Thursday, January 26, 2012
Jeff Mangum held a captive audience at BAM last Friday night. Unlike some other shows I had attended there, no one rushed into the aisles on the main floor or crowded the stage. Everyone remained seated, focused, faced forward to hear every note and see every strum of his guitar. About 1/3 of the way through the set he broke the fourth wall to tell us that "you know, you can yell things at me!" The crowd perked up slightly, but for the most part it was still very reserved. Perhaps the location, perhaps the fact that Jeff Mangum has only recently come out of "seclusion," but the reverence in that theater could be cut with a knife. It had the potential to be a wild sing-a-long. It could have been a crazy dance party. From someone I know who went to the Saturday night show, they had more of a crowding-the-aisles type of experience. Instead, Friday was beautiful and somewhat somber.
The first section of his set was done solo, surrounded by the three guitars he was not currently playing. In this sense, it brought back memories of college and my friend who used to play Neutral Milk Hotel songs late at night on his guitar. But as things progressed, he was joined on stage by horns and accordian -- a piece of the overall sound that I had notably been missing (I wish they had accompanied during King of Carrot Flowers. I love their parts.)
I never really imagined that I would get to see Jeff Mangum play live... that's one to knock off the concert bucket list. I'm not sure if my friends loved it quite as much as I did, but I could point to the backs of a lot of heads that certainly agreed with me. They really were a crowd that looked like NMH fans / BAM patrons, ifyouknowwhatimean.
Opening for Jeff was the current Julian Koster project, The Music Tapes. Their the live act really has more of a "variety show" feeling than your typical concert set and reflects the quirky nature of what they're doing. I'm not sure that I'd recommend them...or not recommend them. It was definitely a unique experience. I'm a big fan of the 7' Tall Metronome (though, I don't understand why the arm doesn't actually keep time properly. If you're going to go to such lengths, you may as well make it be functional). You can see it in the background of the photo above.