Sprawling, Freewheeling Music on a Friday Night

August 10th, 2009

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros/the XX – Mercury Lounge – August 7, 2009

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
It’s not every band that schleps its own upright piano onto the Mercury Lounge stage with them…or has a tall blonde in evening wear playing an accordion for that matter. Then again, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros aren’t just any band. Falling somewhere in the spectrum between Rusted Root and the Polyphonic Spree, their show was more like communal living through music, a tribal ritual rather than a rock concert. High energy and positive vibes flowed from percussion, guitars, bass, piano and vocals, as well as ukulele, trumpet and, yes, an accordion, which were all eagerly consumed by the crowd. Was that eight people onstage? Nine? 10? Frankly, there was no border—the band extended all the way to the back of the room with the audience playing its part with sing-alongs and masterful clap-along breakdowns in many of the songs. With microphones planted all over the stage, harmonies came from anywhere and everywhere. This was irony-free Free to Be…You and Me: The more upbeat, the better it sounded.

The XX played an earlier set that was plagued by sound problems. The quartet dressed almost entirely in head-to-toe black, and their music was a surprising drug. Narcotic melodies lay softly on a bed of drum machines and synthesizers like something out of a tripped-out prom scene in a John Hughes film. Tunes were short-lived and punctuated by Explosions-in-the-Sky-esque guitar riffs. And then the amp gave out altogether. —A. Stein