Sturgeon’s Revelation Revisited

The mystery of Mumford & Sons

Sturgeon’s Revelation Revisited

If you weren’t able to attend the I’m Not Old, Your Music Does Suck panel I moderated at South by Southwest this year, the audio is now available here.

Despite the pre-event rending of garments, there was no kicking or screaming during the panel, just a reasoned discussion of how music and its business got the way it is.

I bring that up after seeing Mumford & Sons tape Austin City Limits on Monday evening. One of the misconceptions about what I originally wrote in the panel preview was that I was saying, “Everything sucks.” In reality, what I said was that there’s a lot more that sucks these days than there has been in the past.

Now Mumford didn’t suck on Monday, but the audience’s reaction to them was so over the top, it left me scratching my head. I saw a band use bluegrass and British folk influences, a mix of the Waterboys and Marah, to produce a couple of good songs (“The Cave,” “Little Lion Man”) and a few numbers that induced drowsiness. This is a band I should love, but the melodies seem repetitive, the performance overly earnest.

To the quartet’s credit, they took the risk of debuting new tunes. One, “Lover of the Light,” found them stepping away from their decidedly acoustic sound to rock anthem glory. That it included a horn section, with local hero Ephraim Owens on trumpet, was an admirable touch, making it a high point of the night.

Unlike a lot of shows where an encore is part of the dance, no matter how tepid the response when the band walks off stage, Monday’s ACL audience gave Mumford a full three minutes or more of stomp and holler before they returned. A limp rendition of “Dance Dance Dance,” an obscure Neil Young nugget, did little to temper the enthusiasm before the house lights came up.

ACL producer Terry Lickona introduced them as “one of the most popular bands in music today.” Afterwards, I was still wondering why.

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