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Big Sonic Love

Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in downtown Eugene. Photo by Todd Cooper.
Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in downtown Eugene. Photo by Todd Cooper.

Picture Los Angeles. Highways, rolling hills, scatterings of high rises poking through the smog and a candy-cane striped Big Top tent coloring the skyline? The indie-folkstars Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are joining the circus. Or rather, they are creating one in their hometown. The inaugural Big Top Festival is an experiment, says drummer and vocalist Orpheo McCord. The troupe will play under an actual big top tent on a 360-degree rotating stage with local musicians come Oct. 17. 

“The sky is the limit with this thing,” McCord says. “The idea is to take it on the road.”

A whimsical circus tent is perhaps the perfect venue for the band to showcase their third full-length album, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, which has a bigger, echoing sound.

 “To me, listening to it, you go on a such a sonic adventure,” McCord says. “There’s so many pockets and nooks and crannies and colors.” 

McCord explains that this record is “more rambunctious” than 2012’s Here. The album’s anthems, like “Better Days” and “Let’s Get High,” roll through a landscape textured with tom toms, horns and, of course, hand claps. Lead singers Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos perform with their signature, uplifting earnestness. Make no mistake; this is a feel-good project — an intentional choice for the self-proclaimed post-sarcastic outfit.

“Being aloof and not being interested,” McCord says, “has become this idea of cool.” Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros prefer communal engagement, joy and love, a message that can cause snickers in the music industry. “It’s treated as not cool a lot of the time. Critics will judge it,” he says. But, he adds, “I definitely think things are shifting ... People really identify with community.”

Compounded with their free-love feel, and Ebert’s messianic alter ego Edward Sharpe, it’s not difficult to see how some would box the band in as a “hippie cult.”  

“It’s something the media labeled us as because Alex has long hair and a beard. It’s definitely not accurate,” McCord explains. “We don’t all live together. We all have very strong, different ideas about how we perceive the world. We’re not all sitting together in meditation circles ... We don’t all look to Alex as our leader who is going to guide us to redemption.”

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros play with Thievery Corporation 6:30 pm Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Cuthbert Amphitheater; $40 adv., $45 door.