Close Enough

Day 3 of the Super Incredibly Fantastic Special Extra Happy Trip Of 2011 consisted of taking in a concert. Not just any old concert, mind you, but one I’ve been anticipating with the drool of a starving dog in a steakhouse. We’re talking Mumford & Sons, a barely-four-year-old band that everyone declares to have heard of first, thereby infusing that hipster element into otherwise good music. Myself, I was turned on to them by El Jefe, a man who’s musical tastes run the gamut and who’s opinion I respect.

My brother Buns was able to procure tickets because, like the character Red in Shawshank Redemption, he’s the kind of man who knows how to get things; his silver tongue works magic, enough that he once met me at the gate of my arriving flight with Starbucks in hand, thereby violating just about every TSA rule imaginable. But I digress. This concert was the crux of my trip out to California, and the first time I’d set foot in the Santa Barbara County Bowl since some time in the early 90’s, probably to catch a Steel Pulse concert or something along those lines. Again with the digressing (note to self: up the ADD meds by three or four pots a day).

His friend having the quintessential bachelor pad within walking distance of The Bowl ensured that the pre-concert get-together would be sponsored by a vodka of indeterminate origin and lots of it. This compounded the issues of hiking up to the venue itself, a fantastic lovechild of perfect musical platform and stunning setting. We skipped the opening act in favor of standing in line for some decent enough beers and the usual jostling and splashing and wondering why some people bring their small children to such events.

And that turned out to be perfect, at least for me.

I was there to see Mumford & Sons, not The World’s Tallest Band (opening act), talented though they may be. After some shuffling and milling about, complete with Sound Check Guy who needed to make pretty much a damn scene out of his last minute duties, the boys strolled out, and jumped right in. And I mean JUMPED RIGHT IN. You know how there are certain acts you see where you’re thinking “man, this is okay, but really, I’m good just listening to the recorded version of —-“? Let’s be frank…no one comes away from a Britney Spears concert and ready to prattle on about her musical talents. Lip synching and gyrational dirty hooker dancing skills aside, of course. Such was not the case with these British lads.

They tore into their set, and yes I just called them lads since they’re about a decade younger than I, with the vigor and vinegar of men possessed. Musicianship, tragically beautiful lyrics and a fire unleashed all came together in a furious moment, as though we’re watching the tornado actually touch down in the trailer park. EVERYone in the crowd knew the lyrics, EVERYone was belting them out in hackneyed attempts at British accents, EVERYone seemed to be bouncing up and down in rhythm to the percussive music that was, to continue the bad analogy, sweeping us all up in its path. At the risk of being labeled a dirty hippie by my family, the energy that enveloped the entire show was contagious from beginning to end. I found myself beaming like an idiot, the sonic waves crashing into us and making us happy and peaceful and joyously riotous all at once.

Of course, as I read that last sentence, I realize what an idiot I sound like, but truly, that’s how it felt. I’ll never go to a Britney Spears concert, the good Lord willing, and as we get older and opportunities to experience this kind of communal groundswell of musical energy lessen, I’m thankful for those rare occasions to watch and experience young masters at their craft. They unleashed some new numbers, including one called “My Lover’s Eyes” that was, surprisingly (for a first hearing of a new song), already perfect. These guy were that good. To think they do this night after night, town after town, lends even more respect to what it must take to deliver such creative output; to witness them pouring their souls out like that was quite the moving experience.

Do yourself a favor: go out and buy Sigh No More, their album and give it a listen…it’s pretty damn good. Then, go see them in concert. It’ll change the way you think about how a concert should be put on by real musicians. Do this with a good beer and good people and that? Will make for one hell of a good night.