1070KM | ONE COUNTRY TOWN | SEVEN ACTS | ONE WEEKEND | TWO TEENS
GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD: DUNGOG STOPOV
Dungog, a placid country town three and a half hours north of Sydney, resides a minuscule population of 2100 people. It runs an annual film festival, which draws crowds of up to 6000 film fanatics, but nothing could prepare the town for the announcement that one of the world’s most popular Indie-Folk bands was interested in holding a day-long music festival, featuring some of the largest local and international bands.
Our journey began on Friday October 19 at 6.45am where we departed Melbourne airport aboard the flying kangaroo. We arrived at Sydney Airport at around 8.10am to the warmest, sunniest day I had seen in months. Catching the train from Sydney Central to Dungog was a grueling four-hour leg, but it was a great opportunity to catch up on some R&R before a whirlwind weekend. Arriving in Dungog at 3.30pm I thought I was going to die from heat exhaustion. The temperature saw the red pass 38 degrees, and the half tanned face is evident of that.
Walking through the main street of Dungog, you could already tell that this festival was going to be one of the most epic events this simple town had ever encounted. Walking past one of the only café’s in town (FYI, Best toasted Ham, cheese & tomato sandwiches) I noticed Jade from Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zero’s, one of the extremely talented bands on the tour. It was at this moment that I completely came to realize that this whole experience was actually happening.
The campground on the edge of the town was massive. On arrival it was fairly quiet but it filled up quickly, much like locusts swarming around crops. Amongst the thousands of tents, camper vans and portaloos were two swimming holes where every man and his guitar could be found jamming out tunes. The atmosphere was electric, like nothing I had ever felt before. Later on the Friday night, the festival opened to a viewing of a documentary entitled “The Big Easy Express” which followed the journey of Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zero’s and the Old Crow Medicine Show touring around the states on a huge train, gigging and jamming throughout their tour. This picturesque film brought a realization to the bands’ exceptional love for music, with many interviews and live performances to add to the excitement of the coming festival. After the film, dj’s performed some timeless classics for the oldies to have a jigg to, I for one, went to bed!
Waking up early to a roasting hot day made me even more excited for the coming festival. Wandering through the town, it was hard to miss the swarms of people. Tattoo’s, beards and interesting attire exposed the fact that this festival was going to be an absolute riot! Lining up for the campgrounds opening at 1pm, being ushered through the gates that had an enormous “GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD” sign above it, walking to the front of the stage and waiting for the most amazing day of my nineteen years of existence. The Boys of Mumford and Sons greeted the small audience by introducing the first act, Husky, a four-piece band,
opening with their gratifying song “Tidal Wave.” It was evident that a lot of people had never heard of Husky, as I seemed to be one of the only one’s singing along and having a dancey dance. Among songs such as “Dark Sea” and “Hundred Dollar Suit” was “Need You Tonight” by INXS, which had been heard on Triple J’s Like a Version, and their fantastic rendition of “Lover Lover Lover” by Leonard Cohen in which, much like Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah, put Leonard Cohen’s original to shame. We saw the lead singer; bass player and pianist stand around a microphone and each of them singing, showing the versatility of this truly amazing group. To end their set they played the crowd favourite “History’s Door” which many people were seen to sing along with.
As the crowd began swarming in, Willy Mason began to play. One man, his guitar, killer vocals, all the way from Massachusetts. I for one had never heard much of Willy Mason before the festival, but he delivered a very country, Johnny Cash like sound, which sent the crowd crazy. Each of his songs told a brilliant story which captivated the ears of all the audience members. Willy Mason had finished in under an hour, as the roadies came along and revealed the sign that read “Matt Corby.” At this point, the audience was congregating towards this small stage in a large field located in the middle of nowhere.
Matt Corby revealed himself graciously, as he walked straight up to the microphone and instantly began performing. He had come to the festival for one thing: To entertain his audience with his amazing vocals and song-writing talents. This, he succeeded. Moving across the stage between his guitar and keyboard, songs such as Souls a Fire, Letters and Song Bird had the audiences screaming. Lastly came the much anticipated, commercial success known as Brother, which had the crowd jumping and yelling the lyrics at the top of their voices. The immense vocal range of this young twenty year old was enough to leave shivers all the way down the spine of a giraffe. Sarah Blasko was next. The entire festival was pumping at this point, where eighteen thousand revelers were gathered to join in this musical phenomenon. Sarah Blasko lived up to this expectation, jumping around the stage, feeling every note that she sung. Never hearing much of Sarah Blasko made me immediately iTunes up her music the moment I got home. As the crowd was still pumping from Matt Corby, I did feel that Blasko’s performance dropped the energy of the crowd somewhat, only because her music style is so different and chilled in comparison to the strong rhythms and style of Matt Corby.
After Blasko received her cheer of highest acclaim, the stage was littered with guitars, a free standing piano, drums, two accordions, trumpets, keyboards and any instrument you could think of. The banner fell to reveal ‘Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zero’s.’ I could feel every individual of the swamping crowd behind me, push forward to be closer to the brilliant performers that were about to stand in front of us. Out they came, to the deafening roar of the crowd. Jade, one of the lead singers of the band casually strolled out in a denim jacket, a hand bag and ray bans, not looking as if she were about to perform, but almost as if she was going to take a wander through Coles. Opening with 40 Day Dream, the crowd went wild. Immediately the lead singer Alex, known by his alter ego of ‘Edward Sharpe’ jumped off the stage and out into the audience where he latched
onto the hands of the revelers watching in awe as he gave his performance. The energy from the performers and crowd alike was like nothing I had ever seen before. Performing several songs from their first album “Up from Below” and their new Album “Here” had the band of ten owning the stage and living every moment of their set to the fullest. Each musician got a spot of the limelight, where each received credit at some point where they were about to break out and do a solo. I had never seen an accordion used within a set before, nor a trumpet for that matter which emphasized the one of a kind nature of this band. After performing songs such as “Man on Fire” and “Up from Below” the crowd favourite “Home” was exposed to see the audience jumping in all directions, singing along with every word. Jade performed a solo “Fiya Wata” that features on the band’s second album. Jade, much like Edward Sharpe was one hell of a performer, wanting to crowd surf. Ending their electrifying set with the tribal-like classic “Om Nashi Mi” left the crowd screaming for more. To be honest, I was a little upset that their set was over; I had never experienced music like that, in such a unique atmosphere!
Sure enough, the headliners appeared upon a dark stage with loud uproars from every angle. Opening with the brilliant “Sigh no More” from their first album of the same name brought a tear to my eye, as I had been waiting four years for this day. The versatility of the musicians was outstanding, with Mark Mumford alternating between a 12-string guitar, drums and the Madeline. Throughout their set of 18 songs, saw the biggest Australian fans lift their arms in a tribute to these amazing musicians. Through songs such as “I Will Wait”, “Ghosts That We Knew” and “Holland Road” came the crowd favourite, and the song that bought the band to the charts “Little Lion Man” which had the stage light up and the atmosphere lift to an out-of-this-world feel.
As the set progressed, and people had moved meters away from their original position, saw the band exit the stage. The chanting of the audience to play “Babel” and for the band to resume with an encore was enough to leave ears ringing. Sure enough, out they came and performed my personal favourite “Dustbowl Dance” which literally had me in tears. The band had stated that “Babel” had never been performed live, but much to the audiences delight saw the band explode out and began jamming through the song. To finally close their set saw the song “The Cave” which was a perfect epilogue to this amazing set. The band bowed as they left, only to appear once again with Edward & Sharpe to perform a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” which they delivered with pristine precision to the original. My legs were aching; my back felt as if it were seconds from collapse, but the smile on my face could not be compared to anything.
As the gathering began to commute away from the campground, Yacht Club Dj’s took to the stage. In keeping with the festival they played songs that ranged from bands such as Metallica, The Last Dinosaurs, or personal favourite “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” from the Lion King. Dancing like idiots for the next hour to mixes of Dubstep and Rock was a fantastic conclusion to a brilliant festival with some of the greatest bands the Indie-folk world will ever see.
Nothing could ever compare to the experience such as this. Eighteen Thousand music lovers from all across the country band together in a town of that resides 2100 country folk in order to experience the world renowned likes of Mumford & Sons, mixed with a diverse range of local and international performers. The Gentlemen of The Road tour, which had seen stopovers all over the world in places such as Portland, Bristol and Illinois, had stopped over in Australia. Leaving its footprint on the town of Dungog, and left a mark on every person who was fortunate enough to attend.