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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?

Underworld

Under Your Spell

10 Otherworldly Romances That’ll Melt Your Heart

Spend Valentine's Day weekend with IFC's Underworld movie marathon.

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Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection

Romance takes many forms, and that is especially true when you have a thirst for blood or laser beams coming out of your eyes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a werewolf, a superhero, a clone, a time-traveler, or a vampire, love is the one thing that infects us all.  Read on to find out why Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these supernatural star-crossed lovers, and be sure to catch IFC’s Underworld movie marathon this Valentine’s Day weekend.

1. Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine, X-Men series

The X-Men franchise is rife with romance, but the steamiest “ménage à mutant” may just be the one between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Their triangle is a complicated one as Jean finds herself torn between the two very different men while also trying to control her darker side, the Phoenix. This leads to Jean killing Cyclops and eventually getting stabbed through her heart by Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yikes!  Maybe they should change the name to Ex-Men instead?


2. Willow/Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon gave audiences some great romances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — including the central triangle of Buffy, Angel, and Spike — but it was the love between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) that broke new ground for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a LGBT relationship.

Willow is smart and confident and isn’t even sure of her sexuality when she first meets Tara at college in a Wiccan campus group. As the two begin experimenting with spells, they realize they’re also falling for one another and become the show’s most enduring, happy couple. At least until Tara’s death in season six, a moment that still brings on the feels.


3. Selene/Michael, Underworld series

The Twilight gang pales in comparison (both literally and metaphorically) to the Lycans and Vampires of the stylish Underworld franchise. If you’re looking for an epic vampire/werewolf romance set amidst an epic vampire/werewolf war, Underworld handily delivers in the form of leather catsuited Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and shaggy blonde hunk Michael (a post-Felicity Scott Speedman). As they work together to stop the Vampire/Lycan war, they give into their passions while also kicking butt in skintight leather. Love at first bite indeed.


4. Spider-man/Mary Jane Watson, Spider-man

After rushing to the aid of beautiful girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the Amazing Spider-man is rewarded with an upside-down kiss that is still one of the most romantic moments in comic book movie history. For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the shy, lovable dork beneath the mask, his rain-soaked makeout session is the culmination of years of unrequited love and one very powerful spider bite. As the films progress, Peter tries pushing MJ away in an attempt to protect her from his enemies, but their web of love is just too powerful. And you know, with great power, comes great responsibility.


5. Molly/Sam, Ghost

When it comes to supernatural romance, you really can’t beat Molly and Sam from the 1990 hit film Ghost. Demi Moore goes crazy for Swayze like the rest of us, and the pair make pottery sexier than it’s ever been.

When Sam is murdered, he’s forced to communicate through con artist turned real psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role) to warn Molly she is still in danger from his co-worker, Carl (a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn). Molly doesn’t believe Oda is telling the truth, so Sam proves it by sliding a penny up the wall and then possessing Oda so he and Molly can share one last romantic dance together (but not the dirty kind). We’d pay a penny for a dance with Patrick Swayze ANY day.


6. Cosima/Delphine, Orphan Black

It stands to reason there would be at least one complicated romance on a show about clones, and none more complicated than the one between clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) and Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) on BBC America’s hit drama Orphan Black.

Cosima is a PhD student focusing on evolutionary developmental biology at the University of Minnesota when she meets Delphine, a research associate from the nefarious Dyad Institute, posing as a fellow immunology student. The two fall in love, but their happiness is brief once Dyad and the other members of Clone Club get involved. Here’s hoping Cosima finds love in season four of Orphan Black. Girlfriend could use a break.


7. Aragorn/Arwen, Lord of the Rings

On a picturesque bridge in Rivendell amidst some stellar mood-lighting and dreamy Elvish language with English subtitles for us non-Middle Earthlings, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) bind their souls to one another, pledging to love each other no matter what befalls them.

Their courtship is a matter of contention with Arwen’s father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who doesn’t wish to see his daughter suffer over Aragorn’s future death. The two marry after the conclusion of the War of the Ring, with Aragorn assuming his throne as King of Gondor, and Arwen forgoing her immortality to become his Queen. Is it too much to assume they asked Frodo to be their wedding ring-bearer?


8. Lafayette/Jesus, True Blood

True Blood quickly became the go-to show for supernatural sex scenes featuring future Magic Mike strippers (Joe Manganiello) and pale Nordic men with washboard abs (Hi Alexander Skarsgård!), but honestly, there was a little something for everyone, including fan favorite Bon Temps medium, Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).

In season three, Lafayette met his mother’s nurse, Jesus, and the two began a relationship. As they spend more time together and start doing V (short for Vampire Blood), they learn Jesus is descended from a long line of witches and that Lafayette himself has magical abilities. However, supernatural love is anything but simple, and after the pair join a coven, Lafayette becomes possessed by the dead spirit of its former leader. This relationship certainly puts a whole new spin on possessive love.


9. Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Harry Potter series

There are lots of sad characters in the Harry Potter series, but Remus Lupin ranks among the saddest. He was bitten by a werewolf as a child, his best friend was murdered and his other best friend was wrongly imprisoned in Azkaban for it, then THAT best friend was killed by a Death Eater at the Ministry of Magic as Remus looked on. So when Lupin unexpectedly found himself in love with badass Auror and Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (she prefers to be called by her surname ONLY, thank you very much), pretty much everyone, including Lupin himself, was both elated and cautiously hopeful about their romance and eventual marriage.

Sadly, the pair met a tragic ending when both were killed by Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, leaving their son, Teddy, orphaned much like his godfather Harry Potter. Accio hankies!


10. The Doctor/Rose Tyler, Doctor Who

Speaking of wolves, Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler (Billie Piper) captured the Doctor’s hearts from the moment he told her to “Run!” in the very first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who series. Their affection for one another grew steadily deeper during their travels in the TARDIS, whether they were stuck in 1950s London, facing down pure evil in the Satan Pit, or battling Cybermen.

But their relationship took a tragic turn during the season two finale episode, “Doomsday,” when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose found themselves separated in parallel universes with no way of being reunited (lest two universes collapse as a result of a paradox). A sobbing Rose told a holographic transmission of the Doctor she loved him, but before he could reply, the transmission cut out, leaving our beloved Time Lord (and most of the audience) with a tear-stained face and two broken hearts all alone in the TARDIS.

Flavor Flav Recalls Sex At Age Six

Flavor Flav Recalls Sex At Age Six (photo)

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Time piece connoisseur and archetypal hype man, Flavor Flav, comes clean about his crazy past in his new memoir, “Flavor Flav: Icon.” In it, he talks about his career turn from rapper to reality TV star, and all the blow he did in between. He also talks about losing his virginity at age six, which he expounded upon in an interview with PopEater.

“I was six years old. I lost my virginity by experimenting. The girl was the same age as me. We kind of felt a little something funny. We knew it was kind of wrong yet we felt it was kind of natural,” Flav explained. “I mean I call it a lost virginity when the penis penetrates the vagina, I do consider that a cherry pop.”

Flav, who never tires of carrying a giant clock around with him also described his rampant cocaine addiction. “I was spending $2,600 a day, for six years, every single day. I don’t know how much that is but if you did the math, wow, I went through a lot of money,” he said. PopEaters math yields a figure: $5,696,600. Hey, hype men don’t run on apple juice. That’s still dwarfed by Steven Tyler’s $20 million, but also in a much shorter time frame. “If I did the math I’d probably be shocked on how much money I spent, I’d probably punch myself in the face,” Flav admitted.

An avid bowler (who refers to himself as Flavor Flav Twinkle Toes Flintstone), he’s all cleaned up now, and soon to be married to his girlfriend of eight years with whom he also has a child (one of a total of seven). “I just really want to be in the right financial position before I say ‘I do,'” Flav said.

Yeeah Booy! Let us know what you think of Flavor Flav in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook!

Exclusive Video Premiere: Collections of Colonies of Bees Announce New Lineup, Album

Exclusive Video Premiere: Collections of Colonies of Bees Announce New Lineup, Album (photo)

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A little more than two minutes into this live recording of “Lawn,” the opening blast from the new album GIVING by Wisconsin post-rock redeemers Collections of Colonies of Bees, guitarist Chris Rosenau turns to face drummer Jon Mueller. Rosenau and Mueller founded the Bees in the late ’90s, and, for a while, the band co-existed with the pair’s other act, Pele. But the Bees survived and advanced, growing in size, scope and sound during the last decade to arrive at Birds, 2008’s perfect marathon of crescendos and collapses, all broadcast in radiant electric tones.

When Rosenau turns to Mueller, “Lawn” enters a steady period of build, as guitars and electronics scatter around Mueller’s steadily gathering beat. The lines twist and knot until, about a minute later, Mueller stares, mouth agape, at Rosenau. He pounds the drums, and the band digs in its heels behind him, launching into one of those perfect releases at which Collections have become the rarest craftsmen. Rosenau finally turns from Mueller, the smile wiped across his face perfectly reflecting the transcendent mood of the music.

Turns out, that moment’s a bit of a letting-go, too: The Japanese tour during which this video of “Lawn”–the first public taste of GIVING–was the last hoorah for the iteration of Collections of Colonies of Bees seen here. Mueller is concentrating on the glorious solo work and collaborations he’s done during the past few years for Table of the Elements (R.I.P.) and Type. Tom Wincek, who you see on stage right behind a stack of electronics, has moved on to lead his excellent outfit All Tiny Creatures.

So GIVING is an interesting double transition, since Collections of Colonies of Bees have never before been so concise and direct and since they’ll never exactly be this band again. The new Bees hit the road later this year with a new sextet lineup, reworked GIVING tracks and 40 minutes of new material. Collections of Colonies of Bees have never not been about evolution and movement; GIVING is two big steps at once, and I’m already looking forward to the next one.

GIVING is out via Hometapes August 2, 2011. The tracklisting is below:

1: Lawn
2: Vorm
3: Lawns
4: Vorms

What bands do you love with memberships that revolve as often as COCOB? And have you heard COCOB’s collaboration with Bon Iver, Volcano Choir?

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