There are certain shows that once seemed impossible but somehow turned out to be … miraculously. A few years ago Jeff Mangum came out of reclusiveness to play a benefit show followed by several solo shows. Those solo tours eventually led to a full reunion with Neutral Milk Hotel, and I don’t think any of us ever thought we’d see it. The result was magnificent … better than you could imagine. Instantly, the solo shows and NMH shows end up on a “best of” list you can count on one hand.
Failure at The Stone Pony in Asbury on May 31st was another one of those shows. A band that only existed in our memories. Failure is the most criminally underrated band from the 90s or any period. They released Fantastic Planet, likely my favorite album of all-time, in 1996 and inspired much of the artistic projects I take on. With all that said, expectations for this kind of show become insurmountable. The show did, however, exceed those high expectations, and I’ll first attribute that to frontman Ken Andrew’s background as one of best sound mixers on the planet. Sir Andrews turned The Stone Pony into the Carnegie Hall of Asbury Park. It was easily the best sound I’ve ever heard at a show. Andrews mixes from a mountain of equipment on the side of the stage and likely hands the sound guy the most pristine signal he’s ever encountered. Next, the constant switching of guitars communicates the intricacy of the Failure catalog and is just plain engaging to watch. Finally, Kelli Scott’s drumming on Fantastic Planet is incomparable in my eyes. His live drumming, 18 years after the release of that album, was astounding. There was no true highlight, but opening with “Another Space Song” and closing with “Bernie” and “Daylight” couldn’t have been better. My bucket list is now one item shorter.