I joined together with a band of 5 of my friends and we traveled into Waverly, Iowa, on Friday the 19th, drove out Sunday, the 21st, changed forever. This was not a music festival, it was a shared, communal experience with some of the best live music I’ve ever seen. The band Mumford & Son’s began these summer “Stopover” tours, where they pick several small towns across the country and spend a weekend alongside a line-up of other artists playing music. Check out this video about the 2015 tours, its awesome.
The definition of ‘stop over’ is a break in one’s journey. That is exactly what it felt like being in Waverly. All these people came together and paused for a brief, collected moment, to truly enjoy something special. The picture below are the thousands of tents off in the distance with the Waverly, Iowa, water tower in the background.
We arrived around noon and were directed to park in a giant field that was about two miles from where we’d be camping. We piled up all our stuff and made a the trek down to the tractor that took us to our actual camp site. Everyone was packed in tight but once the 6 of us got our tents and easy-up popped, we had a pretty nice little home base.
After getting settled in, we rested for a couple of hours. It was incredibly hot out and getting all of our stuff moved and set up took quite a bit of energy. We sat and had some snacks and afternoon beers and relaxed until the afternoon sun set a bit. Once we felt recharged, we made the walk down to the Main Stage.
While there was quite a bit of walking the whole weekend long (things were quite spread out), it was a beautiful place.
After walking through this giant field, underneath a big Gentlemen of the Road Sign, through rows of flags, you came into this clearing where the stage was…
We got down to the stage around 4:30pm and checked out the lay of the land while waiting for the Very Best to begin. If any of our group ever wanted to venture off, we usually kept at least one person guarding our spot.
As the music progressed, we’d all grow a little closer, or wander off for a beer, but always meeting back together, always remembering that there’s safety in numbers.
Unfortunately I don’t have great night time photo capabilities so I didn’t capture too much in the evening hours. I had to snap this one of My Morning Jacket as they’ve been on my live show list for a long time and this was during my favorite song of theirs, “Wordless Chorus”. Listen to it!
After My Morning Jacket performed, there were more shows in the downtown area. However, we were all exhausted and decided to call it a night. I’d say I was asleep by 12:30 at the latest.
Below are pictures of the Gentlemen of the Road show that changed colors at night. It was pretty cool. I snapped those on our first night back during the walk back to camp.
The next morning I awoke to chaos at 6:45am. A severe summer storm was moving in and when I stepped out of my tent, the wind was blowing so much so that everyone’s priority was to tie everything down and make sure it didn’t blow away. Once all belongings were secured, our group split up: two guys ran into a nearby church that had a pancake breakfast and showers (they got the best deal out of any of us); the couple in our crew hopped on their bicycles and went to the Wartburg College Fieldhouse (pictures below), where an emergency shelter was being set up; I did what I’ve always done while camping, hole up in your tent and ride it out.
The storm let up around noon and things really started to dry out and pick back up around 1pm. So we threw on our rain boots and headed to the down town area to check it out. It was a little bit of a jaunt, so you catch a bus down there.
You then follow the brightly colored streamers over a beautiful river to the fantastically adorable town of Waverly, Iowa.
We didn’t spend too much time down town. There wasn’t any music during the day we wanted to see and most of the businesses were packed inside as everything was still wet and mucky on the outside from the morning’s storm. We did stumble into a sandwich joint called the Sub Shop where I purchased one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in my life.
After lunch we went back to camp and hung out until it was time to head back to the main stage for the evening’s shows. While doing so, there these two ground squirrels right in front of us eating potato chips and it was pretty cute.
Jenny Lewis was fantastic to see live. I’ve been a fan of Rilo Kiley for many years and loved her solo stuff too. I was psyched to hear “Silver Lining” live as well as “The Moneymaker” from Under the Blacklight, a beautiful album. I enjoyed the new stuff she did too and look forward to spending more time listening to that.
Up next was The Flaming Lips, whether you like their music or not, they put on a fantastic live show with balloons and glitter and costumes and all sorts of silliness. I got to hear “Fight Test” and “Are You a Hypnotist?” From Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, my two favorite songs from that album. I was so very happy.
The balloon says “Fuck Yeah GOTR Waverly” in case you can’t read it.
Little mushrooms and rainbows came out when they played, “Do You Realize?” which tugged on my heart strings.
The final act of the evening, of the weekend, was Mumford & Sons. As the sun went down, the crowd waited patiently…
As I mentioned earlier, my camera at night sucks. But even if it was crystal clear, even if I was in the front row, no pictures and no words can truly capture and do justice the show that band put on that evening.
They played many songs from their first two albums, “Babel”, “I Will Wait”, and “Little Lion Man”. They sounded beautiful; Mumford & Son’s gets me the way the Beach Boys and the Dixie Chicks (yeah, I said it) get me. The multi-layering of voices and instruments, the precision and talent it truly takes, I am a sucker for a four-person harmony. But it was when they plugged in, went from acoustic to electric, that I was absolutely blown away. There has been a lot of skepticism surrounding their artistic evolution and, perhaps if you only ever listen to their new album, “Wilder Mind”, and you don’t experience any of it live, the skeptics may have a point. I believe it is because no recording can true capture the emotion that I saw those four gentlemen pour out into the world under the stars that night. It was incredible. They played in that field for over two hours and at the very end, they called all of the artists back out again and they sang this, and I was moved.
The show ended around 12:30 or so and, while there was more music down town again, we were all beat again. We headed back to camp and packed it in. We all got up around 6:30am the next day, packed up, and drove home.
Being at Gentlemen of the Road and seeing the music I did in that landscape amongst friends under the Iowa sky was one of the best times of my life. I am so grateful to have been able to experience such a fantastic time in my beloved state.