It’s finally November when the leaves are starting to change and the weather is winding down from a very flesh melting summer. As the season changes I’m enjoying thinking back to this summer and all the fun music festival endeavors I had. Some may say I’m a little over indulgent in the festival culture, but I just can’t help myself. One festival in particular really stands out from the others.
In early September I found myself traveling really close to a place I called home for over twenty three years, Guthrie, Oklahoma. I grew up in a bigger town just twenty minutes south of Guthrie, so it feels eerily familiar to be back here yet completely foreign at the same time. I’m back at my old stomping grounds but this time the ground feels different.
Mumford and Sons has become a rapidly popular band expanding out of London, England bringing the banjo and mandolin to the masses. They aren’t the first to introduce the mix of Indie folk and bluegrass and they sure won’t be the last. One thing that has truly set Mumford and Sons apart from other bands is their affinity to bring music and commerce to struggling small towns. They do this by creating a “Stopover” on their US tours. Mumford and Sons hand selects other bands that are currently on tour to help put on the best two-day festival possible in these small towns. At each festival there are local vendors selling all different types of products from homemade pies to antique dish sets. Local restaurants set up booths to bring delicious and diverse foods to add to the festival flare.
As we made the journey through the back roads, anticipation was building. Making our way through the town it was apparent that this festival meant everything to the people of Guthrie. People were welcoming and happy to invite outsiders into their humble community. Guthrie was previously the capital of Oklahoma from 1887-1910. Historic Victorian era buildings line the downtown streets with British flags and welcoming signs for visitors. We made our way to the venue at Cottonwood Flats and found parking in a large field that was previously home to stalks of wheat that had been cut down for the occasion. We walked through the red Oklahoma dirt to find that our mode of transportation to the festival grounds was going to be a farm tractor. Clearly sandals were a bad choice already. We climbed over hay barrels to sit in the flatbed of this farm tractor with a bunch of other people carrying their camping gear for the weekend. This was already shaping up to be a very unique experience.
It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and the Oklahoma sun was sweltering. It felt like my flesh might actually melt off my body. Usually Oklahoma is a very windy place and true to the saying “when the wind comes sweeping down the plains…”, but there was no wind sweeping anywhere. Luckily there were some pretty great bands kicking off the festival to distract from the heat. As the sun started to set, we made our way through the crowd attempting to get as close as possible. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were headlining for the evening. This would be my second time seeing this band perform live, and they still managed to blow me away. They are truly amazing and have so much artistic ability it’s almost too much.
The next day after scrubbing off at least one layer of red dirt we were back at it in the blaring sun. Exploring downtown Guthrie and all the local fare, it’s obvious that this small town has a lot to offer, making it an excellent choice for Mumford and Sons to do a stopover concert. Several of the shops in the historic downtown area had decorated their windowpanes with song lyrics and pictures along with a full-blown replica of each Mumford band member from the cover art of their first album. Each person I talked to was from a different place. Some traveled from Kansas and others from Texas, but no matter how far you traveled, Guthrie made it feel like home. It was another day of really great bands to help distract from the heat. Some of my favorites were HAIM, The Vaccines, and most of all Alabama Shakes. Each band brought a different dynamic and truly made it their own.
In a matter of two days Mumford and Sons managed to quadruple the population of Guthrie, and all for a good cause. A total of thirty five thousand tickets were sold, which made it possible for Mumford and Sons to donate all the proceeds to the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank. To say that this band has true character is an understatement. Even if you don’t like their musical genre there is no denying that these musicians genuinely care. By the time Mumford and Sons took the stage Saturday evening they had scanned in over thirty thousand wristbands.
Somehow we had managed to make it pretty close to the stage. Being packed into a crowd with that many sweaty hot people can make you a little delirious but Mumford and Sons made it all worthwhile. Mumford and Sons put on one of the best shows I have ever seen. Towards the end of the set all of the bands from the weekend came out on stage to sing a cover of The Beatles “Come Together” and “With a Little Help From My Friends”. Both songs perfectly complemented the theme of the weekend and paid tribute to what this life should really be about.
One of my favorite songs by Mumford and Sons is “Awake My Soul” and in this particular song a certain verse really stands out; “Where you invest your love you invest your life”. Mumford and Sons has truly invested their love of music into helping the lives of other people with generous community involvement and bringing their musical talents to very worthy places.
Leaving this music festival has left me with a different impression than any other I have attended. This experience in itself really showed me what music should be all about, people coming together to build a sense of community and take care of one another. It can be easy as we get older to unknowingly fall into negativity and have a jaded view on all the injustices in the world and in our own neighborhoods. Through it all we can really live Mumford and Sons vision of investing love into each other and our communities on a daily basis.