Jeff Mangum had a band called Neutral Milk Hotel back in the late 90's and made some weird experimental folk albums and was largely ignored and then went away. This would likely have been the end of the story, with the band and its albums known only to music geeks and people in other bands, except in 2005 Domino Records re-released the album "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" and Pitchfork gave it a 10 and then everybody was interested in Neutral Milk Hotel and Jeff Mangum again. He responded to this newfound interest by doing nothing. (Well, he did occasionally appear on friends' bands' albums and at their shows, but not enough so that it could be said he was really doing something.)
Then all of a sudden last year he started playing shows again. And touring. He's going to play at Coachella this year, which for some reason seems very odd to me, I guess because his songs are strange and deeply personal and Coachella seems loud and hot and big and not deeply personal.
ANYWAY, last night he played at the Great American Music Hall here in San Francisco and we went to see it because I'm both a music geek and a person in another band and I've really liked his music for a long time. Although NMH's recorded stuff is a wild mix of instrumentation, with stuff like accordions and lengths of metal pipe and saws and God knows what else, for this show it was mostly Mangum and a series of acoustic guitars and occasionally some horns. He seemed comfortable and at ease on stage, which I was mildly surprised by because supposedly he's kind of a loon. But he bantered easily with the audience and seemed to be enjoying himself. He tore through most (or all, maybe?) of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" and threw in some other stuff as well.
And the crowd! Reverential is putting it mildly. This was maybe the first show I've ever been to where no one talked during the quiet parts. Sure, everybody sang along during the loud parts but it seemed oddly fitting and normal. But beyond just singing the words, the crowd went one better and hummed the horn parts that were missing on some songs. Intense.
He's playing tonight and tomorrow night at the Fox in Oakland, if you're interested. I have no idea if the shows are sold out or what, but worth a shot.