If you’re reading this blog (or really any music blog for that matter), you probably know revered Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum doesn’t play a lot of gigs these days. And as his band’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea would probably (rightfully so) be regarded as one of the handful of albums with a guaranteed spot in an indie rock bible, it’s kind of a big deal when he does.
Well, it was announced today that he is doing just that, and quite soon actually. Needless to say, people are talking about it. Mangum will play a short acoustic set at Le Poisson Rouge in downtown Manhattan on May 6 along with Yo La Tengo and lots of others in a collective effort to benefit New Zealand musician Chris Knox, the Australian musician whose medical ailments also caused Mangum to contribute to a benefit album recently.
This news caused the fine folks at Vulture to devolve into an inspired outburst on scenes and being seen.
Since the show will certainly sell out quickly no matter what, we’ll be honest and say that while there is no artist we’d rather see perform than Mangum (in the world), the fact that every single person there will be holding up a Flip Cam or iPhone to record it, ruining the moment and breaking our hearts, means we will be skipping the show and waiting for the YouTube footage to be uploaded that night. (And no, the irony of that isn’t lost on us.) We’d rather remember Jeff as he was in 1998, when human beings could and did rapturously enjoy a musician’s work in the moment without the need to distract from it by holding up devices so they could prove they were there. (And if taking these measures to protect our memories/hearts makes us old Luddites, sign us up. We’re pretty sure Jeff himself would be on our side.)
We get it. Really we do. But at the same time the sentiment sort of depresses the hell out of us. Do we really live in a culture where things are announced on Pitchfork at 10 and we’re already over them by noon? We recently checked out The Soft Pack down in the Cake Shop basement and couldn’t help but notice the kid next to us was iPhone’ing the whole thing and taking notes in the vein of “Too many bloggers here, not enough real rockers.” Or “This would have been cooler back in ’94.” Sadly, we are not making this up. And no, the irony is not lost on us either. We never got around to asking him about it. But you know how we reacted to this? We laughed it off and got back to enjoying a pretty great show.
This is all simply to say a great musician that means a lot to us and you is playing a brief set of his music for a good cause. It will most likely be quite good. You should go if you want. If you aren’t into big crowds or short sets, maybe stay at home. But don’t let the dude on your left with the FlipCam ruin it for you. Just block his shot or incessantly shout out your own blog so his tagging is ruined forever and his YouTube views suffer. Or, you know, move.