A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Wrapup: Jeff Mangum @ First Unitarian Church, Burlington 8/8/11

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Tuesday August 9, 2011

Though I admittedly waste way too much time paying attention to live music listings in Burlington, Montreal, Boston, D.C., New York and Chicago, sometimes all that wasted time pays off.  For every 50 shows I see that are in a city that I can’t make it to, I come across one gem like last night’s show that makes every freaking second worth it.

As a brief introduction for those unfamiliar, Jeff Mangum was most notably the the driving force behind Neutral Milk Hotel, indie rock idols who last released an album in 1998.  Yup, the same year I was heading off to college with posters of 2Pac and Wu-Tang Clan to hang on my walls, Jeff Mangum released what could be considered one of the best albums of my generation.

Last night, after taking a decade or so off of performing live music, Mangum proved to an adoring crowd of several hundred overheated fans that the wait was worth it.  And the audience responded in kind, pumping the packed, nearly 200-year old church with a palpable electricity.

A few songs in, as he was putting down one guitar and picking up another underneath a glowing red altar, the PA system popped and went silent.  Taking it completely in stride, Mangum picked up his folding chair and a guitar and sat on the floor facing the first pew to sing a tune while the issue was fixed.  With at least half of the audience singing along (at his request), he belted out an acoustic rendition of Two Headed Boy Pt. 2 as people streamed from the pews to the floor to sit beside him.

Playing a good mix of tunes from Neutral Milk Hotel’s two releases (Avery Island & In the Aeroplane Over the Sea), as well as a Daniel Johnston cover and an unreleased song requested by someone up front, Mangum gave us no hint as to his future as a performer, only a reminder of his talented past.

Kudos to everyone there last night (at least as far as I’ve heard) for respecting the artist’s request for no photos or recording of any sort.  It definitely spoke volumes about the quality of Burlington’s live music scene, and made me excited rather than envious for the first time in a while.

Extra special thanks go to Angioplasty Media and MSR for bringing this show to Burlington. Your efforts are more appreciated than I’m able to express on the internet.  Please keep doing what you’re doing.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Too many bands are dying

Filed Under: Random Thought, Wicked Good Music
Written by Brendan
Friday August 5, 2011

Figuratively speaking of course.  But seriously, this is getting worrisome.  I’m still upset about the loss of Drink Up Buttercup (RIP May 2011), Wolf Parade (RIP 2010) and Port O’Brien (RIP 2010), and now I’m mourning another.   The Middle East announced via Facebook earlier this week that they were ceasing to be:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN,

writing to inform you that we’re ceasing. i’m not sure if we’ll make more music later on or not.

we don’t feel like playing anymore for a whole lot of reasons that i won’t list here and i’m afraid if we continued any longer it would just be a moneygrab. i’d rather go hungry. thank you to all those who came to shows.

we had fun.

t.s elliot wrote ‘you are the music while the music lasts’, but he also wrote that confusing little book about cats so don’t put too much stock in his quotes.

i’m very tired. until next time.

sincerely yours,

the middle east.

Yeah, that’s the same Middle East that recently released I Want That You Are Always Happy, my favorite album of the year to date.  While I do have to give them credit for going out on their own terms, I’m also selfishly pissed that I’m not going to see them perform live.  They were definitely on the top of my must-see list, and it really sucks to be adding them to the list of lost bands so soon.

To celebrate their work while mourning their loss, here’s The Middle East’s “Jesus Came To My Birthday Party:”

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.