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Cell Phones Not Allowed: A Personal Account of Mumford and Sons’ New York City Club Gig

Mumford and Sons
Chuck Armstrong, Diffuser

Something special happens when a group of people collectively have no access to their cell phones. Such was the case at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge last night (April 6).

Monday morning, Mumford and Sons announced a super intimate gig at the club that, obviously, sold out almost instantaneously. With a capacity of 700 people, the show — billed as a preview of their new album, Wilder Mind — was sure to be an unforgettable night for the lucky fans who grabbed tickets.

The memories of the performance, though, wouldn’t be captured and shared on Facebook.

When you bought tickets for the concert, you were told that no recording devices or cell phones would be allowed and that you’d have to check them at the venue. The staff at Le Poisson Rouge took good care of everyone’s cell phones (and with impossibly positive attitudes, I might add), even stashing each one away in a Wilder Mind-branded bag.

What was already going to be an unbelievably intimate experience for the fans — after all, Mumford and Sons are used to playing sold-out arenas and festivals — became something more surreal; with no cell phones buzzing in pockets and no arms stretched out to snap photos for that awesome Instagram shot, the packed house was focused on one thing and one thing only: the performance.

It also made taking notes during the show tough for me; I’m the guy who stands next to you, typing on his phone, leading you to believe I’m more engrossed in a text message conversation than the concert itself. While I’m just jotting down the setlist or funny quips from the frontman, there’s no doubt I miss out on certain aspects of the show. That wasn’t an issue last night.

Without any distractions, every concertgoer’s attention was aimed directly at the stage; this was important as Mumford and Sons didn’t play a single fan-favorite. Every track performed inside the Greenwich Village club will be on Wilder Mind, which meant the only song you might have even remotely recognized was their new single, “Believe” — other than that, it was an hour of never-before-heard music … and it was great.

Clearly a departure from their well-known folk rock sound, Wilder Mind — or at least the live preview I enjoyed — is packed full of intense rock anthems, dynamic ups and downs and more energy than Sigh No More and Babel combined, all the while still highlighting their powerfully incisive songwriting.

The standout track from the night was easily “The Wolf,” a nonstop rocker that yielded an almost-violent eruption of excitement from the audience. (If there were any executives taking note at Le Poisson Rouge, make sure “The Wolf” is the next premiere.)

I wish I could go into specific details about each and every song, noting some of the new lyrics or the expressions on each band member’s face, but the reality is that with no phone in hand, I left my “journalistic” attitude at the door and simply enjoyed the show. Aside from serving as a sort of practice session for the band before they hit the road, this unusual experience left me — and I think everyone in the audience — in great anticipation for Wilder Mind.

It’s easy to hone in on the band’s folk-influenced departure simply because Marcus is now strumming a Telecaster, but more importantly, the band appears amplified and elevated to a new, never-before-experienced level of spirit and musicianship. If they captured half the energy I witnessed last night on the album itself, Wilder Mind will no doubt be a contender for many year-end Top 10 lists.

IN CONVERSATION WITH THE LONE BELLOW

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