Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros Warehouse Live October 9, 2010
Oh crap, Aftermath thought shortly after Edward Sharpe struck up the Magnetic Zeros Saturday night, it's the Polyphonic Spree all over again.
Unless we are having an especially bad day, Aftermath is no misanthrope. But we have our limits, and we have to admit, our first reaction to the grandiose, relentlessly upbeat folk-rock - horns, piano, tambourine, the works - of the 10-person ensemble's openers "40 Day Dream" and "Janglin'" was not entirely positive.
Aftermath had a strong suspicion that, along with the $10 tambourines at the merch table, there was perhaps some under-the-counter Kool-Aid being handed out. There was absolutely some medicinal-grade pot being passed around, and any time we spy someone barefoot onstage it sets off our radar big time.
Plus, besides the onslaught of hand-clapping and tambourine-slapping, people were actually skipping through Warehouse Live. Good grief.
But because it was curiosity and not any kind of great familiarity with Sharpe and the Zeros that brought us out in the first place - curiosity driven by the degree of intensity certain members of our staff begged to cover the show until they begged off to go to ACL - Aftermath decided to stick around.
We're glad we did.
We're not saying Sharpe toned it down after that (hardly), but the next part of the set was a little more in our wheelhouse. The quick-tempo strum of the next song put us in mind of David Gray even before Sharpe opened his mouth, at which point Aftermath realized how much his singing voice resembled recent Oscar winner Ryan "The Weary Kind" Bingham. Both good things, and we thought Sharpe's extended soliloquy about how he "swam to the bottom" was also endearing.
About this time we went back to to merch booth and picked up not a tambourine, but a copy of the Zeros' first and only CD, last year's Up from Below. We could barely read the writing on the back cover, so it wasn't much help in figuring out the next couple of songs - a little help in the comments, maybe? - but we liked those too.
The female vocals of the one after "Below" gave it a definite lonesome-desert-highway Mazzy Star vibe. We heard both an Irish drinking song and Warren Zevon a couple of songs later, accompanied by enough hand-clapping to push Saturday's needle into secular revival-meeting territory and the trumpet player more than earning back his union dues.
But it wasn't the music alone that helped us warm up to Sharpe; sometimes it's watching the effect the music has on the people around you. Around this time, a curious young woman walked over to Aftermath and asked why we were writing everything down. We were reviewing the show for the Press, we explained.
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In turn, she told Aftermath her name was Marianna (we hope we spelled her name right), and that she became a fan of Sharpe when she bought Up from Below after hearing "Home" on 103.7. She and her sister, who had both been dancing up a storm pretty much the entire time, brought their mother to the show for her birthday - even though her mother had never heard of the band before, they figured she'd like it. She pointed over at her mother, who was sitting down and happily shaking one of those $10 tambourines.
About this time, Marianna went back to her mom and sister and - as if on cue - the band started to play "Home." Although we don't listen to 103.7, not entirely by choice, we vaguely recognized it from Marianna's thumbnail description ("Alabama, Arkansas..."). We immediately gleaned why it's a hit too - the whistling intro may be the least catchy thing about the song - and we immediately grokked onto its Dylanesque attributes and a wistful trumpet melody that contrasted the song's relentless drive.
Closing out (in short), Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were more adventurous than they had to be - as on Waterboys-like chantalong "Om Nashi Me" and extended Peter Gabriel/Brian Eno reverie "Desert Song" - and couldn't have been more charismatic if they tried.
Which, from what Aftermath could tell, they weren't. We'll be back.