By some amazing stroke of luck Steve and I got tickets to see Jeff Mangum Wednesday night. Front row center tickets. To a show that sold out in 35 seconds.
I still can’t really believe that it happened. Up until he walked on stage I was partially convinced it would be like that scene out of Will Grayson, Will Grayson where some crappy Chicago band walks out instead. But after an entertaining and enthusiastic performance by the Music Tapes Jeff Mangum did indeed walk out on stage.
It’s hard to put into words what Neutral Milk Hotel’s songs mean to me, and so it’s hard to put into words what Wednesday night meant to me. Aeroplane Over the Sea has to be my most listened to album. I listen to it when I’m crushingly sad or ecstatically happy. I sing Two Headed Boy while I do dishes. From the first listen in high school to my current listen now the King of Carrot Flowers has never failed to move me. I WILL shout until they know what I mean!
Jeff Mangum, and with him Neutral Milk Hotel, more or less disappeared after the success of Aeroplane. Everything I read compares his recursion to Salinger. So I never thought I would get a chance to see my favorite songs live. Like many fans I played the YouTube videos of his performances in the 90s over and over again, finding new favorite songs in the process. Engine, Little Birds, Oh Sister…. More songs to love that weren’t on the albums!
Wednesday night we found out seats in the very front row and looked around the beautiful Irvine Auditorium, both of us in shock that WE were so lucky. It was an amazing, completely unique experience. I got to hear all of my favorite songs, see the singing saw played, and experience first hand one of the best musicians play his work. He told us how meaningful it was to him to see the songs that he thought of as messages in a bottle effect us all. He encouraged us to sing (“If you do it at home you can do it here!”)
Overall, it was a perfect night, and a perfect experience. I couldn’t have asked for more.