September 27, 2009
Abbot Kinney Festival
Let’s just say: you’ve been warned – Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros have arrived.
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
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
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
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
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
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:
The audience begs to have the mics turned back on for one more song
Live at The Hotel Cafe
September 23, 2009
One eskimO at The Hotel Cafe
There are many things I love about going to The Hotel Cafe, one of them being its close proximity to Amoeba Music. So after getting my quick vinyl fix and marveling at the irony that they seem to have more trouble selling CDs than keeping records on the shelf, I continued on to The Hotel Cafe to see about a new band from the U.K., One eskimO (no, that’s not a typO).
I knew little about this band prior to going to the show, but trusted the recommendation of a friend who said I should check them out. As it turns out, he was right – One eskimO is definitely worth checking out. Their songs are melodic and the audience was captivated. Their music is accessible enough for the mainstream, while the band manages to maintain their indie cred. That’s easier to do now of course than when they really take off (i.e. the current perception of Kings of Leon held by many).
And I’m willing to bet that once word gets out about these guys, they will take off. Or, if Alexandra Patsavas finds out about them, you’ll be hearing them on an episode of a hit series on ABC. Is Zach Braff working on a new movie?? He might want to secure this band for his next soundtrack. But what they (and you) should do is see them live. What you hear online might peak your interest, but their live performance will lock it in.
Another thing I love about going to The Hotel Cafe is that their sound system is really good (and often underutilized). Many of the musicians who play there play soft, quiet, songs. But when you get a real rock band in there (like Billy Corgan & Spirits In The Sky) or a musician who plays multi-layered soundtrack-esque music (like Imogen Heap or One eskimO), the room fills perfectly with sound and you get lost in it.
Bassist Jamie Sefton and singer Kristian Leontiou
One eskimO sounded great. I ran into the lead singer, Kristian Leontiou, on his way up to the stage and I never would have suspected that voice came from him. In fact, several times during the show, I closed my eyes and pictured who was singing those notes. And not once did the guy I pictured look like the guy who was actually singing. One eskimO are refreshing like that. There’s a familiarity about them so you feel like you may even know the songs, yet there’s an originality to their sound and certainly to their live performance that keeps you engaged.
This is one instance when I wish I could have captured some video of the show. Unfortunately, Hotel Cafe has a strict no-recording policy which I respect and abide by (especially since I often spend more hours there than at my own house). The good news is, I hear One eskimO is stopping by LP33.tv tomorrow – they’re bound to get some great video.
Speaking of videos, apparently One eskimO is releasing a full-length animated film in conjunction with the album. You can read more about it on their website. Although, like some of the best movies, I often enjoy going in with little prior knowledge and no preconceived notions or expectations.
When the band finished their set, the crowd demanded an encore. And here’s where things could become disastrous. . . I recognized it within the first 3 notes. . . They were playing one of my favorite Neil Halstead (remember Mojave 3?) songs, “Hi-Lo and Inbetween”.
There’s nothin’ worse than a new band covering a song that was done perfectly in the first place (by the original artist). . . unless they get it right.