All words: Travis Andrews — All photos: Franz Mahr
I’m a little out of my element. I’ve just been handed a VIP band, which causes more excitement than it should, for the Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros plus Fool’s Gold show at the 9:30 club. This mostly just means I’m higher up than everybody on a very uncomfortable balcony.
The venue’s half-full when Fool’s Gold takes the stage, and the bartender hands me a free Turbodog as an apology “for the wait,” but I think it’s because she noticed my notepad. Never underestimate the power of having a notepad in a bar.
Fool’s Gold takes the stage decorated with 3 guitarists, 2 drummers, and one pair of white jeans. One of the guitarists is a bassist and one of the drummers is a bongo-ist, but the previous sentence structure wouldn’t have worked as well.
The band seems like the definition of the word “hippie,” in today’s world and play loose, jangly jam music. The yellow light on the lead singer and the green and reds on the others feels oddly perfect, as does the bongo-ist’s shakers. The stage looks like Copacabana.
There are now nine people on stage, which seems fairly unnecessary. But they’re having fun, and it’s harmless enough. This is the kind of show that people order hummus during, a point proven by the two orders I’ve watched go by.
So here’s something I’ve never seen before: THE OPENING ACT IS PLAYING AN ENCORE. That takes some big ol’ balls, which clearly come in abundance here.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, all like, 13 or so of them, take the stage at 10:50 with one hell of a snare beat exploding while the rest of the band fiddles.
“We’re just fucking around, y’all. Good to see y’all” are the first words spoken by front man Alex Ebert before the band launches into its second most popular song, the Beatlesesque “40 Day Dream.” The crowd is going nuts.
Having trouble counting the number of musicians up there. It’s a rotating cast, falling size-wise between Broken Social Scene and The Polyphonic Spree. A couple drummers, pianists, Mr. Tambourine Mans, an accordionist, a violinist, some guitarists and a couple singers is a rough count. Let’s say 12 to 15.
Biggest surprise for me is how loud this band it. I assumed, given its brand of music, that things would be a little quieter. But no, this is the loudest show I’ve yet to see at 9:30 Club (in my two months in D.C.).
Ebert takes a cell phone from an eager fan who’s taken a photo of him and then shakes the fan’s hand. Ebert is wearing what appears to be long pajamas, and he sits down to pet a girl on the head. Now he’s deciding to change the setlist (if the band has one: it’s not clear, but there’s a lot of debate between each song). He complains about being tired and seems not to care one iota. Either I love him or I hate him. I’m not sure, but he’s got my attention, as frustrated as I am at this fact.
NOT SURE what exactly is going on now, but we’re on a super-long song during which it seems like every player is given a solo. It was nice at first, but now it’s kind of driving me nuts. Ebert keeps walking to a new musician and doing this weird pantomime of listening. It’s not longer loud, and even this adoring crowd is growing restless.
Ebert favors this goofy walk-in-place dance, which looks a little like a parody of a farmer. His long john shirtsleeve is over his hand and he’s wind-milling the fabric by twirling his wrist. It’s a wonder he’s wearing shoes. Oh, wait.
Every song is huge, reminiscent of Arcade Fire but not in that band’s overpowering emotional smash. These are complex and, I think, happy. The crowd is dancing, couples twirling each other around each other, happy and young and in love and all pretty clearly waiting for the song.
Which is here, at the end of the set: “Home.” The whistling tune used to sell the NFL, and though it seems a little cheesy, you can’t deny the chills when the entire crowd sings “Home is wherever with you.” Maybe it’s reaching for a fake nostalgia, the silver screen idea of Love and Home. But in that moment, it’s about as real as it’s going to get. And that’s why this band is so popular: it’s a time when its young fans are moving across the country, so many here in D.C. seeking something bigger than themselves but really yearning for what this song is about, a time when they are here to do fuck all but there’s this yearning for Home. What so many want is Home. Just no one is allowed to admit it.
Until that moment when the music cuts and Eberts asks the crowd to sing it.
“Home is wherever with you.”