British bluegrass and indie folk band [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Mumford & Sons[/lastfm] shortened their brief sabbatical from a grueling year of touring to attend the GRAMMY awards and possibly leave Los Angeles with much deserved trophies for Best New Artist and Best Rock Song (“Little Lion Man”) packed into their luggage for their trip back over the Atlantic.
Besides their GRAMMY performance with a self-acclaimed musical inspiration, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Bob Dylan[/lastfm], and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The Avett Brothers[/lastfm], Mumford & Sons only have three live gigs lined up so far in the United States: Coachella 2011 and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April and Arkansas’ Wakarusa Festival in June.
The lucky attendees of the GRAMMY Pre-Party in L.A. this past Saturday, Feb. 12, got to see a rare winter Mumford & Sons set (so far their only scheduled Los Angeles gig) in the intimate Clive Davis Theater at the Grammy Museum.
Kat Corbett interviews Mumford & Sons
One might never guess listening to Marcus Mumford’s dashing London accent that Mumford has his roots in Southern California. The 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist and lead singer of Mumford & Sons was born in Anaheim, moving to England when he was a mere 6-months-old. Despite his only brief existence as a Southern Californian, there is a kind of beautiful irony in the fact that Mumford came back to his literal, geographical roots to celebrate his metaphorical, roots-based music.
[pullquote quote="A haircut is more exciting than meeting Bob Dylan. OK, it's not." credit="Mumford, sarcastically"]Under the well-lit downtown night sky and amongst the artifacts and honors of past musicians, there was an underlying buzz of glamor and excitement to the GRAMMY Pre-Party. Almost exactly a year ago, Mumford & Sons were in Los Angeles playing a sold-out show at the Troubadour, garnering buzzband critical acclaim; last night, the band was coming down off the rush of meeting Bob Dylan–and getting new haircuts. At one point in the night, Mumford quipped sardonically, “A haircut is more exciting than meeting Bob Dylan. Ok, it’s not.”
Clearly enjoying themselves, but overwhelmed by all the recent GRAMMY action, Mumford whispered into the microphone, “L.A., baby” before the band went into the soaring, expansive four-part harmonies of the first song, “Sigh No More,” on their debut album of the same name. During a larger Mumford & Sons show, the band will generally play a plethora of instruments, swapping them amongst each other. Last night, Ben Lovett played the accordion, “Country” Winston Marshall played the banjo, and Ted Dwane played the string bass.
“Sigh No More”
Mumford wowed the audience with not only his gruff, gravelly folk-ish croon but his one-man-band abilities, playing the acoustic guitar, a kick drum, and a tambourine all at the same time. On “Sigh No More,” the kick drum was especially earnest, provoking the audience into unconscious foot-stomping. This evoked imaginations of dust ecstatically clouding the room, settling on the cowboy booted feet of the members of Mumford & Sons.
[pullquote quote="We were rehearsing for this show tomorrow...But mostly, we've been on a break catching our breaths. It's a bit of a shock, isn't it?"]Before Mumford & Sons started on their second song, “Awake My Soul,” Lovett addressed the audience, saying jokingly:
“We were rehearsing for this show tomorrow…But mostly, we’ve been on a break catching our breaths. It’s a bit of a shock, isn’t it?”
Mumford gave Lovett a sly look, saying: “I remember you.”
And away they went into the exuberant, poetic “Awake My Soul,” smiling at each other on stage, obviously delighted to be playing to such an appreciative crowd, or simply playing at all. There is something about the energy Mumford & Sons convey on stage that makes it seem that much of their life’s joy comes from playing their music live–whether it be to an intimate gathering of music industry or to a large arena of die-hard fans.
“Awake My Soul”
[pullquote quote="We never considered ourselves a rock band, they kind of did that for us."]Before Mumford & Sons went into their infectious radio-hit, “Little Lion Man,” Mumford thanked KROQ, saying:
“We never considered ourselves a rock band, they kind of did that for us…but we’ve always wanted to. We’re gonna get tattoos on our face.”
“Little Lion Man” was of course the song of the night, with audience members singing along and clapping. In such a small setting, it almost felt as if we were on stage with Mumford & Sons and perhaps–in some obtuse way–part of the band ourselves. Mumford & Sons’ stage presence and the audience’s desire to unconsciously join in the music making creates a profoundly visceral feeling that translates best during Mumford & Sons’ live show.
“Little Lion Man”
For their fourth song, the audience got a treat with a song the band had recently written in Nashville and never performed live before. The song had no name and the band explained, “This song doesn’t have a name yet, as it usually takes six months to name our babies.”
At the risk of waxing overdramatic, the song was one of the most exquisitely written, almost-elegiac musical narratives I’ve ever heard. It had a lush, subtly atmospheric quality that is not as readily apparent in other Mumford & Sons songs, with tearjerking lyrics that went something to the effect of:
“Do not ask the price I pay because I must live with my quiet rage/tame the ghosts in my head/they’ll run wild and wish me dead/…let me die where I lie, leave the curse of my lover’s eyes/…there’s no drink or drug I’ll try to rid the curse of these lover’s eyes”
In perfect synchronicity to the waves of emotion that were plucking viciously on the audience’s heartstrings, Mumford said in his deep, admittedly seductive voice, [pullquote quote="It is a slightly overwhelming, slightly strange week for Mumford."]“It is a slightly overwhelming, slightly strange week for Mumford, but it’s been really good…We can handle it though, you know what we mean?”
They closed their set with other hit single, “The Cave,” bringing the entire audience up to their feet for a standing ovation. They did not win a GRAMMY last night, but that doesn’t change the fact that Mumford & Sons is a timelessly talented band who’s flawless musicianship and vivid lyrical fancies transport the listener to a place where the over-produced pop album no longer exists and all is awash with golden, unfiltered sound.