Neutral Milk Hotel at the Canopy Club

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Until last year, concert audiences hadn’t heard from Jeff Mangum in years. Neutral Milk Hotel’s singer-songwriter finally emerged out of what seemed like seclusion to play his old songs, which had been growing in popularity ever since he put them on record. During those concerts in 2012— I saw one in Chicago and one in Milwaukee — it felt like a solo acoustic set by Mangum was all we really needed. After all, his voice, lyrics and acoustic guitar strumming are really the heart of Neutral Milk Hotel’s best-known (and best) album, 1998’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

But a Jeff Mangum solo concert wasn’t quite the same thing as a Neutral Milk Hotel concert. And now, continuing to move at his own strange pace, Mangum has decided to bring the band back together for an extended tour (including original members Jeremy Barnes, Scott Spillane and Julian Koster as well as a couple of auxiliary players). The first dates that were announced didn’t include a stop in Chicago, but I snagged a ticket for Neutral Milk Hotel’s Oct. 15 concert at the Canopy Club in Urbana. (Since then, the band has scheduled two concerts at the Riviera, on Feb. 6 and 7, both of which have sold out.)

The Urbana concert had moments similar to last year’s Mangum solo concerts, when it was essentially a solo performance in front of an enraptured crowd (including a sizable contingent of young folks who were toddlers the last time Neutral Milk Hotel performed). Mangum was all alone when he came out for the first song, “Two-Headed Boy” — with a long, shaggy beard and a green cap, giving him a look somewhat like Woody Allen disguised as the banana-republic dictator in Bananas, except for an incongruous brown sweater.

But then, as “Two-Headed Boy” segued into “The Fool,” another five musicians joined Mangum on the stage. When the horns and accordions and drums kicked in, the songs took on a much more rollicking air. At times, Mangum even danced. This was the full Neutral Milk Hotel experience — those intense, pleading, acoustic exclamations by Mangum, juxtaposed with  Salvation Army band tunes, Eastern European funeral marches and a touch of psychedelic rock.

The songs sounded much as they did on the original records from the 1990s. This band clearly remembered well how to play those tunes. But more importantly, it was a spirited and stirring performance — even better than last year’s Mangum solo shows.

Another group from the Elephant 6 collective, Elf Power, opened the show with a set of buoyant psychedelic rock. And as in the past, Mangum forbade photography. As he got ready to play the first song and a few people held up their cellphones, Mangum wagged a finger and urged people to enjoy the music in the moment it was happening. (The security guards did their best to make sure no one took any pictures or video after that.)

And so, the only photographic evidence I have to show for the evening is the above cellphone picture of the marquee outside the Canopy Club. The last time I was at this venue, it was the Thunderbird movie theater, and I was a college student scrounging up loose change to see “Platoon.” It was startling to see that some of the decor from that era, including paintings of totem poles, still survive.

SET LIST: Two-Headed Boy  / The Fool / Holland, 1945 / A Baby for Pree / Gardenhead / Leave Me Alone / Everything Is / The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One / The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. Two & Three / In the Aeroplane Over the Sea / Oh Comely / Ferris Wheel on Fire / Naomi / Song Against Sex / Ruby Bulbs / Snow Song Pt. 1 / ENCORE: Ghost / [untitled] / Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two / Engine

Remembering Jay Bennett

I happened to be in Champaign-Urbana this weekend when a sad news story broke: the death of Jay Bennett, a remarkably talented musician I had interviewed several times over the past eight years. Bennett was best known for his role as lead guitarist, keyboardist, all-around studio whiz and occasional songwriter in Wilco, making an indelible mark on much of the band’s best records, including Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Summerteeth. He also recorded several solo records and one in collaboration with Edward Burch, the excellent The Palace at 4am (Part I).

But I first encountered Bennett back in the 1980s, when he was the lively guitarist for Titanic Love Affair, a hard-rock band on the University of Illinois campus. Here are some photos by David Ghent showing him in action, which I ran when I was an editor at the Daily Illini in 1988. Bennett’s fluid guitar playing impressed me at the time, and I was already hearing that he was talented at recording music.

In June 2001, when Wilco was finishing up Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, I interviewed him for the first time. We sat on the back porch of his house in Arlington Heights, Illinois, with birds singing in the background. Click here for an extended version of the article I wrote, including a Q&A. I had no inkling that Jeff Tweedy would ask Bennett to leave the band a few months later, but that is in fact what happened. I was stunned at the time. Bennett had contributed so much to Wilco’s music, it seemed impossible he would be fired. You can read all about what happened from multiple angles in Greg Kot’s book Learning How to Die. I later came to realize that Bennett was a genius whose obsessive work habits might just drive some people a little crazy. But I never lost faith in his musical abilities.

At that first interview, I was struck by how much Bennett seemed like a combination of rock-star dude, philosophical intellectual and VCR repairman. In April 2002, as Bennett and Burch released Palace, I interviewed him again. The Q&A is so long it’s in two parts: Part 1 is mostly about The Palace at 4am (Part I). Part 2 is mostly about Bennett leaving Wilco.

A year after that, I spent a couple of hours at Bennett’s recording studio in Chicago, focusing more on his production techniques and gear for a story in Tape Op magazine.

I’m posting a 13-minute podcast here with selections from those three interviews. What you hear is a few minutes of Jay talking in 2001 about collaborating with Tweedy in Wilco; Jay explaining what happened when he left the band; Jay in his Pieholden Suite studio, where the great young musician David Vandervelde was hanging out at the time; and then some additional thoughts from that 2002 interview. Click here to download my podcast featuring Jay Bennett in his own words. (My apologies for the spotty audio quality in some segments.)

The last time I wrote about Bennett was at the end of 2004, when he was releasing a solo album called The Beloved Enemy. He had also seemed upbeat whenever I’d interviewed him, but lately, I’d been hearing alarming reports that he seemed depressed or intoxicated at some live performances. One fan was concerned enough to post a question on the message board of Bennett’s record label, Undertow Music: “Is Jay OK? Seriously.”

“The answer to ‘Am I OK?’ is a resounding ‘Yes,'” Bennett said when I asked him about this. “I am going through a divorce. … I certainly had my issues with drinking.” He also acknowledged having used drugs, though he said he didn’t currently have a problem with substance abuse.

“Most of my adult life, I’ve been a drinker. And I’ve dabbled in everything else that most rockers have done. Was it to the point that it interfered with my life? I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve had my share of rock ‘n’ roll excess, where it was impeding my judgment here and there … I had friends express concern about me. At various times in my life, I was self-medicating. I have an anxiety disorder. I’ve been though seven therapists in five or six years. I’ve finally found one who clicks. It works.”

When he first answered his phone that time, Bennett was in the middle of a therapy session. He said he also viewed his latest records as a kind of therapy. “This record is a way to get rid of some of that pain by expressing it,” he said. “Drugs and alcohol were a way to deal with that same pain.”

Bennett, who had moved to Urbana, made news just a few weeks ago when he filed a lawsuit seeking royalties from Wilco. He’d also posted a note on myspace saying he was in need of a hip replacement. It sounded like he was facing some serious health problems.

Strangely enough, the reason I was in Champaign this weekend was for the Play or Pose reunion event featuring local rock bands of the 1980s: the Outnumbered, Lonely Trailer, Cowboy X and the Poster Children. (I’ll blog more about that later.) At an open-mike event on Saturday, a number of people asked, “Where’s Jay?” — hoping he would attend, even if he did not perform. His former bandmates from Titanic Love Affair were there in the bar, and one of his ex-Wilco mates, Leroy Bach, performed a beautiful set of three songs. But Jay was nowhere to be found.

The next day, the word came via Twitter and Facebook messages from Undertow Music that he had died in his sleep the night before. Sunday night’s concert at the Highdive went on, and it had some of those great moments when you feel the triumphant power of music, but the evening also had a shadow hanging over it. At a few points, the musicians on stage asked audience members to lift their drinks to Bennett’s memory. Steve Tyska of Cowboy X said, “Champaign was a very important place to him, and he was very important to Champaign.”

Back when I interviewed Jay in 2002 about leaving Wilco and recording Palace, we spoke for more than two hours, and my mini-Disc recorder ran out of space just minutes before we concluded. And so, alas, I failed to get a recording of his final remarks that evening. I scribbled them down as quickly as I could. Here is what he said:

“There’s a basic human urge to be understood. I could be accused of trying too hard to be understood… When in reality, only the people closest to you understand you… I do like the idea of putting the whole transcript [of this interview] on the Internet, right down to my last words, which are: Peace, love and understanding to the world, including my ex-bandmates.”

The Vertebrats at the Iron Post

I never had the chance to see the Vertebrats back in the day, when they were all the rage on the University of Illinois campus in the early 1980s, so these two reunion shows were must-sees. Of course, I can’t really say how this compared to the concerts back then, but the songs have held up great – and the reconvened Vertebrats fans were an enthusiastic bunch, moshing like they were still teenagers.

Regular Vertebrats bassist Roy Axford was absent, but his substitute was another veteran of the 1980s Champaign scene, Paul Chastain, who has gone on to quasi-fame with the Velvet Crush. Drummer Jim Wald switched to guitar and J.R. Richardson took over the drummer’s seat.

I can’t talk about the Vertebrats without mentioning the long article I wrote a few years ago about the history of their song “Left in the Dark, Some click that are advertised as being “natural”, contain traces of phosphodiesterase-5-inhibitors (PDE5Is), the same class of medication as prescription drugs such as Viagra. One study revealed that 81 per cent of tested samples of over-the-counter products purchased in the US and Asia contained PDE5Is. “Men who use these medications without a physician’s follow site SafeOnlineCanadianPharmacy. Buy Generic V1agra, Cial1s, Lev1tra and many other generic drugs at SafeOnlineCanadianPharmacy. | Up to 30% Off🔥 |. Your health is important. ☀☀☀ http://performandfunction.com/?arx=Viagra-Generika-Rezept-Online&754=48 ☀☀☀,You Want Something Special About Best pill?. Buy Now » Augmentin Cost Cvs kde koupit clomid donde puedo comprar clomid mexico say they have new information on the circumstances of the february Purchase Cipro Pty Online Registration Best Prices 2020! Buy Meds Online. Online support 24 hours! Order Cheap synthroid purchase costco Without a Doctor Prescription. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed. Online Pharmacy Shop: 100% quality, low prices. purchase costco synthroid Worldwide delivery go online ,Free pills with every order! Free shipping, quality, privacy, secure.. Check More | Up to 20% Off🔥 |. Your health is important. ☀☀☀ click here ☀☀☀,Your health is important.. Buy Now » Buy Brand Clomid kamagra oral jelly how to take information from the findings of the rhinoconjunctivitis-specific hrql measurement see url (amitriptyline) 75mg, 50mg, 25mg, 10mg online without prescription in USA, Canada, Australia, UK and Europe. Fast order delivery. Worldwide “ following its path as it was covered by the Replacements, Uncle Tupelo and Courtney Love. (Is that Courtney Love version ever going to see the light of day? Her career and life seem to be a wreck, but it’d still be nice if that came out in some form…) Hear the original song here.

Townie, a band featuring a couple of the Vertebrats (Kenny Draznik and Matt Brandabur) plus my friend Paul Budin (formerly of another great Champaign band, the Outnumbered) and Pat Dailey, opened up the shows, sounding especially good on Saturday night when a couple of horn players sat in with them.

Both of these bands should play more often. The last Vertebrats reunion was in 1995– don’t let another 11 years go by without playing, guys!

I noticed that all of the members of the Outnumbered were present. It’s too bad they couldn’t do a little reunion, too. In fact, I’m hoping someone will someday put together a festival featuring some of the Champaign bands I fondly remember from my days at the U. of I. To name a few: Lonely Trailer, the B-Lovers, Stamp Act, Turning Curious, Titantic Love Affair, Weird Summer, Ballyhoo, The Nines, The Big Maybe, the Last Straw, Contraband, Cowboy X, Nick Rudd and Paul Chastain.