By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
Korry Keeker, KCOU (88.1 FM): It was three months before I was going to graduate in May, and I was extremely excited to see Superchunk, my favorite band, for the sixth or seventh time. I believe I had heard bits and pieces of On Avery Island, and though I liked it a lot, it didn't strike me as anything extraordinary from the rest of the Elephant 6 stuff or other indie stuff at the time. The Blue Note show was about one week after Aeroplane had come out.
Neutral Milk Hotel came out extremely awkwardly. The stage was covered with an assortment of instruments, and there were quite a few members, all of whom were ramshackle in appearance. I was uncertain if there was a leader in the band, as they gave off the impression that it was some sort of free-flowing cooperative that managed to haphazardly work, fall apart and stay together through the force of personality.
There were twelve to fifteen of us lined up awkwardly about ten feet from the stage in a sort of loosely spaced parabola. I remember it being one of those rare shows where you could actually see the "light bulb" going on over audience members. That is, as they busted out the tuba, the theremin and the saw, more and more people started warming up to things, as if we were taking turns freaking out. I can't remember them doing any of the Aeroplane songs in the stripped-down way they appear on the album, but they must have.
6691 Delmar Blvd.
University City, MO 63130
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Delmar/ The Loop
1227 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103-1903
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: St. Louis - Downtown
I guess the part that I remember most is the sort of crazed look on [bassist] Julian Koster's face as he cycled through playing crazy-ass drum fills and all the random instruments. Not being familiar with most of the songs, for me it was about being blown away by the pure-feverishness and the grab-bag, carnivalesque nature of the show. I admit, though, that I was over-anxious to see Superchunk take the stage and rock the shit out of some No Pocky for Kitty songs. So my memories are somewhat tempered.
February 20, 1998, The Galaxy, with Superchunk and Gaunt
Keeker: The next day at the Galaxy bar, I was interested to see what the reaction would be, given that NMH was playing a seemingly incongruous set in between Gaunt and Superchunk. As I recall, the crowd again took [its] time warming up. There were some people there that we knew from the Washington University radio station that assured us, in their haughty Wash. U. way, that they "knew all about Neutral Milk Hotel." But I remember them standing there stone-faced and expressionless for most of the set.
Wurster: Jay Farrar was there with his dad. I imagine this was more to do with them wanting to say hello to our guitar tech (who also worked for Son Volt) than seeing any of the bands that night.
Utz: While I enjoy the records — the first more than the second — I've never quite understood the legend that grew around the band. Superchunk and Gaunt were so awesome that night.
Keeker: It's cool but also weird to see how certain bands or albums are remembered and mythologized. I mean, I was at a party a few weeks ago, and someone mentioned that they were going to fly to New Jersey to see Mangum. That person became almost weepy and likened Mangum to being one of the great, lost poets of our generation. I guess I always think of him more as an awkward, ramshackle twee-hobo who had an extended passage of clarity in which he made his bizarre characters somehow universal and resonant. I'm not sure that it speaks of a generation, but Aeroplane is certainly a great album that conjures being restless and in your twenties in the late 1990s.
Many thanks to Marla Hare Griffin, who booked all three local shows and shared the limited information she had, including attendance details. "My recollection of any of the shows I booked is almost always pretty fuzzy, unless I had some sort of trouble with the band. That was never the case with NMH," she said.