Wednesday, Nov. 3, wasn’t a regular night. The Mumford & Sons show could have gone really, really wrong. Deadly. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But it could have resulted in a teary break-up—for me, and for many other ladies at Stubb’s, because as soon as the stage lit up and the crowd started cheering, I felt my inner groupie creeping out, anxious and determined. I looked around, and the hopeful eyes and deliberately pouted lips surrounding me confirmed I wasn’t alone on this. Oh, there’s something about those British men…
Londoner King Charles opened the show. His music, rapid poetry that spoke of love and all-eternity, won him a few fans. But more than anything, it was his whole look that kept people watching, listening, wondering—who is this guy? A cross between Russell Brand and Captain Sparrow, with a bee hive of hair and a loose, white button-down worn purely to frame his bare chest (“’Cause that’s the way cool people rock it,” an audience member remarked), King Charles was an avid character with impressive musical skills. He was happy to participate in this “Mumford festival” and entertained us with his own version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which included Posh and Becks, Obama and Facebook as the song’s new characters.
King Charles set a whimsical tone for the night, but it was Cadillac Sky that followed with the comedy portion of the evening. After opening their set with their wonderful “Trapped Under the Ice,” they proved they weren’t an ordinary opening act. They scolded the audience if we didn’t sing along, belting out, “You’re not singing!” which only made the crowd laugh and comment on the band’s extraordinary energy. The hilarity went on, the band dedicating songs to “doing something stupid” and to the violinist’s newly-shaved “beautiful chin.” Cadillac Sky played an incredible set, probably the closest to a bluegrass, folk/rock orchestra we’ll ever get. But what was astounding was their success in winning us over, yelling out “Texas!” every few seconds in-between songs.
After Cadillac Sky was done, restlessness took over. People shuffled closer to the stage, excited, and it was then that I turned and saw there was barely room to move. It was packed, from the front of the stage to the back, amongst the porta-potties and up in the terrace (hey, there’s Lance Armstrong!). And after a few (seemingly eternal) minutes, the stage lit up and Mumford & Sons came out.
The band opened with their beloved “Sigh No More,” casting an awed silence over the ocean of listeners. A girl behind me kept repeating she wasn’t gonna cry this time, and I understood what she meant. Their music was overwhelming. They followed with favorites like “Winter Winds” and the beautiful “White Blank Page,” each song reaffirming my love for the banjo and horns. Lead singer Marcus melted hearts, telling the audience it felt like their tour and their life began in Austin, at South By Southwest.
The band played newer songs, such as “Below My Feet” and “Lover of the Light” as well as the popular “Little Lion Man,” which the crowd went wild over. The whole show was exhilarating. If there’s anything to take away from Mumford & Sons’ music, it’s that every song must have a climax. All of theirs act like roller coasters, with maddening peaks and beautifully whispered lows, lyrics that drip of literary influences, Shakespearean and modern. The band members interacted with the crowd, scolding those in the back for being late. Marcus found it amusing that he could hear an audience member yelling out, “Fuck yeah, motherfuckers!” from way back. He repeated it, of course, in that accent that no (normal) human being can resist. “Motherfucker” had never sounded so beautiful. Sigh.
Sadly, the set rushed by, and before we knew it, they were closing. But they returned quickly to the audience’s cheers, this time joined by Cadillac Sky to perform “Awake My Soul.” After that the band called out to King Charles, who took a few minutes to show up onstage—clearly everyone was amused, wondering what he had been up to—and performed Charles’ own “Lady of the River.” It was a fantastic moment, looking up at the three bands working together.
We all knew the show was coming to an end when Marcus expressed his appreciation, telling us it was amazing to play at the “Bethlehem for music.” And it was then that Mumford and Sons began playing “The Cave.” I swear there was a massive, unified gasp. It had been a while since I attended a show that had been truly emotional, and this was it—every word of “The Cave” was sung along to, everyone jumped, stomped, played the air-banjo. It was an amazing finale, one of those that are forever talked about and remembered.
When the song came to an end and the crowd began shifting out of Stubb’s, the cold and light rain bothered none. Nothing but racing hearts and tightly-set grins came out of that show, inner groupies all riled up and wishing there had been more. Seriously, what is it about those British men?