- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
The indie folk-rock collective Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros performed the songs from its forthcoming album, Here, for the first time ever Thursday night before an intimate crowd of less than 200 at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Recording Studio in Santa Monica as part of KCRW’s Berkeley Street Sessions. Rolling through the tracks with an 11-piece band in total, the troop focused on its new material, playing the album in order, while often encouraging crowd participation whether it be sitting peacefully on the ground, dancing, clapping or shouting call-and-response.
“We just realized we became ready to play these songs three minutes ago, so we’re really happy it all came together,” said frontman Alex Ebert before the band began, dressed in a tank top and suit jacket, explaining it was the first time he and his bandmates had played the songs live this way. “It’s the first thing we’ve also done with a set list,” he added.
The set began with “Man on Fire,” the first single off Here, a slowly building number with the rhythm of a traveling song and gang vocals. Jade Castrinos, the lead female singer, dedicated the following track, “Fiyawata,” to “everyone who is here and also who is not here” before starting into the song, which she led, with a country swing and bright trumpet lines. At Ebert and Castrinos’ direction, the audience then sat on the floor while guitarist Christian Letts sang the gentle song, “Child,” driven by bass drum on the down beats and gentle picking on Lett’s Telecaster electric guitar. Meanwhile, a standup bass, piano and trumpet carried on softly in the background.
“This is probably the most dangerous song on the new album,” Ebert said as the band rearranged the microphones onstage and started into the ragtime-y “I Don’t Wanna Pray,” which conjured the room to stand up and dance as modest drums and self-made percussion (one drummer was slapping his chest) moved the audience, along with guitar, banjo and accordion. “I love my god, my god made love… I love my god, god made hate… I love my god, god made good… I love my god, god made bad. I love my god, god made me,” chanted Ebert into the microphone.
“This is something we used to do all the time,” Ebert said next. “Would it be cool if I came and sang with you all?” He then moved onto the floor just below him to join the audience. Looking around with a toothy grin, he exclaimed, simply, “This is cool!”
“You think it’s cool, think how we think!” one woman cried out in response, excited and stumbling over her words.
Sitting on the floor, through “All Wash Out” Ebert whistled into his microphone, snapping the rhythm while minimal piano, keyboards and congas played behind him and trumpet and drums came crashing in like a storm. The audience, meanwhile, clapped along singing the chorus line, “And let it all wash out in the rain.”
At the show’s mid-point, KCRW personality Liza Richardson joined Ebert and the audience on the floor for an interview where he spoke of the creation and nature of the new album. Explaining how the band is singing more in unison on Here, Ebert said, “We’re a band and it makes sense to be doing it together.” He also teased a companion album to be released later this year as the byproduct of “sort of an endless stream of songs,” jokingly discussing potential titles There and Now, as they seem proper fits alongside Here.
“Light doesn’t need shadow to exist, I’m just going to throw that out there,” Ebert said, explaining his confronting life’s dualities in the new work’s lyrics. “Shadow does need light to exist”. And of “Man on Fire,” he joked about the Denzel Washington film of the same name before describing a scene of himself sitting at home feeling rebellious towards the “dog eat dog” way of living and being at the “end of his rope regarding social decor.” Ebert continued, saying how he wanted to make things better and “strip myself of myself,” allowing the “facade to crumble,” and transcend the pain, murder, heartache all mentioned in the song.
When Richardson asked about the band’s hit single, “Home,” a guy in the audience shouted that the song had played at his recent wedding. “It instantly felt like a giant hole in music was exposed and we were giving something to that hole,” Ebert said, explaining that the track was not something ironic or hip, but a song of friendship and love. “It feels really great to be involved in people’s lives in that way.”
Following the interview the band jumped back into its set with the reggae-flavored “One Love to Another,” which Ebert introduced as a dance song. Chanting into the microphone, “One love to another. One love to discover.” Next, “That’s What’s Up” featured Ebert and Castrinos in a mostly unison duet, pantomiming the lyrics and completing each other’s sentences with sentiments of love such as, “you be the bird, I’ll be the feather,” “you be the clock and I’ll be the time,” and “forever we remain best friends forever darling.” As the set rolled on, the band became increasingly comfortable performing its new songs, while the members would constantly engage one another with smiles, nods and positive reinforcement, creating a substantially strong and happy feeling throughout the room.
Closing with “If You Wanna,” Ebert explained, “This song is not on any album” but that they wanted to play it encourages participation. Rolling through the merry number he described as a kids’ song, Ebert told the crowd that if they wanna love, dance or shout, they should “Go on an let it out!” They were happy to oblige.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day