If you saw JEFF MANGUM during his solo tour -- the one that landed him in Boston and Cambridge last fall -- you pretty much saw what he did at Coachella. In terms of surprises: he's added a brass section for some of the Aeroplane tunes, but we're not going to increase the excitement index until he adds a drummer and a fuzzbox.
He'd been away so long that at the end they would not let him leave.From his previous two shows, we knew that Jeff Mangum was playing an hour set, then coming back for a 20-minute encore. When he left the stage after that, I headed for the exit.
It's not so easy nowadays to play the J.D. Salinger card in today's everything-is-revealed music world, and the latest artist to cave in to the overwhelming pressure to stop being a doof and get in the van is reclusive NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL main man JEFF MANGUM.
A few weeks ago, he announced a couple of solo shows as part of this fall's Portishead-curated All Tomorrow's Parties event, I'll Be Your Mirror (9/30-10/2 in Asbury Park, NJ) but any level-headed NMH-head Boston-ite would have known to hold back the impulse to get out the old credit card, as clearly a tour would be imminent as soon as ATP became moderately sold out, which it did very quickly.
We're not above getting all hysterical and shit when anyone -- ANYONE -- covers a Neutral Milk Hotel song. Really, we're not. Which is why as soon as everyone started blogging their faces off about the dude from Fleet Foxes covering NMH during a solo show over the weekend, we zapped ourselves right over there and downloaded it, stat.
Back in late April, we told you about Neutral Milk Hotel/Music Tapes dude Julian Koster's quest to help the Paragon Carousel in Hull, Massachusetts win a grant from American Express to help it stay open and enrich the lives of youths throughout New England - and got an update on Jeff Mangum to boot. Now, the Patriot Ledger is reporting that the effort was a success!
Lord knows what happens to this embed after the lease runs out at Pitchfork's "One Week Only," but for the time being, we highly urge you to check out a show that Neutral Milk Hotel fans will recognize as Mangum's finest existing official bootleg. Live at Jittery Joe's, shot by indie filmmaker Lance Bangs (hubby of Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker), includes solo renditions of NMH classics like "Two Headed Boy," "Oh Comely," and "Gardenhead," as well as an oddball cover (the Phil Spector oldie "I Love How You Love Me"), the unreleased "I Will Bury You In Time," and our favorite NMH obscurity -- the children's song "I Am An Engine."
this afternoon we received an e-mail from Merge Records with a subject
line that piqued our curiosity: "Neutral Milk Hotel need your help to
save The Paragon Carousel."
The e-mail consisted of an
impassioned plea -- written by Julian Koster of Neutral Milk Hotel and
the Music Tapes, and co-signed by elusive NMH leader Jeff Mangum -- to
save this historic landmark, a small carousel located in Hull, Massachusetts.
The fact that members of a legendary indie rock band were asking for
help for a cause like this was interesting enough. Second, Koster's
letter referred to the carousel as his "neighbor" -- and did that mean
he was currently living in Hull? And if so, did he know about With the Needle That Sings In Her Heart, the Amanda-Palmer led high-school musical based on his old band's classic album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea?
we needed to know more, so we made some calls and got him on the phone.
Our brief question and answer session follows, including a deliberately
vague quote about Jeff Mangum that nonetheless may strike joy into the
hearts of people who wish these guys would just reunite already. READ THE Q&A AFTER THE JUMP.
Trust us: at $10, these are gonna go quick. So if you want to head to Lexington High on May 7, 8, and 9 for With the Needle That Sings In Her Heart, Amanda Palmer's high-school musical based on Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, we suggest you get them now.
If you're in need of a late pass, Amanda posted a looooong update on the state of the play the other day -- including the news that Neil Gaiman had stopped by to check out pre-production
High School Musicals: Amanda Palmer (left, in 1992), Kelsi Nielsen
In one of the spring's most face-melting developments, AMANDA PALMER announced earlier this month that she was returning to Lexington High to collaborate with her old high-school drama teacher and 20 current students on a production based on Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea.Palmer's drama teacher, Steven Bogart, told Palmer's publicist that this isn't really much of a stretch since, as a senior, Amanda wrote a play based on the music of the Legendary Pink Dots called Asylum. Apparently it was quite the hit: the "theatrical post-modern form of the piece challenged the
Massachusetts High School Drama Guild to rewrite their criteria for
judging the state drama festival," Bogart says.
Palmer, for her part, credits Lexington High's drama program -- in which students wrote their own plays from scratch over the course of two months -- with turning her into an artist: "This is the way I grew up understanding theater,"
Palmer says in the press release. "We created magic out of nothing. I always hated the
boring stock plays and musicals, they seemed lifeless. Bogart always
encouraged us to use our brains and hearts to dig deep and find
something meaningful and original to put on the stage."
At around this point in the press release, we suddenly felt like we were reading an abstract of the High School Musical script, and we were suddenly reminded how much Kelsi in HSM#1 reminded us of Amanda (only with Brian Vig's signature bowler thrown in). And wait, don't we have Amanda's high-school yearbook photo floating around here somewhere? Ah, yes: thus, the images above -- that's Palmer's 1992 Lexington High yearbook photo. Wait for it, we've got more after the jump . . .including bonus-round photos of then-Lexington-High senior EUGENE MIRMAN!
Yeah, we swiped Pitchfork's photo.
We're still trying to figure out how to react to this: apparently, Lexington High School will be performing a musical based on Neutral Milk Hotel's revered album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. That on its own is one of those news stories that makes one think "this is simultaneously both awesome and weird."