Dixon, Illinois: The quintessential American small town: the high school looks like a castle, there’s a replica of the Berlin wall, and some local guy drives a car shaped like a chicken. They also have a lively main street, a thriving downtown, and a riverfront park on the banks of the iconic Rock River. On Saturday August 19th, Mumford & Sons took it over along with their friends from Gogol Bordello, Dawes, Abigail Washburn, The Very Best, Apache Relay, Haim, and Nathaniel Rateliff. The end result: pure awesomeness dubbed the Gentlemen of the Road.
The GOTR tour features 7 various stops including locations in Portland, California, with stops also overseas in the UK and Ireland. And if you couldn’t tell already, we had the pleasure of visiting their Dixon Illinois stopover which also coincidentally happened to be the only stop you were able to camp at. It just kept getting better and better folks. The stop was also hosted by none other than comedian Reggie Watts whose hair is almost as amazing as his jokes. We came, we saw, we had literally the time of our lives, and this is our recap through the haze of Jack Daniels.
Words and photography by Zachary Walker.
The high school in Dixon or a castle – you decide.
Fellow IMF writer Mitchell D and I made our way to Dixon from the great city of Chicago after setting up a rendezvous location of Elgin Illinois – home to what looked like a lot of old people and a big casino. We met, had some lunch, and continued our journey to the great town of Dixon Illinois. The drive along the way is exactly what you would expect driving through the Midwest, a lot of corn, farms, and the ‘World Bloody Mary Championships’? No joke. We contemplated stopping to check it out due to our love of the red drink, but we had other matters to attend to: setting up camp, consuming a few adult beverages, snapping some photos, and listening to some tunes. We’ll see you next year Bloody Mary Championships.
We descended upon Dixon along with a ton of other like-minded fellow music lovers. As you entered downtown, signs upon signs for the stopover were posted around town, both from the festival and businesses alike. “Welcome Mumford Fans” could be seen all throughout town and then it hit me, they’re really taking over this whole place. That’s exactly what they did. We continued driving in search of the Reynoldswood campsite which ultimately ended up being on the grounds of a church camp – both good and bad maybe? Depends how you look at it. We setup shop, had a few beers, packed our bags, and made it onto the lovely yellow bus they were using as a shuttle to cart people to the festival grounds. I felt like a kid again and I loved every second of it.
The stopover ticket, or passport.
The school bus dropped us off like it was our first day of class and we made our way through the entrance which happened to be right next to a castle or a high school. Seriously. Their high school is shaped exactly like a castle and on the top of each of the “lookout towers” were flags for the Gentlemen of the Road tour – very cool. Ahead of us a girl is telling her friends how she can do a freestanding back flip, they don’t believe her. She proves them wrong and the crowds around watching go wild. This set the tone for what was sure to be a great evening.
Lets talk the “tickets” to the stopover. This is something I’ve never really seen done before and I thought it was a really unique way of providing fans with something to not only do while at the festival, but to use as a keepsake as well. A ticket to the show was actually a small version of a passport. Inside was a hologram, information about the stopover, a place to get stamps for completing certain events, and more. Attendees names were also stamped onto it which gave it that extra level of specialness.
Smokin’ the ol’ pipe.
As you walked through the river front park, people from all walks of life were there. Old people, young people, even little kids were running around as if it was their first taste of freedom. There was plenty of food to go around and vendors had a small setup similar to those you see at all the major festivals. From clothes to banjos, you could leave the stopover with some pretty cool gear. And speaking of gear, it seemed as though everyone wanted to purchase some official merchandise because out of any line at the stopover, they had the longest for the longest duration of time. I don’t blame them though – the gear was pretty cool.
As the sun began to set, we caught Haim, Nathaniel Ratecliff, and then Gogol Bordello came on. I love these guys and I always will have a special place for them in my music heart. I was first exposed to this traveling band of gypsies around 2004 at none other than the Vans Warped Tour and it puts a smile on my face to say, it was the first time I ever crowd surfed. Fast forward to now, they still are putting on the same great show with my favorite track “Start Wearing Purple”. So much energy and the crowd loved every second of it. I recommend checking these guys out if they’re coming to a city near you. You won’t be disappointed.
Marcus says hello.
Mumford & Sons. Where to begin? I had never seen them before but absolutely love their album Sigh No More so I awaited anxiously to not only check them out live, but the opportunity to snap a few photos for IMF had me feeling like a little kid on Christmas. Marcus and the band hit the stage, said hello to everyone and went right into it. The crowd roared and everyone was dancing as if he had just cast some spell over their minds. They kicked things off with a new track from their upcoming album Babel.
Speaking about the album, the band said: “We are more than excited to release ‘Babel’ into the world. We had started writing new songs well before we got into the studio to record. At first, we peeled ourselves off the road quite reluctantly. We love playing live, obviously, but it had also become an important part of our creative process, we had been writing and rehearsing in soundchecks, and sort of ‘roadtesting’ new songs on our very gracious audiences.” – NME
They made their way through all of the tracks on Sigh No More, even playing a few covers, but the icing on the cake was after the encore. Marcus got on the mic and said “we’d like to welcome our friends to the stage for this one” and all the members of the other bands playing the stopover came out onto the stage to join them. And then it began. Their final song, a cover of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends”. An absolutely amazing way to cap such a great event, such a great show. As you can tell from the video below, the band, the crowd, and everyone around the area had a smile from ear to ear at what they just were a part of – something very special. As someone who doesn’t get to check out a lot of “rock” shows (for one reason or another), it was truly refreshing to be a part of this stopover. When it comes to music, we get to wrapped up in what we’re familiar with. We forget to look outside the box and test the waters of the new. This only leaves us in the dark with so much to explore. Go exploring, check out new music, try something different. You’ll thank yourself.
Special thanks to Chris from Big Hassle, Dixon Illinois, and everyone who was part of such an amazing stopover. Be sure to hit our Facebook page for a full gallery. Until next time…