September 27, 2009
Abbot Kinney Festival
Let’s just say: you’ve been warned – Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros have arrived.
The Abbot Kinney Festival is a free annual event in Venice, California, that includes music, food, and merchandise vendors. It seems to get more and more crowded every year. People patiently maneuver the streets on foot at a snail’s pace (or if there’s anything slower than a snail, that’s how slow you’re walking). The only exception to this is when Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are about to go on stage. Then, everybody at the festival congregates in front of the stage and comes to a complete standstill. . . until the band comes on. Once the band hits, the audience claps, whistles, and jumps along to the songs.
I’ve been hearing about Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros for some time, but have been out of town during each of their prior performances. What I’ve been hearing is that they’re the greatest thing anybody has seen all year. When they took the stage, Sharpe commented that they love playing free shows. “Everything should be free!” Sharpe announced. “But that’s a conversation for a later date.”
Indeed, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros have played a few free shows in the LA area – the Hammer Museum and Amoeba Records in July, and Abbot Kinney today. Of course, they’ve also played some ticketed shows, including a sold-out show at The El Rey last Tuesday. They are one band that’s definitely worth paying for!
Start to finish Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are performers. The 10-piece band uses a variety of unusual instruments including an aged piano with warped keys, a toy keyboard, a giant tambourine (there’s probably an official name for it), and a super-sized xylophone. Sharpe sings directly to specific fans in the audience, takes their hands, calls them out by name (or – “oh – you’re that crazy guy from the other night!”), and may even toss someone up in the air.
He dances around the stage to the point of nearly levitating. Jade Castrinos is extraordinarily expressive as she plays and sings. Sharpe (the stage persona of musician Alex Ebert) and The Magnetic Zeros sing to each other as if they’re carrying on a dialog; and often they are as the songs tell a story and sometimes relay conversations between friends and lovers.
But above everything else Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are musicians. What does this mean? It means if there’s no audio on the keyboards, “play the song on your horn” (as Sharpe instructed Stewart Cole to do during one technical failure). If the sound guy doesn’t turn the mics back on for your encore, just play the song anyway and “sing without the mic” (as Sharpe encouraged Jade to do this evening).
Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are musicians in the truest sense of the word – even if you take away their instruments, deprive them of their mics, or deny them an encore, they’re going to keep playing music!
No mics for the encore? Ok, well we’re still going to play!
Here are some pictures from the show: