As I mentioned a while back, I took a quick road-trip jaunt down Kent-way with a pair of pals a couple weeks ago to catch the live act of one of my favorite new bands of 2009, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.
The whole night was a blast, from discovering Item #1 on my X-mas Wish List (hint: it has both sequins and the emblazoned image of Al Pacino in Scarface) to discovering a bottled water brand named after one of my fellow road-trippers.
And, of course, the show was grand. It was held at the Kent Stage, a venue I'd not been to before. Usually I don't dig the seated venues, but this one was kind of fun. Perhaps because the venue was only about half-full and thus there was plenty of room to stretch out. Perhaps because the crowd was full of slacker types, people who were just there to "folk" around, it being a featured event in the excellent annual Kent Folk Fest and all. Or perhaps it was just the giddy anticipation of the Edward Sharpe performance, the giddiness itself based on both the upbeat vibes of the band and their growing reputation for being one of the best indie live acts touring right now.
Whatever the reason, the night got started right with openers Unsparing Sea, who regular readers will already know is a band high on CB's list of favorites anywhere, but especially when we are talking about Northeast Ohio bands. Unsparing Sea did what they did and did it well, so well that it was a lot of fun to watch folks in the audience who were likely getting their first exposure to J.R. Bennett and company react in wonder and, later, abject greed as Bennett put stack after stack of Unsparing Sea samplers on the ledge for free consumption. (I'll tell you one thing about folk enthusiasts: they "folking" love free shit.)
(Photo Credit: Michael Diliberto)
The middle band was so aggravating I won't even mention them by name, but within seconds of taking the stage, Edward Sharpe pushed aside any lingering vibes of irritation and lameness. Front man Alex Ebert, previously best known as the leader of LA party band Ima Robot, immediately received a bouquet of flowers from an attendee and then scattered the petals along the floor in front of him. Dancing upon them as he sang for the remainder of the show, he noticed early on the effect of his trampling, remarking with heavy irony, "Destruction is beauty, man" - a tongue-in-cheek homage to the band's image as neo-hippies or, better yet, "hippie-sters."
(Photo Credit: Michael Diliberto)
The show was remarkable, though I'll confess to worrying that they wouldn't play their hit single "Home" since Ebert's partner on that song, Jade Castrinos, was not in attendance. All evening members of the crowd begged to hear it, and by the end of the show, Ebert relented ... somewhat. He said he still wouldn't perform it without Jade, but would try an experiment. At that, he invited a man and woman onstage, making them promise they knew the words. The woman, a fiery-haired drunken mess with an alley-cat howl, knew some of them, at least the first verse, which she repeated the whole song. The man, a pseudo-urban white frat dude going through the "wannabe club DJ" phase in his life (or, less generously, semester) knew the words pretty well, or at least was sober enough to take Ebert's subtle stage direction. The band jammed the song perfectly so that, despite the train wreck that was the vocal experimentation, when the lights came up after the song ended, we filtered out to the alley happy as clams, if a little embarrassed for the folks who'd just been onstage.
3 years ago