By Kevin Seaman
As I exited the Whitehall Street subway station, I was greeted with a gust of harbor breeze that I had not felt since sometime last summer, and immediately knew it was going to be a fun night. With the weather holding out beautifully, and the spectacular New York City skyline in view, The Beach @ Governorâ€™s Island was the perfect setting for tonights performance by the California based Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Since I had not been to Governors Island since last year, I was confused when we got off the ferry because the fans were directed away from the main concert field, and towards what revealed itself to be nothing short of a full out beach party. Equipped with neon colored light up palm trees, perfectly groomed sand, and cash bars everywhere, this place was stocked for a party.
Up first and starting promptly at 8 p.m. was the melodic and slow tempo’ed Henry Wolfe- a New York based band whose front man lives in L.A. preventing them from consistently touring. Henryâ€™s L.A. musical style was clear before I even knew where he was from (or that he wrote all of the music). Henryâ€™s style of playing (i.e. simultaneous guitar and harmonica) and appearance reminded me of what Bob Dylan may have looked like had he been born in 1980. The only thing that bothered me was the lack of involvement from the piano player. If you donâ€™t feel your band needs a piano player or keyboardist- fine. But since youâ€™ve got one, youâ€™ve got a responsibility to NOT under-utilize that crucial element. All in all, I would have liked to see a little more ivory action.
For the better part of an hour, Henry Wolfe and his band played a very relaxing and enjoyable show that even the unfamiliar fans seemed to thoroughly enjoy. Definitely a great warm up for what was to come.
What happened next caused some confusion. A second opening band was scheduled to come on before Edward Sharpe, but shortly after Henry Wolfe left the stage, all the members of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros had taken the stage. After playing one song to further my confusion, I figured out that the band before me, called â€œWe Are Each Otherâ€ is actually just a side project of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros which includes singer/songwriter Aaron Embry. After a short few nice songs, the band took a few minutes to regroup and prepare.
Upon taking the stage again, front man Alex Ebert steps out to speak to his fans saying â€œI wish this fence was not here!â€ (referring to the fence in between the stage, the photo pit, and the crowd). â€œI will do everything in my power tonight to show you that I wish this fence was not here.â€ Moments later, he walks out onto the speakers at the front of the stage, and is mingling with fans who are delighted by his antics. I knew that people liked these guys, but I was totally impressed by how many people seemed to be hooked on their whole get up. This was the first time I had seen them, but I have really enjoyed was I had heard at home, and was already having a great time. Alex Ebert invited a fan onto the stage to play tambourine, which I thought was funny and amusing. The girl stood there gently shaking the tambourine in awe of what was going on. Next time, pull someone on stage that is gonna have some fun instead of standing there like a deer in headlights! Carpe the Diem. Seize the Carpe. Anyway, The combination of the bandâ€™s thrifty but very trend conscious fashion sense, the diversity and colors of their instruments, the gratuitous bubble machines, and the Emerald City of Oz backdrop allowed me to understand exactly what they are about very quickly.
In passing, I heard a lot of people define them as â€œthe ultimate hipster bandâ€ or some derivation of that, but I myself am not so sure. Each band member is equally interesting and different looking, and I think that the way their clothes, instruments, and starry-eyed faces are put together has a very synergistic effect on what they were able to do live. If youâ€™ve ever seen the band Moe live, than you know how boring it is when a band has no stage presence or originality. Sure they may have some decent songs, but watching them play music is like watching two quadriplegics do aerobics. Stage presence is a crucial element of a live show and these guys had it going on. Throughout the rest of the show, I found myself constantly going back and forth from the photo pit and the pavement along the water to get different views of the dramatic Governorâ€™s Island setting. It really is one of the best places in NYC to see a show in the summer. However, if you have ever been to a show at Governors Island, you know that you most definitely don’t want to get stranded taking the last ferry back to Manhattan. The music was supposed to be cut at 11 p.m., so at 10:45, I headed for the ferry along with a handful of experientially educated concert goers who had the same idea. As I was boarding the first ferry to leave, Alex Ebert started talking, and casually said â€œwhat else should we play? I guess weâ€™ll do Homeâ€ like there was any possibility that they werenâ€™t going to play their biggest hit in New York City. Shocker. I quickly found myself a spot on the top deck of the ferry, and had a perfect view of the entire venue from the water. As we pulled away, the song ended, and hundreds of fans scrambled to exit the venue through a narrow passageway to the ferry line. All in all, it was an extremely successful and fun night. Check out Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros whenever you get a chance. These guys are hot, and their fan base is rapidly growing.
(photos by Kevin Seaman)