I was fresh off of work, and the faint odor of grease, coffee and sweat mingled with annoyance lingered on my skin and hair. On my break, like a non-discerning animal I ate a ruined Papas Locos under a stairwell. Needless to say, I was ready for a change of pace, and unbeknownst to me, the FM 94/9 Independence Jam at the Oceanside Pier was just what I needed. This years’ “Coastal Invasion” lineup boasted acts such as The Silent Comedy, Delta Spirit, Rogue Wave, and everyone’s favorite mystical hippie family band, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes.
Chadwick Gantes, my partner in crime, picked me up and we headed North, he with camera in tow, and me with a pocket notebook and pen, (as well as a pack of Starburst) stowed safely in my fanny pack. We didn’t quite know what to expect, we had just been promised free admission, which was certainly good enough for me.
Free Admission turned out to be a press pass, which got us past the unconvincingly “Elite” security men in red shirts and into the photography pit, and straight into the heart of Delta Spirit. We arrived in time to hear frontman, Matt Vasquez, belting out “Bushwick Blues” from their latest album, History From Below. He is wearing dirty jeans, and plays a battered buttercreme colored guitar. His face is nearly obscured by sloppy dark chin length hair, but through it you can catch flashes of his pink mouth and a string of straight teeth singing things like “we were just two kids acting tough, then we grew up, me, not so much,” and it’s almost as if he’s picking a coy fight with you when he sings…just like that kid, acting tough, staring at you straight faced, a little worn, and taunting you with a smirk. The Delta Spirit boys reminded me of what I already knew: they’re great musicians and great performers. The ocean crashed in the background and palms flanked the outdoor stage. They went on to play a haunting and downright soulful version of Louis Armstrong’s “Saint James Infirmary” with a throaty, golden horn solo so good that even bassist John Jameson couldn’t resist shaking his head in satisfaction. Songs such as Answer Man, and St. Francis, which employs a mean harmonica, made it into the set with the crowd cheering, delightedly.
After our brush with Delta Spirit, Chadwick and I ventured over to the beer station, where some pals were working, and we were soon tipped off that the carne asada fry guy would barter beer for fries. Much to our glee, we found out that indeed, Fry Guy traded his meat laden carbs for liquid carbs! In a matter of seconds a Miller Light disappeared from my hands, and in exchange, I soon held a hot plate of carne asada fries with all the fixings. This was turning out to be a top notch night.
As anyone knows with these types of festivals, the bathroom situation is always a bit questionable. For journalism’s sake, as well as personal need, I sampled a couple of facilities and surprisingly, compared to the beach bathrooms that were available, the port a potty was like that classy bathroom in Ferris Bueller’s day off! It must be noted that in this time, the line for the women’s restroom was long enough for me to consume an entire pack of Starburst. I am still not sure if this was a mistake or not.
After finding old friends and making new (dancey) friends in the crowd, we headed over to catch local favorites, The Silent Comedy at the Casbah stage. Per usual, The Silent Comedy delivered their rousing brand of gospel soul-filled rock to an eager audience who was quick to sing and dance along.
Not wanting to miss Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Chadwick and I made our way to the main stage, hoping our passes would grant us the same luxuries we had with Delta Spirit. The arena had filled up fast, and amazingly, we glided past security and were two feet away from the stage. I couldn’t believe my good fortune! I was about to get my moment…I could feel it.
About this time last year, I left San Diego for my former Midwest home, not knowing if I would ever return. Nearly a year ago, the now infamous song, Home, blared in my car stereo as bittersweet tears coursed down my face while burning eyes caught sight of the Hillcrest sign, glowing in my review mirror. Home became my anthem, as I searched for my own ever-changing idea of home. But that was then, and this is now, and I am about to see Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes!
After some sound checking, all eleven of the Zeroes emerged on stage. The keyboardist was decked out in tie-dyed pants and rainbow gear, one guy was wearing cut off train conductor type overalls, while front woman, Jade Castrinos wore a long cloak with a hood, and then there was Alex Ebert, leader of The Zeroes…outfitted in his trademark filthy white pants, his hair a tall tangled tower atop his head, and a crimson scarf looped around his chest, as if he was going into battle. He surveyed the crowd with bemused eyes and quickly slipped off his shoes, jumped on the speakers and the band began to play Janglin with the whole crowd singing along elatedly “We Want to feel ya! We don’t mean to kill ya! We come back to heal ya – Janglin soul! Edward and the Magnetic Zeros” And truly, I think everyone there came because they wanted to feel something. I know I did. The euphoric feel of the show was only heightened by Ebert’s willingness to interact with the crowd. The whole time he was singing, he would reach out and touch adoring fans, tweens and hipsters alike. I tired to keep my cool, but I mean, the guy’s legs were two inches from me in the photo pit, and I couldn’t help myself so I reached out and grazed his ankle, discovering it to be covered in sand…not surprising.
Only five songs into the set, we were informed they could only play one more song. Alex asked the crowd “what do you want to hear?” to which everyone already knew the answer: Home. At this point all of us kids who were trying to be somewhat “professional” in the pit, let loose. A minute or so into Home two beautifully bold girls stormed the stage. I thought they were going to be ripped off, and in the one second this all took place I was about to get really bummed, but then I realized it was now or never as did everyone else in the pit, so we all stormed onto the stage, were welcomed by the band, and we danced. We danced like there was no tomorrow. We danced euphoric. We danced joyful. We danced like crazed children. We danced in disbelief, we danced with gratitude and we danced with the knowledge that in some sort of strange immeasurable way, we were home.
Words : Crystal Clem // Photos : Chadwick Gantes // Video : John Jones