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Review and Photos: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Preservation Hall Jazz Band @ Wolf Trap 5.25.16

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Photos by Miranda Hontz

By the time Preservation Hall Jazz Band took the stage, every square inch of grass at Wolf Trap was covered with music lovers eager to celebrate the beautiful weather that framed the evening just as perfectly as the lush woods that surrounded the stage.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band was dressed in all black, a stark contrast to their music, which is as colorful as an oil slick in sunlight or the proudest of peacocks. The band played a communal jazz which each member shared and explored, seeking that eternal groove that permeated their music as it traveled from one standard of jazz to the next. From Latin and creole to big band and gypsy; all were explored with aplomb. Whether lighthearted or menacing and powerful, Preservation Hall Jazz Band drew you in with the subtle dynamism of their horn section and the undeniable joy which every member of the band played.

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This joy from the performers, mixed with the beauty of the evening and setting, seemed to layer good vibes around the crowd as thick as honey, setting the perfect stage for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros performed with an effortless intimacy that seemed to erase inhibitions and drew the crowd in until they were one with the performance. Frontman Alex Ebert was styled in the spirit of James Brown, working the crowd just as much as he worked his band. The audience was quickly pulled into the performance, taking the mic or the stage to dance and sing along or helping Ebert as he walked along ledges or popped up among the dancing throng like a lemming. The engrossing frontman mixed soliloquy with songs, channeling the ever-building positive energy to create an experience that felt more tent-revival than rock concert.

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The band’s set took on a free flowing, carefree form, with the band falling into different songs on whim or audience suggestion. Dawning different instruments to support the new direction that their set took, the band wove a kaleidoscope of sounds into ever-expanding heights that seemed to stretch to the highest reaches of the venue. For me, the entire set felt like jazz, an exploration of a theme that the band constantly reshaped and revisited throughout their performance with a subtle but potent skill.

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If I had to try and pinpoint the theme, I’d say it was freedom; freedom to love, be yourself, shed inhibitions, dance like a fool, sing as loud as you can no matter who was listening, and to be grateful for the emergence of summer after weeks of rain and gloom with a beautiful and joyous evening of music to welcome it all in. I couldn’t think of a better way to usher in the warmest time of the year than with performances as warm and welcoming as those experienced at Wolf Trap Wednesday evening.