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Gentlemen of the Road Stopover
Seaside Heights, N.J.
June 6, 2015
For decades, the defining characteristic of Seaside Heights has been its boardwalk, where bars, arcades, games of chance, clothing shops and food vendors entice visitors throughout the warm-weather months.
The landscape looked a little different during the first weekend of June, when the boards were lined with temporary stands that included ones hawking Deering banjos and Stetson hats. Those rather odd offerings were directly related to the Mumford & Sons-driven Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, an event that incorporates local flavor and camping with its primary attraction: an interesting, eclectic musical lineup.
The June 6 performers included Jenny Lewis, who was backed by a five-piece band. Dressed in a summer-appropriate all-white outfit, Lewis devoted a good chunk of her set to the Rilo Kiley catalog, such as “Portions for Foxes” and “With Arms Outstretched.” There also was choice solo material from 2008’s Acid Tongue and 2014’s The Voyager (but unfortunately, no “See Fernando” or “Carpetbaggers”).
Up next were The Flaming Lips, and while their trippy music is not what you’d typically hear anywhere in Seaside, the band’s stage show proved to be a perfect fit for a beach town also known for pushing the limits of style and taste. There were props and visual enhancements galore, and that included a lot of confetti (maybe not the wisest choice considering the stage was so close to the ocean). Smiling singer Wayne Coyne was in constant motion, even before he surfed the crowd in his giant hamster ball late in the set, which concluded with “Do You Realize??”
Mumford & Sons began their headlining set in full electric mode, with leader Marcus Mumford wielding two different Fender Telecasters for a pair of songs from the quartet’s latest, Wilder Mind. The band then tapped into its familiar folk foundation, as Mumford strapped on a Martin acoustic and played the identifiable arpeggio intro to “The Cave.” “I Will Wait” and “Lover of the Light” followed in short order and were met with enthusiastic response, even from the fans on the beach who were far from the stage, those who were gathered along the boardwalk and the pocket of people who had rooftop views.
At one point, Mumford paused to acknowledge the event’s previous acts with deadpan humor. (His take on the performance by the Lips: “Just lazy, man.”) The latter half of the main Mumford & Sons set featured more material from Wilder Mind, the best of which was “Believe.”
Joined onstage by Lewis, Coyne and others, Mumford introduced the show’s final song as one “by a man from New Jersey” about the Garden State. There would be no love on this night for Jon Bon Jovi, who filmed portions of his band’s 1985 video for “In and Out of Love” in Seaside Heights. Instead, Mumford & Sons et al. covered Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” Years ago, the real Atlantic City transformed itself into a place to see current stars perform on a regular basis. With any luck, this Gentlemen of the Road Stopover weekend will keep Seaside Heights in the conversation as a potential festival site in the future.
Upcoming Gentlemen of the Road Stopover events in the United States are scheduled for Waverly, Iowa (June 19 and 20); Walla Walla, Washington (Aug. 14 and 15); and Salida, Colorado (Aug. 21 and 22).
Review and photography by Chris M. Junior