Edward Sharpe/Magnetic Zeros | 08.06

Words & Images by: Jake Krolick

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros :: 08.06.09 :: World Cafe Live :: Philadelphia, PA

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros :: 08.06
There is a wild new cult leader mixing up sweet, sweet Flavor-Aid around town and his name is Alex Ebert. However, the only massacre this messiah will incite is one on your legs as they're whipped up into a frenzy by him and his ashram of 10-11 musicians playing a mix of songs that could easily have been released in the '60s. The band is known as Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and their timeless rock is captivating audiences with a grassroots appeal that's impossible to deny. Ebert has shed his once familiar skin that encased him while leading dance rock band Ima Robot and taken on a new sound. This one is so damn enjoyable you'll feel like you've been reborn into a new realm of music that is part acid flashback, part love-in and all egged on by audience connections.

It must have been something about a late-summer full moon because I'd been feeling downright crazy for a whole week leading up to this show. This sleeper performance arrived on Philly's doorstep the day the full moon broke and something in me snapped as I chugged beer, laughed and danced like a maniac to Edward Sharpe. The opening band, Sean Bones, was no slouch either and had made noticeable improvements since their first show in Brooklyn three months earlier. Now that's not a slam in any way because they were good from day one, they've just been getting better with each passing moon. In fact their new album, Rings, is a must listen. Sean Bones, the solo project of Sean Sullivan a.k.a. the guitarist of Sam Champion, ripped through a fast set of dance hall meets ska-rock grooves. Even with all of Sullivan's powerful rock steady sounds and energy, the crowd wouldn't budge from their seats.

Sean Bones :: 08.06
The upstairs at the World Cafe Live seriously lacks everything the downstairs provides. The upstairs is tacky, covered in tables and chairs and apropos guitars hanging from the walls. They don't give a band or the crowd a real chance to sprout wings and fly, leaving no room for anyone to move about, let alone dance. However, the upstairs played a pinnacle role in the mastery of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros live performance. Since Sean Bones had no luck budging the crowd, happy-go-lucky Ebert figured he'd try a different approach and it was brilliant. It took him less than one song to unite the 75 seated folks, with most of them pushing up to the front of the stage and moving like a congregation at a snake-handling service.

The L.A.-based Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros had just hit my eastern radar thanks to the heavy airplay of "40 Day Dream" by WXPN | 88.5 FM and the recent release of their first album, Up From Below. It wasn't until Ebert stepped off the stage and started to clap along with a full band backing him that the music that I had merely enjoyed finally clicked. My freakout light bulb has been glowing brightly ever since. Ebert strolled into the tables defying the invisible line that seemingly held the crowd back and huddled in their seats. He called us out, stating that this show was not one for the chaired mass in front of him. His presence is in a similar vein of the Crowes' Chris Robinson, but he has unique warmth in his songs that can only be fueled by a new lease on life.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros :: 08.06
The claps turned to the full power of song, and the song turned to motion as the nine others packed onto the stage swirled with excitement. It was not unlike watching a human Rube Goldberg machine drop multiple actions in a flurry of colors, sounds, flying limbs and one glorious song. "40 Day Dream" grew and grew and as it manifested itself the crowd surged forward, with some knocking over their seats in excitement! Sure the Los Angeles fans and press have been eating them up for a while, but it takes some time for sound to spread to the eastern half of the country. There were times when I just wanted to shake the crowd and say, "Wake-up and go crazy!" but they came around fast enough.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' soothing sounds of Jefferson Airplane meets Sunset Rubdown soaked up the sun burned rays of the west, carried them across the land and just exploded on Philadelphia. The experience of seeing them live is a whole other animal, and while the cliché of music being a religious experience is hard to step away from, the show truly was a holy revival in all manners. The night, the venue, the band - it all lined up as we witnessed the mastery of audience and band infusion. As Ebert sung "Carries On" in the center of a circle of onlookers, the crowd stayed glued to his words with a growing excitement. As the band uncorked touches of melody and beats on a range of instruments - including accordion, guitar, bass, a hand-held keyboard, piano and drums - it was hard to stop listening and even harder to not sing-along. They created music that was just so damn uplifting you swayed and moved and even started to hum and sing before you even knew what you were doing.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros :: 08.06
The chemistry between Ebert and the band's muse Jade Castrinos was unreal and I doubt I could make a comparison any better than NPR's Stephen Thompson, who said that the pair sings to each other with the "warmth of Johnny Cash and June Carter." Castrinos was more presence than voice and just as captivating on stage, if not more so, then Ebert. During "Home," she bounced with passion and stared deeply into Ebert's eyes. As the pair locked gazes, Ebert would push his forehead against hers and they would sing to each other as if they were the only two left in the room. Some may talk about chemistry between musicians but what these two shared was a deeper spiritual tie that transcended the songs and couldn't be duplicated.

So, what really makes this revivalist freak show work so well? For one thing, Ebert is the quintessential frontman - a lightning rod that doesn't make you question your choices for enjoying the band. Midway through the performance he stripped off his shirt saying he was more comfortable naked. His lanky body sported a giant green "Zero" and as he danced his gangly hair, all bunched up in a beehive of crazy on his head, bounced to his movements. As he channeled his childhood alter ego, Edward Sharpe, we were gifted with an amazing version of "Up From Below" that played out like an epic musical. Its endless amounts of ebb and flow carried on the piano and xylophone and then strung along with bass, guitar and Muppet Show–like trumpet blasts. Castrinos frequently rolled back her eyes and lurched into spasms on the stage floor as the holy blasts of the trumpet called down the angels of rhythm.

It's hard to imagine that I spent only 50 minutes with the band because when they finished it felt like a lifetime. This was an existence that I was not yet ready to leave and wanted to be reborn into over and over again. And I wasn't the only one, as the crowd packed in tight to congratulate Ebert and the rest of the band. The experience left me quivering like a lost child, but filled me once again with the passion to drop everything and follow a group to their next performance. It's a great sign that only a few days later the band announced it was extending its U.S. tour dates by a month. So, if you get the chance to see them GO and be prepared to push away your chairs, shed your skin and drink in Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' Flavor-Aid!

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros :: 08.06

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