Gentlemen of the Road

Bear's Den
Bear’s Den performing at Gentlemen of the Road

Last weekend we became a lady and gentleman of the road and hiked it over to Simcoe, Ontario, in Norfolk County, for a music festival called Gentlemen of the Road. Because we opted not to do any camping and because we had to get home to take care of the dog, we drove a good eight and a half hours back-and-forthing-it between the festival and Toronto, and the festival and the farm (we had to be in Mitchell for a family event on Sunday).

Gentlemen of the Road - Mumford and Sons
Mumford & Sons at Gentlemen of the Road

But it was SO worth it. I have to be honest and say that I really knew very little about the festival and it’s raison d’être beforehand. When I heard that Mumford & Sons were coming to somewhere relatively nearby I just had to book tickets. At the time, they were the only announced band and that was enough for me. But the festival was so much more (and all the bands were fantastic); it was an opportunity to spread around some good fortune in a small community that was struggling to make ends meet.

Gentlemen of the Road (all Saturday bands) performing The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
The entire Saturday line up playing The Band’s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (The Band’s Rick Danko was born in Norfolk County). It was an awesome tribute to the community’s musical heritage, and a fantastic way to say thanks at the end of the festival.

And that’s something I can totally get behind. I come from a small rural community myself, and I think we can all agree that it’s usually the big urban centres that attract all the large events, and therefore most of the economic benefit that comes with them.  In this case the town already had an excellent venue (the fairgrounds) located close to downtown and, it seemed to me anyway, that very little of anything new in the way of infrastructure was needed. It was so heartwarming to see virtually the entire local community in support of it, and the pride they demonstrated in sharing their town with the 35,000 odd visitors they attracted that weekend. So many locals came out to see the show too — the age range of festival goers was a beautiful thing to see.

I think the video below by CBC The National tells the story the best, so I’ll leave the rest to them. We had a fantastic time and it felt like we were part of something bigger than just a bunch of bands playing to a crowd. We discovered a whole bunch of new bands, and… I’m toying with the idea of learning to play the banjo. I KNOW. CRAZY RIGHT?

Another great video showing the sights and sounds: