Arch Madness

September 10, 2013
David Wexler

ST. LOUIS, MO. — The Alabama Shakes were back with old friends over the weekend, and for frontwoman Brittany Howard, it had been way too long.

Howard and the Alabama-based quartet joined Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros for a Gentleman of the Road Stopover in Guthrie, Okla., on Friday and Saturday, and then in LouFest in St. Louis on Sunday, calling ESMZ’s performances “pretty otherworldly.”

“I think what makes them so unique is there are so many of them, so many musicians, and none of them step on each other,” Howard said. “It’s really easy to step on each other. Everybody wants to get fancy and stuff. But they all blend together really, really well … very tasteful musicians.”

The two-day St. Louis festival featured 30 bands performing on three stages, and drew crowds of 15,000 on Saturday and 16,000 on Sunday. Headline performers on the main stage included the Killers, Wilco, Alabama Shakes and the National while ESMZ, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Icona Pop, Ra Ra Riot and others, performed on two smaller stages inside Forest Park.

ESMZ and Alabama Shakes toured together earlier this year, including a stop in June to Red Rocks in Denver.

Fans of all ages came out to see the Zeros. Peggy Smith and her husband brought along their 5-year-old son Jack for their first ESMZ concert.

“I’ve been looking forward to dancing with my son,” said Smith, who has been a fan for about five years. “We sing along to Edward Sharpe in the car and he gets mad at me when I sing the boy parts.”

Smith grew up listening to classic rock, and says she was drawn to the Zeros because of their “vintage” sound.

Chris Swanson, 29, of St. Louis, said he became a fan on ESMZ ever since he saw them play “Home” on Jimmy Kimmel Live in November 2010.

“I was flipping through and I saw them on Jimmy Kimmel, and all I saw was ‘Sharpe’ on their drum set,” Swanson said. “I kept thinking it was Howard Sharpe. So I was scouring the Internet and finally found them, and I’ve been a fan since then.”

Sunday was Swanson’s second ESMZ concert; he saw them at Fun, Fun Fest last year in Austin, Texas.

“You know they’re having a blast doing their music up there so it just brings the crowd into it, and the fans are having a blast too, just watching them,” Swanson said.“They have such an eclectic style. They’re rambunctious but also mellow. They’re just a fun band.”

Swanson said he was especially looking forward to hearings songs from the Zeros’ new, self-titled album. His favorites are Let’s Get High, Two and Country Calling. Although he’ll have to wait a little while to hear those live, Edward Sharpe did play “If I Were Free,” and Christian Letts’ song “When You’re Young” from the new album. In all, the band performed nine songs, beginning with “Man on Fire” and concluding with “Om Nashi Me.”  The Zeros were only a given an hour to play, but they made every second count. Among the highlights was a rousing version of “Up From Below” and Crash singing “Motion Animal” from his upcoming solo venture.

Margaret Conley, 15, of St. Louis, came to the festival with four of her close friends. It was their first ESMZ concert.

“They’re not very traditional and that’s kinda what I like about them,” Conley said. “They’re really alternative, kind of edgy. When you hear them, You know exactly who the band is because their voices are so distinct.”

Maddie Hurst, 15, added: “As soon as you hear it, you know it’s them. I’ve always liked their stuff. I think it’s kinda folksy.”

Fifteen-year-old Emily Davis likes them for a completely different reason.

“Two spring breaks ago, my friend introduced me to them,” Davis said. “When we were at the beach, she made us a playlist and she put a bunch of Edward Sharpe songs on there, so it reminds me of being on the beach and being with all my friends and having a good time.”


Man On Fire
That’s What’s Up
If I Were Free
Motion Animal
When You’re Young
Up From Below
Om Nashi Me

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