Friday, 1 June 2012

Mumford & Sons: Dandy Highwaymen of the Modern Age

Huddersfield is not really known for its musical heritage. Yes, there was the infamous Sex Pistols gig in 1977 where Rotten et al turned up to play two shows on Christmas day for striking firemen and their families, but when it comes to a list of the UK's greatest rock and roll towns, Huddersfield will probably find itself nestled somewhere between Shoreham-by-Sea (birthplace of Leo Sayer) and Portsmouth (subject of a Mike Oldfield ditty). This is not to say it hasn't tried to put itself on the map. The football/rugby league ground, The Galpharm (nee Mcalpine) Stadium played host to rock behemoths Bon Jovi , REM and The Eagles in the late nineties/early noughties, while the prospectus from the local FE college continues to boast that warbling stick insect, Justin Hawkins from The Darkness once spent an academic year there.  In recent times, dour indie landfillers, Embrace and heavy metallers, Evile have helped to raise the profile of the town, but overall Huddersfield's music pantry still looks a little bare.  

So it came as some surprise when waistcoat wearing, fiddle playing, filmstar loving folkies, Mumford & Sons announced that they would be playing the town's Greenhead Park as part of their Gentlemen of the Road tour. With a day-long bill that also includes Michael Kiwanuka, Willy Mason and Slow Club, this felt like a real coup for the town, and followed a recent announcement by the council about the return of Party in the Park (also being held at Greenhead park) which will be headlined by Tinchy Stryder. Then I saw the price for tickets. Let me put the price of the Mumford & Sons tickets (£50) into context. This summer, The Stone Roses will make a triumphant return by playing three exclusive shows (apart from the recent 'warm-up' gig in Warrington and the slew of festival appearances) at Heaton Park in Manchester. The cost to see this iconic band - along with a full supporting line-up that includes Primal Scream, The Wailers...and Beady Eye - is £65. While the cost for tickets to see Bruce Springsteen at Manchester's Ethiad Stadium later this month ranges from £60 - £80.  Springsteen will play at least a three-hour set and therefore (for his fans at least) offers true value for money, while the Roses - despite only releasing one and a half decent albums and having a reputation for being a bit iffy live - have built such a legendary status, that many would have paid twice as much just to say 'they were there'. 

While I take my hat off to Kirklees Council for pulling this off, the price of the ticket to see a band who so far have released one album and - the last time I checked, at least - had not yet received the kind of status that has been bestowed upon the Roses or Springsteen is quite frankly taking the piss. Let's look at it another way. On the same day the Mumfords come to town, Victoria Park in London hosts the Field Day festival. The line-up for this one day event includes Franz Ferdinand, Beirut, Django Django, Grimes, Liars and The Vaccines along with a host of other acts and DJs. The cost for a ticket to this event? £45. While in September, over the hills in Ramsbottom, the 3-day Rammy Festival hosts the Inspiral Carpets, The Leisure Society, Seth Lakeman and a host of other bands and artists all for £50. If these events (which lets face it provide a great deal more bang for your buck) can operate by selling tickets at these prices, then surely the promoters of the Gentlemen of the Road tour and Kirklees Council could have done so at a price that is more affordable and offers real value for money. 

Interestingly, 'Gentlemen of the Road' is also the title of a novel by the author, Michael Chambon in which world-travelling bandits Amram and Zelikman set out to con the residents of a local town. If this was the inspiration behind the tour (it rolls into Galway next week) then it appears that the good folk of Huddersfield haven't fallen for the elaborate con trick as with just over 24 hours until the gates open, there are still plenty of tickets left. 

One hopes this is a valuable lesson learnt. 

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