Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros Fort York, Toronto ON, September 19

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros Fort York, Toronto ON, September 19
Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa
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I just don't get Edward Sharpe and his Whole Shtick.
 
The headliner, Alex Ebert's psychedelic big band took the stage at 9:30 p.m. to rapturous applause and proceeded to lay down an hour and a half of chaotic, theatrical, and generally shambling "indie folk music." (What is "indie folk music", you might ask? It means lots of whistling, apparently. Any other connection to folk music seems pretty tenuous, for what it's worth.)
 
Ebert's stage persona is a Ziggy Stardust-ish construction that is both real and imagined rock star: it's a semi-ironic play on the idea of an ego-mad frontman egging on the crowd, offering stoned and vaguely coherent inter-song babble, preening for the young women, and generally acting like some kind of hipster messiah. Which makes it sound more interesting than, in person, it turns out to be. Really, it just makes him sort of insufferable. A Jim Morrison for the millennial era.
 
Hobbled a bit by a hoarse voice (he acknowledged several times that he wasn't at his best), the melodies driving his repetitive, pseudo-anthems faded too far into the background, and left the show feeling ragged at best and, at worst, a purposeless spectacle. Not that he didn't have the crowd on his side. The bulk of the audience was right there with him, and grooved blissfully along with his 12-person band's propulsive jams. This is, apparently, what the majority of them wanted, and he gave it to them. What can I say. I just don't get it.
 
And I wasn't alone. After a few songs, you could see a steady stream of people as they made for the South Stage and alt-country veterans The Skydiggers. I'll admit that after awhile I joined them too.