No, Neutral Milk Hotel did not get together for a reunion tour. The news is not that promising. However, Jeff Mangum did muster up the courage to join his Elephant 6 collective on stage at a show at the Knitting Factory in NYC. The concert was part of the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour. Mangum was on stage for Olivia Tremor Control’s “The Opera House” and “I Have Been Floated,” and Elf Power’s “The Arrow Flies Close.” Unfortunately for fans, Jeff did not play any NMH tracks, but former NMH bandmate, Scott Spillane played “The Fool” from Neutral Milk Hotel’s masterpiece In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. the rare appearance from the Indie rock recluse keeps hopes alive that we may one day see new material. Ex-NMH multiinstrumentalist Julian Koster recently told Billboard Magazine about Jeff’s immediate intentions:
Jeff told me he wants to make it to the Chicago show and maybe the Kentucky show, so we’ll see. I know he hasn’t played out much in the past few years, but he seemed very excited about this tour when I talked to him.
Jeff Mangum hasn’t played material from Neutral Milk Hotel since his last show in New Zealand on February 4, 2001. Here is a clip from Jeff’s surprise appearance at the Knitting Factory on October 11:
It has actually happened. Just days after his surprise appearance at the Knitting Factory in New York, Jeff Mangum played a Neutral Milk Hotel track at back-to-back shows in Pittsburgh and Columbus. Julian Koster played the singing saw as Jeff strummed the deeply moving chords of Holland, 1945 B-side, Engine. Mangum may still be a little distraught over playing NMH material, as they remained in the crowd to play the song instead of performing on stage. This performance created one of the more memorable moments in recent memory. Jeff’s voice sounded better than ever. The lighting in the videos was absolutely terrible due to Jeff being in the crowd while playing. However, the sound quality is as good as it gets for this type of event. The flashing cameras gives short glimpses of Mangum, who has become a messiah-like figure in Indie rock since his mental breakdown and reclusive behavior. One can only hope that the road to recovery has brought him to a point where playing live will be a more frequent occurence. Maybe future recordings and touring is a possibility. Here is the video from the Ohio performance:
Another update (October 23, 2008) – Jeff played Engine in Chicago. This marks the third straight show that Jeff has played the NMH track!