Can barely type right now, I am so musically blissed out. I didn’t plan on seeing Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers in a 24 hour span, but the Lumineers bumped their concert back a week and I found myself going from one concert to the other (with some sweet folky dreams in between). Sure the combo makes some (ok, most) hipsters scoff, but after exhausting both albums all fall semester, it was time to take our relationship to the next level (hang with me, remember, my brain and heart are both mushy and vulnerable and words are difficult.)
First were the Lumineers at the House of Blues in Boston. I arrived late to the sold-out show and was forced to stand in the back of the venue. Because I was far away and less attached to the performance, it took me awhile to really connect with the set. The group sounded great though, encouraging audience sing-alongs during the upbeat “Flowers in Her Hair” and the ever-anticipated “Ho Hey.” Although vocalist Wesley Schultz and instrumentalist Stelth Ulvang joined the crowd for a call and response to their hit single, the band performed the song as an encore to give us the full, Bing commercial effect. It’s funny, I love most of the songs on the album, yet my favorite takeaways from the show were unreleased singles. The first: a gorgeous duet between Wesley and Neyla (below) called “Falling.” The second: a collaboration with opener Y La Bamba, a cover of the Violent Femmes’ “American Music.”
And then there’s Mumford. I stood three rows away from the stage inside the massive TD Garden. Thought I could keep my fangirl tendencies to a minimal, but as soon as they stepped on stage, my hands were permanently in the air. I forgot that large concerts take on a theatrical element- and Mumford used large wheels and light displays to enhance, but not overpower, their folk-rock sound. Mumfy barely chatted with the audience and focused solely on a stellar performance. They clearly knows how to perform their iconic, booming crescendos, which made acoustic versions of “Reminder” and “Sister,” performed on a small stage on the opposite side of the stadium, even more delicate. I was exhausted just from singing and jumping along. But then again, Mumford plucked at my heartstrings for a solid 2 hours in addition to their aggressive banjo chords.
Nothing says fall like folk music and friendship. Too Hallmark? Too bad- you’re stuck with me. Maybe I really like alliteration, but maybe I also really like my friends and their rad taste in music.
To me, fall conjures warm, twangy, and acoustic melodies. Well let’s be real, this blog wouldn’t exist if I felt differently. But while summer is meant for punchy rock chords like the band Free Energy, spring is poppy and jingly like Allo Darlin’, and winter is slow jazz stylings of Peggy Lee, fall is soothing, sometimes biting, and overall pretty contemplative. What are some of your favorite seasonal songs?
Before Thanksgiving I polled a few friends to find out their impressions of fall music. Turns out we all came to the same conclusion: folk and fall are the perfect pair. From The Lumineers to I Am Oak, here’s what they had to say. (Shout-outs to Kelly, Swanson, Bethany, Alys, and Colin for being my muses and for You Won’t for the background music.)
Folk Selections for Fall from Alison on Vimeo.
Eager to hear these songs for yourself? Below is a Spotify playlist to meet your autumnal needs. Quick! Go listen before it’s December.
Earlier this month, British folk outfit Mumford and Sons released their video for Lover of the Light. I’ve owned their sophomore release Babel since it dropped on September 21, and have listened to it religiously like a good little fangirl. Yet, for some reason, “Lover of the Light” failed to transfer into my iTunes music library. There are far greater problems in the world, I know, but I still feel cheated by technology for separating me from this beauty.
Sure, the vigorous and angry banjos of Mumford and Sons sound repetitive when you listen to their albums straight-through and they spend too much time on grand declarations then cultivating thoughtful, toned-down verses. However, this stunning video caught me way off-guard and left me misty-eyed. Now I just want to share this with everyone.
Directed and performed by actor Idris Elba (from Prometheus, Thor, and American Gangsters), “Lover of the Light” follows a blind man through his daily routine. Midway through the video he ditches his cane and seeing eye dog, quite literally running into the light. Sprinting through a forest and picturesque Welsh peninsula Elba’s character finally experiences the world without being hindered by his disability. It’s an incredibly empowering and moving piece, showing that we can use senses other than sight and still be “lovers of the light.”
All abroad the Big Easy Express, where three distinct folk bands pow-wow on the floor of a vintage train and collaborate while journeying across six American cities. Directed by Emmett Malloy, this music documentary follows the first Railroad Revival Tour from Oakland, CA to New Orleans, LA and won the Headliner Audience Award at SXSW 2012. Mallow is joined by British folk-rock outfit Mumford and Sons, California dreamers Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and bluegrass crooners Old Crow Medicine Show.
“We’re playing music on a train with the country, across the country to see it the way [people] saw it more than a hundred years ago when we were all children,” muses Alex Ebert, frontman for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. All bands bring different experiences to this vintage California Zephyr Silver Lariat train- Old Crow Medicine show has been recording music since 1998, while the other two released sophomore albums within the last 5 months. Yet they share the same wanderlust and interest in experiential music-making. Come on baby, do the locomotion.
Big Easy Express beats the “Americana vintage” drum in a borderline kitschy way, and while beautiful, some jam sessions seem too staged. But the live performances are the opposite of cookie-cutter- the best parts of the film are watching Mumford and Sons perform “The Cave” with the Austin High Marching Band and dancing along with Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos sing favorites like “Up from Below” and the always-sentimental “Home.” It ends with a ten-minute finale of “This Train is Bound for Glory,” a raucous hoedown featuring all three groups. While Old Crow Medicine Show may have influenced the other bands’ sound, Mumford and Sharpe exemplify the future and diversity of folk music.
To find a screening of the Big Easy Express or enjoy the movie in the comforts of your own train, click here. For all my fellow Boston folk, there are two more screenings of the movie on 10/31 and 11/1 at the Museum of Fine Arts for $11.