By Marne Burghoffer | email@example.com
Photo by Marne Burghoffer
The talk of the Gentlemen of the Road Festival, featuring headliners Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Mumford and Sons, circulated through St. Augustine for weeks. The curiosity from the community about how this past weekend’s big event, rumored to bring over 30,000 visitors, would culminate was tangible. Excitement trumped all other emotions as attendees walked through the colorful banners leading into St. Francis Field when the gates opened Friday.
I was first greeted by David Bandrowski at a kiosk lined with Deerling Banjos, and offered a free lesson.
“We’ve been on tour for over a month with all of the bands in the festival and have gotten fairly close with most of them, including Mumford and Sons,” said Bandrowski. “They’re all great musicians and great people.”
This seemed to be the general consensus of all parties involved. The tour was created to support local businesses and morale in five small North American towns handpicked by scouts for Mumford and Sons.
St. Augustine was the final stopover.
After San Francisco-based band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down’s performance got everyone moving, I caught up with lead singer Thao Nguyen.
“This was a kind crowd and you could sense that from the stage. We’re more than happy to be here in a beautiful city for a great cause,” said Nguyen.
Headliners of the night, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, started their performance by debuting the music video for the song “Life is Hard” off of their new self-titled album on screens around the stage. The high energy production that followed left the audience in awe, some even crying out how the band inspired their spirituality.
Spectators flooded through the gates into the streets of St. Augustine in an organized chaos once the band finished. People dispersed to shuttles, hotels and bars, making the city more crowded than usual, but not unbearable as many expected.
Saturday’s portion started a few hours earlier and included twice as many performances. It was clear that more people showed up for the second day. Some, myself included, staked out their spot in front early; a wise decision considering the crowd reached the gates halfway through the day. Popular West London band The Vaccines drew a mass of people that pushed closer to the stage. No one knew who would take the stage next because Fun. cancelled their set at the last minute.
The crowd burst into dancing when Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee John Fogerty, known well from popular 60’s band Creedence Clearwater Revival, walked on stage already riffing on his guitar. The Vaccines backed him up until Mumford and Sons stepped in, initiating a roar from the audience. After a few songs with Fogerty they praised as a legend, Mumford and Sons retreated back stage. They returned shortly with a show many admired as the best they’ve ever seen. The wait was agreed by the majority to be well-worthwhile.
“Amazing, that’s all I can even say right now,” said Flagler College student Kara Walter, 21, before Mumford and Sons came back out for an encore, including a joint performance with The Vaccines of the classic Beatles hit, “Come Together”. The band ended the night with their lead single in the United States, “The Cave”.
After the show, most festival-goers left in an even larger rush than the previous night. A handful of people remained for Australian duo, Yacht Club DJ’s, performance, which mimicked a club scene in Francis Field.
The Gentleman of the Road Festival brought people from around the country into St. Augustine and gave a boost to many local business’ income and reputation. The crowds were handled well, with only a few blocked off streets and no major incidents reported.
St. Augustine is still buzzing from what many consider the largest event in the city’s history.