It was a cool Sunday evening at Los Angeles Historic Park. The fest lay nested beneath the spectacular view of the downtown Los Angeles skyline during an autumn sunset. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros performed for their fifth time in four days at Big Top, a festival put on by the band. The event was not too different than going to a 19th century carnival. Carnies, women on stilts and clowns with eccentric face paint stood out amongst the crowd of bohemians of all ages. There were food vendors, carnival games, bright lights, a ferris wheel and an assorted display of antique memorabilia such as puppets shows, a man spinning a music box and no shortage of moonshine.
Photos by Nicole Olmsted
To say with hesitation (out of fear of using a cliché), there were good vibes and definitely a good energy amongst the crowd. Everyone was laughing and smiling as strangers came together as if they were having a long overdue reunion.
Before the main stage opened, bands performed outside the venues. Post-modern hippies gathered with their drums and acoustic guitars to celebrate the aura of love and peace that engulfed the event. Alexander Ebert, Jade Castrinos and other members of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes were freely roaming the festival grounds, enjoying the final day of their incredible showcase, interacting with friends, fans and family and most of all, having fun.
The stage sat inside a carnival tent. The seats formed a ring around the stage, which itself rotated, making every seat in the house a pristine vantage point for the show. Entertainers warmed up the crowd and performed acts between musical sets. A magician riled up the crowd, set to old ragtime tunes. Amazing circus performers and gymnasts acted out a Cirque du Soleil-type routine such as hula hooping and pole dancing. A sword swallower showed off the depths of an amazing esophagus and told jokes. One special treat was Scott Land, the mastermind puppeteer behind Team America: World Police, who performed three bits, including a marionette of an opera singer, dancing skeletons and a clown.
Another special treat was when Reggie Watts came on stage and performed a few songs. He has a remarkable talent at improvising beats and melodies, which he loops with his Line 6 DL4, and then comes up with hilarious raps. It was a pleasant surprise!
Perhaps one of the most underrated acts was Aaron Embry, who was once the piano player for Edward and The Zeroes. A one-man band, Embry switches off between playing piano like Scott Joplin, singing, playing harmonica, and his baritone banjo. The incredible part about Aaron Embry’s performance is who natural, transparent, and personal it feels. Like the rest of the event, there is no bullshit here. These people are just playing their hearts out and letting it spill out of their mouths and fingertips.
The Zeroes were utterly perfect. It’s amazing how much in tune ten people on stage can be. These musicians are each individually incredible, and their dynamics are impeccable. They slowed down and played soft as Alex Ebert preached to the crowd, Jade asked how his day was, how everyone was feeling, or when Alex went into the crowd to ask fans to tell jokes and stories. The whole concert felt intimate and personal, as if the band really did love and care for their audience. They put this event on for their fans, so why not let the fans feel like they are being a part of something they love?
Hopefully, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s Big Top becomes a yearly annual festival, because it is an event not to be missed.
Their set list included the following, among others (many by request of the crowd): “Better Days,” “That’s What’s Up,” “Truth,” “Fiya Wata,” “Up From Below,” “Desert Song,” “40 Day Dream” and “Home.”
Photos by Nicole Olmsted