SF Oysterfest gains steam as Edward Sharpe & company fizzle


Photos by Sterling Munksgard and Marc Fong // Written by Mike Frash //

SF Oysterfest featuring Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Poolside, Ra Ra Riot, Crash
Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park — San Francisco
Saturday May 10th, 2014 //

San Francisco Oysterfest scored with warm, breezy weather Saturday, attracting throngs of the City’s young and beautiful ready to spread positive vibes and cultivate a happy scene. There seemed to be an increase in attendance compared to a year ago, the first time Oysterfest was held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Many people, it seemed, attended to enjoy the pleasant environment, including the social scene & vender options, as much as the music itself — hell, it is called Oysterfest. But when it came to the music, one ascending group took another step up the ladder while a more established ensemble was missing a very important component, setting the stage for a mediocre performance at best, and a train wreck in slow motion at worst.


But first, New Orleans-based Crash got things going, exemplifying how influential Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros have been over the past five years. Their jangly, updated Americana sounded familiar upon first listen. Next up, fans of chamber pop and indie rock geeked out for Ra Ra Riot. The six-piece did their best to impress, throwing passion into every song. Between sets, DJs pumped the bass & nu-disco, juxtaposing the relaxed party atmosphere appropriately.


Poolside have continuously grown in popularity since their first album Pacific Standard Time launched in the Summer of 2012. The partnership between Filip Nikolic & Jeff Paradise has fleshed out to a five-piece outfit on tour, lending additional layers to a unique niche of dance music they have coined “daytime disco”. A perfectly descriptive phrase for the group, Poolside’s briskly-paced instrumentals with a casual, chill tone balanced nicely with decadent-yet laid back nature of the fest.

As the set continued, more and more people gave in to the flow of the set, which included steady churners “Do You Believe?” and “Next to You”, along with the usual cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” and a less usual but excellent take on David Byrne & Brian Eno’s “Strange Overtones”. Poolside showed, once again, they can easily control the vibe of a crowd, especially in open outdoor spaces. On a random note, Filip Nikolic is nicknamed “Turbotito” in his former/other band Ima Robot, which is fronted by the one and only Alex “Edward Sharpe” Ebert.


The headlining set featuring Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros started delightfully enough, as it always has, with “40 Hour Dream”. After a strong opening, it became clear something was unfortunately very different than usual. The Magnetic Zeros were missing their crucial female members, accordion player and vocalist Nora Kirkpatrick & more critically, Ebert’s partner in crime Jade Castrinos. Some songs that heavily involve Castrinos were not included in the set, others had trumpeter & keyboardist Stewart Cole covering her parts.

The back & forth love, laughter & chaos between Jade and Alexander, inspiring as it truly was at High Sierra Music Festival in 2010 or as volatile and crazy as it certainly was at BottleRock 2013 (where Jade went into the audience for 2-3 songs and wouldn’t come back to the stage), almost always provides a dynamic spark. They draw inspiration from each other. They bounce improvisational banter and goofy body language off one another. Jade has her own breathtaking songs like “Fiya Wata”, and her first notes of the show usually elicit palatable excitement from the crowd. All this was missing Saturday. This 100% male version of the Magnetic Zeros showed how important Jade Castrinos is to Edward Sharpe, and that they probably shouldn’t be playing live shows without her.

UPDATE 6/3/14: Jade Castrinos confirmed she was voted off of tour via email.


After a long mid-section collection of cuts from the group’s self-titled record from 2013, many in the crowd lost focus or started heading for the gates. Edward Sharpe was starting to lose ‘em. As the show neared the end, Ebert thanked the “awkward crowd in front” and told one attendee to sell their dog before announcing they would finish with their super-maga hit, “Home”.

For the first time in the 80-minute set, Ebert acknowledged Jane’s absence, only saying, “Things happen, let’s work this out.” No explanation was given for the absence of Castrinos or Kirkpatrick. Edward Sharpe then chose one random man and woman from the crowd and brought them on stage to sing the verses he and Jade normally sing. Let’s just say it didn’t work out well — Ebert had to pick up the vocals for both guests as voices cracked and lyrics were forgotten. The band kept it together well enough, but as the final outro was delivered, the sound uniformly fizzled out as if the power had been pulled.

On a positive note, most everyone jumped up and down and had a big smile on their face during “Home”, despite the karaoke factor. But music criticism aside, Oysterfest was consistently a fun, friendly event at a prime SF location on a lovely day. What else do you really need?




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