Once in a blue moon

August 2, 2015
David Wexler

hinterland1As Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros prepared to take the stage Friday night for the 2015 Hinterland Festival in St. Charles, Iowa, a blue moon hovered over the 14,000 fans packed in the open fields of Avenue of the Saints Amipitheater.

“Alright guys, remember the plan,” ESMZ frontman Alex Ebert joked. “Stick with the plan.”

“Does everybody have their setlist?” another member of the band quipped.

What makes an ESMZ live show so special, unique and magical is that there is no plan and there is no setlist, but Friday night’s two-hour set was “a little wacky,” even for Edward Sharpe’s standards.

The set featured 15 songs, including two songs that are actually considered “bonus tracks” off their 2013 self-titled album, as well as a version of Home that you will likely never see again.

The night started off with a wild, 10-minute upbeat version of Up from Below that took so many twists and turns that it seemed to take on a life of its own, not resembling the 2010 studio version in the slightest.

hinterland2ESMZ followed that up with I Don’t Wanna Pray, which featured verses from both Crash and guitarist Christian Letts. Ebert took the microphone into the crowd, asking fans for their own verse. The most memorable one came from a young man who fired up the audience with a verse about a conversation he had with a preacher when he was “a young boy down in Georgia.”

Ebert told a story of a recent dream he had about dolphins – reminiscent of the band’s June 2013 show in Des Moines, when Iowa native and former ESMZ accordion player Nora Kirkpatrick treated fans to a story about Iowa cows.

As usual, Ebert showed off his two dancing feet throughout the entire show. At one point during If I Were Free, he pulled ESMZ sound guy Masahiro Tsuzuki into the middle of the stage, and the two began dancing together.

After the song, Ebert was in the mood for more piano, encouraging ESMZ’s Mitchell Yoshida to pick the next song. On a whim, Yoshida began improvising an amazing piano intro that led into Give Me A Sign – the first of the two bonus tracks that the band played from its 2013 studio album.

Then – at the request of one of the fans – Edward Sharpe performed Milton, a song so rarely played live that Ebert even had trouble remembering some of the lyrics.

“Jesus Christ, we’re not asking for anymore songs from you guys…” Ebert joked after the song.

During Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ hit song Home, Ebert asked the audience to help sing along. But as he wandered into the crowd during Home for “storytime,” Ebert found a red, white and blue American top hat and wore it as he went back into If I Were Free, (“Let’s finish that thought,” Ebert said), then back again into Home.

“If it were me, I would yell out ‘I love you’ll’ to all I passed. I would disrobe and disco and rip off my mask. Yes, if I were …. home. Let me come home… home is wherever I’m with you. Our home, yes, we are home. Home is wherever I’m with you.”

John and Patricia Noseworthy made the 4-hour drive to St. Charles from Rochester, Minn., to see their son and ESMZ guitarist Mark Noseworthy perform at Hinterland. A neurologist specializing in multiple sclerosis, John Noseworthy is the president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic. Asked by one of the Magnetic Zeros after the show what he thought of ESMZ’s concert, John said: “You guys are nuts! You guys are nuts!”

The two-day Hinterland Festival was forced to move the event to the Avenue of the Saints Amipitheater in St. Charles, Iowa due to flooding concerns at the original location in Water Works Park in Des Moines. The new venue was about 30 miles south of Des Moines off I-35. The festival made its decision on Wednesday afternoon, giving them just two days to build the stage and pull it all together.

Ryan Messick, tour manager for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, said he was “impressed by the Hinterland folks for turning on a dime and saving the festival after the initial site was flooded 48 hours before doors.”

Just two years ago, Edward Sharpe was scheduled to play at the Simon Estes Amphitheater, but flooding forced the band to change venues to the Walnut Street Bridge.


Up from Below
I Don’t Wanna Pray
40-Day Dream
If I Were Free
Give a Sign (bonus track)
Milton (bonus track)
Man On Fire
Desert Song
Better Days
Let’s Get High
Om Nashi Me

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Photos by Michelle Adler-Wexler of Janglin Souls:

One Comment

  1. Great article, video, and photos! (Wish they hadn’t had to cancel the July 4th show in Chicago.) Thank you!

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