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Saturday November 18th 2017

Mum’s the Word: Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Festival in Guthrie, OK

The main gate to Gentlemen of the Road in Guthrie The main gate to Gentlemen of the Road in Guthrie, OK. Photo courtesy Taylor B.

The biggest band in the world now was responsible for quadrupling the population of Oklahoma’s first capitol city during the first weekend of autumn.

Mumford and Sons brought their Gentlemen of the Road “stopover” music festival, concurrent with their tour, to Guthrie on Friday, September 6 and Saturday, September 7. About 30,000 people attended the event to hear a dozen bands play, with Mumford and Sons as the headliners.

After parking and setting up my tent in a shaded part of the camping area, I began to venture into downtown Guthrie. Nearly every store front had something related to Mumford and Sons within, whether it was a tribute to the band or decorations featuring Union Flags and the iconic hipster mustache. Even a local church featured a mustache graphic on its lightboard.

It's dark within the valley of your heart -- and our gourmet chocolates! Rick’s Fine Chocolates & Coffees recreated the album cover of Sigh No More in their window. Photo courtesy Taylor B.

Mayor Mark Spradlin was proud of the attention his town received over the weekend.

“This is a great advantage for us,” Spradlin said. “This fantastic thing is bigger than we thought. We’ve had support from everyone in town, even from outlier towns. This is a big deal for us.”

Mayor Mark Spradlin offering “free high-5’s” and information. Photo courtesy Taylor B.

Every shop owner I met was enthusiastic to receive the influx of festival attendees. Cherie Gorden, owner of Aunt Gertrude’s House, a fine arts gallery, was especially welcoming.

“Everyone has been fabulous, wonderful,” Gorden said. “Everyone who has come in has been smiling. We haven’t had this many customers all year.”

Wristbands worn over the weekend: yellow was for drinks, blue was for camping, and orange was the festival ticket. Photo courtesy Taylor B.

Part of the experience was a souvenir “passport” given to ticketholders. Attendees were encouraged to not only explore downtown Guthrie along with the festival, but find as many passport stamps as possible under the promise of a “reward” to those who completed their passports. A scavenger hunt began.

Upon recommendation found within the passport, I ate lunch on Friday at the scrumptious Blue Belle Saloon where I met who would become my companions for the weekend: Callie Burlin, Becca Dennis, and Tara Reed, friends from Tulsa. After lunch, we proceeded to brave the unusually still heat, popping in and out of local businesses and collecting passport stamps along the way. Before the first night of concerts began, we spent some time in the friendly Hoboken Coffee Shop to cool off and appreciate the atmosphere.

Hope you don't mind, Becca! (L-R) Tara Reed, Becca Dennis, Taylor B, and Callie Burlin. Photo courtesy Becca Dennis.

Throughout the day, stages located across the downtown festival area hosted bands and performers from around the area until well into the night. It was impossible to be in Guthrie that weekend and not be surrounded by music.

A banner with the official Stopover logo. Photo courtesy Taylor B.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Friday night’s headliners, brought a psychedelic vibe to an otherwise antebellum theme. During their hit song “Home,” crowd members were invited to share stories about what the song meant to them. People told stories of how much they loved others, including their fellow attendees. Indeed, a spirit of community swept over the festival area, with everyone there seeking fun and nothing else.

“The thing about going alone to big festivals with lots of people is leaving your baggage at home,” a camper said. “You get to abandon your troubles and drama and just be yourself for a while.”

Photo courtesy Taylor B.

After the shows, I spent time becoming acquainted with my camping neighbors, including Sophie, a Danish student eager to socialize, Ben, a British student with typical saturnine demeanor, and Dylan Perry, a Pryor native and one of the most fascinating people I have ever met.

Saturday morning was spent further exploring downtown Guthrie before the festival began again in the afternoon. I reconvened with Becca, and met other campers, including Jason Smith from Arkansas and Travis McClearen, a Tulsa musician.

The crowd loved them dearly. Alabama Shakes and a rogue beach ball. Photo courtesy Taylor B.

While the first bands like HAIM and The Vaccines felt like openers, Alabama Shakes played like co-headliners, garnering reception in kind. Shortly after Mumford and Sons began their set, Marcus Mumford announced that all 30,000 ticketholders were on festival grounds by the time Alabama Shakes were on stage.

“I don’t want to rag on about it,” Mumford said to the thousands in-between songs. “We’re from England. We’re not built for this kind of weather.”

Look at them now. Mumford & Sons performing Babel. Photo courtesy Taylor B.

Yet the band played on for their devoted fans through the unbearable heat. They played all of their best songs as well as a few raucous covers.

I found myself after the show overwhelmed by everything the festival offered. Soon, we would all return to the lives we abandoned. But in that moment, we were all gentlemen and gentlewomen of the road, united by and reveling in our love for music.

Taylor B, an Army Brat via Fort Sill, completed his passport. He would like to thank the angels who made this experience possible.