What a beautiful dream
For some of you, you've been waiting since 1998 for this day. For others it may have only been a couple of years; even just a couple of months. Either way, a lot of us have been waiting. And with good reason.
When Neutral Milk Hotel dissolved in 1999, they were one of the last true cult bands. They'd released two albums, only one of which gained minor traction. The Internet wasn't yet in full flight, so unless Triple J played it (they didn't) or your local Sanity stocked it (they didn't) it was unlikely you would have heard of them. Not only that, but they played a style of music that had not yet been mimicked or popularised by the next generation of artists — so much of whom pointed us in the NMH direction — so we may not have even loved them, if we had heard them.
But whenever we did finally track down a copy of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea sometime in the last 15 years, from the opening buzzy guitar chords of King Of Carrot Flowers Pt 1, that beautiful piece of art instantly pitched a quaint, slightly off-kilter tent in the middle of our hearts, where it's remained, unmoved, ever since.
When whispers started a few years ago that Jeff Mangum had finally come to terms with his legacy and was out performing NMH songs again, it was kind of like finding out Santa Claus was real, after years of dismissing it as bullshit. But those whispers turned into conversations and those conversations turned into excited celebrations, until finally, we find ourselves here today, about to experience Neutral Milk Hotel in Sydney for the very first time.
It's unnerving to imagine what Mangum's warbling, awkward notes will sound like weaving their way through the rafters of the Enmore Theatre tonight, after all we're so used to years of hearing it via speakers or headphones. What is thrilling, however, is the thought that those notes will collide mid-air with a thousand mirrored responses, as a theatre full of Sydney-siders, like in theatres and festivals around the world, will sing those stunningly strange words back at Mangum uncontrollably, with joyous tears burning their eyes and smiles torn across their faces.
So, in celebration of Neutral Milk Day in Sydney, we take a moment to remember and reflect on why this band means so much to us and our collective, music-loving being. See/hug you tonight.