Mumford & Sons, The Junction, Cambridge
Grizzly Bear, Corn Exchange, Brighton

Mumford & Sons are my tip for the top; their folk may be city-bred, but it'll be filling arenas soon

Despite the self-imposed handicap of a name that sounds like a firm of funeral directors – it is, coincidentally, the name of a fish and chip shop in Grays, Essex – indie folk quartet Mumford & Sons are unmistakably going places.

When you've been doing this job for long enough, you learn to sense when a band has plateaued and will never play larger venues than the one in which you're standing, and also to sense when they're strapped to the side of a rocket with a fizzing fuse. Mumford & Sons are palpably in the latter category.

On walking into The Junction, you're hit by a wall of sweaty steam that moistens your thighs and fills your lungs. All around are gaggles of neck-craning devotees who have learnt every word of the punishingly titled debut album Sigh No More, and glare at those who chit-chat through the quiet bits. This band, I quickly realise, is on the way to being Coldplay-sized, and will be skipping out of the Academies and into the Arenas in no time. When it happens, it will be with neither my blessing nor my curse. It's a dispassionate prediction. Put your money on Mumford & Sons for the 2011 Brits.

The question of realness inevitably rears its gnarly head when the F-word is involved, folk being a genre that prides itself on having directly traceable, aeons-old roots in the very soil of the land. For Mumford & Sons, nice south-west London public schoolboys in plaid shirts and bumfluff face-fuzz, this presents a potential problem.

It's difficult to sound righteously ethnic when you're of broker stock. But, truth is, t'was ever thus. The protagonists of the great folk revival of the late Sixties were already a crucial couple of generations removed from their source material. Fairport Convention weren't farmhands. Creedence Clearwater Revival weren't cowboys. Maybe there's never been a motherlode of authenticity where folk is concerned. Maybe it's always been an exercise in chasing elusive ghosts, and we should stop worrying and learn to love the ersatz.

In any case, there's plenty to enjoy. The Mumford sound, characterised by acoustic strumming sparkled up by glockenspiels and trumpets with the occasional eccentric "Solsbury Hill" time signature, has a rousing quality that recalls The Men They Couldn't Hang (essentially a poor man's Pogues). Marcus Mumford has a voice that reminds me, in turns, of Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst (on "Lend Me Your Eyes") and the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch (on "Thistle and Weeds").

They're personable chaps, joshing about the way bassist Ted Dwane is only using a big word like "altercation" between songs because they're in Cambridge and suchlike, and I've a sneaking feeling that at least one of their tunes, "I Gave You All", could be one for the ages. One way or another, M&S shares are on the rise.

Don't be fooled by Grizzly Bear's relatively clean-shaven appearance: it's because they've done so much chin-stroking that their beards have fallen off. Like the Mumfords, the Grizzlies are well-to-do city boys whose music is informed by the folk tradition. Unlike M&S, however, the Brooklyn band's take on it is lateral, not literal, with even trickier time sigs, jazzy keyboard chords and plangent harmonies. It's all very 1969, in a Jethro Tull kind of way. It's doubtless difficult to play, and making their acclaimed third album Veckatimest was doubtless like knitting water. However, it's also somewhat dull.

Grizzly Bear are one of a succession of alt country-affiliated American acts – see also Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and Animal Collective – whose popularity with British audiences has snowballed via word-of-mouth buzz in the past year or two. Taken individually, all these acts have their merits. Taken collectively, this whole aesthetic is beginning to stink like stale beer.

Easy as it is to despair of the gnat-like attention spans of the young, it's equally valid to despair at the arrogance of bands who behave as though spans are limitless, and refuse to recognise that attention must be earned. Grizzly Bear are guilty as hell.

Glancing around Sussex's self-consciously serious-minded razor-dodgers and their reluctantly-dragged girlfriends, I cannot for the life of me comprehend what anyone is getting out of being here other than to reaffirm their cultural identity as The Sort of Person Who's Into This Sort of Thing.

On 1,500 faces, not one smile. Everyone's pretending they're not bored out of their minds. The unquestionably talented but unfathomably tedious Grizzly Bear turn me into, to quote the Soggy Bottom Boys, a man of constant sorrow, and have me dreaming of a time when the last beardy, Pitchfork-approved Americana band has been garrotted with the last All Tomorrow's Parties lanyard.

Next Week:

Simon Price goes to Heaven, both literally and figuratively, to experience the comeback of MGMT

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence