I’m excited to kick off another series of ticket giveaways and fun Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend promotions with one of my favorite venues, The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
One lucky Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend reader will each win a pair of tickets to see Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, at The Greek Theatre LA , this Friday, May 4th. Here’s what you need to know to enter:
The contest begins now and ends at 11:59pm EST May 2, 2012
Contrary to the rumored explanations that abound like urban myths about one Los Angeles collective’s peculiar name, there is no ‘Edward Sharpe.’ Frontman Alex Ebert insists that the moniker is not an alter ego, that he’s not playing a character. So it is Alex Ebert leading the Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros concerts which are more aptly described as musical love-ins- rapturous, theatrical affairs where it is sometimes hard to discern between the musicians on stage (there are, give or take, 13 of them) and the fans in the crowd, all swaying and singing in a state of joyous euphoria. And it all revolves around impossibly magnetic lead singer Ebert, a madcap rock ‘n roll shaman leading his exuberant troupe through their beatific, intricately embellished psych-folk anthems.
Ebert quashes the rumors that Edward Sharpe is a role he plays by explaining that when it came time to name his new band- a collective of multi-talented musicians culled from his network of friends and acquaintances in LA- his own name, Alex Ebert, felt as though it had become lost. Though Ebert’s life and career had progressed, his own name was still mired in his past. It weighed him down with its associations to things from another life, among them his old band, dance-punk act Ima Robot. According to Ebert, choosing to adopt the new name was actually an avenue back toward himself, rather than an effort to become someone else.
Led by a newly motivated Ebert, he collective of musicians that would become Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros came together in a remarkably organic way- everyone seemed to coincidentally know one another or to be separated by only a few degrees. That natural dynamic quickly propelled them into a year-and-a-half long recording endeavor that bore the band’s breakout debut “Up From Below,” in which nearly all the current members participated. The recording session took place in the Laurel Canyon home studio of Nico Agliette, an old friend of Ebert’s who now plays guitar in the band and helmed production on the album (along with bassist Aaron Older and Ebert himself.) The communal writing and recording process, in stark contrast to Ebert’s prior M.O. of writing and recording demos while isolated in his apartment, had a profound, bonding effect on the group.
Three months into the recording session, the band took the stage at The Troubadour in their hometown of Los Angeles to play their first show. Something special happened during that virgin performance, and Ebert recalls feeling like the band was definitely on to something. Sure enough, just a few short years later, the initial buzz about Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros has risen to a fever pitch, carrying along with it the adoration of fans from around the world, and a steady showering of accolades from the press.
For “official” information about The Greek Theatre, you can check out their website, but here’s my take: The Greek Theatre is one of my all-time favorite music venues. Start to finish, The Greek Theatre is an EXPERIENCE! You can get there early, picnic, and drink wine. If you don’t mind a walk, you can park on Vermont and enjoy the walk to and from the venue. If you’re reading Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend, chances are you’re not the type to leave the show early, so you can take the easy route and commit to the stacked parking option. The venue is beautiful, outdoors, surrounded by trees. The sound is impeccable. I’ve seen some of my favorite shows at The Greek and I’m very excited to share these opportunities with you.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
If I could sit next to one person on a long flight, it would be Nick Hornby. That is, of course, assuming he’s always in a good mood and likes flying. I’m sure I could think of other people I’d like to travel with if I really put my mind to it, but I don’t have time for that kind of thinking at the moment – I’m on my way out to another event.
That’s not to say I’m picking Hornby because I’m in a hurry. Quite the opposite actually. Hornby is one of my favorite writers and he also happens to love music (possibly more than writing). So we have at least two fundamental things in common. Though the topic of music was discussed tonight, we didn’t even scratch the surface of where we could go during a good eight-hour flight. “I wish I brought my iPod with me. It makes it a lot easier to answer that question,” Hornby said when I asked him what new artists he’s excited about. “I really like that Elvis Perkins record.”
“No, no. . . But I’ll check them out. Their names are easy enough to remember,” Hornby replied with a laugh.
So this is why I’d like to be on a long flight with Hornby – so we could discuss music at length; so that we could trade iPods for an hour and introduce each other to new music; so that I could subliminally (or perhaps overtly) encourage him to write more than one book every two to three years; but mostly so we could talk about music.
Music is an integral part of several of Hornby’s books. Music is the device utilized to unveil Rob Fleming’s stories of love and loss in High Fidelity. Music is the reason Will Freeman has never had to work a day in his life in About a Boy. Songbook is a non-fiction work by Hornby that is dedicated to discussing pop music and the ways in which it moves us. And, Hornby’s latest release, Juliet, Naked is about the connection between a couple and a rockstar who underwent a self-imposed early retirement.
Hornby doesn’t just use music to set the scene of his stories. He uses music to help define his characters. In some cases he uses music primarily to define his characters. We learn about their neurosis, fears, losses, and perception of love based on the music the characters choose to listen to. . . or choose not to listen to. When reading Hornby’s books, music adds another layer of emotional connection and understanding. We all remember the songs we broke up to, songs we made love to, the first concert we went to, our favorite mix tapes and who gave them to us (well, not everybody remembers the days of cassette tapes, but I do). . . so when Hornby references similar experiences in his stories, you don’t just read about them, you actually feel them.
Tonight’s free event at Skirball Cultural Center included a reading and Q & A session with Hornby. I’ve never been to a book reading before. Typically, I choose books (like Hornby’s) that are written so that I can hear the character’s voices in my head. I don’t need the voice of somebody reading to me cluttering my mind. Thankfully, Hornby read the characters exactly as I hear them which means he’s either a really good reader or a really good writer. The evidence seems to prove he’s both.
Following the reading, Hornby answered several questions from the audience. I was happy to learn that Hornby is as quick-witted in person as one might expect given his body of written work. For those of you who haven’t read Hornby, that last sentence is another way of saying he’s extraordinarily funny (as are his books).
Hornby answered questions about his influences, characters, story locations, and favorite music. About his writing process Hornby said he has an office that’s approximately a 10 minute walk from his home. “The office started mostly because of kids – just having a place they couldn’t mess up,” Hornby began. “I enjoy the walk to the office. I don’t work weekends or nights. I don’t bring my work home with me. I do a day’s work . . . which equates to about 43 minutes of writing per day. I dream of that 43 minutes happening at the beginning of the day and then I could leave, but that never happens.” Hornby went on to explain that he typically answers emails, hunts for new music online, gets a burst of inspiration and writes what he can (which generally lasts just a few minutes) and then he goes back to looking for new music online.
“You know, if you commit to writing 500 words per day – which isn’t really that much – then you should be able to write a book in under a year,” Hornby calculated. “But books seem to come out every two to three years. Something seems to have gone wrong. There’s a lack of productivity,” Hornby laughed with the crowd.
Hornby went on to to discuss some recent collaborations, including an album he’s working on with Ben Folds which they hope to put out in the Spring. Hornby sends Folds the words and Folds sends back the songs. I look forward to hearing that album.
In the spirit of High Fidelity, somebody put Hornby on the spot and asked him to name his “Top 5 Acts of all time.”
“Live? Or Recorded?” Hornby asked for clarification, also in the vein of High Fidelity.
“Whatever you want,” the man replied.
“This is really hard. . . Well, I guess in terms of lifetime plays: Springsteen, Dylan, Marvin Gaye, J. Geils Band, and. . .” Then, Hornby went on to explain that he used to listen to J. Geils Band all the time as a kid. “I used to think if I could be anyone, I’d want to be Peter Wolf,” Hornby added. “The thing is, sometimes your favorite music isn’t what gets the most plays. Sometimes, it sits on a shelf and you just know it’s there. . . that’s what makes this so hard. . . I like the new Elvis Perkins – I’ve been listening to that a lot.”
“What I really like is finding new music. That’s why I’m a writer. . . because you have all day.”
Hornby is currently on tour, promoting his latest release, Juliet, Naked. If you like music, or if you like to read or laugh, then try to go see Hornby during his remaining tour dates. If you don’t like music, reading, or laughing, then I’m not sure why you’re here.
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