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Kings of Leon

While this Nashville quartet’s star has dimmed somewhat in recent years, Kings of Leon remain reliable standard bearers for a particular strain of Southern rock masculinity, a blythe, hard-livin’ authenticity both beguiling and curiously remote. Big beards, big hooks, throaty howls, a solid sense of pacing: what’s not to love here? Arena-sized meat’n’potatoes doesn’t get much better, and maybe more important, they’re not fucking Mumford & Sons.

Fri., July 25, 7 a.m., 2014

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Communion Expands Its Monthly Residency With a Take on Touring

Ben Lovett is wearing a letterman’s jacket and shaking hands when a crowd begins to bottleneck at the back of the bar. At the Rockwood Music Hall, two of the venue’s four rooms are connected by a narrow hallway frequently clogged with guitar cases and bouquets of mic stands that trip up the bartenders and performers as they rush through it. The passage is the only connection between Rockwood 2, the intimate room with the wrought iron balcony and the baby grand piano that descends from a ledge via an elaborate pulley system, and Rockwood 3, the vaster, newer space at the Lower East Side venue complex. The bright, bubbly, synthed-out sounds of Savoir Adore are pulsing through the closed doors between rooms, and the crowd — which Lovett will eventually have to make his way through — is stuck for now. Rockwood 2 is at capacity on a Tuesday night, and even though some fans are shut out from Savoir Adore’s set, this is a very good thing.

Tonight, Lovett is bouncing back and forth between these stages, as he’s booked them all for Communion’s monthly residency, and this is only the second time the night has expanded across all of Rockwood’s stages. The pianist and songwriter, most famous for his emphatic, key-pounding prowess in Mumford and Sons, isn’t one of the talents taking the stage tonight, and that’s OK by him, as he’s got plenty on his plate as one of the event’s organizers. “This is the second month that we’ve super-sized it,” Lovett says, describing his backstage
duties before the show. “I’m still a little bit in a back office role, where I make sure everyone’s getting in all right and there isn’t too much of a crowd crush. When things cool down and get into a rhythm, then, yeah, I’d love to sit in with some of these people.”

Communion, the artist-led organization — the word Lovett and others use to describe the amorphous agency cum promotions and booking company — cofounded by Lovett to promote and release the music of musicians from all walks of genre and industry stature, started mounting curated residencies in London in 2006, which boasted Gotye, Laura Marling, and Ben Howard in the early days of their careers. Since then,
it’s established a presence in 25 cities worldwide, with New York City one of the first to host them in the United States. Public
Assembly in Williamsburg and Park Slope’s Union Hall were the first adopted homes of the monthly residencies, but Rockwood was the place where Communion’s snowballing popularity and ambitions culminated in one of the biggest nights they’ve thrown yet, and is serving as the launching pad for their next endeavor. Savoir Adore, Tennis, and Nathaniel Rateliff’s Night Sweats headlined November’s Communion night, but the three bands won’t stop at Rockwood: Communion is hitting the road and bringing this big-top residency approach to nine cities for a fall tour Savoir Adore’s Paul Hammer refers to as a “traveling mini-festival” that banks on variety and quality more than anything else.

“It’s always been really eclectic,” says Lovett of the diverse bill for both the club nights and tour. Between the headliners alone, soul, pop, rock, dance, and folk are represented on the stylistic spectrum. “It’s almost one of the main, guiding principles [of Communion], to keep it as eclectic as possible; otherwise, it becomes exclusive. We never wanted it to be something where a certain style of crowd felt like they could take ownership of it. That’s how you pigeonhole a night.”

“The entire
music industry is in a constant state of flux and change,” adds Hammer.
“I feel like [the Communion tour] is such a perfect
example of that, where you take four or five bands that really don’t have any connection to each other through geography, label connections, or style of music. Communion . . . really is a representation
of how much freedom there is in the music industry now.”

So what brings people out, then,
if there isn’t a cohesive sound shared
between a handful of moderately well-known bands? For Lovett, the commitment to producing events that focus explicitly on the music — as opposed to touring cycles, album releases, or industry priorities — is what keeps Communion club nights packed, and the standard that the Communion tour will inherit from the storied residencies before it.

“Nothing’s really changed in its
essence,” says Lovett. “The more we grow it and the more we build it, and the more bands are involved and interact with
Communion, the better it is for everyone, because it’s a community-based way of just helping to shine light on contemporaries. From a musician’s point of view, [the industry] used to be very competitive: You would never want that band to get that spot at that festival, or you’d be angry that someone had the big record label executive coming out to their gig instead of your gig. The past seven or eight years, [we’ve] been about dismantling that, and getting people to be more about encouraging fellow musicians.
It’s hard enough as it is without competing against each other. It’s more [about] collaborating with each other.”

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Daughter

As Daughter prepares to release their first North American EP, the trio must be realizing how little work turning heads across the pond actually requires. With a dreamy folk sound, the band falls somewhere between the introspective earnestness of the Avett Brothers and the urgent earnestness of Mumford & Sons, with some tinges of The xx’s ethereal moodiness thrown in for good measure. In the end, they’re a wholly refreshing entity with two sold-out Bowery Ballroom shows to prove it.

Tue., April 30, 9 p.m.; Wed., May 1, 9 p.m., 2013

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Mumford and Sons

Last year their exquisite Babel received as healthy a reception as could reasonably be expected, but don’t be fooled by the fact that Mumford & Sons are now superstars: Even when songs like “I Will Wait” and “Whispers In The Dark” bore by hitting their explosive climaxes like clockwork at the halfway point, and each side of that distressingly predictable apex is still as exciting as early 2009 gems like “The Cave” and “Little Lion Man,” or the hundreds of years of traditional tunes which in turn preceded those. These songs will probably just end up buried in a shallow grave of CDRs and USB flash drives, but in another era we might have found among them a handful of all-time classics.

Wed., Feb. 6, 8 p.m.; Tue., Feb. 12, 8 p.m., 2013

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The Lumineers

Fresh off their first Saturday Night Live appearance and a pair of Grammy nominations, this rootsy, Denver-based trio continues riding the wave that has launched them from relative obscurity to the forefront of the Americana revival. Ironically, their hit indie anthem, “Ho Hey,” off their self-titled debut, springs from the disillusionment of not making it in New York. Owing a clear debt to Mumford & Sons and other retro-populist Dust Bowl throwbacks, the Lumineers don’t shed new light on the genre but succeed on the sheer strength of their lyricism, pathos, and storytelling, and they have the Tyrolean hats to match.

Fri., Feb. 1, 7 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 2, 7 p.m., 2013

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Of Monsters and Men

The 2011 debut album from this Icelandic indie folk-pop band combined tricks culled from the Arcade Fire and the Decemberists but avoided the sprawl of either. Group singalongs are present, but only to mask a delicate and rewarding sensitivity. Hope you guys are having fun with the new Mumford & Sons album, but I’ll be off listening to this instead.

Tue., Nov. 20, 8 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 21, 8 p.m., 2012

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Kopecky Family Band

Co-ed folk-rock rabblerousers from Nashville, the Kopeckys come on like a more sensual Arcade Fire—or maybe a Mumford & Sons with a sense of humor. With MyNameIsJohnMichael, a young New Orleans outfit with some hats and some horns.

Sun., June 3, 8 p.m., 2012

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Simone Felice

The novelist, former Felice Brother, and Duke & the King co-founder delivers his first solo album this week. Less rootsy than the former group and less CSN&Y-inspired than the latter, it’s a rhapsodically chilling dispatch from the Catskills. Felice’s intimate emotional geography defies you to distrust its blatant attachments to the early-’70s folk-rock heyday. Expect top-shelf singer-songer showmanship and revival-meeting moments of transcendence with help from Mumford & Sons members and other brothers Felice.

Wed., March 28, 7 p.m., 2012

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Laura Marling

The buzzy Brit-folk songstress, once a part of the rootsy London scene that birthed Mumford & Sons, returns to New York not long after her late-September Webster Hall gig in support of this year’s impressive A Creature I Don’t Know. We’re happy to have her again: Though Marling has been racking up Joni Mitchell comparisons since her 2008 debut, Creature finally deserves them.

Sun., Dec. 11, 9:15 p.m., 2011

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Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit+Caitlin Rose

Flynn is part of the nu folk U.K. scene that gave us Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons, though his stentorian vocals make him seem less primed for (or maybe less interested in) a pop breakthrough. Rose knows about pop breakthroughs–her mom Liz has co-written hits with Taylor Swift–but her willfully old-school sound suggests she shares Flynn’s ambivalence about the big time. With James Mathe.

Sat., May 28, 8 p.m., 2011