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

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum