Food trucks line the sidewalk outside of the event while the line to the venue stretches as far as one’s eye can see before wrapping around the block. An eclectic mix of concert goers prepare for a night in the park where a stage sits perched against the backdrop of two symmetrical high rise buildings, acting as soundproofing to keep the good vibes in. A stage adorns the center of the park, the scene looks like a big picnic as small tables, umbrellas and comforters litter the landscape. Many people sport beer cups and digital cameras anxiously anticipating the nights’ feature.
Imarhan opens the show with a refreshing soundscape of African persuasion and alluring vocal arrangements in the key of their native language. A genre of its own, Imarhan plays the crowd into a state of captive chill, of which one can only describe as a groovy mash-up of African world music, folk, rock and soul.
Alex Ebert walks on stage in a shabby garb and bird’s nest hair while the band plays monochrome keys to a low and constant hum; a musical invitation to meditation of sorts. Ebert paces the stage and beckons the crowd to hum in unison with him.
The band begins playing, the crowd roars and instinctively joins in on the first two notes, a song familiar to this crowd it seems. Hands gently and rhythmically sway to the music. There is laughter, and the omnipresent buzz of eventful happenings swarming one’s ears. Looking up, a beach a ball or two or three bops off the hands of the crowd before being launched back into orbit.
Ebert asks for the ball at one point before kicking it back into the crowd; he sits and talks to the crowd ever so calmly with a tone of familiarity, he cracks a few jokes with the crowd before asking which selections the band should play next.
Similar to old saloon music, the pianist plays a jolly melody on an upright piano as Ebert growls out the lyrics to “Janglin;” the trumpet accompanying him with improvised poise. Suddenly, Ebert stops singing and tells the band to ‘give him a break’, the music goes into an interlude and he then leads the crowd in a sing-along; a melody that even the most tonally challenged person could sing along to.
Throughout the night the angelic choir of a crowd leads solos summoned by the Magnetic Zeros’ instrumentals adding their own touch to the performance. The melodies and chants that riddle the band’s songs bring to mind old worship songs heard in church. Nostalgia warms the chilly summer night winds as the song “I Don’t Wanna Pray” brings back memories of church and elementary praise hymns from Sunday school.
Per request from the crowd, the atmosphere shifts gears to a slower pace and the air is filled with hundreds of voices yelling “hey” and “ho” which are the repeating lyrics in “Free Stuff”. Ebert sings about people stealing from him, judging from the closed eyes and the nodding heads, it’s clear that his ability to croon his audience into an organic trance is what hasn’t been stolen from him. Hope is the gift accompanying the song “Better days,” which bolsters the most riveting trumpet solo of the night.
The crowd begins to dance in place; the music from the speakers reverberates off the Earth and into the grass creating a throbbing pulse. The ground literally shakes under the crowd in sync with every beat. Hands clap, feet tap and mouths mock the lyrics like parrots. The energy given from the people is an emission of joy, positivity and contentment that warms the park grounds; creating a realization that music is the magnet to unity. The crowd sang together on “Home,” the closing song and a beautiful nightcap to a wondrous gathering at the beautifully landscaped Century Park.
There is definitely something magnetic about their energy and ability to master the art of simple melodies. One is glad to have been introduced to such a band that incorporates so much diversity of sound in their music and appreciates humor in their photos, performances and in their lighthearted and whimsical compositions.