A Pretty OK Song: "Sheep" - Mt. Joy
I come to you this week bearing the fruits of a fantastic weekend of listening to music; I was at Bonnaroo, where I had the chance to listen to fantastic artists both new and familiar! The beauty of music festivals is that I can almost guarantee something will amaze you…but you never know exactly what moment is going to stick.
This week’s group, Mt. Joy, was one of the acts that really stood out to me at Bonnaroo. I saw them on Thursday evening when I was beat after a long first day. They played one of the smallest stages at the festival, so in anticipation of their performance, we posted up on some very comfortable beanbags—foolishly thinking that the show would be lightly attended and the view from the bags would be great. What I got instead was a packed stage and a highly obstructed view. I’m still bummed that I didn't grab the railing for their show because they were fantastic (more on this later).
Over the last decade, folk rock has seen a huge uptick in popularity. Bands like Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, and The Head and the Heart started humbly, but have since become household names that sell out arenas thanks to a broad appeal that attracts people from all walks of life. Mt. Joy is the latest band I’ve heard that I think fits that bill, and they’re already showing signs of success, with over 7 million plays on Spotify despite only having three tracks posted – including “Sheep.”
Calling the message expressed in “Sheep,” a track focused on the violent/problematic city of Baltimore, politically loaded would be a bit of an understatement. I enjoy the lyrics, but some listeners may find them “unpatriotic,” “left-wing,” or simply too “#woke.” That said, the message is couched inside a very enjoyable musical package. The guitar and vocal production reminds me strongly of Alabama Shakes, kind of a laid-back version of Boys & Girls (minus Brittany Howard’s insane vocals, of course).
I strongly recommend that you go see Mt. Joy now if you have the chance, because once they blow up, you’ll lose the opportunity to see them in more intimate settings. If I want to see the Lumineers now, I’d have to go to a big arena, which is a shame because their musical style is a much better fit for a dimly-lit basement venue than for the kind of places where you have to pay exorbitant fees and bully your way to the front row to get a good view.
I don’t have that much else to talk about with the song—I blame the lack of sleep—so I thought I’d share some observations from my Bonnaroo experience. I’ll probably write more extensively about festivals and the experience of listening to music later, but for now, I’ll stick to a couple small snippets.
Favorite performances by day:
Thursday – Mt. Joy
See above. I was running on just four hours of sleep after a 15-hour travel day, so Thursday was a bit rough, but Mt. Joy more than made up for it.
Friday – James Vincent McMorrow
He was one of my most-anticipated performers, and he still surpassed my expectations. If he comes to your town, he’s a must-see.
Saturday – Louis the Child
A really fun performance with great energy—so good that they come in at #3 on my list of must-see electronic artists. On top of that, they showed a ton of gratitude and appreciation for the crowd that came out to see them.
Sunday – Milky Chance
I had some concerns about Milky Chance, thanks to some poor live recordings, but they sound incredible in person. The lead singer shreds on the guitar, and the harmonica sets were unreal.
Least favorite performances by day:
Thursday – Ten Fé
They just underperformed, which was sad considering how much I love their track “Elodie.” The backup singer/lead guitarist was able to steal the show because the lead singer wasn’t as strong as I would have expected. I wanted more from them.
Friday – Big Gigantic
Honestly, Friday was my favorite day by far, so Big Gigantic loses out because their show was at 3am and was way heavier than I expected. I came in hoping that I would get a jazzed-up show with lots of horns; instead, I got thumping bass drops.
Saturday – COIN
No sugarcoating: COIN was awful. Their lead singer was weak and arrogant. Probably shouldn’t give him the time of day for now.
Sunday – Lorde
This is a bit unfair to Lorde. She really only winds up here because I was stuck in a giant field for her set, which was good, when I wanted to be up close in a more intimate setting (see above).
Personal tips from two years of Bonnaroo:
· Get in the front rows for shows that you’re excited about. Being far away from the stage can ruin an otherwise good experience.
· A full day or two of music is enough for me. It’s hard to maintain interest after that.
· Go to shows that friends recommend. They will surprise you.
· If you have an artist you love that’s put out a recording that you don’t love, give them a chance live. They might change your mind.
· Rap concerts just don't do it for me. Sorry, rap.
· Electronic shows require a lot of energy, which some people have at 2:00 in the morning. I don’t.
· Clif bars are a great meal replacement…until you've had 12 bars across 4 days.
· Crying at concerts is a real thing. If it ever happens to you, embrace it; it’s happening for a reason.
This is my second year attending Bonnaroo, and my last for the foreseeable future. I've had some great experiences, but I think the festival atmosphere doesn't really suit my personality. That said, if you love music, I would recommend going once, so you can experience the festival atmosphere and pass your own judgment. (Additionally: Go to an outdoor festival like Bonnaroo instead of a city-based one like Lollapalooza, so you can truly “live the experience.”) In one trip, you can learn a lot about yourself and your relationship with music, which I think justifies the cost.
(Now, if you’ll excuse me, I'm off to sleep) until next week.