Last night the Railroad Revival tour kicked off at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland and the 8,000 plaid-wearing audience revelers couldn’t have been more excited. The Tour, which is made up of Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show is playing six concerts from Oakland to New Orleans over the course of a week. There’s an added fun twist as each stop of the tour is a unique outdoor location that borders railroad tracks because all three bands are traveling from city to city by way of vintage rail cars.
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park couldn’t have been a more perfect location for the bands to embark on what is sure to be an extremely successful run of shows. The picturesque Oakland loading docks in the background, the Bay Bridge illuminated by the sunset, and the skyline of San Francisco off in the distance provided a stunning backdrop for the festival. “This venue is so much better than Outside Lands,” said the couple next to me, and indeed it gives some of the other outdoor festival venues in the Bay a run for their money. It comes as no surprise that all 8,000 tickets sold out within four hours.
Old Crow Medicine Show took the stage first and got the crowd dancing, knee-slapping, and busting out their best “jig” moves. After a rousing performance of their signature song “Wagon Wheel”, frontman Ketch Secor shouted, “and with that, The Railroad Revival Tour begins!” and the audience went wild.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros played next. Despite the fact that they’ve been playing the same ten songs for the last two years, the band is beloved by the Bay Area. Lead singer Alex Ebert’s infectious energy always captures the heart of the audience, and last night was no exception. And of course the sunset over San Francisco during the crowd favorite “Home” couldn’t have been better with all thirteen band members joining in the huge sing-a-long.
Mumford & Sons came on around 8:45pm and by then the Christmas lights had all lit up. Opening with “Sigh No More,” the band set the tone with spotlights on the four main band members. Marcus Mumford, although only 24 years old, has such an old-world and humble presence on stage and leads the group through four part harmonies and foot-stomping breakdowns. They performed a new song called “Hopeless Wonder” (a second album is due out later this year), which didn’t deviate too far from their established sound, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. “Little Lion Man”, the song that everyone was waiting for, was played in the middle of their performance and the tremendous set concluded with an extended version of “The Cave.”
And as you would expect from three of the leading bluegrass, rock bands, the evening ended appropriately with an encore performance of “This Train is Bound for Glory” which involved a packed stage of all the musicians and instruments. From the horn section solo, to the three fiddle players, from the dueling banjos to the dancing upright bass, it was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a hootenanny.
Curfew rolled around at 10pm, and with the whistle of some nearby train, the crowd poured out of the venue. The bands and their crew packed up the rail cars and got ready to head out to their next stop: San Pedro in Southern California. As I was leaving, I overheard Christian Letts (guitarist for Edward Sharpe) talking about future projects with the groups. “We’ve even got a recording car on the train where we can all come and work on songs,” he said. According to him, the three bands are recording some songs together. Hopefully we get an album or EP from the sold out tour.
You can follow the band’s train and blog here.