The Stephen F. Austin High School Marching Band from Richmond, Texas, made some very famous friends—the critically acclaimed British folk rock band Mumford & Sons. The marching band performed live with them twice and appears in the documentary “Big Easy Express,” playing the group’s hit song “The Cave” in what has been touted as the film’s most moving scene.
“They called us … and said they were looking to collaborate with a high school band,” says Brian Frock, assistant band director.
Mumford & Sons jammed with the high school students during a rehearsal in April 2011 and then invited them to join them in concert that night as part of the “Railroad Revival Tour” Austin stop. The band played onstage for the grand finale, “The Cave,” which also featured the two other touring groups, Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The documentary followed the bands as they traveled by train from San Francisco to New Orleans.
“We were flying high for a few weeks,” Frock says. “High school bands routinely march in front of big crowds, but they don’t respond the way this crowd did.”
The group members interacted with the high school students and even brought along their personal friend, Academy Award-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
“The band members came out to greet us and took the time to sign autographs,” Frock says. “They’re like big kids. The documentary makers knew they would be the best band to work with our students. They’re kind to them and treat them with a lot of respect.”
Almost a year later, the group again contacted the band to invite them to play with them at a free screening of “Big Easy Express” and a subsequent concert in conjunction with the film’s premiere at the South by Southwest Festival.
“The additional attention and having so many YouTube things out there is cool; it exposes them to a different level of performance opportunity, backing up professional musicians,” Frock says. “It was remarkable and a lot of fun. Each time we played, they let us play one of our own songs. They treat us like we’re the feature. They really do give us plenty of opportunities for the band to shine.”