It’s been about two years since the last set of Gentlemen of the Road stopovers took place. If you’re unfamiliar with these music festivals produced by the Grammy award winning Mumford & Sons, they are the band’s way of bringing together their favorite music groups and organizing other fun at destinations that focus on rural towns or small cities who want to celebrate with Mumford fans and who want an opportunity to share their community – culture, food, drinks, etc. This year’s Gentlemen of the Road tour first stopped at Seaside Heights, NJ. While this town has been a popular beach area for locals, it gained notoriety when MTV’s “Jersey Shore” reality show descended on its sandy banks with the outrageous characters of Snookie, J-Wow, The Situation, and Pauly-D. The town was also in the news in the past few years when Hurricane Sandy ripped the boardwalk roller coaster away from the pier and took it out into the ocean in October 2012, followed less than a year later by a massive fire that destroyed the boardwalk – much of which had only been recently repaired of its hurricane damage.
When selecting towns for 2015 stopovers, Seaside Heights was recommended as a town that could benefit from the promotion of a GOTR concert weekend that could bring up to 30,000 people and their associated lodging and incidental dollars to the area. Mumford & Sons took over the boardwalk this past weekend and put on a great show, brought a lot of smiles to fans’ faces, and started off the summer tour season for their new album with a bang!
The boardwalk, in addition to the arcades, food/drink, and shops that are there permanently, was lined with vendor tents for several blocks. There were also several painted pianos, which served a purpose I found out later, an opportunity to learn how to play a banjo from Deering Banjos, and a chance to test your strength on a traditional sledgehammer game. There was also a convenient boardwalk exit/entrance that allowed you to access the Casino Pier amusement park rides and games that were the backdrop to the beach stage.
The GOTR organizers continued the passport book tradition with a Seaside Heights scavenger hunt, where you had to find the GOTR representatives and do an activity to claim a stamp on your passport. The banjos and sledgehammer game were two options, as well as playing one of the painted pianos or crafting a hemp bracelet. I also got a stamp for playing free games of skeeball at the arcade – twist my arm, I love skeeball. The hardest stamp to obtain was the “R” because you had to find a wandering person asking trivia questions. Once you got all the stamps, you were awarded a key to attach to the keychain we received with our ticket wristbands. You then took the key to the treasure chests and got the prize in the box your key opened. I wasn’t a big winner, getting the smaller prize of a guitar pick designed for the stopover. They also took our information down so we could be entered for something later in the year…crossing fingers!
And then, there was the music! Unfortunately, I seem to have potentially lost my SD card from my camera that had Day 1 concert photos. That day began with The Very Best, followed by Blake Mills and Dawes. The headliner for the evening was Alabama Shakes.
We stayed out after the concert and found a local bar that was playing live music – Jax Garage. There were rumors about a special performance that night, so we had our hopes up. Then in walks Winston Marshall from Mumford & Sons, accompanied by the members of The Very Best. Winston took the stage to play drums for his friend who was singing some pub tunes on his guitar. We were able to join the party upstairs and hang out with Winston a little longer.
Day 2 started out early with gates opening at 11am and music starting at 2pm. For the people hoping to get a spot up close to the stage, they were lining up for hours on the boardwalk until they were set free. It was hilarious watching people sprint in the sand for those coveted positions, and I was envious of their viewpoint. I stayed up on the boardwalk because of my recent knee surgery.
The sun decided to finally come out in the afternoon. The music commenced with an introduction from Mumford & Sons’ Ted Dwane and Ben Lovett, then Little May and Jeff the Brotherhood played their sets, respectively. I ended up spending a good portion of this time trying to hunt down that elusive “R” stamp.
The third act of the day was The Macabees from England. They were joined on stage, late in their set, by Marcus Mumford for one song. Everyone in the beach crowd screamed in excitement.
The Vaccines took the stage after The Macabees. The Vaccines have often toured with Mumford & Sons in the past, so I had heard them before. After The Vaccines, Jenny Lewis performed with her band, and even asked a group in the audience if they would share their pizza with her – she was hungry for a slice apparently.
The last act of the day before Mumford was Oklahoma’s own The Flaming Lips. I had heard two of their songs before, “She Don’t Use Jelly” from 1993 and the more recent “Do You Realize.” Well, what I definitely realized is that the band puts on a show – not necessarily the one you would expect though. The lead singer is the conductor on this train to crazy town. Wayne Coyne entered the stage wearing a maybe 20 foot long “cape” of taped together large, silver mylar balloons. It seemed like each song had its gimmick – confetti guns, more mylar balloons, inflatable mascots dancing, a bubble that Coyne rolled in across the fingers of the crowd to a small platform on the beach. The performance definitely kept you wondering what was going to happen next!
As the sun finally set, the crowd swelled on the beach. Blankets were folded up, and the mass seemed to push forward and fill all the gaps. By the time Mumford & Sons were announced, I could not see any beach – my view was just one giant crowd. And that wasn’t even counting the thousands of people standing on the boardwalk, like myself.
After 8:30pm, Mumford & Sons took the stage and played for a little under two hours, covering twenty songs. Their set list included favorites from all three albums:
I Will Wait
Lover of the Light
Thistle & Weeds
Awake My Soul
Tompkins Square Park
Ghosts That We Knew
Below Your Feet
Dust Bowl Dance
Little Lion Man
It was a great beach party and the crowd was excited to finally see one of their favorite bands after what felt like a long hiatus. I had seen the band perform earlier in April at one of their secret gigs in New York, so I had heard the new music before live, but since it was pre-album release and we didn’t know anything about the songs, the performance this weekend was more fun because I could sing along to the new material. We went out again after the concert was over, same place – Jax Garage, and were lucky enough to run into Ted Dwane. I had never met Ted before and was happy (and not surprised) to find him as genuine and personable as the other three.
So, to finish out this post, I wanted to share with you tons and tons of photos! Clearly, I had a hard time editing. I think they are chronological, so see if you can match the set list to the song captured in the photo. I hope you enjoy them!
(FYI: The ride behind the hole in the stage curtain was called Moby Dick, but often in the photos the Moby was cut out. What remained was not meant to be offensive in anyway – just a moment in time.)