At the end of the summer, Troy, OH welcomed one of Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Sessions. For two memorable days, the Gentlemen of the Road took over the city of Troy and filled it with a myriad of roots music. In addition to Mumford & Sons, the event featured Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Justin Townes Earle, Willy Mason, Half Moon Run, Bear’s Den, Those Darlins, and more.
The event attracted approximately 40,000 attendees who varied from flower children to senior citizens wearing Hawaiian flower shirts. The laid-back atmosphere was as conducive to throwing Frisbees as it was to listening intently.
The Gentlemen of the Road overlooked no detail. Each vendor booth in “The Market” was donned with flags reminiscent of scenes from a Harry Potter movie. The city of Troy also hosted a street fair in conjunction with the event.
While not all of the weekend’s music was bluegrass, there were many bluegrass influences present. The images of banjos were hard to escape. In town, nearly every business had the image of a banjo proudly displayed. The local thrift shop had the store mannequin playing one, and the village salon had a giant banjo painted on their window. In between sets, the background music over the loudspeakers featured a myriad of music, including Flatt & Scruggs, Cadillac Sky, and a folk version of Poor Ellen Smith. Bands such as Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Mumford & Sons featured many traditional bluegrass instruments in their lineup.
Without a doubt, one of the coolest musical moments I’ve ever experienced had to be at the beginning of Mumford & Sons’ set. As they took the stage and began playing, the crowd was electric. However, the audience went into a complete FRENZY as soon as Winston began playing his banjo. Being in the midst of 40,000 people going absolutely bonkers because the biggest band in the world was playing a banjo was an overwhelming experience which I’ll never forget.
Granted, there were several bands who were not influenced by bluegrass and didn’t claim to be. Their music was still original, independent, and organic, which is a step-up from the majority of music shoved down our throats these days. The presence of these other independent bands also drew fans who, otherwise, may have never heard a banjo in a non-stereotypical manner.
While this was far from a traditional bluegrass festival, the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Session celebrated all forms of independent music, with bluegrass being well-represented and respected. Overall, events such as these do nothing but shed a positive light on bluegrass and its many branches.