I keep having to tell myself, “I am going to see Neutral Milk Hotel three nights in a row and I will enjoy it”. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy it, they were/are one of my favourite bands and buying three tickets to their hometown Athens shows didn’t seem like a big deal earlier this year when I got them.
Not that I am not going to enjoy the shows, just that it’s three shows, that is a lot, I’ve never seen any band three nights in a row, apart from my friends band Eux Autres when I was on the road with them and that was different as I was their unofficial/official merch girl & Taco Bell roadie. It’s also that thing that the pressure of seeing one of your favourite bands three nights in a row means that it has to be AMAZEBALLS every night.
Why am I going all the way to Athens to see them then? Well to be honest I can’t imagine or want to see them play anywhere else than the 40 Watt, every London venue I imagined them play in I wrinkled my face up in disgust. I’m glad they’re playing the Roundhouse cause that’s the nicest place they could play (it could’ve been the Shepherds Bush Empire, imagine how horrible that would’ve been). The 40 Watt in Athens feels right, it’s their home town, the place I saw both Apples in Stereo and Olivias for the first time in a long while, the venue is nice, not too big, has good beer on tap and HUGE cans of PBR for $4, the support bands will all be fab (yeah ok stop convincing yourself it’s going to brilliant).
I first heard Neutral Milk when they were on tour with Sparklehorse, we went to see the show at the Cockpit in Leeds and I was blown away, Jeff Mangum looked like a crazy serial killer, Jeremy Barnes is still the best drummer in the world and is so amazing to watch, Julian Koster played all sorts of crazy instruments and Scott Spillane looked like a life sized garden gnome on the french horn and tuba. It was one of the most intense, personal and revelationary shows I had seen. Afterwards I spoke to Scott Spillane who told me all about the Elephant 6 Collective and all the bands connected with the scene, and I take that conversation to be the start of my Elephant 6 journey. I didn’t have enough money to buy the album at the show and the next weekend went on a hunt for “In The Aeroplane…” all over the record shops in Leeds, then had to buy it mail order from the UK label, it finally was waiting for me after I had been away for the weekend seeing Elliot Smith play in Sheffield, and I remember lil 17 year old me listening to the album whilst the rain pelted on my Leeds attic bedroom roof. It was my favourite record and I loved it, it felt like it was mine and it felt like no one else I knew apart from the friends who I was at the show with knew of them.
I then became a teenage Elephant Six nut, tracking down albums, exploring the Kindercore, Orange Twin & Happy Happy Birthday to Me catalogues, the first gig I booked was The Great Lakes, the first gig I played with my first proper band was supporting Dressy Bessy. I finally went to Athens three years ago for the Athens Popfest and have some serious memories with some of my favourite people whilst there (shout out to the bucket party crew of 2011). I think I would have wanted to book shows and play music regardless, it’s something I do, but thinking about all of this, maybe some of my musical adventures wouldn’t of happened if it hadn’t of been for Neutral Milk Hotel.
So here I am, bags packed and looking forward to the next few days, yes, three nights. Neutral Milk I know you wont but please don’t let me down!