Thousands of people ended their weekend with a bang watching a live performance by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at the Hollywood Bowl, the band promoting their recently released self-titled album and this show a part of the staple KCRW World Festival series. Originating in L.A., singers Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos and the whole band were warmly welcomed amidst the Los Angeleno audience.
Sharing the stage with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were The Sun Ra Arkestra and Zimbabwean musician Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi. Tuku, who started the evening promptly at 7 p.m. is a popular musician in the international scene, has produced 60 records in his lifetime and has won more than 20 awards for his works. While advertised as a solo act, Tuku had six others on stage with him. “We use music when we are lonely, we use music when we are working,” Tuku told the crowd. “Where I come from we aren’t allowed to write music if we have nothing to say … But most importantly where I come from we use music to diffuse tension.” While there is much to be said about the relaxing and happy afro-pop music he played, there was more to say about Tuku’s message to the audience and the communal bond he was forming between his band mates and the whole crowd.
The Sun Ra Arkestra kicked off their set just as the sun went below the mountains. Although the original musician and creator of the orchestra Sun Ra has been dead since the early 90’s, one man in particular has continued to keep the ever-changing band alive. Since 1995, Marshall Allen has led the band in many ways, including composing, singing and playing alto saxophone. To see an 89-year-old man do not just one of these things, but all of them at once, is amazing. The 15-piece band was colorful, loud, booming, exciting and capable of moving from ragtime to big band to jazz to classical all in the same set, playing more flute solos than guitar solos.
The stage made a dramatic literal turn following The Sun Ra Arkestra’s performance, and after a brief intermission Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros—about 20 people total—took the stage. It’s always a spectacle to watch such an ensemble, but to be able to see them in America’s largest natural outdoor amphitheater on a summer night in Hollywood, California, your senses are enhanced and it really feels like you’re a part of something important and magical. A trippy, visually appealing kaleidoscope-vision video screen was the backdrop for the band. There was the occasional whiff of weed and a few people with glow sticks, but the vibe up front was less “party time” and more “let’s sing and dance happily together.” By the time the first song was over, frontman Alex Ebert was already involving the audience. One lucky audience member (a fan named Luke) was chosen by Ebert himself to prance and sing and dance with him for the duration of “Man On Fire.” And by the time the night was over, several audience members had the opportunity to sing and share short stories.
Audience members weren’t the only ones getting a piece of the action. Vocalist Jade Castrinos had a special moment while singing “Fire Water” as she was able to share the stage with her father, who played guitar. Speaking of parents, Ebert’s mother Lisa was in the audience too, so he took the opportunity to sing a song about and dedicated to her called “Mother,” providing for an emotional and quieter moment in the evening.
The chemistry between Ebert and Castrinos was undeniable. The two made a great pair and many times throughout the course of the performance, Ebert could be caught chasing Castrinos around the stage playfully. Would have been nice to see more of the ensemble in the spotlight, though. We did get to see more of The Sun Ra Arkestra during the final minutes of the Edward Sharpe performance though. All in all, it was a great way to cram in some live music and culture before the dreaded Monday morning.
Man on Fire
I Don’t Wanna Pray
That’s What’s Up
If I Were Free
40 Day Dream
Child (sang by guitarist Christian Letts)
Up From Below