This was not, I’m sure, what Mumford & Sons envisioned when they scheduled their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover festival for Seaside Heights on the first weekend of June: a chilly, misty night, calling for sweaters or sweatshirts or jackets. But that’s the way it was, and the artists scheduled to perform on the main stage Friday — Alabama Shakes, Dawes, Blake Mills and The Very Best — made the best of it, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the stage, the boardwalk on the other, glittering amusement park rides rising and falling behind them and a makeshift campground, with hundreds of tents, further down the beach. Attendance was reportedly over 10,000.
The music continues today, and even more people will probably be there, with Mumford & Sons headlining a lineup that also includes The Flaming Lips, Jenny Lewis, The Vaccines and others. For the schedule, see below.
Taking the stage briefly to welcome the crowd to Friday’s show, Marcus Mumford called it his “lineup of dreams.” That was probably a bit of an exaggeration, but still, there was plenty of first-rate musicianship and dynamic showmanship on that stage.
Alabama Shakes is a bit of a one-trick pony, but what a trick it is. Singer Brittany Howard builds to a fever pitch on nearly every song (or just does the whole song that way), but she’s got the explosive soul-drenched voice to pull it off. Really, her raw power was almost startling throughout the entire set. There are some bands that are just made for big settings such as this one, and Alabama Shakes is a perfect example.
Dawes is a more well-rounded package, with more subtleties in its songwriting and more textural variety in its instrumental attack. But frontman Taylor Goldsmith really reached out and drew the crowd in as well, on songs such as the anthemic “When My Times Comes” and the title track of the band’s new All Your Favorite Bands album, whose chorus is an uplifting prayer: “I hope that life without a chaperone is what you thought it’d be/I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever/I hope the world sees the same person that you’ve always been to me/And may all your favorite bands stay together.”
Blake Mills was a member of the band Simon Dawes, which morphed into Dawes, so it made sense that he sat in with Dawes for part of their set, playing guitar and percussion, and that Goldsmith and his brother and Dawes bandmate, drummer Griffin Goldsmith, made a guest appearance during Mills’ set, too, performing on a cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Stick With Me Baby.”
Mills was impressive on his own, as well, playing some flashy blues guitar licks and singing in a gruffly commanding voice. The African/British/American collective The Very Best, meanwhile, added something very different to the day, with propulsive dance-pop music inspired by an international array of influences.
Artists also played during the day, on a smaller stage. Kevin Devine’s soul-searching songs seemed a bit out of place with the audience mainly composed of people stopping by for a few minutes on their way to the main festival area. But Nicole Atkins, while also playing for a sparse crowd, didn’t let it faze her and performed with her usual larger-than-life intensity, especially on her set-closer, “The Tower.”
Here is today’s lineup:
12:45 p.m.: Gates open
2 p.m.: Little May
2:50 p.m.: Jeff the Brotherhood
3:40 p.m.: The Maccabees
4:40 p.m.: The Vaccines
5:40 p.m.: Jenny Lewis
6:45 p.m.: The Flaming Lips
8:15 p.m.: Mumford & Sons
There will also be a second stage devoted mainly to Jersey acts. Specific times are not available but the lineup will include Sammy Kay, Modern Chemistry, Thomas Wesley Stern, Pig Pen Theatre Co., River City Extension and Owel.
For information, visit gentlemenoftheroad.com.