Mumford & Sons bathe in sweat and adoration at the Varsity

Categories: Last Night
Photos by Stacy Schwartz
"This is the hottest I think I've been in a long time," Marcus Mumford said between sets, droplets of sweat falling off his eyelashes, guitar, and fingertips. "But I think it's also the most loved we've been, so far from home."

Indeed, last night at the very sold-out Varsity Theater was a steamer, a rival only to the legendary Phoenix show at the same venue last summer that left everyone soaking wet from head to toe. And much like that Phoenix show, last night also found a very hyped band connecting with its growing audience and delivering a blistering, spot-on set that kept the packed crowd bouncing from beginning to end.

Mumford & Sons are part of a recent phenomenon happening in the Twin Cities; I'll call it the Current Effect. Anyone who doubts the power that KCMP has on this music market need only look to the Mumford & Sons. The last time the band came through town, they played to "seven people at the 400 Club... and that includes us," bassist Ted Dwane joked; this time, after months of being played in heavy rotation on the Current, the event sold out in minutes, and tickets were being scalped on the street outside for upwards of $100 apiece.

It's a testament to the tastemaking power of the station, to be sure (and their evolving practice of focusing their playlist on certain bands to help listeners discover new artists through repetition), and it's effect is monumental. Just a few songs into their set last night, the band began playing the first notes of "Cave" and the entire audience erupted in cheers of recognition, causing Mumford and his bandmates to stare out awestruck, as if they'd never had a reception quite so strong. They continued to shake their heads in amazement as the crowd sang along loudly with every word of the song, echoing back every note and stressed syllable as the band played on.

Photos by Stacy Schwartz
The night continued on in this fashion, with the crowd getting especially excited about the handful of songs that have been played on the Current, peaking with "Little Lion Man," a song made all the more rewarding live without the radio edit over the word "fuck" in the chorus. As if to drive home the point, both Mumford and the crowd placed as especially loud emphasis on the f-bomb as they sang it together, and banjo player Marshall "Country" Winstock pummeled his banjo and whipped the room into stomping, singing maelstrom.

(Side note: Something that was more evident to me at their live show than on their record was their bluegrass inspirations and love for barnburners, leading me to wonder... Have the Mumford & Sons ever heard of Trampled by Turtles, and what would it take to nudge them into a collaborative show? Or at the very least, have all these Mumford fans heard of the Turtles, a foot-stomping young bluegrass-punk band making waves in their own backyard?)

Earlier in the day, Mumford & Sons stopped by the Current to record an in-studio session, which will air this Friday morning at 7:30 p.m., and it was a treat to watch the four musicians play in a more stripped-down manner for the station. While the band traded off sitting at a drum set at their Varsity show, Mumford was more of a multi-tasker during the in-studio, banging on a kick drum and tambourine with his foot while he played his guitar and sang.

Photos by Stacy Schwartz
Seeing the band up-close in two very different settings only further drove home the fact that, while sometimes a flurry of hype surrounding a band doesn't seem to pan out in the end, Mumford & Sons are an authentically passionate and talented band, and they deserve everything that is coming to them. And with the warm (steaming, dripping hot) reception they received in Minneapolis, there's a good chance they'll be back in town soon.

See also: A backstage interview with Mumford & Sons' banjo player Marshall Winston.

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