Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Neutral Milk Hotel - The Canopy Club, Urbana, IL 10/15/13

Last night, I did something I thought I never would be able to: I saw Neutral Milk Hotel live.

I was psyched when I found out NMH would be playing my area, and that they would be playing The Canopy Club of all places—a really cool, intimate venue. My good friend Joshua and I had both agreed that we would try for tickets, and that we would go with each other if either of us got them. Well, I was able to get through and Joshua wasn't. Apparently the online tickets sold out in 40 some seconds!

Going in, I had two "wishlist" songs: "Engine" and "Naomi"

We had to pick up our will-call tickets between noon and 6:00 (doors at 7:00, show at 8:30). When I got inside the venue, I saw Jeff Mangum walking around the bar/merch area. He didn't see me, and he was probably 100 feet away, but just seeing him as a normal, regular person, not on a stage, walking around a venue, was such an incredible thing for me. Joshua was waiting in the car, and they wanted to physically put his ticket (a wristband) on him, so I left to get him. When we came back in, you could hear the band warming up/sound checking, and that was really cool too. I heard part of the bass line to "[untitled]" and part of the little jangly part at the beginning of "The King of Carrot Flowers, Pts. 2 & 3". I wanted to just stay and listen to them warm up, but then again, I probably would have gotten kicked out.

So anyway, we came back later, about 30 minutes before Elf Power went on. They were really good, surprisingly good, and even did a cover of Olivia Tremor Control's "Jumping Fences"! They didn't play very long really.

Jeff Mangum started Neutral Milk Hotel's set by himself with "Two Headed Boy", on which his band joined at some point.

They played a bunch more songs, good ones, hits, and some I hadn't heard or wasn't familiar with. I was happy they didn't just go up there and play "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" (the album) front to back. Adding in stuff it seemed like they wanted to play made them feel more like a real band; a legend instead of a myth. The whole thing felt very real.

Eventually, they went into Naomi, and I was overjoyed. It sounded really great!!

They ended on a song called "Snow Song, Part One", a song I'm not familiar with, but it was good. In my mind, it was obvious they were going to encore, and they did.

I didn't get "Engine", but I got a lot of other good stuff, so I couldn't complain. They started into "Ghost", and I figured we'd get "Ghost/[untitled]" and they would walk back off the stage. But then they threw in "Two Headed Boy, Part Two", the proper last track of the aforementioned album, and I thought, "ok, that's it, well done, nice ending"

And then they stayed on stage.

"Engine" is the first song I ever really learned chords for on guitar. I played it for friends, an open-mic, and even a former drummer from Bright Eyes. I love that song. There's just something special about it. There was even a house show I was at one time where a friend of everyone's was in town visiting from another state around the same time I learned the song, and he played it. Like we both picked to want to learn it, out of all Neutral Milk Hotel songs you could learn, or all the songs in the world you could learn, and it sort of just affirmed that the song was and is special to me.

I kept thinking it would be cool if they played "Engine", but every time they would follow a potentially great stopping point with another potentially great stopping point, I would figure I had lost my chance.

Then they played it. And it was so good.

I got BOTH of my wishlist songs! I don't think I've ever gotten all of my wishlist songs at any show I've ever been to!

Overall, it was a really great show and a really great night! And on my way out, I even got to shake the hand of both Eric Harris (the drummer of Elf Power) and Andrew Rieger (the lead singer of Elf Power) and tell them "great set"!

Here's the setlist (according to

1. Two Headed Boy
2. The Fool
3. Holland, 1945
4. A Baby for Pree
5. Gardenhead
6. Everything Is
7. The King of Carrot Flowers, Part One
8. The King of Carrot Flowers, Pts. 2 & 3
9. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
10. Oh Comely
11. Ferris Wheel on Fire
12. Naomi
13. Song Against Sex
14. Ruby Bulbs
15. Snow Song, Part One

16. Ghost
17. [untitled]
18. Two-headed Boy Pt. Two
19. Engine

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Hey guys.

Today, I've been vegan for three years!

And so far, it has been one of the best decisions of my life.

Here's my story.

Growing up, I didn't really eat my vegetables. If anything, I was a chickenstripsetarian. My mom let me be however picky I wanted, and I was.

Also, I never really liked drinking plain white milk. I loved chocolate milk, milk in cereal, and cheese, but not plain. Milk sort of left a weird taste in my mouth and I didn't really like it I guess. Well, in like 2006, I started getting a craving, all the time, for chocolate milk. So much so, that I think I started sort of having a craving for plain white milk. After a while though, I started noticing the milk wasn't really sitting with me well. I've heard that most people are lactose intolerant to some degree, but maybe since I didn't slowly acclimate myself to large quantities of milk over my whole life, dumping so much of it down my throat near the end of my teens wasn't such a good idea. I basically declared myself lactose intolerant after that, and I guess still ate it, but was careful, and started using soy milk and stuff.

In the summer/fall of 2007, I started dating a vegetarian and working in the produce department at Wal-Mart. I decided it was a mind over matter thing, and I forced myself to try a bunch of new fruits/vegetables since they were right in front of me all the time. I was amazed at how good they were. I mean, I hadn't really eaten a peach until then, and I was 20, and I love peaches. How the hell had I not had a peach?

Anyway, March or April of 2008, just for fun, and maybe for some other reasons, I just wanted to try vegetarianism, to see what it was like. I can't remember how long I did it, a month or three months or something, but I didn't know what I was doing, and by the end, was weakened and craving meat.

(There's a side story about fish too. Even when I ate meat, I never liked seafood. Sometimes I wanted to try it, like maybe at a restaurant or something, but what if it was one of those times when you order something and it doesn't taste right? I wouldn't know, and I might think it always tastes like that. It might re-ruin seafood for me forever! So I told my roommate at the time, who's a great cook, that I would stay vegetarian until I had some seafood he made me, that way I would know it was good. Well, we procrastinated and by the end of the month or three months or whatever, I was craving meat so much, that I just ate a piece of some fish he was eating out of a can or something, I don't remember. It wasn't the best thing ever, but I wanted to be done with vegetarianism while still [sort of] keeping my word.)

Ok, so fast forward to that winter. My friend broke his ankle and was basically on house arrest. He spent a lot of time reading about food and cooking, and we got pretty into eating plants. Not exclusively, just intentionally and often. I also stopped cooking with meat. I would eat it, if someone made it or at a restaurant or something, but even then, since I had already tried vegetarianism, and had stopped cooking with meat, I started looking for the vegetarian stuff on the menu at places.

Then, in the summer of 2009, I started hanging out with this girl who was a mostly vegan. She wasn't into guys, but I was still totally into her, and I don't know if it was my attraction to her, the appeal of being vegetarian in general, or what, but that summer, I officially declared myself vegetarian.

That same summer, I moved to the Chicago area, and over the fall and winter, I enjoyed being a vegetarian, but started to get more and more grossed out by eggs. I think I started to look for/prefer vegan options, and one day, in the winter of 2010, I bought groceries at Trader Joe's, and checked all of the ingredients on the stuff I was buying to make sure it was vegan. That was three years ago today. At some point that day, I was like "You know what? I'm vegan. Who am I kidding?" and posted it on Facebook.

So that was that for a yearish.

Then I watched earthlings.

Oh my god, Earthlings.

It's this movie narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, well documentary I guess, that goes through and discusses our misuse of animals in five areas: pets, clothing, food, entertainment, and scientific research. Now granted, they use a lot of graphic imagery and intense moments to get their point across, but if you can look past the shock value, it's a really great piece. I had already been vegan for a year, but after that, I knew there was probably no going back, at least for me.

Later, I watched Forks Over Knives, another great documentary sort of movie about veganism. What I like about Forks over Knives is that it removes all of the sentiment and passion for animals and that sort of stuff, and looks at veganism from a strictly health based perspective. It's sort of the opposite of Earthlings, or the companion to Earthlings. Between the two movies, I think you get a pretty good picture of what veganism is.

So yeah, that's sort of my story. I've come a long way from obsessively reading every ingredient in everything and researching it online. I've made some mistakes. I've forgetten to ask what was in something, or assumed, or even knowingly consumed something if it was served to me incorrectly (oops, there's cheese in this bean burrito at taco bell and I asked for no cheese. Well, I'm already driving away and I'm hungry and it's in my hand) etc.

I really really like being vegan. I feel great, I have energy, I can play basketball and soccer and ride my bike and run. There's no one "making" me do it, besides myself, and if I ever didn't like it, I would stop. I always say, "you just have to do what feels right to your body." and this is just what feels right to me.

Here's to another three years!


Where do you get your protein?

It's pretty easy to get your protein. Protein is so common in food, and you can even combine stuff to make complete proteins. The association of meat=protein=meat is just not really accurate. Protein is all over the place, and the average person needs way less than you might think. For example, I only need about 60 grams a day (160 lbs x .37) according to a website I just looked at. The same website says a 1/4th of a cup of almonds is 8 grams. If I eat a cup of almonds (not hard at alllll), I'm halfway there! I'm not saying this website has all the answers, I'm just sayin, protein isn't that hard. There's other stuff to worry about like B12 and D and iron, but I'm not a nutritionist.

What's the hardest part of being vegan?

Second place is probably the availability and convenience of pizza, but first place is other people. Other people being offended, other people being confused, other people asking me how I get my protein or telling me they couldn't do it. It bugs me, not because they bug me, but because my decision has a lot to do with peace, and when it bugs people, I don't know, it feels futile, or vain. There've been times I've considered not being a vegan anymore, just to make people feel better or make it easier on them.

Why are you vegan?

Basically what I've come to say is that I think it's better for the planet, the animals, and myself, and that any other reason falls under one of those reasons. I don't want to tell them the whole story every time, and that statement sort of sums it all up anyway.

Other Thoughts

I try to avoid stuff that looks like it came from an animal, be it hand me down, secondhand, etc. Fake leather shoes, even though they're fake, still look like leather, and no one is going to know "Oh it's vegan." just by looking at them. They're going to think they're leather, and it's going to promote the use and image of wearing leather.

I've made a commitment within myself to only buy shoes that are vegan. There are so many cool shoes out there that use no animal products, you might as well do it. Zappos has a vegan section, and I just found out about this brand called Keep (I think most of their shoes are unisex). In my closet I have two pairs of Sanuks, a pair of Keeps, and a pair of Simples (not making shoes anymore). They're all great, comfortable shoes, and I love them.

Also, if you're not quite sure of the vegan options in your town, and don't mind supporting chains or spend a lot of time on the road, or whatever, check out! It's a really great resource! Just type in the restaurant you're curious about, and they list the vegan items that restaurant sells! Obviously, it's up to you to decide if you trust them, but I think they're pretty legit!