Elephant Revival and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Members Unite for Democracy

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros went on an indefinite hiatus in the summer of 2017.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros went on an indefinite hiatus in the summer of 2017. Laure Vincent Bouleau
An unlikely confluence of current events and political issues is drawing former members of Elephant Revival and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros together for a show at Boulder's Fox Theatre on Monday, October 22. Prior to this event, both bands had been on indefinite hiatus. Folksy Colorado string band Elephant Revival disbanded last spring, citing “family matters,” after one last hurrah at Red Rocks. Similarly, the nationally recognized pop-folk group Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros broke up during the summer of 2017 after a drought of artistic inspiration.

But when Alex Ebert, the former frontman of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, came to Colorado to discuss his new app, Proxy.Vote, with District 2 House of Representatives candidate Nick Thomas, he also struck up a friendship with Dango Rose, one of the founding members of Elephant Revival. Both are mutual friends with Josh Fox, the Academy Award-nominated director of Gasland, a documentary about fracking. Ebert and Rose began planning a special show to shine light on the social issues close to their hearts.

Dubbed "The Proxy," the concert will support Ebert’s new app; independent candidate Thomas, who has pledged to use the app; and Colorado ballot measure Proposition 112, which, if approved by voters this November, would mandate a 2,500-foot setback for oil and gas fracking rigs from schools and homes.

Ebert founded Proxy.Vote with former Washington, D.C., staffer Ted Henderson. The app gives people the power to organize and vote on specific bills in real time, granting elected representatives direct access to their voices.

“With the Internet, I saw that everything was being democratized except for democracy. For instance, every musician was able to put out music whenever they wanted to, but we still had no access to government, bills, or even to talk to our representatives in a meaningful way,” says Ebert. “The idea of a government for and by the people wasn’t really possible without the Internet. But now, I believe that in a hundred years people will look back and say this is why we have the Internet — to put us all in the same room at the same time.”

This mission resonated deeply with Rose.

“Proxy.Vote is all about applied democracy. It’s about giving a voice back to the people so they can trust that their representatives are working for their best interests,” he says.

Ebert himself finds using his platform as a musician to support his more political project of Proxy.Vote to be natural because his approach to performing actually inspired him to create the app in the first place.

click to enlarge Colorado-based Elephant Revival has a long history of environmental advocacy. - ATHENA DELENE
Colorado-based Elephant Revival has a long history of environmental advocacy.
Athena Delene
“In Edward Sharpe, I always got shit from my band, managers and everybody else for always trying to trust the crowd,” says Ebert. “I trusted the audience to come up with the set lists for us, to sing, and to take the microphone and tell stories. That always invites chaos, but when you give people agency, they do amazing things. Basically, it’s the same concept with this.”

“The idea that people are dumb, can’t compute nuance and can’t parse through complex ideas is — and has always been — the argument of the ruling elite as to why they should remain in power. I just don’t buy it. I know it’s not the case, actually, because I talk to people. They’re all capable of deep thinking, especially when you give them a chance to have an opinion.”

As a young musician, Ebert’s initial desire to seek out the voices of his fans came from his distinct artistic philosophy.

“I’m always looking for authenticity,” he reflects. “Where is the authentic, real moment? How can I access it? The idea of a set list is that you’re preemptively determining the future moment, which means that you’re not opening to the magic of the moment. I refused that. Even though it’s a mode of professionalism to knock songs out one after another, I’m just not interested in it. It’s just marketing. It makes performing too much of a capitalist enterprise.”

Unsurprisingly, at the Proxy concert, Ebert and former bandmate Nico Aglietti will be taking crowd input as to what songs they should play out of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ deep catalogue. Authenticity is also a key aspect of the show for Rose and the other Elephant Revival members, all of whom have a long history of using their platform to support environmental causes, including their annual Trail Revival project, which involved the cleanup of trails surrounding Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

“Proposition 112 is just a clear yes for me,” says Rose. “Elephant Revival has been behind environmental work for a long time. This is barely even a political issue for me. It’s more about the health of our communities, the kids in our schools, and our water supply. Moving back fracking wells 2,500 feet from schools is more about common sense than politics.”

When Rose, who recently founded The Elephant Collective, a production house, artist development agency and music media platform, initially put out a call to other ex-Elephant Revival members, he received delayed responses from each of them, prompting him to put out more calls. Eventually, quite a few of them got back to him — and they all wanted to participate. Their lineup will include many of the founding members of the group, such as Bonnie Paine, Bridget Law and Darren Garvey. Elephant Revival fans should temper their enthusiasm, though: Rose fully expects this reunion to be a one-time deal.

Still, it should be one to remember. The show will conclude with a back-and-forth collaboration between members of both groups. Above all, the musicians hope to foster a sense of community, one where everyone’s voices are heard and valued.

“This show is for the people, and for the environmental health of our community,” says Rose. “We are grateful to be able to come together for one night to support these causes.”

The Proxy, featuring Alex Ebert and Nico (of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros) plus Bonnie Paine, Bridget Law, Dango Rose and Darren Garvey (of Elephant Revival), with Jules Schroeder, 8:00 p.m. Monday, October 22, $15 to $20, Fox Theatre, 135 13th Street., Boulder.
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Sage Marshall is a freelance writer and editor covering outdoor recreation, environmental issues, Denver's music scene, the arts, and other Colorado stories. You can check out more of his work and connect with him here.
Contact: Sage Marshall