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When the 2013 Coachella line up was announced, it was mind-boggling that Mumford and Sons wasn’t one of the headliners. Luckily, I didn’t have to sit through three days of burning Coachella Valley heat to see them, as they stopped by the San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino, CA. Now, this place holds a lot of memories for me. My first festival, my first mosh pit, my first pepper-spraying, and my first drunken concert were all there. I’ve been to SMA through several name changes, but never has it looked as amazing as it did during the Gentlemen of the Road tour, featuring the Mystery Jets, The Eels, some dude who I can’t remember, and Mumford and Sons.

There was tour-branding everywhere, making the hill-side amphitheater much more welcoming. The fact that drugged out Pantera fans weren’t setting shit on fire also helped with the laid-back vibe, even though the place looked pretty much sold out.

Pros of the show: I didn’t have any issues with the port-a-potties, got food reasonably fast, and had no issues with security. Hell, the blonde girl at the box office was exceptionally helpful, even. E from the Eels also went apeshit with a maraca, which was interesting.

Cons: The food trucks, whether being gouged by Livenation or otherwise forced to raise their prices, had pieces of paper covering up their normal prices. My normally $9 taco plate from Hang 10 Tacos was bumped up to $14. And their nachos, simple cheese and jalapenos, were $10 dollars. Get out of my face with that. And while there were “free water” stations, they were quite separate from the main audience areas, which instead were populated by vendors slanging water for $4.50.

The shows themselves went from forgettable (Michael K-something, who had no song that caught my ear) to the weird (The Eels’ group hug) to the subdued (Mystery Jets) to the, well, fucking amazing (Mumford and Sons).

While I have grave doubts that the other guys in the band are Marcus Mumford’s real kids, I have no doubts that every member of that band is exceptionally talented, watching Mumford move from guitar to mandolin to drums with ease. It’s surreal to see British people taking the banjo, such an “American” instrument, and making it their bitch, but it works for me. I don’t care if they are a “hipster” band, attracting an audience so white that Mumford commented on it, these dudes put on an amazing performance. If you have the opportunity, go see them immediately.

Mystery Jets

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BLARGH!

Word and pictures by Jonathan Yost