ROUNDING UP: Forget the Oscars—last week’s mêlée of live music around town generated more fevered water-cooler buzz than I can put into words. On Wednesday, it was Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ enigmatic and engrossing sold-out show at SOhO that started things off with a high-energy bang. The L.A.-based, 10-plus member outfit has received its fair share of critical attention of late, but it’s not until you catch them live that you can begin to understand why. Fronted by Ima Robot’s Alex Ebert and his one-time lady love Jade Castrinos, the band plays a catchy mish-mosh of ’60s folk revival, percussion-driven indie rock, and something that at times resembles an oddball gospel choir, all delivered with a raw, contagious energy that literally pulls you into the action.
Over the course of the night, the band played through almost all of their 2009 full-length, Up From Below, and incited some of the most joyous mini mosh pits I’ve seen in my years. Together, the meek-looking, pitch perfect-sounding Castrinos and shaman-like Ebert unquestionably stole the show, but it was the group as a whole that made the night seem so magical. At its close, Ebert, disheveled and sweat-covered, invited the packed house onstage, then instructed those left standing to take a knee. Once seated, the crowd watched and sang along as Ebert warbled, then belted through, the minimalist “Brother,” leaving the room both awestruck by and faithful in the community-centric shtick that the band has (rightfully) become known for.
Elsewhere around town, Goleta’s Mercury Lounge pulled some serious double duty this weekend, playing host to Saratoga Springs electro-rockers Phantogram on Saturday night, and the downright prolific bass master Mike Watt on Sunday. Also on Sunday, David Bazan wowed a sizable crowd of followers at SOhO with some help from Illinois natives Headlights. Opening the show, the energetic and exceptionally spot-on Headlights proved to be a great surprise. The band boasted a setup and sound that begs comparison to a violin-less Ra Ra Riot and, thanks to keyboard whiz Erin Fein, some near perfect shared vocals. Still, the one-time Pedro the Lion frontman proved the biggest and best surprise of the night, sharing quips, answering questions, and charging through more back catalog material than even the diehards could have hoped for, including Pedro’s “Transcontinental” and the always haunting “I Never Wanted You,” off Bazan’s Headphones album.
FORWARD THINKING: Looking ahead, this weekend seems to be all about the hometown love. On Friday, March 12, the newly rechristened Hard to Find Showspace (7190 Hollister Ave.) strikes again with a mean double bill of San Fran’s The Fresh & Onlys and L.A.’s Wounded Lion. If you’re a fan of epic guitar sweeps and psychedelic sounds (without the hard-to-follow tangents), The Fresh & Onlys are perhaps the best in the biz. The fuzzy sounding five-piece have the Summer of Love thing down to a science, but their oh-so-now use of harmonies, distortion, and buoyant pop progressions makes it much more than throwback chic. The all-ages show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $12. For info, visit the Hard to Find Showspace on Facebook.
And on Saturday, March 13, local boys turned reggae rock sensations Iration return home to Velvet Jones (423 State St.) for a CD release show of epic proportions. The fellas unveil their latest—and grooviest—album, Time Bomb, to the masses on Tuesday, March 16. If you want to get in on the action early, call 965-8676 or visit velvet-jones.com.
Also on Saturday, Threadspinner’s leading lady Sarah Ziebarth goes solo for the night for the first time ever at Elsie’s (117 W. De la Guerra St.). The piano-toting powerhouse will play in support of Amanda Hess’s art opening (a dazzling mix of surrealist and urban-inspired paintings) which kicks off at 8 p.m. The show is 21+ and free. For info, call 963-4503.