Review: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros stage a folk revival at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg
To be honest, I’m really not sure what I witnessed, or what decade I was in. By the looks of the crowd, something magical, mysterious and bizarre was at hand. Women and men came adorning flowers, braids, headbands, sandals, face paint, wigs and costumes.
But behold, it was 2012, a Monday night at Jannus Live with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on the bill.
But the show may as well have been called the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Revival. Or a Hare Krishna Conversion. Or a worship service. Maybe a youth group.
See, Edward Sharpe is not real, but instead a messianic figure created by Alexander Ebert, who channels the essence of Sharpe in his music and leads the Magnetic Zeros, a 10-plus-member band (which he sub-dubbed The Silver Sisters and Sunshine Brothers) including his main musical squeeze and female counterpart, Jade Castrinos, a St. Petersburg native. The eclectic crew came armed with a slew of instruments, including banjo, accordion, keyboard, fiddle, shekere, upright bass and trumpet.
Not even Jannus Live expected the flood of Edward Sharpe followers. Tickets sold out at the door and before the band went on, a fire marshal ordered security to make the barricades wider, pushing fans to the edges of the venue and within arms' length of the stage. Then the rain came. A 10-minute downpour did not phase the sweaty, devoted crowd. They only cheered in the grace of the nature gods and packed in tighter.
Ebert, an unexpected modern musical prophet on a pulpit -- I mean stage -- opened with 40 Day Dream, stepping over the speakers to reach his disciples. They latched onto his arms, pulling him closer to their eager mass. By the time Janglin’ played, I swear exorcisms of excitement and spiritual rebirths were happening all around. Fans barrelled towards the stage on top of hands, getting pulled by security before they could reach their guru in the flesh.
But many devotees adored Castrinos, too. They shouted her name incessantly and boiled over in bliss every time she sang. She would wave at them coyly in a cloche hat and red floral dress that she constantly twirled with the good-girl disposition of Zooey Deschanel. Ebert and Castrinos would lock arm and arm and sing to one another, like a Disney after-school special. The performance bled with psychedelic euphoria; couples slow danced in the middle of the crowd, mothers swayed sweetly with their toddlers, girls waved praise from the shouldertops of their guys.
Highlights of the 80-minute set: Castrino’s righteously rich vocals in Fiya Wata; Ebert’s Matisyahu-esque performance of Truth, with the band acting as a celestial choir to his sermon; an extended version of I Don’t Wanna Pray featuring vocals and added verses by Magnetic Zeros members; a 10-minute rendition of closing song (and crowd favorite) Home, prefaced by Ebert saying, “Jade is from Treasure Island; by no means does this song have a literal meaning.”
During the storytelling part of Home, both Ebert and Castrinos shared personal stories (Castrino’s about a childhood secret garden and being scared of aliens, and Ebert about losing his mind on plants in Florida woods), and passed the microphone off to the audience so they could share their own, in the fellowship of live testimonials to complete the creepy cult vibe.
There’s something to be said about the delicate dynamic of 10-plus people making music onstage, but they successfully pulled it off and filled everyone with the light of Edward Sharpe.
Openers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah also put on a stellar performance. Their sound seemed to bridge the perfect amount of hipster with electronica and funk. Sometimes their riffs were slow burning and others very dancetastic. Band members signed autographs and talked with fans while breaking down their set.
-- Stephanie Bolling, tbt*