For the first Gentlemen Of The Road stopover this year, fans had the luxury of camping out on the Seaside Heights beach on the Jersey shore. While Mumford & Sons were the highlight of the weekend, a couple of the other bands are worth bringing to your attention as well.
Little May started the show and were definitely one of my favourite acts of the entire night. Hailing from Australia, these girls can harmonise and play their instruments with such feeling and dignity that it makes them one of the major up-and-coming acts in the indie/folk scene. While it’s hard for me to review their songs specifically since I didn’t know any of the titles, they dedicated one song to us. “This one’s for you – it’s called Boardwalks.” Little May’s five-song EP is out now and I encourage you to go buy it. Your life will be better for it. Their full-length record will be released in October and with mastermind Aaron Dessner of The National producing, it certainly contains a recipe for success. Move over First Aid Kit, Little May are paving their way to the spotlight.
Jenny Lewis took the stage just as the sun began to set and opened with Head Underwater – a perfect song to play at a beach venue. Next Jenny and her band played Just One Of The Guys and She’s Not Me, which featured a shredding electric guitar solo by Mike Bloom. Every song in Jenny’s set had fans at their feet and dancing but a major highlight was the acoustic set closer Acid Tongue as the rest of the band stood around one microphone and provided a capella harmonies.
In total darkness Mumford & Sons took the stage and opened with the eerie, electric Snake Eyes, the only song I took seriously when I listened to Wilder Mind for the first time. After Ditmas, the gents took a step back into their acoustic folk roots and performed the fan favourite The Cave. One exciting addition to the live version of this song is that Marcus takes his time and syncopates the main riff of the song as it winds down with chords before he begins the next verse. Lovers Eyes, my favorite song from Babel, followed and the streak of older songs continued with the classic and crowd energizing I Will Wait. Next they played Only Love from the new record and then jumped back to Babel again for Lover Of The Light, which featured Marcus on drums.
Thistle And Weeds is a deep track from Sigh No More and stands out as one of the highlights of their live show, with its gritty, electric feel and trombone and trumpet backing colors. Awake My Soul followed which was the loudest and most balanced song in terms of vocals and harmonies. If they cut out the next two songs, Monster and Believe and replaced them with older songs it would’ve made the show almost perfect. Winston’s solo in Monster made him sound like a wannabe Warren Haynes. Please pick up the banjo next time Winnie. Maybe it’s my overall distaste of the song and nothing personal against Winston, but he quickly recovered by capturing the audience with his electric riffs in Tompkins Square Park. Another highlight of the night was Ghosts That We Knew as Winnie provided some new banjo riffs and Ben’s piano fills added a great amount of soul. Ben continued his piano magic during the intro jam to Dust Bowl Dance – another song that features Marcus on drums and stands out as a fan favourite.
The first song of the encore was Hot Gates, an awful choice and an energy destroyer. While they temporarily regained my excitement with a raging rendition of Little Lion Man, the following song was The Wolf – another awful attempt at their unfortunate new folktronica direction. To cap the night off the boys called back members from the opening bands to party, sing and jam along to Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City. Although I was extremely disappointed with Wilder Mind, I must admit hearing those new songs live made me go back and appreciate more moments on that record. Oh and Little May. Did I mention Little May yet? GO SUPPORT LITTLE MAY AND KEEP THOSE AUSTRALIAN GODDESSES ON YOUR RADAR!
Scott J. Herman