Come out of Brighton, head East for about 15 minutes and you’ll reach Lewes, a town of around 15,000 inhabitants. With more history crammed into its streets than an A-level text book, it was a clear winner to host the UK leg of Gentlemen of the Road Festival, showcasing the best of today’s folk, indie and acoustic music.
Day One and the excitement within the town was palpable. The line-up for the day wasn’t quite as high-profile as the second day promised to be, but the feel-good vibes within the arena left bands like White Denim without reason to feel unappreciated. The obvious highlight of the day promised to be Vampire Weekend, fresh from their new album Modern Vampires of the City reaching number one in the US. The four piece arrived and did their indie thing. They perhaps focused too much on their new album but songs such as Diane Young got the audience jumping, while playing a number of old classics for the more reminiscent fans.
However, Day Two’s line-up was when the festivities kicked into full swing, with Johnny Flynn first up. He opened with the classic Tickle Me Pink, whose rolling bass line is enough to get anyone in the right mindset for neo-folk at its very best. The crowd responded well to his charm with an empathetic surge of swaying that flowed through the arena. As the 45-minute set continued, the majority of his best songs were crossed off, finishing with The Water, including a cameo from a Marcus Mumford. The song was performed beautifully between Johnny and his sister, who also plays with the band. The stunning harmonies shone through even when accompanied by Mumford’s somewhat gravelled tones.
From Flynn swiftly onto The Mystery Jets (whose set surely must have been a satire on indie culture) and then Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the most anticipated act of the weekend. They arrived onstage with an overwhelmingly warm welcome from the crowd, slipping straight into the emotional Man On Fire, which brought the arena to life for what, undoubtedly, became the show-stealing set of the weekend. The chemistry between Alexander and Jade was beautiful, helping to create an atmosphere that emitted happiness through the audience, which was now around 20,000 strong. With eyes welling up and feet stomping all around, the only possible downside was that the set was not long enough. They truly did blow all the rest out of the water.