Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye And Good Luck With That

Wie gehts und Auf Wiedersehen,

Initially, this blog post was going to be about the stuff I liked from 2015 (records, movies, books, etc.), but a few things interceded before I could complete this post.

First, I don't exactly know how coding here on Blogger's webservice works, but it's garbage. Trying to eliminate blank line breaks that appear, disappear and then reappear sporadically between paragraphs as I add pictures or made edits became absolutely maddening.

B.) I began to doubt this entire blog deal all together. I started this blog simply to write. Writing is something I enjoy immensely. Also, I'm fairly good at, which is something I can't entirely say for other facets of my life. Lately, however, writing on this blog has become a chore and I found trying to maintain one entry a month to be not only tedious, but uninspired. I used to write about the things that interested me, but perhaps that well has run dry. I mean, who is even reading this crap, and how does it really differ from the kajillion other blogs blogging up the Interwebs?  

Thricely, I recently went back to school to get my degree in filmmaking and (ironically enough) creative writing. School takes up a (((HUGE))) chunk of my free time, and between that, homework, work-work and home/life responsibilities, blogging about, say, the latest record that sound exactly like the former latest record seemed frivolous. The time to pound words into the Internet ether just isn't there anymore.

And lastly, I've had this story kicking around my head for the last decade that I really need to commit to paper, either in a book or screenplay format. This might sound crazy, but I've been wondering if the energy I've been using to write stuff here on this blog isn't going to waste when more substantial endeavors await right around the corner.

So, I'm making this blog entry - written on the last month of 2015 - my last for a while. Should inspiration take hold and I feel the need to word-blast the Internet with trivial observations and trifling  pontifications, I'll take to this blog and start spraying words and punctuation at random on it again. Until that time, I'm signing off for now.

Thanks to all three of you for reading,


P.S. Here are my Favorites of 2015:

Favorite Record: Swervedriver I Wasn't Born to Lose You (Cobraside)
Favorite Reissue: Lilys Eccsame the Photon Band (Frontier)
Favorite Single: Teen Daze "Morning World" from the album Morning World (Paper Bag)
Favorite Album Cover: Helen The Original Faces (Kranky)
Favorite Live Show: Ride at The Crystal Ballroom, Portland, Oregon - 8/8/2015
Favorite Video: Tame Impala "The Less I Know the Better" (Interscope) *NSFW*
Favorite Record Label: Burger Records
Favorite Film: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Kino Lorber)
Favorite Television Show: Jessica Jones (Marvel/Netflix)

Favorite Podcast: I Was There Too (Wolfpop)
Favorite Book: Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution
                         (But Can No Longer Hear) by Jon Fine (Penguin)
Favorite Thing: The Friend Ship "Banjo Man" Skateboard Deck w/ art by Mike Guerrero

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fiver Episode IX: The Force Goes Shopping

For this episode of Fiver, I'm going to do something a bit different and veer away from strictly making music recommendations. November has somehow been a busy month so far, full of a cornucopia of goodies to pontificate on and review. Here are the following consumer goodies that have inspired me to write this month's blog post:

1. Chrome Storm Cobra 2.0 Jacket (Chrome Industries)

Do you know what the first thing I did with this lightweight Chrome Storm Cobra 2.0 water-resistant jacket when I got it? Go for a bike ride in the ever-present Portland rain? Nope! I put this sucker on and held my arm under the running faucet in my kitchen, watching in wonder like a moon-eyed Neanderthal as the water beaded off my sheltered arm like wicked, wicked magic. And magic this jacket is, as it keeps you not only dry in rain-drenched situations, but moderately warm as well. The only two drawbacks this coat possess are a stiff hood visor that constantly taps you in the back of the head when the hood is down, and the soft, plush material that acts like a built-in lower-face shield when the jacket is fully zipped up does soak-up a noticeable amount of  raindrops and moisture. These two gripes aside, the bombproof Storm Cobra 2.0 rain resistant jacket is all the shield your upper body needs against the elements.

2. Bose SoundLink Bluetooth III Portable Speaker (

So, let's say you live in an old apartment building that was built around the turn of the last century, and when the company that currently owns the building did their upgrades, they installed those little wall-mounted heaters in each room of your apartment instead of installing a furnace for the entire building. Then let's say that every winter, you're holed-up in your bedroom making what you and your significant other call the "warm room," and in this room you take your meals, watch TV on you MacBook and occasionally sleep. But what do you do when your MacBook's speakers up at maximum volume are drowned-out by the wall-mounted heater keeping you nominally warm? You buy yourself one of these Bose SoundLink Bluetooth III Portable Speaker systems, that's what you do. Warm and bass-y in the low end and never tin-y in the higher registers, this clutch-sized speaker packs quite a sonic punch. A bit spendy at nearly $200, but well worth it when huddling around a space heater while watching re-runs of Friends.

3. adidas Matchcourt Skate Shoes (

If the current crop of next season's skate shoes are any indication, the mid-90's rubber toe bumper guard is back with a vengeance. Vans, DC and HUF each have their version of this toe cap technological-ness, but damn if adidas' Matchcourt entry (or should I say "re-entry," since this shoe is a callback to one of the company's earlier endeavors) isn't head-and-shoulders above the pack. I mean, look at these lugs! The profile alone on the mid-top version has me saving my paychecks and mining my home for things to sell on eBay. The Matchcourt will come in an array of colors, but gimme those sweet black and white kicks! I can't think of better shoes to gaze at while listening to the following record recommendation...

4. Secret Shine Untouched Vinyl LP Reissue (Saint Marie Records)

Secret Shine were the venerable and legendary Sarah Records' lone shoegaze outfit, yet they still fit in comfortable well with the label's well-established roster of twee-pop perpetrators (The Field Mice, The Orchids, Heavenly, et al.) Untouched was, up until the band's 2004 reunion, Secret Shine's singular album. Eight songs deep, Untouched rivaled much of the output by the 1990's dreampop scene's underdog outfits (Moose, The Telescopes, Chapterhouse), bristling with shimmering washes of guitar, echoing bass notes and urgently angelic vocals. The Saint Marie Records reissue polishes up the masters a bit and presents the whole shebang on mesmerizing-as-it-spins white and purple swirled vinyl. Get your copy for $25 directly from Saint Marie while they last.

5. The Return of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Kickstarter)

We'll end on a high note here with the best news a television-raised nerd could possibly receive: Mystery Science Theater 3000 is back! Well, sort of. Having acquired the rights to the show, Shout! Factory (the home entertainment arm of Rhino) has handed the reigns back to series creator Joel Hodgson with instructions to go fourth and create new episodes of his legendary bad movie ball-busting television show. Retooled for the 21st Century, the series is slated to star Nerdist alum Jonah Ray, Queen of Nerds Felicia Day and in the get of all gets, Patton Oswalt as TV's Son of TV's Frank! Of course this whole shebang hinges of getting the proper funding via Kickstarter (which, as of this writing is nearing its modest millions-of-dollars-in-single-digits price tag) for a full season run, but given the ravenous fan base this show's output from over 20 years ago boasts, I don't think Hodgson and company will be having any problems continuing to circulate the tapes. Now, for my obligatory personal favorite MST3K line: "Mitchell! Pardon me. Mitchell!"

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Corruption Saved My Life: Lilys' Eccsame The Photon Band Vinyl Reissue. Oh, Hells Yeah!

So elated am I, I'm just going to let the record company's official copy speak for itself:


Frontier Records to release long out of print LILYS LP, Eccsame the Photon Band

October 7th, 2015
Photo by Noah Greenberg
LILYS etheric second full-length album, Eccsame The Photon Band, has become a shoegaze collector’s favorite. Out of print for twenty years, the highly sought-after, rare first-edition vinyl is nearly impossible to come by. This 21st anniversary re-release includes original artwork and has an enhanced dynamic range with the re-ordering of songs. “The Hermit Crab” has been moved and now begins side two, allowing for a deeper cut of side one and therefore increased audio fidelity, creating a more exciting listening experience than previously available. Eccsame The Photon Band has been described as “one of the LILYS‘ best,” “a hallucinatory revelation” and “a masterpiece of mood, atmosphere and production.”

The first retail pressing of Eccsame, available exclusively through ILD, is on a ghostly shade of pale vinyl with free digital download. A limited edition of 200, mail-order-only, tri-color splatter vinyl version is also available for pre-order and will begin shipping on 10/29/15.

In advance of its October 31st street date, Kurt Heasley will perform three exclusive shows on the east coast:

10.09 – Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s All Right (sold out)
10.10 – Philadelphia, PA – Lithuanian Music Hall (sold out)
10.11 – Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s All Right

These are “big band” shows called “Corruption Wrecked My Life,” and feature never-before or rarely performed early material by LILYS – epoch 1, circa 1990 – 1995. Don De Vore (LILYSSICK FEELING) serves as musical director for this one-off event which also features James Richardson and Will Berman (MGMT), Travis Roseberg, Matt Werth (RVNG Intl.), Chris Colley (SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS), and Alex Craig (LIMITED, DUCKTAILS, BIG TROUBLES). The expanded format of “Corruption Wrecked My Life” is another development in THE LILYS ever-revolving lineup that has included more than 72 different musicians since 1991, as well as a myriad of collaborators– Heasley is always pushing the boundaries of his music. These shows can be seen as retrospective performances celebrating the brilliance of his craft and his lasting influence on the past, current and future indie scene.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Love At Second Sight: Lush Reunites

It's a good time to be a fan of mid-1990's shoegaze, as all of dreampop's G1, top tier-level bands have made triumphant, feedback-drenched returns. 

The deluge of "old school" bands (the scene that apparently still celebrates itself) started where it should have with My Bloody Valentine releasing their first album in 22 years (2013's mbv) and headlining a bevy of concerts and festivals the world over in support of it. Then came Ride, playing a host of small engagements that eventually snowballed into a full blown tour. This was followed by Slowdive's reunification tour and hints of new studio output. And if that weren't enough, former Creation Records labelmates Swervedriver released a phenomenal return-to-form disc (2015's I Wasn't Born to Lose You) and are (as of this writing) still playing a host of shows in support of it.

(Oh, and The Jesus and Mary Chain - a band largely credited for starting this whole noise-dream music movement in the first place - are touring again. So, there's that.)

But all of that preamble above leads us to this news here: Lush have reunited!

Yep. Nearly 20 years after disbanding, forming other bands, getting married, raising kids, and the whole rigmarole that makes life worth living, Miki Berenyi, Emma Anderson and Philip King are dusting of the effects pedals and playing together again. 

Formed in 1987, Lush's gossamer harmonies caught the ear of Ivo Watts-Russell, whose seminal 4AD records label released all of the bands output in the U.K. (Reprise Records handled those duties here in the States). Produced by the like of Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie and Tim Freise-Greene, Lush's first recording garnering the feted "shoegaze" disparagement by a member of the fickle member of the British music press (NME or Melody Maker - take your pick) who, oddly enough, also lauded Lush's mercurial sound. Touring extensively  during the early 1990's, Lush raised their profile with slots in both the Glatsonbury and Lollapalooza music festivals, appearances on late night talk shows and even having one of their songs used in a Volkswagon commercial. Towards the mid 90's, Lush shed their shoegaze leanings and adopted the more dominant Britpop sound (al a Blur, Oasis and Pulp).

Throughout their iterations, however, Lush's lyrical focus remained trained on messy matters of the heart. While songs such as "Sweetness and Light," "De-luxe" and "Love At First Sight" explored the ecstatic (if uncertain and sometimes temperamental) moments brought about by love, "Ladykillers," "Hypocrite" or "The Childcatcher" explored love's aftermath with equal parts vitriol and venom. Riot grrrls though they may not necessarily had been (especially given that one half of the band was comprised of dudes), the themes of love, loss and re-assertion of one's sense of being (at times in it's most entertainingly vindictive, as with the song "Ciao!," which finds Berenyi and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker trading post-relationship barbs) illustrated that Lush's female leads had no time or patience for boyhood bullshit. 

Sadly, in 1996, drummer Chris Acland took his own life. Devastated, Berenyi, Anderson and King decided to disband. And that was that.

Or it was until yesterday, when, after hints left by both Anderson and King on each of their Twitter accounts, gave way to a full blown announcement the band's speculative fans saw coming a mile away: Lush have reunited. With a gig slated for London's Roundhouse on May 6th (featuring Elastica's Justin Welsh handling drumming duties), Lush with embark on series of concerts slated for 2016.

This reunion coincides with a raft of reissues. 4AD plans to release Caio!: The Best of Lush on vinyl, Chorus,  a five-disc box set which include the band's early singles compilation, Gala, the three studio albums (Spooky, Split and Lovelife), and the B-sides and rarities compilation, Topolino. Whew!

Nearly twenty years from the time they disbanded, Lush have returned to give a weary world so sorely in need of tough love floating over dreamy melodies exactly what it needs. Thank gawd for that.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fiver XIII - The Search For Spork

"Live long and stay in school."
Well. Haven't done one of these in a while.

Seeing how these Fiver music recommendations are one the hottest and more clamored-for features here on the good ol' Rocket Science Alliance weblog (and because I have nothing better to litter this space with), why not make this month's entry one of those?


That wish you didn't ask for is my command...

1. Beach House "Sparks"
From the album Depression Cherry
Sub Pop, 2015

The Baltimore spellgaze duo return with their new album, Depression Cherry, which will be out by the end of this month. While doing press, I'm sure some music journalist or another will latch onto these guys as if they too were in the band. Years later these sycophantic leaches will regale anyone who will listen at about that one time they chummed around with Victoria Legrand, getting drunk and belting out an impromptu version of  "Waterfalls" all over her. Fuckin' delusional music journalists!

2. Teen Daze "Morning World"
From the album Morning World
Paper Bag, 2015

As good as this languid and lush first single is, I can't help but wondering what all those little beep and boops at the start of this song sounded like before dazed teen mastermind (and he of the single name-having) Jameson diced 'em up, painted each individual grain different colors and scattered them all over the floor. I mean, what did that beautiful noodling at the beginning of this song sound like in its raw form? Pah! Like it's my place to ask (I can't take me anywhere). You do you, Teen Jamze. You do you.

3. Summer Twins "Demons"
From the album Limbo
Burger, 2015

So, I'm pretty sweet on Burger Records. Their Devil-may-care attitude, overflowing cassette output, and love/support of lo-fi goodness like Summer Twins here means this little record label that did has secured a permanent place in my heart. I mean, listen to this song. How fuckin' catching is this stuff? Really fuckin' catchy, if, so impressed are you, that words of praise have escaped you. And Burger has loads of this stuff waiting for you back at their place. What are you waiting for?!?

4. Swervedriver "Setting Sun"
From the album I Wasn't Born To Lose You
Cobraside, 2015

Long a staple of the 90's English shoegaze scene (whether they cared for that association or not), Swervedriver holds a special spot in my heart reserved for the crunchier, more controlled chaos brand of dreampop. So, I'm still scratching my head as to why I passed on seeing this them play the Doug Fir here in Portland when they glided through town. Maybe I thought the 16 years between their last release and this wouldn't find the Swervedriver I knew and loved in too good of shape. One listen to this record months after that show, however, and I realized exactly the sort of ignorant fool I indeed am.

5. Tame Impala "Let It Happen"
From the album Currents
Interscope, 2015

So, this band seems incapable of releasing a bad song...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Maybe They Should Reboot Hollywood

I love movies. L-O-V-E love movies. Schlepping to a theater, handing over my money, and taking a seat in a darkened cavern to take in a two-hour-or-so-long story is a lifelong ritual I have indulged in practically all my life. I worship at the house of cinema, pretty much. For me movies can be a great source of inspiration, a gateway into another world, or simply a short-term means of escape from reality. Movies have proven, over last 100 years and change, to be artistic achievements in their own right. At the very least, movies are profound documents of humanity's ever-evolving existence, be on a global, galactic or inter-personal scale. Add to this, movies are simply incredibly fun and emotionally stirring to watch.

But lately, the sliding standards of modern movie making has left me feeling a bit depressed. Over the last decade, Hollywood, in an effort to maximize profits and stave-off competition for eyeballs and impending obsolescence, has given the movie-goer a raft of mediocre faire to ingest. Groundbreaking and thought-provoking film achievements have given way to shoddy, mass-produced mediocrity. And two of the main culprits for this movie-going malaise can be rested squarely on the shoulders of the dearth of Tinseltown's twin bottom line,  number-crunching gambits de jour: the reboot and the remake.

It's not as if Hollywood hasn't remade great films from the past over the decades. The legendary film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice was treated to an overtly-sexualized remake starring Jack Nicolson and Jessica Lange during  that genre's resurgence in the 1970's. King Kong has been remade several times over with varying degrees of success. And then there is Gus Van Sant's perplexing shot-for-shot remake of Psycho.

But it wasn't until the last decade or so that Hollywood really ramped-up the remakes and the reboots with blind gusto. Not a day goes by now that one doesn't hear about the latest reworking and re-imagining of once great-to-marginally-good films. Just the other day, I read online about a potential remake in the works for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Haven't Hitch's movies and memory - the sequels to Psycho and the aforementioned Van Sant remake - suffered enough indignity already?

In the last several years alone, audiences have bore witness to Hollywood mining their memories of film-going experiences in the form of updated versions of such 1980's titles like Total Recall, Red Dawn and RoboCop. Upcoming reboots include GhostbustersPoint Break and a supposedly planned live action version of the masterful and legendary Citizen Kane of Japanese anime, Akira.

No line seems uncross-able to Hollywood. I wouldn't be surprised if there is indeed a Citizen Kane reboot in the works; the catalytic Rosebud now being a motorcycle or flash drive or a potentially world-destroying McGuffin.

Slap-dash a new coat of computer generated special effects, cast aesthetically pleasing "talent," and tune the script to our dour contemporary world view, and voilĂ ! Wash-down that shoveled-in handful of popcorn with a river of Coke from your big gulp, movie goer, and just be dazzled by state of the art 'splosions! Who needs to be engaged by what they're seeing on the screen, anyway? Shut off your brain and let these movies just happen to you!

It's not as if your average, every day movie attendee isn't just as much to blame for this deluge of reboots and remakes as Hollywood is. They are handing over their hard-earned cash to watch this disposable schlock, after all. And when not planted in seats, they are taking to YouTube's comments section, pontificating on who Hollywood should cast in the remake of the "vintage" movie trailer they're watching (stop motion special effects they can't tolerate, but continually recasting different actors in the same roll time and time again or fakey-fake CGI passes the smell test?)

But what's missing in these countless reboots and remakes is the heart of movie making; the heart of why stories need to be told in the first place. The original movies had what these re-imaginings never will. They left an impact with the viewer and gave them memorable moments, scenes and lines of dialog that meant something. Movies actually had an impact, of one sort or another. These things resonated with the audience.

With these remakes and reboots, those moments of wonder, awe and imagination are wiped away, and all we're left with is the new, slick digital facsimile of another generation's nostalgia. There's is only a meager, tangential connection with to those classics of yore, and no tangibly emotional impact. Watching these remakes is akin to eating cotton candy for Thanksgiving dinner; tasty, perhaps, but not substantive.

And there's the rub: by retreading the memories and nostalgia of previous generations - and their initial movie-going experiences - Hollywood has robbed this (and future) generations of their own movie-going experiences or impacting memories. Iconic moments and lines of dialog have been distilled into tossed-off lifeless line readings and emotion-dulling call-backs, rendered listlessly in an effort to recall better, more imaginative times. It's almost as if (I dare say) that these titles are being recycled not because of the initial impact they made on audiences, but rather to cash-in on the vague memory of these movies instead.

At present, there is a new Terminator movie in the theaters. Panned by critics and audiences alike as simply marginal at best, the latest installment (the fifth sequel to be exact) of the dystopian man-versus-machine franchise is less a sequel, and more a reimagining of sorts. James Cameron, the creator and original director of both The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day has gone on record as being dazzled by this film, somehow. All those things you loved and remember about his previous Terminator films, he says, are referenced in this film. No mention is made of the original moments Terminator: Genisys provides on its own, besides a ruined surprise twist. No, the crux of this film relies on those moments you remember in the better films from the past.

It's like a pair of great sneakers someone else wore. They've put in a new pair of shiny, state-of-the-art laces, and now it's your turn to wear 'em!

Look, these original movies were (and very much still are) pretty damned great. Perhaps a bit dated and scruffy-looking, but entertaining nonetheless. Groundbreaking and highly enjoyable movies will live on long after these cash-grab remakes are forgotten about and relegated to "embarrassing curiosity" status if ever uncovered again in the future. The emotional impact of these previous films cannot be replicated; only copied. And given Hollywood's track record at doing so, rather poorly and shallowly, at that.

I will admit, sometimes a property, if re-imagined correctly with enough attention and reverence to the details and inertia of the project and character, can prove to be a success (Batman, Mad Max and James Bond, for example). But for the most part, these cinematic facelift projects are groan-inducing trivialities. Need I mention the charming and lovable Chris Pratt wedged into a discussed remake of the Indiana Jones franchise?

Perhaps the worst part is that we, the audience, are missing out on potentially great, undiscovered movies from visionary and daring filmmakers and screenwriters. Truly groundbreaking stories or an age old tale retold with imagination, invention and splendor. But then you begin to wonder if Hollywood hasn't been in this remake tailspin too long when producing original, yet abysmally executed properties such as Jupiter Ascending, John Carter or A Winter's Tale. Even when they try, it seems, Hollywood fails.

Look, Hollywood, I have a novel idea for you. You're sitting on a slate of previously-made horrible films with great premises. Take the theatrical bomb that was Waterworld for example. Sure it was a flop, but the idea was there. It's a dystopian tale of struggle, adversity and pee-drinking. Slap on some new CGI, cast a few CW face masks, throw mounds of money at  Orci and Kurtzman to write a script hinging on a bad guy whose master plan hinges on getting caught, and there you go. Polish turds like this into gold, instead of the other way around. Hey, it worked for Judge Dredd.

In all seriousness, though, I want movie moments again. I want to be wowed by a story. I want to leave the theater satisfied, and to later recount what I've seen on-screen to friends, family and co-workers. I don't want to see the seams of CGI cartoonery taking the place of real emotion. I don't want to watch disposable pretty faces mouth breathing through their lines. And I don't want to reminisce about the movie I just witnessed only to discover the voluminous plot holes and narratives that, when you really think about them, make no sense at all.  I want a good story, characters I can believe in and subtlety in computer animated special effects (if they are even needed at all).

But above all, Hollywood, I want you to leave your accomplishments alone. Let these movies remain classics. And if you really feel the need to trot them back out again, restore the original prints and release them back into theaters. Movies are escapism, sure. But they can also tell some of the best tales imaginable. We can see, hear and feel them all at once. That's the power - the  magic - this medium possesses. Instead of re-telling the same (sometimes great) stories, perhaps concentrate on telling us something new; something bold; something original.

I mean, God knows we don't need to see, say, Anton Yelchin and Liam Neeson in a remake of Back to the Future*. Now that would be truly depressing.

*Hollywood, please don't actually do this.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Review: Neutral Milk Hotel, Live - Seattle, WA, 6/4/2015

Neutral Milk Hotel, Robert Schneider and The Minders
June 4th, Paramount Theater
Seattle Washington

A short three-hour sojourn from Rocket Science Alliance headquarters in Portland to the sun-soaked streets of Emerald City was all it took to finally be in the same room with genius recluse Jeff Mangum and his collective merry myth-makers - known to you, me and everyone as Neutral Milk Hotel

Never having seen this band play live prior to this (I have absolutely no excuse, I know), I furiously pounded my credit card pertinents into the website touting this as the very last time anyone will ever see Neutral Milk Hotel play live ever again. This, I was told, will definitely be the last time Mangum and co. will be touring their beloved and inspired music around for eager ears. Hell if I'm missing this!

And thank gawd I didn't, since this show - taking place at the equally awe-inspiring and georgous Paramount theater was quite possibly one of the absolute best live music performances I've ever been lucky enough to witness. Not even sitting in the Paramount's cramped nose bleed section (more on this later) could dim the hyper kinetic electricity this band is capable of creating.

Portland-based Elephant 6 vet's The Minders took the stage first. No sooner had the first been strummed than it quickly became evident that lead master-Minder Martyn Leaper still very much deftly commands mastery over melody and harmony. Powering through songs old and new, The Minders closed out their opening set with the rollicking "Needle Bomb," getting the crowd on its feet and whetting it's appetite for the main event to come.

Soon after, Apples in Stereo's Robert Schneider took the stage with a cohort I didn't entirely catch the name of thanks to a Chatty Cathy behind me regaling her male companion (((loudly))) with tales of vodka, blackouts and emergency room visits. From what I understood, the guitarist to Schneider's right was instrumental in many an E6 recording and was now playing with in Schneider's new musical outlet, Ulysses. The two played a collection of mostly mellow acoustic guitar-based ditties between Schneider's nebbishy and humorous on-stage banter (centering mostly on Collective history).

A photo not taken at the show.
After Schneider and accomplice exited stage left, techs darted in and about, setting up last minute instruments for the show the capacity crowd was here to see. The lights eventually dimmed and a voice overhead reminded the audience to, as a favor requested by Jeff Mangum himself, not to use their cell phones to photograph or videotape the performance they were about to see. Judging by the HUGE flare flash later in mid-performance from one balcony-situated audience member's cell phone, a couple of people didn't get that message.

As the lights came up onstage, a lone figure shuffled out, army green cap slung low on his long-bearded face. The crowd cheered rapturously. As Jeff Mangum slung his acoustic guitar over his shoulder and strummed the opening bars to "I Will Bury You in Time," the crown clapped and cheered jubilantly. As the rest of the band ran on stage and the Mangum's solo blended into "Holland, 1945," the crowd went apeshit. Neutral Milk Hotel had us in its thrall.

Note-for-note, spanning two albums (and one in particular which made this band legendary), Neutral Milk Hotel's performance this night was absolutely spot on. The energy filling this volumonous cavern of a theater was infectious, to say the least. Mangum's high-register yelp sounded as glass shattering and precisely in-tune as it did on his albums, and that crazy collection of musicians along side of him were fuckin' amazing; Neutral Milk Hotel were fuckin' amazing.

So, back to those nose bleed seats: Taking the stage for the encore clapping hands and lack of house lights commanded, Neutral Milk Hotel blazed through a In The Areoplane Over The Sea's "Ghost." A couple of rows in front of me stood a guy in a puffy 1970's-esque ski vest with blue and orange stripes darting down the middle of his back. The power of the swirling, raucous music compelled him to take to his feet and dance with fists pumping piston-like in the air, his energy uncontainable. One, two, then three fellow audience members sheepishly joined him and faded-in to standing dance moves of their own. As his ranks grew to seven, a security guard stepped in all John Lithgow from Footloose-like to break up the celebration, ushering these rabble-rousers from their perch to the walkway above.

As "Ghost" swelled, the dancers, undeterred, started dancing again. This time, they were legion, joined by more and more audience members. People scurried up and down the steep incline of the balcony's stair to join them. A girl in a sleek green dress shimmied next to guy in glasses doing the shake. Here they were, a crowd of predominantly white people shaking their asses off without a care in the world.

As "Ghost" melded into "Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2," the mood soon became somber and meditative; the dancers once furious now swayed in the band's contemplative breeze. All the way back in the section of theater many bands ignore, Mangum and company had us - hearts, minds and bodies - under their spell.

THAT's the power of Neutral Milk Hotel.