If there’s one thing about living in Austin, it’s that you start to get spoiled. And nothing — I mean nothing – will ruin you like a taping does. You’ll arrive thrilled to be among the “chosen”, and leave wondering how you’ll ever go to a regular concert again. The sound is perfectly engineered. The crowd is perfectly engineered (college kids and excited fans down front, donors in the mezzanine). The artists are almost always on a high to be playing there. There’s not a bad seat in the house. Nobody’s on their cell phone. And you probably got your ticket for free. Now this is how live music is supposed to be.
Such was the case last Tuesday, when my friend and I stumbled in to the Moody already pretty happy from oysters and cocktails at Clark’s (again, spoiled) about three minutes into the first song, “Man on Fire.” The energy was alarming. What the hell did we miss in the first three minutes? And why are they letting that homeless guy dance in the aisles down front? Oh shit. That’s Ed Sharpe. And he’s not wearing shoes.
The next hour was spent in a euphoric, communal celebration led by Alex Ebert and his oddly wonderful family of nine. Nobody seems to know for sure if this band is being “ironic” or not with their communal 60s influences. After seeing this show I’ll be the first to say I don’t care. This band has such incredible range — I never knew where they were taking me next. One drink in, my friend and I decided they sounded “like the desert.” I kept looking for a steel guitar onstage and then realized that the sound was coming from the smoothest trumpet I’ve ever heard. “I Don’t Wanna Pray” had me dancing like I was at some sort of deep south tent revival. And by the time Jade Castrinos belted out the painfully bluesy “Fiya Wata”, I was tilting my head back to keep the tears from rolling down. She’s like one part Hope Sandoval, one part Bonnie Raitt. All truth.
The crowd loved “Om Nashi Me”, which Ebert revealed came from silly made-up words he uses when writing songs. (He also claimed that by complete coincidence, it happens to be sanskrit for “Oh infinite nakedness”. You know the people loved that…) But for me, the show climaxed with “Desert Song” and it’s slow, haunting build to an almost Radiohead-like crescendo. Guess they did sound like the desert after all.
As for the sincerity of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros? It seemed that all the genres touched on during the set — from gospel to vaudeville to folk — served a purpose of community. You didn’t have to know the songs to be able to sing along. There’s no denying that they were having a blast up there, playing off each other and rolling without a set list. And by the end of the show it definitely felt like we had all experienced something… together.
*This taping set to air in early 2013.