Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, The Deadly Syndrome, Family of the Year
November 7, 2009
Better than: nursing a bottle of wine while watching a Cheaters marathon.
Underneath the disco ball at The Loft, the swaying and jumping of the crowd caused the floorboards to shake and shiver in the early Sunday morning hours. The source of their enthusiasm, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, either believes in strength in numbers or was simply curious to see how many people (and instruments) it could squeeze on stage.
Trumpeter Stewart Cole, who describes himself as "the odd man in everybody else's band" also plays the tambourine, keyboard and various other instruments for the Los Angeles-based folk rock troupe. He's one of the dozen or so talented musicians, including a pianist and accordionist, who create the appealingly diverse musicality that characterizes the Magnetic Zeros. By midnight, all of these musicians were packed onto The Loft's stage--except for lead singer Edward Sharpe, the alter ego of Alex Ebert.
But suddenly there he was: From the mouth of the barefoot, gyrating evangelist spilled forth "Om Nashi Me," a simple four line chant that relies heavily on Cole's horn blowing.
Ebert could pass for a westernized Jesus with his pale, almost translucent skin, light eyes, a scruffy beard and reddish brown hair piled atop his head. Often draped around his thin frame is a baggy white suit--well, it used to be white; judging by its smudged appearance he wears it everywhere. So: Edward Sharpe is Jesus in a dirty white suit.
As Ebert darted in and out of the crowd, on top of the piano and anywhere else he could fit, his counterpart Jade Castrinos sang with her back to the room, shoulders hunched in a beige trench coat as if she didn't want to be seen. "Home," the addictive duet between Castrinos and Ebert, was fourth on the set list, a surprisingly early placement given the song's popularity on blogs and indie radio.
Castrinos and Ebert paced through the tambourine-and-piano backed ballad sitting, mumbling over the interlude on the album when Ebert tells Jade he's fallen in love with her (absent from the set list were Castrinos-focused songs "Jade" and "Simplest Love"). Castrinos seemed to be off in another world--more than one person in the crowd wondered aloud if she was high on something--and she wandered offstage once, prompting Ebert to ask, "Where's Jade?"
Ebert's voice is too big for his wasted body, never more evident than the sad longing expressed on the Spanish-dominated "Kisses Over Babylon" and the tribal beats and heavier guitars invoked on "Desert Song." But Ebert is never sad for long; he's happy again by "40 Day Dream." Dropped between the "ahs" and "yeahs" are gems like "She got gold doorknobs where her eyes used to be. One turn and I learned what it really means to see." The band then channeled a '60s hippie groove on "Carries On" and "Janglin," two languid, high-tempo/slow-tempo group songs.
"What should we talk about? Politics?" Ebert asked during a brief break. No, he decided. "It's all about being nice to one another," he said, without a trace of irony. He encouraged (dared?) someone in the audience to request Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird," and later matter-of-factly announced his decision to skip the traditional pre-encore disappearance and to keep on playing.
"He's genuine," said Vanessa Long, singer for Family of the Year, an up-and-coming group from L.A. who opened for the Magnetic Zeros along with The Deadly Syndrome. Long, who could pass for actress Kristen Stewart's older sister, said she and her bandmates share a house in L.A. and a camper while on the road. You wouldn't believe they'd only played a dozen or so shows together before Saturday night. Their brand of poppy folk was the perfect complement to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
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Personal Bias: Up From Below is one of the best albums I've heard this year. I'm not talking about one or two songs; I'm talking about the entire album. Family of the Year's EP Where's The Sun was an unexpected but pleasant discovery.
Random Note: Stewart Cole, who, by the way, is a very cool guy, tells me the band's white school bus was left behind in California because it probably wouldn't have made it through the tour. "Maybe the next tour," he said. They've since been traveling in a newer, more "expensive" bus.
By The Way: Technical problems popped up throughout the night. Someone forgot to turn off the house music for The Deadly Syndrome. "We can do it all by ourselves!" one of them yelled. They did, and very loudly, too.