By Chris Nafekh, Staff Writer
Last Monday, Neutral Milk Hotel made history with their first, and possibly last, visit to Greensboro, N.C. As the first show of what could be the band’s final tour, tickets from the Carolina Theater sold out months in advance.
Neutral Milk Hotel toured at length in their early years. After the release of their renowned album “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” in 1998, the band disappeared. Lead songwriter Jeff Mangum played nine shows from 2001-2010, according to www.neutralmilkhotel.org. In 2011 the band reunited, touring across North America and again in 2012. Their 2015 tour marks the final tour “for the foreseeable future” according to www.walkingwallofwords.com. Several of the tour’s shows are sold out.
The people of Greensboro have been anticipating the band’s visit since tickets went on sale earlier this year. On Monday night, UNC-Greensboro students and professors alike waltzed into the Carolina Theater to hear one of the greatest folk-rock bands in independent music history.
Opening for Neutral Milk was the Dot Wiggin Band. Dot Wiggin and her sisters first performed as The Shaggs, whose debut album was released in the late ‘60’s. Frank Zappa had called the band “better than The Beatles”, but Monday night’s performance suggested otherwise. Many audience members were confused with the drummer’s off-hand beats, although the songwriting had virtue.
Jeff Mangum walked on stage to a loud standing ovation followed by his bandmate Julian Koster. After a brief introduction, Neutral Milk flew into their folk-rock anthem “Holland, 1945”.
The band played every song off “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”. As Mangum stood humble on stage, Koster jumped in circles while striking his bass precisely. More than once, audience members shouted, “We love you Julian!”
When Neutral Milk Hotel performed “King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1” the audience sang in jubilee. Hearing Mangum sing live “Oh Comely” brought tears to those who listened. To quote Kelly Fahey of Echo Courts, seeing Mangum perform that night was a “spiritual experience.”
The band returned for a long encore, starting with the song “Little Birds”. At the beginning of the bagpipe breakthrough of “Untitled”, folks jumped and danced. To finish, Mangum stood on stage alone and sang “Two-Headed Boy Pt.2” leaving the crowd with emotional lyrics, words to live by: “But don’t hate her when she gets up to leave.”
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