I find that every twelve to eighteen months, a song is released which overwhelms me with inspiration the moment its soundwaves first brush against my eardrums.
This happened around eighteen months ago while I was in England, when I was lucky enough to hear Brakes by Royworld for the first time (but that’s another story). It didn’t happen again until October of this year, during my second week living in Sydney. I’d just moved into my new apartment the day before and I was on my way back home from my second day at my new job, my earphones loudly blasting my favourite radio station, Triple J, as I walked toward the train station. A distinctly Australian hip-hop song was playing, I can’t remember which band it was, but I was paying more attention to the people, buildings and cars that were around me than I was paying to the music.
The hip-hop song faded away, and all of a sudden, I was graced with an almost hesitant-sounding open acoustic D minor chord, resolving up to the F and followed shortly by drums, bass and a few banjo strums. I was instantly hooked by the natural, folksy tonality, before even a word had been sung. I listened intently, my awareness of the outside world shrinking as my earphones delivered a melody which made my hair stand on end. By the time the harmonic chorus kicked in, I’d stopped in the middle of the path, unable to continue on until this song had come to an end, and I’d discovered who on earth were playing this incredible piece of music. I was soon to learn that the song was Little Lion Man, by London folk/rock band, Mumford & Sons:
The words of the refrain rang in my ears as if they were words from the heavens above:
But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn’t I my dear?
I couldn’t believe it – these were the exact words that I had been trying so hard to utter for the past year, only to have them fall on deaf ears every time I attempted. Marcus Mumford had not only succeeded in vocalising – but beautifying – the predicament that is a lost and damaged love; a love that may not have ended anywhere nearly as horribly had I only shown some consideration for her feelings, and not been so fucking selfish with regard to my own. I felt instantly connected with this music, so I made a stop at the record store on the way home to buy the album, and Mumford & Sons became my new favourite band.
I should have bought tickets then and there to St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival to see them perform, but I put it off because I didn’t have the disposable income to spend, and before too long of course the tickets all sold out. I’d been eyeing them on eBay, but as soon as Mumford gloriously took out the top prize in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2009, the prices just about tripled. I knew I’d forever regret it if I didn’t see them live while they were the hottest band in the country, so I bit the bullet and spent $250 on a ticket the day before the event. And it was by far the best $250 I’ve ever spent!
I headed on down to the Sydney College of the Arts this afternoon and was straight away impressed with the choice of venue. There were three stages set amongst the gorgeous old sandstone buildings with a fantastic assortment of local and international bands playing on each, and after a quick browse through the markets I made my way to the front of the crowd at the main stage.
I was lucky enough to catch a set from The Middle East, who hail from my home town of Townsville and made me proud to say so; their musicianship, storytelling and live performance all second-to-none. Following them were Bridezilla, a five-piece experimental band from Sydney, featuring four amazingly talented and easy-to-look-at ladies who knew exactly how to play their instruments (plus one very lucky guy on the drums!)
The crowd had really started to build by now, and you could feel the excitement in the air around the band we’d all been waiting for. Mumford & Sons had the audience in the palms of their hands from the moment they stepped onto the stage. They could do no wrong.
Now I’ve seen some pretty incredible live bands throughout my time so far, but nothingcompares to what I saw and felt during the 55 minutes that Marcus, Winston, Ben and Ted stood in front of us Sydney festivalgoers and played their hearts out. The opening chords of Sigh No More softly emanated from the PA, and for the first time, I experienced what it was like for music to move you so much that it brings not only an almighty sense of peace and wellbeing, but goosebumps and tears as well. An enchanted round of applause and squeals of delight came from the crowd as a bewildered Marcus and the boys tried to work out how on earth they’d managed to achieve such a devoted and, I quote, “overexcited” fan base in a country so far away from their own. As the song picked up, so did the already-hungry crowd, singing in unison with the truest of words: love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free, be more like the man you were made to be.
Mumford & Sons had awakened my soul, and I was dancing and singing along with hundreds of others who had also risen from their slumber:
Timshel (Live at Sydney Laneway Festival, 31st January 2010)
I really should have kept recording after Timshel finished, because Ben announced that it was Marcus’s birthday, which brought on an impromptu rendition of “Happy Birthday” from the crowd! We were then rewarded with Little Lion Man, which went off like nothing else and left us all on an absolute high. Other highlights included Roll Away Your Stone which Winston announced as being the “Laneway Hoedown,” a very impassioned performance of The Cave, plus an incredible new song to round up the set.
Sarah Blasko performed next, pulling a killer set despite a cold and being on Nurofen, then Echo & The Bunnymen reminded us of some eighties classics. Ending the night was the delightfully chirpy Florence & The Machine who sang her lungs out and managed to get the many-thousand-strong crowd jumping up and down to her hits. It was the happiest mosh pit I’ve ever have the privilege of being in.
On my return home, before starting this blog, I checked the ARIA charts to see if Mumford’s single and album had progressed any further up the ladder, given that they had won the Hottest 100 the week before. I’m glad to report that at the time of writing, Little Lion Man is sitting at #5 on the Australian singles chart, and on the albums charts, Sigh No More is at #2, held back from the top spot by none other than Susan Boyle.
I’m proud that us Aussies have embraced this incredible British band like no other nation has, and I can only hope that this means the beginning of a longlasting relationship. Any time you wish to return to our shores to awaken more of our souls, Mumford & Sons, you are more than welcome 😀