Sound in Focus 2016 Recap: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Annenberg Space for Photography

This past Saturday was the first edition of the KCRW sponsored Sound in Focus concert series at the Annenberg Space for Photography, in Century City.  Every summer over the past four years, this space has been the site of free concerts featuring a variety of acts from all around the world reflecting a diverse range of musical styles.  In the past, artists have included TV on the Radio, Cold War Kids, De La Soul, and Portugal. The Man, among others.  The event brings together music lovers and exposes them to the current exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography--itself a fantastic free museum with rotating temporary exhibits that are typically tied to matters of sociological and/or environmental importance.

The Annenberg Space for Photography is one of my favorite museums in Los Angeles, because it covers thoughtful global issues by way of stunning and stirring photography and accompanying documentaries.  Previous exhibits have highlighted regional responses to rising sea levels, the evolution of earth through photographic medium, and the history of rock and roll, and more.  Entry is absolutely free, and on weekends, parking is only $1.  The main gallery usually can be explored in no more than an hour, and an accompanying Starlight Studios gallery on the other side of the courtyard adds another half hour to the experience.  For fans of photography, it's a great place to visit.

For this year's first edition, the headliners were eclectic folk rock group Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.  But before they took the stage, they were preceded by a band from Algeria called Imarhan.  The name means "the ones I care about" in Tuareg, a nomadic group of people across North Africa.  I had no idea who they were or what their music was like before the set, but it seems like there were many in the crowd who had arrived specifically to see them.  Fortunately, they did not disappoint, combing rhythm and bass guitar rock riffs with traditional percussion instruments with pan-African rhythms and ballads to produce an interesting, ethnic, and rousing sound.  Songs alternated between quicker, dance-y beats to slower, more spiritual chants, but the five piece group, had a great 45 minute set that resonated with the crowd (that, admittedly, was more of the variety who would be aware of and appreciate this more diverse style of music).

Then it came time for the main event.  Alex Ebert and his roving band of varied musicians took the stage and put on an entertaining, sometimes wandering, musically rich performance.  The song selections included mainstay hits like "Man on Fire," "Janglin'" and "Better Days" and "400 Day Dream."  But the band also took requests on the spot (for songs they probably would have played anyway), displaying their trademark ability to connect with the crowd and make any show feel intimate, no matter the size of the venue.  The band did some covers too, playing John Lennon's "Instant Karma" and The Velvet Underground's "Who Loves the Sun."  The gig was capped off with the band inviting Imarhan to join them for a joint performance of "Om Nashi Me" and "Home," which went smoothly enough given the moment was no exactly rehearsed.  And even though the wandering banter of Alex Ebert took the concert past the 10pm hard curfew, resulting in the PA getting pulled on the final song, the band and the crowd kept the show going by singing in unison. 

It was just the type of show you'd expect from a band that promotes peace and love and an audience that espouses that modern hippie mentality (that label is not meant as an insult).  Everyone left the show quite pleased.

Sound in Focus continues this Saturday, July 16, with Baaba Maal, Classixx, and Brazilian Girls, then concludes on July 23 with Nas and Wild Belle.  RSVP for the last show has already been capped, but the next show is still open.  Admission is first come, first serve, and to be honest, no one seemed to be checking RSVP's (which seem to be more useful toward sharing information about the schedule of events as opposed to verifying qualifications), so you might try you luck for the Nas concert if you feel like arriving on site mid/late afternoon.  And be sure to check out the current exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography, highlighting refugee crises in countries around the world through photo-journalism.  It's not the happiest topic, but it's powerful and moving stuff.

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.