Noise Pop 2010: Loquat at BOTH; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Bimbo's

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Loquat at Bottom of the Hill

The San Francisco band started their set with a request for more blue lighting at the Bottom of the Hill Friday Feb. 27, half-joking and half-hoping to make things look “cooler” and more “ocean-like.” Loquat has been playing their brand of electro-pop in the Bay Area for almost a decade and therefore I was expecting some really sweet synth action as a precursor to headlining band, Memory Tapes. Instead, racing guitars and strong bass muddled all of my most favorite parts of Loquat’s soun: the subtle waving melodies and vocalist Kylee Swenson’s floating lyrics. Their newfound heavier sound translated into a rock version of L.A.'s Bitter:Sweet, with tons of energy that twinkled over the crowd like the venue’s vintage Christmas lights.

Throughout the set, Swenson’s voice was crisp and beautiful as always, trading between songs from their 2008 release, Secrets of the Sea and older tracks revived from years passed. “Harder Hit” and “Sit Sideways” were definitely the highlights of the show, a promising couple of songs that never fail to sting and caress simultaneously with Swenson’s solid range and complimentary smooth guitars. The dainty piano plunks and slight echoes were exactly the details I had been longing to hear. And just before I closed my eyes, I noticed all four members of the band had already done so, concentrating and enjoying the moment just as much as the packed crowd. 



Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Bimbo’s 365

Ten people and double the number of instruments cluttered the stage as Los Angeles’ Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros began their set of folk-rock revival. The smell of sweet grass wafted over the sold-out crowd on Feb. 28, trumpet melodies, accordions, tambourines, and all the rest blaring triumphant anthems as the group of musicians jumped and danced around in circles. The room was overflowing with endorphins, everyone smiling and bouncing around like we had collectively discovered the fountain of youth.

I was filled with butterflies while watching vocalists Alex Ebert (a.k.a. the fictitious character Edward Sharpe) and Jade Castrinos interact, reminding me of the romantic fuzzies I felt when watching the fairytale love story between Titanic’s Jack and Rose. The winking, smiling and flirtatious affection was constant between the two and it really hit during “Home”, their whistle-laden love duet.

The vocal couple could have been the mom and pop of the Magnetic Zeros; a group that could have easily been one that stumbled out of a Portland farming co-op. Ebert’s scruffy beard, dangling red scarf and strangely patterned pants (which he said were a present from a friend that came “pre-dirted,” just the way he likes) fit right in with the rest of the group’s sweet vintage duds. Miss Castrinos looked like a charming child from the '30s, her pixie cut paired perfectly with pinned-up oversized dress, complete with white bib.

The set list included lots of slow, '60s style rock ballads, of which Ebert prefaced by shouting “It’s time to get serious”, the disco ball slowly casting reflections over what should have been a dance hall in a Western canyon. The show was equal parts sexy and like being with one huge Mormon family, with a sense of community, peace, and love sewn into every note.

My only complaint: not enough from Castrinos’ beautiful vocal cords. She is fantastic and it’s hard to believe such a rough, Joplin-esque voice bellows from that little body. She did sing one song on her own that was pure delight. “Isn’t it nice to be in San Francisco,” she asked Ebert, in her shy speaking voice. “It’s so magical here.” The set ended with Ebert asking a few people to come up on stage and sit down. Then he convinced the entire crowd to also take a seat— he suggested on one another’s laps so that no one would have to sit on the floor. An entire room of people together, hugging, humming and holding hands. I’ve never been to a show that quite mastered the feeling of togetherness that Edward Sharpe did. San Francisco is magical? I think they brought a little magic of their own…

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