Review: Edward Sharpe's Hippie Hoedown

Peace, love and the return of Hare Krishna-like chants. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros along with Fool’s Gold and Local Natives forged a psychedelic ambiance that raised the nirvana level of the High Noon Saloon. The sold-out crowd was anticipating a wild Thanksgiving weekend Saturday night and the three-band bill certainly delivered.

LA-based band Local Natives opened the show, demonstrating a vocal and instrumental prowess that clearly impressed the indie believers. The band's new album ”Gorilla Manor” is coming out February 16th on French Kiss records. Local Natives was part of the Daytrotter Barnstormer tour that took place in a Madison attic last July. Several people (including Rock of the Arts) were present for that show and eagerly awaited Local Natives set. These guys really turned in a primo performance and we look forward to their return to Madison. A tweet from the Local Natives later that night simple said, “We love Madison, Wisconsin.”

Local Natives

Local Natives 

Fool’s Gold, another LA export, was up next and built on the energy level generated by Local Natives. Their buoyant jam-based rhythms complemented the other bands that evening and hyped the crowd for more to come. Several people in the audience commented on the quality of the opening acts. “I came to see Edward Sharpe and have discovered two great new bands. What a surprise!” said one patron who repeatedly asked me if I had a pipe. It was that kind of night.

Actually, I think it was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros that had the pipe. The band’s trippy anthems were augmented by the sheer will power of the large band. Front man, Alex Ebert, led the musical flock with a hippie stage presence reminiscent of Jerry Garcia, Timothy Leary and Jesus Christ all rolled into one. The spacey stage banter between songs gave you the impression that some type of hallucigens may have been ingested before the show. But as the night wore on, the 60s flower-child mystique started to wear thin.

Surprisingly, the entire evening’s high octane vibe seemed to peak with the opening acts as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros started strong and trailed off into a haze of psychedelic dust. I counted 9 band members on stage during Edward Sharpe’s set, although it was hard to tell with all the audience members being invited on stage. How they managed to place themselves strategically on the club stage and still be able to move around was a mystery to me. I wonder what their weekly food bill is on the road!

Musically, songs like “Janglin” and "40 Day Dream" fit the free spirit mentality of the evening while others meandered into boring affairs that seemed like they would never end. It didn't matter as the Edward Sharpe fanatics yelled out requests from the latest album and showered the band with overzealous praise. The crowd chanting along with "Om Nashi Me" was like a hippie revival. People were raising their hands and catching the psychic energy from the group jamming on stage. Alex Ebert could have easily been mistaken for a messiah exorcising demons from the club. During the encore the entire audience was asked to politely sit down on the floor and enjoy the commune-like atmosphere. I was expecting a sitar solo, but evidently that was the only instrument not present on stage.

Cosmically, it was an interesting experience, but it makes you wonder how Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will follow up this album and tour. Are they going to evolve musically, or turn into another indie-hyped casualty rooted in hippie nostalgia?

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