The enormously (some might say inexplicably) popular British folk-rock band Mumford & Sons won't be coming to Knoxville on its upcoming U.S. tour. In fact, the band, which sold out the Valarium in 2010, won't be stopping at any of the usual places on this summer's Gentlemen of the Road Stopovers, a series of touring festival-like shows scheduled for August.
Instead, the band is opting for a handful of out-of-the-way locations on this tour, which will be preceded by similar shows in the U.K. and Ireland in June. The good news for East Tennessee Mumford fans is that one of those out-of-the-way locations is Bristol, Tenn., just a 90-minute drive northeast of Knoxville. It's a fitting site, since it's been acknowledged by Congress as the official birthplace of country music.
"It's an idea we had quite a while ago," says Mumford member Ted Dwane. "We like the idea of putting together our own festival.... We looked for towns that were less visited but still had a story, nice town, small towns where bands don't usually go."
The Gentlemen of the Road Stopovers start in Portland, Maine, on Aug. 4, and land in Bristol on Saturday, Aug. 11, with additional shows set for Dixon, Ill., on Aug. 18, and Monterey, Cal., on Aug. 25. The show will take place outdoors in downtown Bristol, with local venues incorporated into the festival for after-parties and other auxiliary events. Tickets go on sale on Friday, June 1, at 10 a.m. at gentlemenoftheroad.com. A limited number of tickets will be available for $59 on a first-come, first-serve basis; after that, all tickets are $69, with no additional fees or handling charges.
"The concept isn't to take over the town," Dwane says. "It's meant to build collaboration. We're also bringing our friends along for the ride. There will be a few English bands along as well."
The all-day festival lineup, hand-picked by Mumford members, will include, in addition to the headlining Mumford crew, L.A. folk-rock band Dawes; Nashville hard rock duo JEFF the Brotherhood; Malawi/London dance-pop collaboration the Very Best; singer/songwriter Justin Townes Earle; Nashville Americana band Apache Relay; ex-Felice Brother Simone Felice; and California up-and-comers Haim. St. Vincent, the Maccabees, Gogol Bordello, Abigail Washburn, Grouplove, and Two Gallants will appear at other Gentlemen of the Road concerts.
Dwane says additional U.S. dates will likely be announced for later in 2012. Mumford & Sons are scheduled to release their second album, the follow-up to 2009's Sigh No More, in September.
"We'll be doing more touring, basically," he says about the band's upcoming plans. "The new album is just around the corner, so we'll release the record and then tour. I have a feeling we'll be spending more time on your lovely shores."