Category: Mumford & Sons

Secret Policeman's Ball 2012 set for March 4 in New York City

The 2012 Secret Policemans Ball event March 4 in New York City traces its lineage back to George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh in 1971The Secret Policeman’s Ball will cross the Atlantic for the first U.S. edition of the ongoing series of fundraisers for Amnesty International with a big-name comedy and music lineup set for Sunday, March 4, in New York City. The event will be carried live on the EPIX cable channel and also streamed live at

On the comedy front, the show marking Amnesty’s 50th anniversary this year will include Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Eddie Izzard, Russell Brand, Sarah Silverman, Fred Armisen and many more, while Coldplay and Mumford & Sons will help out on the music side, connecting the two bands to a long, storied thread through pop music history.

This will be the 11th edition of the event that was born in 1976 in England, inspired in large part by George Harrison’s archetypal all-star rock music benefit, the Concert for Bangladesh, five years earlier at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

In conscious acknowledgment of that connection to the ex-Beatle, Amnesty this week is releasing a video of Evan Rachel Wood’s performance of the George Harrison-Bob Dylan song “I’d Have You Anytime” from the new “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan” four-CD set benefiting Amnesty.

Monty Python founding member John Cleese, along with journalist and publicist Martin Lewis, instigated the series that would come to be known as the Secret Policeman’s Ball, starting out exclusively with comedic talent to sell tickets from which proceeds would go to the human rights organization.

In 1979, Lewis came up with the SPB name and invited the Who’s Pete Townshend aboard to add a musical component. Townshend gave his first major solo appearance at that show, performing “Pinball Wizard” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, a performance credited by many as helping usher in the “unplugged” idea that became a hallmark of other benefit concerts and a popular series of MTV specials.

Because of Townshend’s appearance, Lewis was able to persuade other musicians to take part in subsequent shows, including Sting, Donovan, Bob Geldof, Midge Ure, Phil Collins and, in their first performance together, English rock guitar gods Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.

Geldof and Ure became the driving forces behind the charity Band-Aid project and the “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” single generating money for African famine relief in 1984, which expanded into the Live Aid transatlantic benefit concerts the following year in London and Philadelphia. Many of those participants had met at previous Secret Policeman’s Ball shows.

Additionally, U2 singer Bono has credited the 1979 Secret Policeman’s Ball with fully igniting his desire to tap music to help others in a concrete way.

Live Aid segued into the Amnesty's 1986 Conspiracy of Hope tour that included six concerts over 10 days around the U.S. with the Police, U2, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Joan Baez and the Neville Brothers.

Likewise, after taking part in 1987 in the Secret Policeman’s Third Ball in London, Gabriel (who was joined there by Geldof, Jackson Browne, Reed, David Gilmour, Kate Bush, Mark Knopfler, Chet Atkins, Duran Duran and World Party) went on to join Amnesty's Human Rights Now! tour in 1988.

That six-week tour also featured Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Sting, Tracy Chapman and Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour on a five-continent string of 20 concerts. A quarter century later, Live 8 shows on several continents both celebrated and expanded upon the original Live Aid idea.

Springsteen, Gabriel, Robert Plant & Jimmy Page, Radiohead, Chapman, Alanis Morissette and Shania Twain showed up in 1998 for Amnesty’s "The Struggle Continues…" show in Paris marking the 50th anniversary of the signing in that city of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Efforts shifted last decade to benefit recordings, first with a double-CD tribute to the music of John Lennon by dozens of acts for “Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur,” which has since generated more than $4 million for Amnesty, and most recently with “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan,” on which dozens more performers filled four CDs with renditions of Dylan’s music.


Imagine, Lennon's music aids relief effort

Bob Dylan tribute album honors Amnesty International too

Bob Dylan 'Freedom' tribute album debuts at No. 11 -- and No. 39

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: George Harrison, left, and Bob Dylan perform at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. Credit: UPI.

Almost Acoustic Christmas is a gauge of rock's past, future

Jane's Addiction is a parody of itself, while Black Keys and Mumford & Sons wipe out pretenses; Florence + the Machine and Foster the People are embraced.

Florence + the Machine

Guys with guitars roamed freely Sunday night at the Gibson Amphitheatre, where bands including Jane's Addiction, the Black Keys and Death Cab for Cutie took part in KROQ-FM's annual Almost Acoustic Christmas concert. But throughout this sold-out six-hour marathon — the second of two presented by the influential modern-rock station, after Saturday's bill with Blink-182, Social Distortion and others — those durable guitar heroes were shadowed by another musical figure. Witness the rise of the resourceful tech-head, hunched over a keyboard or sampler, tapping out newfangled sounds with near-scientific precision.

Some groups at the show had room for guitar wizards and computer geeks in their lineups; others staged a production around one or the other. Taken as a whole, though, Almost Acoustic Christmas felt like an investigation of where rock is today, what it's made of and what it should do.

One firm conclusion among the many more half-answers: Jane's Addiction has finally turned into the parody act it's been threatening to become for years. Headlining Sunday's show (albeit to a significantly thinned-out crowd), this on-again/off-again L.A. outfit interspersed hits from its original late-'80s incarnation with material from this fall's “The Great Escape Artist,” Jane's Addiction's first studio album since 2003. Yet it all sounded equally terrible, Perry Farrell's adenoidal vocals meandering aimlessly atop Dave Navarro's bludgeoning power chords. Worse still were Farrell's clownish between-song ramblings about Christmas in the era of Occupy Wall Street, which made the presumably unintentional argument that the once-ubiquitous character of the preening rock god has lost all but his comedic value.

PHOTOS: KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas

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A look back at Dinner House M; a look forward to Hollywood Tower's concert series

Dinner In Friday's Calendar, two night life stories touch on some very different corners of L.A.'s music culture. First is a long lament at the closing of the Historic Filipinotown late-night staple Dinner House M, a favorite haunt of Echo Park musicians with a bad idea in their heads at 1:30 am. Members of Health, Puro Instinct and the minds behind the infamous Wednesday night Grown party give fond recollections.

Second is a quick survey of a neat secret-show series happening on the rooftop of the Hollywood Tower apartment complex. Bands like Mumford & Sons, TV on the Radio and Foster the People have played sets to no more than a few dozen people on the French-Norman castle rooftop, booked as an amenity for residents and sponsored by the rock station 98.7 FM. Florence & the Machine drops by on June 14, but if you want to go, the only ways in are to win a station contest -- or sign a lease.


Dinner House M is closing (the hipster apocalypse is nigh)

Live review: Florence & the Machine at the Wiltern

Live review: Mumford & Sons at the Palladium

-- August Brown


Coachella 2011: Mumford & Sons & their many, many fans


Marcus Mumford looked like he was going to pass out.

Surveying the tens of thousands of people gathered Saturday to watch his unlikely platinum-selling folk-revival band, rivulets of sweat ran down his temples and his breathing grew heavy. "This is by far the biggest gig we've ever played," he said, haltingly. "We know the significance of this festival, especially in America and California."  

Three years ago, I saw Mumford & Sons play around 8 p.m. to maybe 40 people at a Hotel Cafe showcase of London-based folk artists. Their harmonies were moving and their musicality superb, but, truth be told, there wasn't the spark of superstardom in the air.

Coachella 2011 in photos: The acts and scene | 360° Panoramas | The faces

I'm happy to say I was dead wrong then, because the absolute palms-out rapture that greeted the quartet doesn't come by accident or even a marketing push. Mumford & Sons is a rare kind of band that completely sideswiped trend watchers to become one of the biggest new artists of the past year. And they did it while playing banjos and mandolins and singing about dying in thistle fields -- no small feat.

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