drum-beating trend that was featured in all three sets, words can’t explain how nice it was to have Ben Howard break up the night.  Actually, they can: he was a breath of fresh air.  You should probably listen to him right now.  Or I’ll make you in my next post.

It’s easy to lose yourself in Mumford’s songs when Marcus Mumford seems to be pouring his heart and soul out, confessing his rage, and passionately apologizing for being incredibly attractive and good and what he does.  Well, maybe I exaggerated the latter, but every word he sings he sings to me and you and the person who inspired the song.  When you sing along, you feel like every word you sing is to that person (and maybe to Marcus, too).  Like they said in Rolling Stone, they have no problem apologizing.

The night ended with an encore of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.”  Everyone poured back on stage: Mumford with Marcus at the drums, Ben (who I think was MIA), Haim, and all of the outstanding string and horn accompaniments.  Imagine a packed bar down the shore around closing time.  Everyone has their last beer of the night in one hand and someone else in the other.  Well, this bar was a few thousand deep.  Blissful, everyone bounced up and down, sloppily shouting the words to a New Jersey anthem.  Bruce’s song or not, that’s how every Mumford & Sons show ends…with a smile on your face.  Sorry I’m not sorry.


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Alright, so if you couldn’t tell from the obvious genius of the video I posted here, Alt-J holds a dear place in my heart.  I like the way they think through their music and production.  They are one of those bands that are so good I really really really hope they don’t hit mainstream, primarily because I don’t think a lot of people will truly appreciate their originality.

That leads me to introduce you to a cover of the aforementioned song, “Tessellate.”  This puts a girl between a rock and a hard place because Mumford and Sons can make anything sound like their own and make it sound awesome.  And Alt-J is awesome.  So, although Mumford’s performance is commendable, it’s definitely not Alt-J’s.


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love of the light

Let us all welcome back to the jam, am!  She warned us all of the catchy-ness of Gotye earlier in the year, so you better be as excited as we are to hear her thoughts on our favorite UK boys. 

The first time I heard Mumford’s new album “Babel” I knew I had found an album that would one, stick with me for a long time to come and two, would be full of songs that will always remind me of being 23. One song in particular really struck a chord with me and I almost hoped that the single wouldn’t be one featured off the album as I wanted to really claim it as my own special find…

Well beggers can’t be choosers, (or maybe it was a little bit of karma for selfishly wanting to call the jam my own..) and the British quartet released “Lover of the Light” as a single in the U.K. I mean rightfully so, the song is phenomenal.
Beyond the song and its lyrics, Mumford really nailed the video portion of this release. The Wire’s Idris Elba plays the video’s protagonist (and co-producer!) and does an excellent job expressing the song through his body to express the idea that you see and love the light with more than just your eyes.
Elba and co-producer Dan Cadan support this with the intermixing of the shots of a deer and the backdrop of Pembrokeshire, Wales to drive this point home even further. Deer, although they don’t have great vision during the daytime, utilize their other senses to the best of their ability to help them get by in life–much like Elba’s character. Just because he can’t see the light, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love or understand it. By using his other senses he is able to navigate the ever changing terrain Wales to get him to the light.
Maybe that’s why this song struck a chord with my 23 year old self. My life has a lot of light in it: a wonderful family, great friends, a job that I love and the ability to have my masters paid for, a really great life.  But there’s sometimes things that block me from these lights: my family is far away as are most of my friends, work takes up a lot of my time and involves being partly responsible for 30 college age girls and sometimes I just don’t want to do my school work–plus all those other big questions about whats wrong with the world and everyday things that allow me from sometimes not seeing “light”. But, when I can’t always see, I can feel it, heart it and in some cases smell it (sometimes you under estimate the value of clean sheets…).
No matter how much gets in your way, no matter how much darkness you may see–you can still love the light for the way it shines in invisible ways.
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