Good vibes go a long way when bands hit the road together. For Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a great experience touring with folk-rock superstars Mumford & Sons in 2011 paved the way for the Los Angeles-based psychedelic folk band to become Gentlemen of the Road.
“It initially sparked off from the Railroad Revival Tour,” said Christopher “Crash” Richard, vocalist and percussionist with the Magnetic Zeros, which will headline the Friday lineup of Gentlemen of the Road, a two-day festival at the Cottonwood Flats festival grounds in Guthrie. “It carried over into a great relationship between us and Mumford.”
Richard said GOTR is a festival that aspires to be exceptional, to bring a spotlight to small towns and make a lasting impact. An estimated 35,000 people will attend the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover in Guthrie to see Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Alabama Shakes, Haim, The Vaccines, Those Darlins, Willy Mason and others, and the money brought into the community could have a transformative effect. When Mumford & Sons staged a GOTR Stopover in the Tennessee-Virginia border city of Bristol in 2012, more than $5.1 million in tax revenue was generated locally. Early projections for the economic impact of last weekend's GOTR Stopover in Troy, Ohio, exceeded $12 million.
The relationship between Mumford & Sons, which headlines the festival and will close out the event on Saturday night, and the cities hosting stopovers is mutually beneficial. Festivalgoers are encouraged to spend their money locally, and in turn, area businesses partner with the band and event organizers to sell homegrown products during the stopover. Guthrie is one of only five GOTR Stopovers in 2013, the others include Lewes, U.K.; Simcoe, Ontario, Canada; Troy, Ohio; and St. Augustine, Fla.
Richard said that Mumford & Sons treat the entire experience like a family gathering — bands, towns, businesses and fans included.
“It is a way for them to bring their friends together, bring together the bands they like and appreciate, then go into these small communities and use the opportunity to help out a town in some small way,” Richard said.
“We love playing with them and it's really great to see what they do with these festivals,” he said. “It's always great to be working with gentlemen of such class.”
That level of class extends to everyone involved in the festival, Richard said. During the event, local artists will get to share in the collective good will at the Downtown Stage, featuring performances by Camille Harp, Horse Thief, Oklahoma Cloud Factory, Luke Dick and others, along with two Saturday sets by guitarist Keller Williams.
And as the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover comes to a close, Richard said the full level of collaboration is readily apparent onstage as Mumford & Sons brings all its friends back up for a big musical bear hug. Considering that the Magnetic Zeros are a dozen strong by themselves, the number of players during the grand finale, which usually consists of a classic song that everyone on the bill knows by heart, can reach orchestral levels.
“At the end of every festival, we go out and usually do the encore with Mumford. During their encores, they go out and do a few more songs, and then they have all of us come up onstage and we play a song together,” Richard said. “It's one of those moments when we can share the stage because of our common musical interests. And it would be the Zeros, Mumford and maybe three or four more bands, so to be honest, sometimes it can be up to 50 of us onstage.
“Just, like, 50 people shouting (Fleetwood Mac's) ‘The Chain,'” he said. “The more people you have, the better that song goes.”