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Live Review: Gentlemen Of The Road

16 November 2015 | 12:39 pm | Brynn Davies

"All this high voltage mania was nothing compared to the absolute adoration that ushered Mumford & Sons on stage amidst a heavy downpour."

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There was no mistaking it. It was going to be a very soggy festival. Ominous skies didn't deter the first hardy souls making their way onto the grass as bearded Brisbane quintet Art Of Sleeping took to the stage with gusto in a set that felt far too short. The folky atmosphere was perfect for lazing about on (moderately wet) picnic rugs, enjoying some of the tasty treats on offer from the likes of Gelato Messina, Mary's and a Knafeh pop-up that had bearded men serving the Levantine dessert as they sung Arabic rap commentary to everyone who ordered. Caleb Hodges' man bun/beard game was so strong he looked like the GOTR bust on the screen behind him. His rich caramel voice filtered through the steady groove of Bleeding Out, raising the voices of the audience for the first time that day.

Meg Mac was definitely a much anticipated act, as punters waited the 30 or so minutes between sets in the drizzle to secure a prime spot at the front of the stage. But her powerhouse vocals were lost every time the audience began to sing along with favourites such as Never Be and Known Better. The energy on stage was flat, and Mac knew it, stalking about the stage shooting murderous looks at the sound desk. Grandma's Hands, which is usually one of her biggest numbers, failed to rise above the volume of the crowd (who definitely felt the need to pull back a bit), killing the mood entirely.

The Jungle Giants lifted spirits, as full-strength drinks and specialty beers from the Craft Beer & Cider Garden warmed up the crowd. Keelan Bijker broke out the tambourine for She's A Riot and Sam Hales made the flute rock'n'roll for Lemon Myrtle, proving his worth to fans as he yelled for the sound to be turned up. The Vaccines backed it up with more pop; a trumpet and trombone made an appearance during Dream Lover. Lyrics about insecurities were plugged through a retro surf-rock'n'roll frenzy, delivered with so much raucous energy it was clear the boys from West London are well versed in pleasing a crowd (especially a thoroughly damp one in need of some jumping around). Winston Marshall even popped out from the back for a cameo performance of Give Me A Sign.

Jake Bugg looked for all intents and purposes like a pre-pubescent next door neighbour, his undeniable Nottingham accent channelling Pete Doherty with wide-mouthed enunciation. Two Fingers had a down-to-earth authenticity, a kind of gritty poetry. Bugg has a minimalist performance style and a few singalong hits, but he just isn't known enough in this part of the world to warrant the 6pm slot. The synth-pop of American cult-rockers Future Islands proved their veteran status through the electric aura of frontman Samuel T Herring, whose primordial, guttural vocals ripped through the speakers relentlessly. It's pop distorted, with a grand scale that could transition to arena-style shows with ease. Their onstage antics were at once violent and goofy, Herring spinning between jumping, running and busting out a can-can. But all this high voltage mania was nothing compared to the absolute adoration that ushered Mumford & Sons on stage amidst a heavy downpour.

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Marcus Mumford was, indeed, a gentleman, who catered to the needs of his audience by equally balancing titles from their new album Wilder Mind with the old favourites that he knew people really came to hear. Little Lion Man had the entire crowd in ecstasy, spitting out every lyric with vigour as the banjo made its hallowed appearance. The crowd was brought to a standstill with Ghosts That We Knew, lighters in the air as the cello and fiddle broke hearts all over the green. On that note, Ben Lovett walked out to the front of the stage and addressed the crowd: "Our thoughts are with Paris. How fucking lucky are we to have the freedom to go to gigs and play music," he shouted, as they rolled out the French flag in a tribute to the lives lost in the Paris attacks. The energy quickly lifted with a series of explosive songs that were made as big as possible, with Americana harmonies sung with shade and intimacy, making the explosive roar of big notes all the more climatic. Songs from their latest release proved to be a little unknown, with people milling around in the rain waiting through Believe and Broad-Shouldered Beasts, but learning the choruses quickly in order to sing along. But it was Dust Bowl Dance that stole the show, with fire raining down from the lighting rig as Mumford smashed up the drum kit and the crowd stomped wildly in the mud like a sea of crazed hillbillies at a hoedown. The closing cover of With A Little Help From My Friends accompanied by The Vaccines and The Jungle Giants had as many punters on shoulders as there were on the ground, creating a double-layered audience that sung every word to the Beatles classic, perfectly summing up the vibe on stage.