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i did it, i saw neutral milk hotel in concert

2015-05-02 - 4:22 p.m.

Last night I attended the Neutral Milk Hotel concert at Hal & Mal's in Jackson, Mississippi. It was an emotional experience for a variety of reasons, especially since I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to attend a GA concert ever again. However, it's one of their last concerts -- and I take it pretty seriously since I gather Mangum is a pretty private person who goes through long periods of being unable to perform. And also he and another band member had their moms and some other family members in the crowd...

We stayed in the Mississippi Delta suite (honeymoon jacuzzi suite complete with upstairs and downstairs) of the Old Capitol Inn nearby. More about that, including some pictures later...

Before the concert, we attended the pinot grigio and cheese reception at the hotel. It was an absolutely beautiful day, clear and sunny, but not hot and humid, so we enjoyed our wine in the courtyard. The only stinker was the koi in the goldfish pond who did not respond to any of my attempts to make friends. Presumably they don't expect to be fed and so they weren't.

We went ahead and ate at the venue before the concert. I had a veggie burger which seemed to include both black bean and portobello mushroom. Oh, and I had two martinis. They were supposed to be the same but one was pink and one was orange. They both had vanilla but the second one tasted much more like a dreamsicle. I guess they were made by different bartenders?

I never did find out where people were getting their tickets but I said I ordered at the presale and showed my receipt and they found my name on the list. They didn't have a martini bar inside the concert hall but they had Maker's Mark so I had that. No wonder my knee wasn't bothering me, heh heh heh.

The place really wasn't very big, and the hipster fan base is not very aggressive so I easily drifted to about the seventh row. So I had a great view. The support band (Will Cullen Hart's Circulatory System) came out right on time and played some songs on the themes of dinosaurs and intergalatic space, and they were quite interesting, so I will have to make time to listen to them a bit more later. They played about 45 minutes, and then there was a brief break while the roadies changed up the instruments, and then it was time.

Hart stood at the far right, but Jeff chose to come out and stand on the left -- so he was actually right in front of me. I'd call that an amazing amount of luck right there.

The set ran a bit under an hour and half, maybe an hour and twenty. He started with a bit of something I didn't know well which led directly into Holland, played three songs from Aeroplane, then played Naomi, April 8, Pree, and Gardenhead all right in a row. I knew he would play Naomi, but I wasn't sure he'd get to April 8, so I was really thrilled. It was rather a sinister version of this already sinister song, I must say. A lot more from Aeroplane, "Song Against Sex," um the song about Cindy (I'm forgetting the name of the EP ones), More from Aeroplane and after he sings the bit about not hating her when it's time to leave, they do the thing where they pretend to leave. Then everyone screams and cries, and bros starting screaming, "I love you man," like it's a beer commercial, and then they come out for the encore. Mostly he didn't say much until after the break but he actually said the name of the first song when he came back out -- "Little Birds." Maybe he thought people wouldn't know it since it wasn't on the albums? A very intense song as always. Then "Ghost," the marching song (sort of the token instrumental since you can't really do instrumentals at a concert), and finally Jeff says a bit about dedicating the first song they ever performed to Julian's grandmother, who was the first person to hear them play together as a band -- "Engine." So it was pretty intense, as they go from I think the last song he wrote (or nearly) to the very first in just a few songs.

Oh, I forgot to mention that before they started playing, they put a light-up plastic lamb on the stage behind him. Dunno what that's about. Maybe Mangum feels like he's a bit of a sacrificial lamb since it's so difficult for a shy man to be in the performing arts. But I could tell that the other band members were really having a blast...and I did notice that once he did crack a tiny smile.

I heard you were not supposed to bring cell phones but they'd given up on enforcing that and went for the alternate method of hiding behind odd hats and extreme facial hair. Jeff, of course, had both the hat and the hair. When he's ready to go back to private life in a few more weeks, I guess he can just shave and nobody will have clue one what he looks like...

The truth is that everybody there (except me) did have a cell phone but they were kinda sneaky about it and kept them held down low as they live-tweeted the concert or whatever...Jeff only caught one guy taking pictures and he just asked the guy to put the cell phone away and he'd give him a piece of art later. So that was pretty chill. A couple of people vaped surreptitiously despite the smoke-free premises but really the crowd was polite and pushing/shoving was kept to a minimum. My knee didn't give me a bit of trouble, and I was able to dance along for the entire time.

Whew. It may be the last GA concert I ever attend...or it may not. It all went so smoothly I won't be as hesitant to try again, at least it if it's an act performing in a reasonably small space.

I didn't make any notes at the time so I don't have the set list exactly right. Possibly one of the cell phone evildoers will publish the setlist on line later. I'll have to do a search when I get a chance.

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