Mumford & Sons stop over in Huddersfield
Gentlemen Of The Road, Huddersfield

Mumford & Sons were inspired to throw a series of one-day festivals by some of their own favourite events, such as Colorado’s Telluride Bluegrass. The idea being to get a bunch of bands who are your mates, or that you love, and invite them round for a big party in the garden with lots of live music, good food and booze.

Whilst all very communal and heart-warming on paper, the experience didn’t quite embody such benevolent spirit at Huddersfield’s Greenhead Park. Non-ticket holders were asked to leave their own public park at 4pm when the live music started, and people who had paid £50 for the party were not allowed re-entry into the relatively small fenced off area where the stages and vendors were. Effectively forcing you to stay put for seven hours and pay festival prices for all your food and drink. With only a handful of options provided, the obvious result was vast queues of people lining up in the rain to get a bite to eat. Add to this the shameless avarice of charging children the same ticket price as adults, and it doesn’t quite feel so cuddly.

However, the crowd swelled to several thousand fans that refused to allow the rain and the irksome regulations of the organisers to dampen their spirits. Mumford & Sons started the day off by greeting the crowds with some banter before introducing the first act, local five-piece The Rag Tags. Due to the endearing gasps from their front-woman, it was pretty apparent they hadn’t played to this many people before, but they struck up the fiddle and banjo and gave good of themselves for their first sizable outing. Next up Willy Mason took the stage looking like a young Johnny Cash in a smart black suit and shining black Bigsby Gretsch guitar. Announcing he was “gonna play some old ones and some new ones” in his Martha’s Vineyard drawl, he treated those gathered to his melancholic baritone and evocative lyrics for an all too short forty minutes. In that time he played his classic ‘Oxygen’ from his 2004 debut, some heartfelt new material and closed with an uplifting rendition of the catchy ‘Gotta Keep Walkin’.

Shortly after The Moulettes played a range of extravagant looking instruments to whip up a festival-perfect brew of traditional foot tapping folk. Nathaniel Rateliff followed on the main stage with a ballsy set of alt. country barnstormers. Having taken “two planes and driven God knows how many hours” it’s unsurprising he invested such passion into the set.

Michael Kiwanuka took things down a notch with his much celebrated brand of laid-back soul-jazz. The man of the moment drew a big crowd and regaled them with songs that seem to have been around forever. The wistful ‘Tell Me A Tale’ was a highlight, as was his fireside warm interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘May This Be Love’. Kiwanuka closed a well-received set by covering the man he’s most often compared to, Bill Withers. His version of ‘I Don’t Know’ had the audience chanting back the title whilst Kiwanuka beamed.

The last act before Britain’s folk heroes took the stage were the first to significantly stray from the folk fold. Slow Club are full of youthful exuberance tempered with intelligent lyrics, their fusion of shimmering indie and bouncy pop melodies is a rejuvenating jolt. Taylor begins the set draped in a poncho smashing a set of floor toms and later moves around the stage, swapping instruments with the others. Standing centre stage on electric guitar, her pitch-perfect vocals soaring, she carves a deep gulf between herself and the talent show fodder that’s foisted on the masses.

As night draws in the party’s hosts finally take the stage and deliver what everyone has been waiting for. A headline set filled with all the foot stomping favourites from ‘Sigh No More’. By now the crowd have been lubricating for hours and those that haven’t peaked early partake in a Mumford & Sons hoedown. They band play with heart on sleeve, Ben Lovett leaping around the stage and testing his keyboards durability whilst Marcus Mumford sweats and screams through the raucous numbers. ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ and ‘Little Lion Man’ are predictable crowd favourites but they also unveil a few tracks from their untitled second album due 24th September.

The haunting ‘Ghosts That We Knew’ and the epic ‘Below My Feet’ don’t stray from their folk-tastic formula - with hoards of jubilant fans eager for more, it’s easy to understand why.

Words and photo by Nick Rice

Click here for a photo gallery of Gentlemen of the Road, Huddersfield.

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