Neutral Milk Hotel Says Its Final Goodbye to the East Coast With Reunion Tour Performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion

After a fifteen year gap without a single Neutral Milk Hotel performance due to the band’s discomfort with the press, this reunion tour came as a complete shock to NMH fans. With this most likely being the final opportunity to watch this well acclaimed indie rock band perform live on stage, the 3500 people at the Merriweather Post Pavillion venue eagerly awaited the entrance of the band members. There was silence as the starting time crept up. The TVs around the venue went black with a message stating that the band did not want their performance on video and photographs were not allowed- again, for their discomfort with the press. This only made this show even more special to the fans. The small group of people there that night would be the only ones to witness the nasally, and eminent voice of Jeff Mangmum, the musical experimentations of instruments played by Julian Koster, and the acclaimed melodies played on an assortment of brass instruments. Over the years NMH was active, the group perfected a way to create a psychedelic sound, ambiguous lyrics, and musical experimentation that the crowd craved.

As soon as Mangum walked on stage and the band started playing, the crowd was hooked. It wasn’t the type of performance where every lyric was screamed as loud as possible or the crowd was going wild, jumping around, and fist pumping. It was the type of performance where the crowd became glued to their spot, staring almost hypnotized-like, focusing on what was in front of them. Although there were a couple thousand people in the audience, it was the kind of show where you felt like you were at a tiny venue with only a small group of people around you.

Yes, there were multiple times throughout the show where the band would play more of their heavy songs like ‘Song Against Sex’ or ‘Ghost’ and the crowd would get more rowdy and start moving around, and there were fans shouting the lyrics, but because the crowd was so small for such a large venue, there was no echoing sound. Mangum’s voice, or his famous moans that rapidly changed pitch, carried above the crowd. It was as though you could tell the people respected the band and were there, in that moment, trying to hold on to the music they were hearing for quite possibly the last time live. You could tell the audience was attached to the band. When Julian picked up the saw which he somehow glides a bow against to make a captivating, high pitched, almost squeal like sound, the crowd went crazy. It is things like that which makes Neutral Milk Hotel so unique. They have the ability to experiment with sounds and instruments and their fan base respects them because of this.

You would never have known the members of the band were in their forties or that they had not been together for fifteen years. Neutral Milk Hotel still has the ability to play imperfections perfectly. By this I mean that they never made it a goal to play each note perfectly and the same for each performance, but rather they played it how they wanted to each time depending on their mood or the environment they were in.

Once their set was over, which went by more quickly than any show I have ever attended, not because it was short, but because you lost track of time, the crowd went crazy. There must have been  a continuous applause for five minutes. Jeff Mangum eventually walked back on stage, and started singing an encore, the other members of the band joining him mid song. They finished with the lyrics from Two Headed Boy Part II, ” But don’t hate her when she gets up to leave “,an almost metaphorical way of saying goodbye, as this was the last time NMH would perform on the East Coast.

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