Concert Review: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

by on July 16, 2016

Posted in: Concert

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I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to go to an Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (now just The Magnetic Zeros) show in the year 2016. A lot of time had passed since the band had first captured my attention with its feel-good Americana persona in early 2012. I’d been disheartened when the group cut ties with its lead female vocalist, Jade Castrino, in 2014 and felt that the music they’d been producing since her departure had not felt as rich. My love for the band has been waning with time. Still, ever since eighth grade, I’ve been keeping a list of artists that I need to see perform live before I die. On one of the first days of summer after my freshman year of high school, Edward Sharpe made the cut. This list has only one rule: I cannot remove an artist unless I actually see them. The rationale is that even as my tastes change and grow, I want to keep touch with the younger, angstier version of myself that fostered my love of music.

So that’s how I found myself in the middle of a field in rural Vermont, surrounded by neo-hippies. The show was held at Shelburne Farms, and the stage was set up with an open view of mountains and forest in the background The weather had been threatening, and thunder crackled through the clouds all afternoon, but by the time that Wild Belle came on to open the show, the clouds had cleared and a huge rainbow arched across the landscape. I think I may have witnessed the quintessential Vermont concert experience. Golden light bathed the rolling hills of the farm as we walked in. The huge space was filled with patterned blankets and bare feet. Food vendors set up around the periphery, including a truck handing out free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. As if this whole scene wasn’t already feeling enough like the summer of love, a booth right next to the ice cream urged concert goers to register to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

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An elderly couple in tie dye held hands between lawn chairs and a young couple carried around their baby, whom they had adorned with noise cancelling headphones. However, the vast majority of people appeared to be in their late teens and twenties. One of the most amazing things about seeing a band that has been popular for a while is the camaraderie amongst fans. When the band came on to an ecstatic welcome and everyone started singing along, I realized that a lot of these people were here for the same reason as I was. Summer as a teenager in New England is a manic rush to experience as much as possible before the earth freezes over again. Edward Sharpe was the music my friends and I would blast in the car as we were going to see a sunrise or jumping off a bridge into the moonlit river when we were 15. Edward Sharpe was the soundtrack to the summers of my adolescence, and it appears it was for all of these people, too.

The band seemed to be aware of this demographic, and pandered to it perfectly. They played a lot of music off of their older albums, but threw in twists to make the material seem new and lively. During the song “I Don’t Wanna Pray”, the group played a game in which the audience got to choose members of the ten piece band to ad lib a new verse on the spot. The show had an intensely communal feeling, and there was not even a barricade to separate the audience and the stage. Before the running through the crowd during the song “Man on Fire”, front man Alex Ebert sat at the front of the stage and soliloquized his journey as a Bernie Sanders supporter while fans stroked his legs. Ebert encouraged the audience to be courageous in the face of trying world events, for, as he framed it, it is better to stand up for what you believe and feel pain than to be comfortable in your ignorance. Another highlight was Ebert’s performance of “Truth,” a song from his solo project, Alexander. The large band parsed down, leaving the voices of Ebert and the audience to be the most resonant instruments.

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Lastly, the band closed with their most ubiquitous song, “Home.” When learning about transcendentalism in eleventh grade, a teacher of mine once compared the concept of the oversoul to the overwhelming feeling of unity one feels at a concert. The oversoul was most definitely alive in the Champlain Valley that night. As Alex Ebert invited the crowd to sing Jade’s verses, the audience melted into one entity, tied together by universal memories of sweltering days and first loves. In the part of the song where Alex and Jade reminisce about their memories together, Ebert passed the microphone into the crowd and invited people to tell their own stories. Though hundreds of people were present, the mood became intensely intimate as a brave few shared stories of loves current and loves lost. The sky glowed green as the emotional show drew to a close, and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros left me to contemplate community, love, and what life was like when I still had braces.


Maddy Goodhart is a rising sophomore and a Summer Manager at WRMC. She hosts the show “Gently With a Chainsaw” Wednesday nights 10-11 on WRMC. Next year she will be one of WRMC’s two music directors.