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