St. Augustine Stopover Review
By Guest Blogger, Shawndra Russell
In 2012, Mumford & Sons created what they coined Gentleman of the Road Stopovers in four cities: Portland, Maine; Bristol, Virginia; Dixon, Illinois; and Monterey, California. These mini-festivals quickly sold out, and the dapper group decided they had so much fun that they would continue dotting their touring scheduling with these Stopovers—and, boy oh boy, am I glad they did.
Explaining that these Stopovers were created in the spirit of some of their favorite festivals like Colorado’s Telluride Bluegrass, Mumford & Sons describe the significance of these shows on their Stopover-only website: “We spent months selecting unique places, creating venues, building the lineups, planning the aftershows and getting to know the local people who helped make the whole thing work. The results were some of the most amazing and memorable shows we’ve ever played…the spirit of the project remains: a music festival that celebrates local people, food and culture.” The line-ups included a mix of up-and-comers, famous folks, and some local acts. In St. Augustine, multiple stages were setup throughout the city—one on a street and others in town squares—so music played from early afternoon to late evening for two straight days.
My husband and I—along with the most music fanatic couple we know—attended the fifth and final Stopover of 2013 in Saint Augustine, Florida on September 13 and 14. The other locations this year included Lewes, UK; Simcoe, CA; Troy, Ohio and Guthrie, Oklahoma. Each of these locations are small enough that an event like this is a complete takeover of the city. With 25,000 concert goers, St. Augustine was no longer a charming, laid-back seaside town. Instead, big plywood mustaches hung throughout the city waiting for signatures, and people scrambled to find sticker mustaches to show their support. Large flags paying homage to the event hung at restaurants, bars and stores eager to show support for the festival. Many hotels turned their parking lots into pop-up bars to serve more people than usual, adding to the festive vibe weaved throughout St. Augustine’s narrow, cobblestoned streets.
No doubt the financial benefits to the Stopover cities was great, but even greater was the unique experience that Mumford both promised and delivered. On their website, Mumford & Sons shared, “This year we’ve expanded the lineups, changed the format, and worked to improve the experience in ways big and small. We have new towns, new countries, new artists, and new campsites that will become an intimate part of each event. Plus tons of surprises you’ll have to see for yourselves!”
For the St. Augustine leg, Mumford wrapped up their 2013 Stopovers in an unforgettable way: flying John Fogerty overnight from California to Florida to fill the gap left when .fun had to cancel their performance. This last-minute change wasn’t officially announced until Saturday afternoon, just hours before the rock legend took the stage. But this wasn’t any ordinary Fogerty format. Instead, he had The Vaccines, who’d performed earlier that day, take the stage as his band. A few songs in, The Vaccines were replaced with none other than Mumford and Sons themselves. Marcus rocked the drums, sometimes appearing like he was ready to cry tears of joy he was having such a freakin’ blast back there.
This once-in-a-lifetime live collaboration was something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. And that’s really what these Stopovers are all about—sharing unforgettable moments with fans in cities that might not be on the typical big-ticket tour route, but that have undeniable charm, just like the well-dressed band in charge.
If you can make it to one of their Gentleman of the Road Stopovers in 2014, I highly recommend the experience. Here’s a little advice for making it a kickass weekend:
1. Buy your tickets early. If tickets sell out, opt for a package deal. We got a room at the excellently-located Hilton along, with “free” posters, t-shirts and a few other perks that made us feel like VIPs with our package.
2. Cash is king. Some of the festival vendors didn’t have card readers. Plus, it’s just faster.
3. Bring a portable phone charger or self-charging case. You will be out and about all day and possibly night, and you’re going to want to take some photos and videos throughout.
4. Finding food after the show was a challenge. Pack some snacks that will be waiting for you when you get back.
5. Bring a small blanket or sheet. We found new friends that had a blanket down fairly close to the stage, and we discovered that people might walk over the blanket, but people won’t stop and stand on it. So, you can create your own little bubble enabling you to dance to your heart’s content.
6. Have something you can hold up so the people you are with can find you when they return from the bathroom, getting a drink, whatever. Our device was a purple glow stick, but to each his own.
Shawndra is a digital strategist that helps small businesses tackle their social media and the Savannah correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide. Read about her services and work at //www.shawndrarussell.com.