Jeff Mangum Live at The Schoolhouse
I first heard about the show just hours beforehand via a text from a pretty good looking bro, who asked me for details about the “NMH thing”. I had no idea what this dude was talking about, so I went out with a different, equally good looking bro and got a sandwich at the bodega across the street, ignoring the text. Mid-sandwich, it clicked. Neutral Milk Hotel? At first I didn’t believe it was true. Seemed like a real Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist type of situation; my ultimate high school dream band is playing somewhere, at sometime in Brooklyn. Only it was Jeff Mangum I was chasing, not some band called “Where’s Fluffy?”.
After hours of texts, phone calls, and IMs in pursuit of entry, halfway through Mangum’s set I found myself running up the stairs to a loft on the third floor of a bushwick apartment building known as The Schoolhouse. The space is clean and spacious, large enough to fit about 200 people comfortably. Highly selective, the venue hosts about one show per month, most recently with Black Dice, Blues Control, McDonalds (Oxford Collapse side-project), and an Avey Tare DJ set. I felt fortunate to be one of the 100-or-so people to see Jeff Mangum play his intimate set last night, but it was also unfortunate that I got there after the opening band, Forma, who I’ll definitely catch at Tandem this Saturday December 11.
Hair a little longer and dressed in signature red flannel, Mangum played a 10 song set of Neutral Milk Hotel songs. The audience sat on the Schoolhouse’s hardwood floor cross-legged, quietly mouthing the words of Mangum’s lecture. Perched beside a music stand with a revolving cast of three acoustic guitars, he constantly traded instruments, sometimes in mid-song while sounding an entrancing, malismatic bleat. It was endearing to see Mangum go from having this powerful, raw, emotional presence while performing, and then between songs, change his composure and become meek and incredibly gracious for the opportunity to perform. It felt like this event was just as special to him as it was to his admirers.
My personal highlight, The Aeroplane Over The Sea finale “Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 2″, concluded the night’s festivities. Mangum thanked the audience, and left the hand-built stage to walk among the crowd, who parted way for Jeff. People begin to talk a little softer or a little louder, depending on wether or not they want their words to be heard by the man while he continued to mingle, trying to find someone chill to hang with. Beyond his fuzz-folk demi-god status, at the end of the day Jeff Mangum is pretty much just a good looking bro rolling on.