Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Hip, Hippie, Hooray

sharpe

(After the Los Campesinos! show at 9:30 club the other night I figured since I was in the neighborhood I may as well check out Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at DC9. But ... it was sold out! Good thing Going Out Guide intern Jordan Bloom was there to check it out and file this report.)

The ten members of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros ambled on stage Wednesday night at a sold-out DC9 and before playing their first song, they introduced themselves and had a group hug. The band tours the country in an old Greyhound bus (at least, before it broke down) and employs two hand percussionists. Three strikes -- they're hippies.

But don't let that fool you -- the Zeros are more than a jumble of paisley and retro anachronisms. They roared through just about every imaginable subset of rock music, from soul to rockabilly, with a truckload -- or Greyhound-load -- of guitars, hand drums and keyboards. The band deftly allowed space for all the parts to be heard, from a few accordion swells to whistle-and-ukelele interludes. The Zeros plays fun songs that don't aspire to be much more than fun songs; on "Home," Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos, the primary vocalists, croon lines such as "Moats and boats and waterfalls, alleyways and pay phone calls."

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

With less energy, the set would have been disjointed as every song constituted a major genre shift. But for the most part the Zeros were propelled by sheer inertia. Folky barnstormers such as "Janglin" gave way to riffs copped from Greg Allman, but I'd caution any rock band considering a spoken-word interlude in Spanish complete with mariachi horn lines to think very carefully before going forward with it -- it doesn't play well in a small venue like DC9.

The Zeros frontloaded the set with the faster tunes from their new album, "Up From Below." Singer Castrinos in particular was a delight. Her solo number was a high point of the evening, and her politely romantic exchanges with Ebert were earnest and fun. They burned out a little early -- six or seven songs in they lost the audience and were clearly digging into B-grade material to fill out the 85-minute set. But the end was strong, highlighted by a stripped-down rendition of "Brother," featuring one of Ebert's best performances of the night.

Inevitably, the performance was a bit messy; Ebert missed several verses, there were several sloppy entrances, and recurring set list difficulties plagued the evening. They couldn't even decide when to end. ("Maybe we should just go offstage and see how long they stick around.") After deliberation, they played one more song. The Zeros are excellent when they play to their strengths. A deeper catalogue and a slightly cleaner performance are the next steps.

--Jordan Bloom

By David Malitz |  August 7, 2009; 9:12 AM ET
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