Huddersfield, Galway, Portland, Bristol, Dixon, Monterey, Dungog! ‘I’ve Been Everywhere Man’ is the theme of the Mumford and Sons traveling circus over the last year or so.
Their communal train journey from California to N’awlins with The Magnetic Zeros and The Old Crow Medicine Show was captured in all its cinematic glory in the film Big Easy Express, and it is a great ride.
The aforementioned stopovers were a chance for this group of like-minded musicians to continue that energy and share it with people in regional areas that may not get this sort of culture in their backyard too often.
Dungog, a few hours from Sydney, is set amongst timber and dairy land. The morning of the event found the sun already blazing in a cloudless sky and the campers arriving and setting up for the Gentlemen Of The Road Stopover were filling the air with the smell of sunscreen and herbal products.
The streets of this quaint little village were alive with the smiling faces of the gathered fans and with the bemusement and joy of the locals. Dungog had never seen anything like this in the life of the town, but they accepted the influx of people (and commerce) with warmth. From the small Gentleman Of The Road horseback procession down main street, to the overflowing crowd outside The Bank Hotel, everyone was taking it easy and soaking up the moment.
The Dungog showground was the home for the musical offerings and with a day that would have melted most things, it was hard to enjoy the earlier performers. Willy Mason played his folk music to a small gathering in the sun while everyone else looked for a piece of shade.
Matt Corby and Sarah Blasko were well received and the crowd began to build as the sun slowly drifted towards the surrounding hills. The easing of the temperature was a blessing for all.
Seeing Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros is an experience you won’t soon forget. This uplifting and exuberant display of musicianship, with the bonding of audience and band, is infectious.
“Man On Fire” is designed to get everyone clapping along and the quirky duet with Castrinos and Alex Ebert on” Home” is enough to bring tears and smiles to the assembled crowd.
The band appears to be on a journey that is not only musical, but you get the sense they are trying to discover something in the creative essence they bring together with the ten people on stage. The blend of vocal harmonies, horns, and strings make this a remarkable stage show and one hour is simply just not enough.
You could feel the crowd pulsating along with the energy on stage. This dynamism was proven positive with the crowd surfing antics of the diminutive Jade Castrinos and the stage invasion of one Simon (‘the jogging dancer’) which added to the festive arrangements and general sense of playfulness.
Of course the buzz around Mumford & Sons continues and they are the toast of not only Dungog today, but are riding the crest of a worldwide wave of popularity. With the release of their second album, Babel, Australia became the first country where it was performed to live audiences.
Although the song selection and order was very similar to their Sydney show the same week, the band did have surprises. Dungog became the first location to have the title track played live, according to the band and to set list trainspotters.
With the dual video screens bordering the stage, showing the band in black and white, the offsetting tone of the bright and colourful stage made it a visual treat.
“Awake My Soul”, “I Will Wait”, “Dustbowl Dance” and the one cover, Paul Simon’s “The Boxer”, were slurped up by the sweaty and pogoing crowd. Of course one of the loudest receptions, and sing-a-longs, was to the already classic “Little Lion Man”. Riding on peoples’ shoulders must be back in style, because looking over the 12,000 strong audience it was a delight to see so many towering figures enjoying the revelry.
For a moment a spark was reignited in an Australian country town named Dungog.
An inspiration that not only brought this little speck on the map to life, but it was a stimulus to the thousands that came to partake in something so creative and singular.
The human sense of joy, fun, and adventure mixed with dancing and laughter helped display camaraderie and a human spirit so lacking within our day to day lives. We may have all been blistering in the sun, but that did not dampen any of the positive vibrations going on. The Gentlemen Of The Road Stopover in Dungog was nothing short of a special treat.