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Beards, bliss and beach balls: Magnetic Zeros reviewed 

Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1969.

The vibes were so positive Sunday night in the Trustees Theater that any criticism of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - the traveling ragtag hippie band that recently wowed the masses at Bonnaroo and Coachella - will have to focus on the music, not the event itself.

This was what used to be affectionately called a "love-in."

"Loose" doesn't begin to describe this show. During an informal opening set from Magnetic Zeros pianist Tay Strathairn, most (if not all) of the other members of the group drifted out and joined in.

Three or four tunes into the set, the audience - about 700 people, by my estimation - broke loose and crowded the area in front of the stage. Beach balls appeared out of nowhere.

And there everyone stayed, dancing and whooping it up, until the show ended nearly two hours later.

During the opening set, dark-eyed frontman Alex Ebert - the erstwhile Mr. Sharpe - sat on the floor, played bongos and harmonica and sang a few harmonies.

He was back in all his loose-limbed glory when it was time for the full-on band performance, dressed in his trademark white trousers and jacket, long red scarf draped around his neck. Before long, the jacket came off, and Ebert did the rest of the show shirtless. He likes to do a sort of standing-in-place, Native American dance.

Most of the Zeros' songs are a pastiche of psychedelic-era rock ‘n' roll, country rock and other stuff from the golden age of the hippie. And they're simple sing-a-longs, with oft-repeated choruses and a lot of percussive sounds and audience-participation handclapping.

That's fine, because there are so many musicians on the stage, including two guitarists, a trumpet player and an accordionist, that everybody gets a cool solo sooner or later; each tune takes on a slightly different texture.

In fact, Stewart Cole's trumpet gives the music an otherwordly, Man of La Mancha on mushrooms feel.

Vocalist Jade Castrinos has one of the strongest instruments in the band, and when she and Ebert sang duets and back-and-forths, it was sweetly reminiscent of Grace Slick and Marty Balin in the glory days of Jefferson Airplane.

The weak link, surprisingly, is Ebert himself, whose thin, reedy voice unfortunately brought the Airplane's Paul Kantner (a famous non-singer) to mind.

Ebert certainly has a strong stage presence, and he knows how to work a crowd, but too often - if you really listened - he seemed to be doing a weak Jim Morrison imitation. And his between-song patter - "Ownership is a figment of your imagination - so if somebody takes something from you, don't take it so fucking seriously" - was almost comically Morrison-esque.

When the concert ended, a bit past the Trustees' usual bedtime of 11 p.m., half of the audience was onstage with the band, feeling the love and having fun, dancing to the Zeros' rather mindless communal beats.

Party on, dude.

 

 

 

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Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung

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Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.

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Connect Today 12.10.2016

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