A few weeks ago, I saw Jeff Mangum, the lead singer of 90s indie band Neutral Milk Hotel, perform at Lupo’s for an acoustic set. Before I proceed, let me just quickly get this out of my system: Jeff is perfection incarnate. We are not worthy. My brain literally cannot fathom how otherworldly his stage presence is. His voice runs down my soul like fancy spiced rum. His lyrics are Dali paintings for my ears. Yes, I am forever blessed to have discovered his band on that teenvogue.com music forum one summer night when I decided that I had had enough of Jonas Brothers commercialized pop tunes. Jeff Mangum’s music really is like no other, and seeing him live will definitely change you. Below are 8 things I learned at his concert:
1. Not all opening bands are painfully boring. There were two opening bands, but the one that I most enjoyed was the second one called The Music Tapes. The quirky wide-eyed singer was extremely endearing (I swear I’m not talking about Zooey Deschanel). I just felt like going on stage and petting him. The set featured a singing television, a seven-foot-tall metronome, and a saw that was repurposed into a musical instrument. At one point, I was just so confused as to what the hell was going on, but I was too riveted to look away. Overall, it was one of the most delightfully trippy and chill musical moments I’ve ever experienced, and this is coming from a fellow Californian, mind you.
2. Perfect voices are soooo overrated. Jeff Mangum’s voice isn’t perfectly smooth, but it’s one of my favorite voices out there. It is shrill and loud in all the right ways. It’s laden with feeling, but not the warm, fuzzy ones you get from listening to Jack Johnson (think more on the morbid side). There were moments when he held his high notes, and everyone in the audience shared the same expression of incredulity. Jeff’s voice just reverberates through every inch of your being. It is so incredibly powerful that you even feel tired after listening to him sing. That, or I’m probably just getting too old for this shit.
3. There’s a time and place for everything. There truly is a time and place for everything, and it turns out that being front row center at a concert gives you a lot of leeway. I was able to comfortably rest my arms on the railing, and the crowd was very tame, so crushed limbs were not a thing. The best part about being so close to the stage was, well, looking at the musician up close! I witnessed Jeff’s gestures and mannerisms in all of their splendor, and I’m pretty sure there was some serious chemistry going on between Jeffy (I like to think we’re that close) and me. Yeah, I’m positive it wasn’t a secondhand high. Also, I rarely scream to an artist “I love you!”; like I said, my teenybopper concert days are over. However, I was gripped by the unyielding power of #yolo and decided to do so after a song. Seconds later, Jeff looked at me and replied, “I love you, too” and the audience let out the biggest collective “Awww” I’ve ever heard. I. saw. stars.
4. Jesus-looking men turn me on. Actually, this has already been established since middle school, but the concert just served to reinforce it. I never found Jeff Mangum to be that attractive. I mean yes, he does bear some resemblance to Trevor Moore (whom I absolutely adore), but it’s mainly Jeff’s talent that made me fall in love with him. During this tour, he’s been sporting a luscious new beard with long wispy hair, which he couples with his signature hat. This lumberjack look does wonders for him. It adds to his mysterious charm, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to bang him right then and there.
5. You’ll never look as good in a vintage sweater as Jeff does. Sometimes I wonder if Jeff ever wears anything other than vintage sweaters or plaid shirts. Basically, I feel like he’s stuck in the 1990s. His look is far from the contrived hipster outfit, though. He wears his grungy clothes with confidence, clothes that tell of times when music was true and deodorant irrelevant.
6. Crying never felt more cathartic. I always find myself crying at concerts, whether it be because I just feel all the emotions or because I can’t find my mom in the parking lot (it was one time!!). At this concert, I simply could not contain my tears during “Oh Comely” and “Two-Headed Boy”, two of my favorite songs. The lyrics are uber weird, yet incredibly moving. I remember how mesmerized I felt after first hearing these songs on YouTube, so finally hearing them live and up close was definitely a highlight of my life. I can’t even begin to describe how it felt when Jeff belted out my favorite lyrical lines of all time. Actually, yes. I can.
7. Jeff is incredibly down-to-earth (or whatever planet he identifies with). In between songs, Jeff would constantly thank the audience for their continued support, and for showing so much love toward songs that were more than a decade old. He spoke quietly and humbly, and his smile after hearing the audience’s thunderous applauses was priceless. The truth is that his music is timeless, and no other band or musician will ever be able to imitate the effect his has on his audience.
8. A crowd who sings along = religious experience. So I’ve been in a few crowds where almost everyone in the audience sings along with perfect precision and intonation. However, nothing could have prepared me for what was about to go down that night. From the first to the last song, the crowd sang with such zeal and sentiment that I though I was going to lose it. It was just too much for a girl to handle. Like any good fan, I contributed with my best vocals, which were surely the likes of dying sheep. Nonetheless, I bet Jeff was majorly tearing up after hearing us all, but you really couldn’t tell under his raggedy facial hair. Oh splendid, splendid raggedy facial hair.