By Eric Jayne
Looking for a cult-like experience without the dangerous mind control, cyanide laced Kool-Aid,* and pungent commune? Allow me to introduce you to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Besides my childhood experience at Bible camp, their June 6 performance at First Ave. in Minneapolis was the closest I have come to encountering a cult experience.
Hailing from Los Angeles (where else?), Alex Ebert formed his alter-ego—Edward Sharpe—and formed the 11-member band and released their first album, Up From Below , last year. Ebert performs on stage in a long white robe with a red sash while dancing (and convulsing) with a tambourine as if possessed by a circa 1968 hippie who has just consumed a fair amount of hallucinogens. He keeps his hair long, unkempt, and dons a full beard and mustache (à la Charles Manson). The rest of the band consists of guitarists, bassist, drummer, accordion player, ukulele player, pianist, trumpeter, banjo player, and second percussionist who plays a variety of other instruments.
At the June 6 concert I attended, the two women in the band wore long dresses with flower patterns. They waved their arms and hands to the music—less like a Bohemian hippie at a concert and more like a Pentecostal Christian at a big tent revival. One of these women, Jade Castrinos, performed alongside Ebert (aka, “Edward Sharpe”) on the song titled “Home.” The infectiously happy love song, indecently, was ranked #1 by 89.3 The Current listeners on the list of Top 89 of 2009.
Shortly after the band played Om Nashi Me, a 7-minute song that sounds like a Buddhist meditation chant set to lively piano chords, Ebert performed a one-song encore. For this last performance of the evening Ebert sat solo on the main floor (not the stage) in the middle of a crowded circle of concert attendees while playing the acoustic ballad, Brother. It almost appeared as if John Lennon was performing “Give Peace a Chance” surrounded by adoring fans.
On the way home from the concert I tuned my radio to 89.3 The Current, where I first heard Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Less than a mile from home I heard a fantastic song that caught my godless ears. The song is titled Hard Believer and it’s by a relatively new Swedish indie folk female duo called First Aid Kit. The song is about a strong-minded freethinking woman refusing to accept religion or to pretend to accept it. Here’s a portion of the lyrics: Well I see you’ve got your bible/Your delusion imagery/Well I don’t need your eternity/Or your meaning to feel free/I just live because I love to/And that’s enough you see/So don’t come preach about morality/That’s just human sense to me. The song ends with this verse repetition: And it’s one life and it’s this life/And it’s beautiful.
To watch the video, Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros click here .
To watch the video, Hard Believer by First Aid Kit click here .
* Yes, yes, I know it was not Kool-Aid that Jones passed out in Guyana, but that’s the way the saying goes.