DID YOU READ

Mumford & Sons come home to where their Americana came from, and succeed completely

Mumford & Sons come home to where their Americana came from, and succeed completely (photo)

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About a year ago, Marcus Mumford and the backing English trio he calls his Sons could have filled, at best, a small club in Raleigh, the Southern capital named for another Brit, the colonial explorer and sponsor Sir Walter Raleigh. During the past year, though, the band’s become a major commercial force on three continents, with their debut, Sigh No More, going platinum three times at home, once here, once in New Zealand, once in Canada and, again, three times in Australia. In fact, Sigh No More is the first album to go platinum in both the United States and the United Kingdom since Coldplay’s Viva La Vida.

And it’s not only the recorded work that’s pushing them forward: They’re sandwiched between Robert Plant and The Strokes for this weekend’s Bonnaroo festival, and Mumford & Sons recently finished a massive tour by vintage train with fellow Americana miners Edward Sharpe and Old Crow Medicine Show. Needless to say, when they arrived in Raleigh for the first time last night, it was a big deal. The show was sold-out, and a queue of people stood near the box office during the two opening acts, hoping some extra tickets might be released.

In and of itself, the sell-out had to feel like a certain validation for Mumford & Sons. Here they were, an English band playing brusque, bumbling Americana with banjos and acoustic guitars at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains for the first time. It’s sort of tantamount to a brass band flying from Belgrade to New Orleans, a Norwegian rapper making his debut in the Bronx. Mumford & Sons took the sound back to the source and succeeded, with two sell-outs in their first two shows in this state. What’s more, the capacity crowd of about 5,500 knew every word from Sigh No More, and they weren’t afraid to share them. They sang and shouted to the building “Awake My Soul” as though this were an Arcade Fire set, shook and proclaimed during “The Cave” as though this were an all-night dance party. From start to finish, Mumford & Sons sold it back to the sold-out lot of natives.

I was ambivalent about Mumford & Sons until last night. Their songs of love, disgust and the mix thereof have often seemed to lack nuance and subtlety; their tales seemed too generalized, too far removed from narratives and specifics to hold interest. Other critics have lodged empty complaints about authenticity and nostalgia and meaning at Mumford & Sons, but, for me, it’s always been why bother? The Avett Brothers, their closest stylistic kin, live about three hours away from the amphitheater Mumford & Sons played last night; they cut their teeth in a tiny bar just a block away. How many bands like that did I need to know?

But last night won me over entirely. Mumford & Sons play with an essential lack of cool, brandishing an infectious earnestness that’s absolutely convincing. They moved from a song that sounded like Radiohead to a song that sounded like a mountain ballad without hesitation, and the crowd moved right along with them. Their crossover potential is already apparent; I think it might also be infinite. To wit, the band handled the big show with a perfectly casual air, joking with the same level of cocky insobriety you’d expect from a no-name act crowded into the corner of some, small dingy pub. They joked Asheville, the western North Carolina town they’d played the night before, while extoling the state’s mountains-to-sea geography. There is a kinship, explained Country Winston, between his home and ours, thanks to some mix of alcohol, string music and colonialism. The crowd identified, lifting sweaty cans into the humid late spring air and hollering back gratitude for his praise. Their ribaldry suited the crowd’s mood, too, so that when Winston called a backing trio of horn players “beautiful motherfuckers,” he was greeted with laughs and cheers. It was as if he were an old friend introducing you to new friends at a party. It felt familiar and warm.

Those horn players offered another bit of validation for Mumford’s sudden rise to fame: Even with that addition and the occasional help of a Texas fiddle player, the quartet clung to its hardscrabble core of four, building outward from its clanging Americana foundation. The Avett Brothers have similarly annexed their personnel in recent years, and it’s sometimes been an awkward, unstable fit that seemed forced, the type of move a once-small band felt it had to make in order to meet its growing audience. Even on the handful of new tunes they played, Mumford & Sons only seemed to add these extra elements because they thought it would sound better, not because it needed to sound different or somehow bigger. The spotlight remained, then, on their personalities and on their songs. Given the response of the audience last night in Raleigh–and, in turn, the response of Mumford & Sons to that audience–I expect it will for a long time to come.

Have you seen Mumford & Sons live? What did you think?

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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