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June 14, 2013

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on the Muddy Green

Edward1Ben & Jerry’s Concerts on the Green brought Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to the Shelburne Museum last Tuesday. And a nasty storm brought a steady downpour, transforming the Green into the Brown.

Still, throngs came out in ponchos to hear the 10-person band led by singer Alex Ebert — or Alexander, as you may have heard him called in the band’s 2009 hit “Home.”

Umbrellas and raincoats don’t do much for mud, so fans waded in, ankle deep. On stage, things were considerably less messy. A plethora of instruments, from piano to gourd, stayed dry under a protective overhang. Ebert, dressed in an off-white sports coat over a flowy tunic, nonchalantly took the stage with the rest of the musicians.

They opened with “40 Day Dream," a number enlivened by interludes of hand clapping and feet stomping. Jade Castrinos, Ebert’s partner in the band’s creation, introduced her clear, at times pining voice in “Janglin.” There was a playful dynamic between the pair, who allowed themselves to get carried away by their own performance, dancing until Ebert accidentally headbutted Castrinos.

“I guess if you’re the headbutter you get headbutted, too," Ebert said. "It just doesn’t hurt as bad."

As the night darkened, neon lights wrapped around lampshades lit up. A starry backdrop and the occasional smoke-machine emission made for a mystical atmosphere as light beams illuminated the now-sprinkling rain.

Ebert engaged deeply with his audience, rejecting the image of the mysteriously aloof musician with every hand he shook, every pair of eyes he met.

“It will never be dark,” one audience member spoke into Ebert’s lowered mic.

“It will never be dark,” Ebert responded.

The concert veered toward a religious experience. When a globe beach ball volleyed its way onstage, Ebert broke out singing, “I got the whole world in my hands.”

“We don’t do encores,” he later explained. The inevitable “Home” came last, or close to last. When the song was about to reach the bridge — filled in the recorded version with Jade and Alexander’s endearing dialogue — Ebert invited anyone with a story to the stage.

An overzealous teenager in a crop top and low-rise jeans was the first to accept the offer. She had no story, just a high-five for Edward Sharpe.

Ebert tried again. A young girl in a beanie stepped up. “Shut up and poop are driving in the car,” she began. It was more of a joke than a story.

Next came a happy couple who had gone mud sliding; their mud-covered appearance told their whole story. Then, a free-for-all ensued. Tambourines were passed around the now-onstage audience, and Ebert struck up the band.

The fourth wall, so carefully preserved by more prudent artists, came crashing down. And it seemed Ebert feared the stage might do the same. In an attempt at crowd management, he instructed his fans to get off the stage — not so easy when a potential Facebook profile picture — “OMG ME WITH EDWARD SHARPE #ONSTAGE #BEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE” — is at stake.

The band regained control of the stage. Audience members filed off and, eventually, into the parking lot where some less fortunate drivers had to push their cars out of the mud. 

Photo (not from last Tuesday's show) by Laure Vincent-Bouleau.

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