It sounds like the Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros gig at the Music Farm on Tuesday night (July 13) was even more wacky than many expected. Euphoric joy? Confusion over who, when, and what? Tambourines and long-haired hippies? Apparently, the show had it all.
Opening act We Are Each Other turned out to be the Magnetic Zeros in a slightly different configuration led by organist Aaron Embry (they really lived up to their name). According to reports, Edward Sharpe (a.k.a. Alex Ebert, previously of Ima Robot) strolled on stage, laid around, sang a little, and played a bit of hand percussion from the floor. Co-lead singer Jade Castrinos was introduced shortly after the opening song.
City Paper graphic designer John Phillips was there: "Sharpe walked in a straight line across the stage and addressed the audience with a deliberate look," he reported. "He reclined on the ground like he was protesting the harshness of gravity. He didn't speak to the audience; he didn't need to, really. Everyone seemed to understand that this was partially theatre, enhanced by the mural behind the stage that paved the way to the Emerald City."
"They used a strange, metallic vocal effect that sounded unlike anything I've ever heard," he added. "It sounded wonderful ... robotic and bizarre, like the voice of a robot from a '60s Earth invasion movie. Thin and effervescent. I've never heard anyone successfully harmonize with harmonicas, but they did this, too."
Phillips said the group played three lengthy numbers before taking an extended break that lasted over 45 minutes or so. Some in attendance figured the show was over. Others stayed in position by the stage, waiting patiently for the another set.
Local freelancer Stratton Lawrence caught the full show. According to him, the actual Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros set turned out to be a highly interactive, two-hour performance. In an online review for Charleston Scene, he described the band's dense sound, their wild mix of instruments, and animated antics — including a successful "sit in" during the band's encore.
"Ebert left the stage for the fourth song of the encore and joined his adoring crowd," Lawrence wrote. "Taking a seat in the middle of the dance floor, he invited the audience to sit as well, a request they quickly complied to. From there he commented that the Farm is the site of the first passenger train station in the country, then sang the final song from the ground, while the band invited fans onto stage to sit at the edge with them. Looking around, it was difficult to distinguish the band from the crowd, until you'd see a harmonica or tambourine with a microphone emerge from a cluster."