October 20, 2013. w/ Elf Power Birmingham, AL Iron City.
That’s when Neutral Milk Hotel is playing in Birmingham. That’s some weird text to copy/paste from somewhere else on the internet. Weird because it is both unexpected and wonderful. I still half expect it to be some fanciful joke by a promoter. We’ll get there and Marcy Playground will start playing and they’ll lock the doors behind us.
I’m not some old-school “I heard Mangum when he was playing 40-Watt by himself and slept in my van” dude. In fact, I didn’t even hear of the band until… 2004? I heard about them because of the mystery. Because in 1998 he made an album and disappeared. The intrigue had set in. But even then, it didn’t resonate with me. I wish I could tell you why.
6 months-and I swear this is true- before Jeff Mangum announced a solo tour I was talking to a good friend of mine. Let’s call him Tiberius because that’s a distractingly hilarious inside joke. He talked about how much he liked Aeroplane (the second and most wonderful Neutral Milk Hotel album). I gave it another listen. The internet tells me that Mangum had been popping up, playing some shows here and there in 2010. Maybe that prompted Tiberius to mention it. But the way it felt to me was that I’d discovered a ten year old secret.
And then, 6 months before the fucking ridiculously expensive ticket sales and limited world tours that would soon become less limited, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I listened to it, literally, every day for 4 months. The sound at the end of King of the Carrot Flowers Part II between it and presumably part three. A whoosh into the next part. It makes me very happy. It’s a good whoosh. The song, “Holland, 1945” was, and remains to be, the template behind any musical endeavor I will ever undertake. Listen to that song. That song is the cover band I’ll be in if I ever get less lazy than I am now. We’ll come out, and play that song for 45 minutes, kick over our amps, and thank you kindly for your attention.
So this is where I lay it on you, the wonder and beauty of this guy, this hermit, coming to Birmingham and playing in the shiny new venue for me.
But the truth is, I saw him already. At the 40-Watt where he got his start. It was last year. A damn good show.
And now, oddly, he comes here. I have tickets. I was hitting the buy button the same second the rest of aging hipster Birmingham was. I watched Iron City’s new website briefly crumble under our attention. I complained on Twitter about it, but then it worked. I got the tickets. I’m going to see him again. And I’ll be singing along off-key and be one of the few people who also know the first album by heart. Because that’s the kind of stupid, windmill-tilting fan I am. The kind that when he gets into something, gets into it way too much. It’s been a few years since I really devoured Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s been 9 years since I quipped that they stole the name from Wilco’s seminal work, despite being incredibly and utterly wrong about that. It’s been 15 years since Aeroplane Over The Sea came out. I don’t really have a point to this except to remind you that we’re getting old. Let’s sing along to Oh Comely while there’s still life in us. Unless you couldn’t get a ticket. Sorry, dude.