This past weekend I travelled up to London for the Summer Stampede Festival at the Olympic Park otherwise known as part of the Gentleman of the Road tour, a concept borne from and headlined by Mumford and Sons.
On Saturday 6th July there was:
8 hours of sunshine
5 supporting bands
and 1 of the best bands in the world.
I had seen Mumford and Sons last year when they performed an intimate gig in my hometown and they blew me away making my soul burst full of emotion so the day they announced this incredible one day festival, I snapped up a ticket, wanting to see them on a much bigger scale and because I had fallen head over heels for them by this point.
I arrived at the festival alone, close to 2pm when it started and found a place to sit. My lovely friend Nicole was unfortunately running almost 3.5 hours late by this point due to problems on the Underground and so I sat, taking in the music from the support acts, the sunshine and the incredible atmosphere at this one-day festival. I soon got talking to 3 girls sat next to me and before I knew it, we had become ‘festival friends’. We talked, we sang, we danced; we enjoyed every moment the festival had to offer.
There were 5 supporting acts in total; Bear’s Den, Haim, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Ben Howard and Vampire Weekend. The first 4 played a 30 minute set each with a 30 minute interlude with Vampire Weekend taking an hour and I have to say, given that Mumford and Sons hand-picked these acts, I like their choice in music and there are definitely going to be some additions to my iPod now.
Ben Howard played a gorgeous new track called Keiko which had some of the most haunting lyrics/feelings I’v ever experienced and you can see a video (when he played it at Hammersmith below):
But let’s face it, despite the build up, we were all there for Mumford and Sons and at 8.45pm on Saturday 6th July my heart almost burst with happiness.
I have to admit that, at 27 years of age, this was the first festival I’d ever been to and even then, it wasn’t a full festival with camping etc. That may sound crazy to some but I am not surrounded by friends who travel or go to festivals and at a younger ‘festival age’, I didn’t feel confident enough to go alone. So this was a big deal for me in many senses, not least because the idea of unpredictable drunk people tended to put me off festivals before so I was more than happy to discover that in the spot I had sat myself down in, I was surrounded by happy drunk people. People that were more interested in enjoying life, music and each other than to cause problems and I loved it.
I loved that I was chatting, dancing and having fun with 3 girls I’d never before and how everyone talked to each other united by the commonality of their love of music and the amazing day.
One minute I was cheering, dancing and bouncing up and down and the next, they slowed it down and sang Timshel. Before I even recognised what was happening, tears began to form and as I swayed, I cried so enveloped in the moment. It was the song that had reduced me to tears the first time but this time it had changed. My tears last November were because I was in the depth of such despair and the words ‘And you are not alone in this, As brothers we will stand and we will hold your hand’ struck a deep and painful cord with me. At the festival, my tears came not from despair but from hope that, whilst I was still not 100% better, I was on the road to recovery. My tears felt like my soul was breathing a heavy sigh of relief and a very welcome sigh it was.
And with that, they sang the next song and we were all jumping up and down again, dancing, singing our lungs out and what an immense feeling and sound it was. 60,000 people smiling, cheering and singing their songs to each other and back to them was just indescribable. By the end of the night, I felt like I could burst with happiness. For 8 hours I’d had no money worries, I wasn’t thinking about my health or the challenges I faced; I simply lived (and danced) in the moment and surely that’s what things like this are all about!?
Before I knew it, Mumford and Sons were closing their set singing Cave and 60,000 of us cheered, danced, cried, hugged each other and rejoiced in the experience. We said goodbye to our new-found friends and all went out separate ways but not before we had a ‘group’ photo taken; the people we had danced and laughed with over the past 8 hours said one final goodbye:
It wasn’t until the day after however, when I spent the day by myself in a park in London, that the emotion of the previous day and night truly hit me. I had several hours before I needed to catch my coach back home so spent it in a nearby park reading books, taking in the sunshine and writing whilst listening to Mumford’s songs.
It had been such a perfect day previously that I hadn’t planned on the overwhelming emotions I would feel. Listening to their album the day after the festival seemed to intensify my love for them and the festival as my mind flashed back to the fun I had had the night before and at times, in the middle of the park in broad daylight, tears caught me unaware, so wrapped up was I in my memories. When the songs came on to my iPod, that I had heard the night before, I was instantly taken back; I remembered the parts we cheered to, the songs we sang back to them, the moments we held our hands in the air and sang and danced with each other and no smile or amount of tears could truly portray just how much that one day had affected me.
Dear Mumford and Sons, once again you brought tears to my eyes, love to my heart and peace to my soul. It was a privilege.