Saturday, April 30, 2011

Meg's Epic Week Part 11: The Show

Right, so now I'm way behind in blogging about my Epic Week. But finally, finally, I'm back and blogging.

The show Maayan and I went to was the Railroad Revival Tour. The whole premise of the six-stop tour was to get three groups together to ride the train from one gig to the next, with chances to jam and record on the trains during travel. Everyone ate and slept on the trains and really only got off to perform. From the updates on the web site, it looks like they had a grand time.

Well, so did we.

For starters, everyone around us seemed really nice, and just as excited about the show as we were--and not just for Mumford and Sons. We chatted with people here and there, but a really great conversation started when Maayan noticed a guitar-pic charm on a necklace the girl standing behind us was wearing.

"Oh, may I see your charm?" The girl was obliging, but she said, "Oh, it's in Hebrew."

Maayan smiled. "Oh, I know Hebrew!" The girl, Ch., and her friend, a guy named N., (I'm keeping them anonymous because I don't have permission from them to use their names on my blog) were both very big Mumford and Sons fans and this was the first time either had a chance to see them live. They were also both Jewish, as Maayan is, so a conversation started around that, quickly moved to music, and kept up through out the evening.

Two silly ladies and two adorable ducks, ready for the show.

The stage is set...


Oakland was the first gig, so all three bands were ready and on top form. The first band out was Old Crow Medicine Show. I checked them out on YouTube after Maayan and I bought our tickets, and liked their down-home, folksy bluegrass style enough to buy a couple of songs on iTunes. I figured I'd politely clap my way through their set and be really impatient for Mumford and Sons.

I figured wrong.

From a little one-time blog Maayan wrote:

I wasn’t keen on having 2 opening acts – gimme my Mumfords, straight to the vein, please, no preliminaries needed! – but Old Crow Medicine Show are so happy to be alive and playing music that their crazy joy was infectious and I actually almost didn’t want their set to end, CRAZY fiddle playing!

At one point Winnie...seemed about ready to go onstage and join in – he had his banjo on and everything – but then Marcus...seemed to talk him out of it, or something – WHAT? WHY?! Perhaps the video the lads are making of these gigs will provide some explanation (there were cameras all around).

Then later, Marcus did come out and join the band with his mandolin, I think – Marcus kept getting on & off the stage all the time, toying with our emotions like the rock star that he is – just lovely. The main Old Crow...(Ketch Secor), looks like a Southern Timothy Hutton and has the energy of a teenager who has run into the fields after cutting class.
Well said, Maayan, well said.

This one had the BEST facial expressions.

Fiddle, harmonica, lead vocals...all in a day's work.

Winston of Mumford and Sons, backstage.

Ketch Secor positively MUTILATED his bow all evening.
Dude has energy.

Some of the other two groups came up at the end of Old Crow's
set to join in the fun.

I love how they just grabbed instruments and jammed.

Ben of Mumford and Sons (blue shirt, cute smile).
As Maayan wrote, they had so much energy and joy up there--it was really fun to listen to them and I have a new appreciation for their music.

After the first set, Maayan and I left with a few purposes in mind: to buy a t-shirt, get some water, and use the loo. Of course, the lines were crazy and it took us a while, but I did get some great pictures before we went back to our spots in the 2nd row.

The Bay Bridge and a little glimpse of San Francisco.

Old Steam Engine--every once in a while we'd hear a loud
"Choo-choo!!" from it.

A better view of the city and the bridge. Lovely!

Little sea creature sculpture.

The fire-sneezing snail was an interesting addition. Maayan's words:
"We’re not sure exactly what this was about. But we digged it."

Looking back to the stage.
The next band, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, started their set while Maayan and I were making our way back, and here is where things got really hairy for a minute.

We'd arrived early to get good spots and once there, we were delighted to make a couple of new friends and to find that everyone around us was relaxed and friendly. No one pushed, no one crowded. Getting out of the area at the break had been easy--people were obliging and friendly as we squeezed our way through.

On the way back, however, it reminded me in every single possible way why I hate crowds most of the time.

I guess people must have thought we were trying to sneak our way up to the front, so we kept saying, "Just going back to our spots!" as we apologized and squeezed through. Maybe it was just because the music had started and people couldn't really hear us, but it seemed like a lot of people were steadfastly refusing to move so we could get through, and one girl even said in a very snide voice, "Do NOT walk on my blanket," even though she was standing on it, herself.

Finally, finally, we found our way back to our spots--it probably only took a couple of minutes but it felt like half an hour--and our new friends were delighted to see us. "We were getting worried about you!" I was feeling a teensy bit anxious, but as soon as I had my spot back I calmed down and got wrapped up in the music.

Back when I started listening to Old Crow on YouTube in preparation for this concert, I gave a listen to a couple of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (ESMZ) songs and while I didn't actively dislike any, I wasn't screaming with joy over them, either. Just goes to show how hearing a band live can change your whole opinion on them.

Edward Sharpe is a sorta-kinda alter ego (he shies away from that term) for Alex, the lead singer of the band. After years of doing a more electronica sound, he wanted to get back to music being fun again and created this new group, which seems to have a sort of revolving door for friends and family to come up on stage and beat a tambourine or just dance around. There is a definite flower child feel to this group, but they have some powerful vocals and great, fun songs.

Alex looks like a modern-day Jesus, complete with long hair, long beard and nightgown-like garment. Oall of the bands that evening, he was the most connected to the audience. Again, I'll let Maayan sum it up:
Again, this band was having so much fun and really made it all about the crowd, that they were impossible to resist.  In addition, it seems that ES+tMZ brought half the world with them onstage – the stage wings and sidelines were full of people dancing and clapping – no one could resist the energy!!  They had dancing, on the stage - their friends, their crew, the RRT camera crew, the radio station photographers, and even, in some parts, their babies! (There was a young child on her mother’s hips, and a baby with HUGE, pink ear protectors on, the size of its head.) All in the back, but ONSTAGE! Damn.

One of two drummers.

This lady has some PIPES.

Marcus Mumford came onstage--BEAR HUG!

Marcus Mumford and his Mandolin (heh).

This drummer dude had scary hair, but was a pretty happy guy.

I'm sorry this one is blurry--the piano was so happy-looking!

Ketch Secor from OCMS was out for much of ESMZ's set.

The end of this set was a big free-for-all with the other two bands.

He was pretty much right above me.
After two amazing sets, we had one more quick break (Maayan and I stayed put this time!) and we waited impatiently for Mumford and Sons' instruments to be set up. At first it appeared their little farm animals wouldn't be there, but finally, Ben's donkey was gently place on his keyboard, and Marcus' horse on an amp. (I can't remember what Winston and Ted have, and I'm never on their side of the stage.)

When they finally came out, the crowd went bananas, even though we'd seen Ben, Marcus and Winnie with the other groups throughout the evening so far. Our new friends, Ch. and N., where beside themselves with excitement, and so were we.

The donkey is in the building. I repeat: the donkey is in the building.

...So is the horse.

Benji. Adorable, smiley Benji.

Marcus Mumford

Smiley Benji never stays still for long.


See? Smiley.


Marcus + Winston = Marston. Or Wincus.

Still smiling.

Gratuitious booty shot.

Winnie needs to lose the Amish beard thing.

Finally get a clear-ish shot of Ted, and he's drinking water.

Or ducking behind his mic.

Ross from the now-defunct band Cadillac Sky was there.

Drums are actually Marcus' best instrument, not guitar/mandolin.

Action shot.

I love the lights in this one.

Ben and Ross, gettin' down, with the accordion girl from ESMZ.

Well, as ever, Mumford and Sons blew us away. During "Lover Of the Light," I looked over to see that Maayan had tears on her face, she was so moved. In the fast songs we were jumping, stomping, and dancing. We sang along with every word and we cheered as loud as we could.

As they always do, they ended their set with "The Cave," their biggest hit and most anthemic song (Maayan: "The crowd is a choir of love."). The energy around us was almost frantic, and at the end, as the guys left the stage, no one could believe it was really over. We stomped and we screamed for an encore.

Finally, all of the bands started trickling back out on the stage. We knew the encore would probably be everyone, but we didn't know--couldn't know--how astounding it would be. They did a long, everyone-is-welcome, performance of "This Train Is Bound For Glory" (Woody Guthrie) and they brought the house down. (Yes, yes, it was an outdoor venue...they brought it down nonetheless.)

I took a video of the whole encore but alas, could not get it to upload to my computer, so I leave you with a video from someone who was very near Maayan and I (I can hear my voice screaming). You can't begin to feel how amazing it was, unless you were actually there, but hopefully this gives you a small idea.

The evening was epic--I've been throwing that word around a lot, but truly, it was easily the best concert I've ever been to. The bands were in top form, they were having a blast, and the sense of community on the stage was thrilling--it made the music that much better.

I would later say to Maayan that I was happy in our little "coccoon of kindness" by the stage, where no one complained if we bumped into them, and no snotty remarks of "don't step on my blanket!" crossed our ears. Everyone there was enjoying the music.

Maayan and I have since befriended Ch. and N. on Facebook--it's just another testament to how great music can bring people together.

There is more to blog--we had a full day in Monterey the next day--but for now, NASCAR calls! ; )