20 Mar 2012: Boulder Theater Boulder, CO
There is not much in the world of music that compares to a performance of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. In fact, the word performance hardly does it justice, and the term concert would, simply, be wrong. Perhaps the correct word would be gathering. From the moment that the band steps on stage (however many of them there are – perhaps twelve at the most, though at times it dwindles down to eight or nine), it seems more like a casual gathering of friends than a concert. Alex Ebert, founding member and the face of the Zeros, walks up to the sold out audience and reaches his arm out to shake hands with as many people as he can. Jade Castrinos, who shares lead vocal duties with Ebert, runs towards the front of the stage and slides casually on her knees, fully engaged with her audience as if they are old friends and she simply left their previous conversation to smoke a cigarette, or use the ladies room. Though the crowd is quite literally leaping out of their shoes with uncontainable excitement, the band is obviously comfortable and at home on this new stage, one stop of many in a world tour.
In worn white three-piece suit, ratty-haired Ebert talks quietly over the thunderous room. “I called my dad today,” he says nonchalantly into the microphone, still shaking hands with his fans. Nobody in the audience seems to know why he’d tell us this, though they continue to reach their hands out. Their arms seem to be calling out to him, asking him to fall into their grasp and be carried away. For a moment, Ebert seems like he will be pulled into their vortex, but then he finishes his thought. “My dad lives in Colorado.” And with that, the 1,000 or so Coloradans, transplants or otherwise, simply lose control
It was only three or four songs in before the stage was flooded with audience members. “Anyone with a birthday tonight, come on up,” Ebert offered. And with that came the tides. The small stage at the Boulder Theater, already crowded with instruments and the large band, was quickly overrun by anyone who could hoist themselves up. After a rousing happy birthday song, Ebert started checking IDs, surprised to see that the first three or four he checked belonged to people who were actually celebrating their birthday that evening. The stage cleared, and though it seemed as if a high point had happened far too early in the evening, that did not stop the Zeros from having their fun.
I was surprised to learn that this was pretty much how every Edward Sharpe appearance goes. There are no setlists, and hardly any order to the show. In between songs, Ebert simply asks his band mates what they want to play next (though it seemed like he was the one making the ultimate decisions). If a fan came on stage, Ebert or Castrinos would wave security away, and welcome a new member of the band. More than once, vocal duties were given up to the fans brave enough to sing – including one couple who sang to each other before falling into the arms of the audience, and another man whose behavior could only be described as “drunk”. When his turn was over, he too attempted a stage dive, only to land in the unforgiving arms of the wood floor.
At times, it started to seem as if the multitudes of people continuously hopping on stage was getting to the band, Ebert included, but for the others, this behavior seemed more than welcome. Stewart Cole took pictures of the audience, and the others smiled and played along. As they took their time through weaving through tunes off their 2009 album Up from Below like “Janglin” and “40 Day Dream”, and a few as-of-yet unreleased songs (most of which will likely be released on their upcoming album Here), the show itself dipped and rose, allowing each moment to wallow in its own time. But the audience never lost enthusiasm. “Home”, by far the band’s biggest hit, erupted in a chorus that engulfed the entire room, easily drowning out Castrinos’ and Eberts’ back and forth serenade. The closing notes of “Om Nashi Me”, which came about half past midnight, seemed only a signal to the audience to bleed out into the streets and bars of Boulder, drunk with happiness and sick with laughter.