I expected a lot from an Edward Sharpe gig. They are known for giving brilliantly eccentric live performances and are a band I have been waiting to see for years now. When they announced they were playing London I was pretty overjoyed. They announced they were playing The Old Vic Tunnels, and sold out 5 consecutive nights there. So I went along on Wednesday, opening night, expecting a really good gig. What I found was a million times better than my expectations, a night of magic, art, strangeness and pure joy- quite possibly my favourite gig of all time. Whoever was there witnessed something you will never, ever forget.
When I read the gig was at the Old Vic Tunnels, I presumed it was a basement room under the Old Vic Theatre and so went along at about 8 o’clock to be told to go down a dark street to look for these mysterious tunnels. After walking for about 10 minutes with no sign of them we finally came across some people who knew where they were going. We walked down a road tunnel, the walls lined with very artistically done graffiti and found a door in the wall and presumed that would be it. On entrance, I was greeted by men in space suits and a sheepishly looking cowboy who shoved a small bag of white powder and a wrapped browny/green substance in my hand and told me to put it in my mouth quickly and walk on, it turned out to be space dust (the sweet kind) and licorice. As we proceded further into the tunnels there were more space men popping flying sauces into mouths saying ‘Welcome to Mars’ and people were being dragged aside to be searched with rainbow lasers. From the first enterance you can’t help feeling that you have walked into something very special. The first tunnel looked dark and at the end a giant glowing moon was placed. There was art installations and actors performing scenes along a space cowboy theme at every step. At the other end of the first tunnel there was a living cinema, where a rather good live band performed the music to a weird film about a cowboy and a naked boy.
In the second tunnel was a giant sun, a wall with the words ‘Nice to see you again’ and a ‘Texas Tavern’ where there was over priced drinks being served and a DJ. Everywhere you went there was more weirdness, in the tavern I witnessed a drunken fight which looked like it came straight out of the wild west and in the sun room later on in the evening was the Death of the Sun God ceremony. The third tunnel had the main stage where the band later played and a smaller stage at the other side of the room where I witnessed a rather brilliant slide guitarist and Christian from The Magnetic Zeros joined him on stage for a song. Edward Sharpe was also in the audience. There was also a small room with headphones where a strange lady told you stories about picnics as you watched a girl on a swing. There was acrobatics and rope climbers too.
After everyone had spent a good while walking around and admiring all the things going on, the crowd began to gather around the stage at around 10. Alexander (aka Edward Sharpe) came to the stage at about 10:15 and announced that before they played there would be a mind reader to ‘open our minds’, he was great and really clever but the crowd were incredibly rude to him and clearly just wanted the band to play. I heard he didn’t perform at any of the other nights which was perhaps best as he wasn’t appreciated by most people. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros finally took to the stage, everyone was hyped up and there was a fantastic energy as they opened with 40 day dream. They then went on to perform Janglin, Up From Below, Carries On as well as a few new songs including Fiya Water. Christian who performed earlier with the slide guitarist took the lead on one of the songs which was to be include on their new album and had more of a country/folk feel to it.
Of course they played Home, which was such a highlight. The crowd were wonderful, everyone knew the words and was jumping up and down for the chorus. The final song was Om Nashi Me in which Edward Sharpe asked people to get onto stage, this of course caused a stage invasion and I found myself squished on the stage surrounded by people chanting ‘Om Nashi Me’. The band were phenomenal, the amount of energy and spirit they have on stage is fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.
If you are not familiar with their music, its basically really really happy, hippy, folk rock with lots of instruments and vocals. Their debut ‘Up From Below’, released in 2o09 was a fantastic album and their second album is due this year, hopefully to be followed by some UK festival dates (they have already announced Latitude and I have my fingers tightly crossed for Glastonbury!). All gigs should be like that, full of energy and happiness. I also have a feeling that this new interactive gig thing is gonna take off, I hope to, its such an amazing thing. The Old Vic Tunnels are also a fabulous venue, they are going to have lots of other things going on soon which will be wonderful.
Overall I had the best evening and its an experience I will never forget! Here are a few pictures, hopefully they can explain some of the madness!