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Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros: The Real Happiest Place On Earth

December 14, 2009
The Mayan Theater, Los Angeles

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

What’s taken me so long?! As you know, I typically post my reviews in the middle of the night, immediately following the show.  What happened?  Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros – that’s what happened!  Let’s just say I’ve been riding the Edward Sharpe cloud ever since their show at The Mayan Theater on December 14th.  I’ve been too high (figuratively speaking, not literally) to buckle down at the computer and write.  Not to mention the fact that my hands were still tingling from all the clapping, for weeks following the show.

It’s been a long time – at least a year – since I’ve been to The Mayan Theater. It’s a really cool venue, with great sound, a GA seated area upstairs, and tiered GA standing levels on the floor, allowing the audience to choose their own live music viewing adventure.

I’d been looking forward to seeing Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros since the last time I saw them, at The Abbot Kinney Festival in September, 2009. The buzz about this band had been building all year and rightfully so.  Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros is more than a band, it’s an experience.

Edward Sharpe

Alex Ebert (aka Edward Sharpe)

This experience was conceived of by Alex Ebert, lead singer of Ima Robot.  In Ebert’s vision, Edward Sharpe (Ebert’s stage persona) was sent down to Earth to heal humankind.  However, Sharpe keeps getting distracted by women and falling in love.  So while he may be too busy falling in love to save us, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are here to make sure we have a good time.  And they deliver.

The mood in the Mayan was light.  People were bouncing, dancing, jumping, and singing along. . .  and that was simply to the tracks spun by the DJ, prior to the band taking the stage.   When Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros hit the stage, people bounced higher, danced more, and sang louder.  The crowd was among the most energetic, enthusiastic, harmonious and nice audiences I’ve encountered.  It seems Edward Sharpe, in his attempt to heal humankind, brings out the best in people.

Screen

Audience interacting with the screen

Before the show began, three screens were illuminated – one large screen which acted as the backdrop for the stage, and 2 smaller round screens suspended above the crowd, on either side of the stage.  Throughout the show images of the band were superimposed with images of the audience and various ethereal backdrops.  The crowd cheered and made shadow puppets on the screens.  Film clips of the band riding their bicycles and interacting playfully were also projected on-screen, which added to the overall happy atmosphere in the venue.

Sharpe in the crowd

Edward Sharpe sings among the audience

That said, true happiness was achieved through Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros’ music and their performance.  On several occasions Sharpe came down off the stage to sing and dance with the crowd.  During “Om Nashi Me”, Sharpe kept the beat by clapping his hands against the hands of various audience members.  During “40 Day Dream” the crowd provided the clapping between the chorus and the verses.  The audience also doubled as backup singers,  singing the “40 Day Dream” verses as loud as the band, and providing the vocals for the catchy bridge, “ooh ahh ahh yeah yeah yeah. . .”  As if they knew it was coming, the crowd began clapping the beat to “Home” as soon as Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros struck the first note.

As usual, the eclectic band, with their unique instruments did their part to raise the vibration of the show.  You can’t help but smile along with Jade Castrinos’ expressive performance.  Stewart Cole… wtf?! I’ve seen Cole perform with several bands over the years, but playing with Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros allows his numerous talents to truly shine.  Cole plays multiple instruments, with a level of joy and passion that’s inspiring and contagious.  There are too many to name them all, but each of The Magnetic Zeros deserves proper recognition for their contribution to making an Edward Sharpe show the real “happiest place on Earth.”

Brother

Performance of "Brother" - a highlight

One of my favorite moments of the night was the band’s performance of “Brother.”  Members of the audience and friends of the band were invited to join the musicians on stage.  Meanwhile, Sharpe got off stage and balanced himself on the edge of the rail.   With Sharpe’s cue, everybody on stage sat down. Then, everybody on the floor sat down.   Sharpe hovered angelically, centered between the audience on stage and the audience on the floor, while seated on the rail.  He sang the first two thirds of the song perched on the rail before gracefully transitioning back to the stage.  This performance propelled “Brother” to my favorite song on the band’s debut album, Up From Below (“Om Nashi Me” originally held that rank).

By the way, it’s hard to have a favorite song on an album comprised of 13 outstanding tracks.  Essentially, every song on the album is a “favorite.”  But seeing Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros live adds even more emotion, magnetism (no pun intended, but I can think of no better word), and connection to the already outstanding songs.  At an Edward Sharpe show you become part of the music, part of the band, the reason the songs were written in the first place.

If festival promoters are as smart as I hope they are, then this band will be booked at all the major festivals this Summer.

One more note about the audience: Edward Sharpe fans are the happiest and best looking people in town.  Some people say “you can’t have it all” – go to an Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros show and prove them wrong.

“Brother”

“Om Nashi Me”

“Home”

“40 Day Dream”

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Watch Out World! Here Comes Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

September 27, 2009
Abbot Kinney Festival
Venice, CA

Let’s just say: you’ve been warned – Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros have arrived.

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

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.

Edward Sharpe and Jade Castrinos

Edward Sharpe and Jade Castrinos

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!

Larger than life instruments appropriate for the magnitude of the band

Larger than life instruments appropriate for the magnitude of the band

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.

Literally singing to the audience

Literally singing to the audience

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.

Singing a conversation

Singing a conversation

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).

Castrinos sings the encore without a mic

Castrinos sings the encore without a mic

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:

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The audience begs to have the mics turned back on for one more song

The audience begs to have the mics turned back on for one more song

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