Scrolling Headlines:

UMass baseball finishes season with sweep over George Mason -

May 22, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse falls in NCAA quarterfinal -

May 22, 2016

‘Green Room’ is a bloody blast of survival horror -

May 21, 2016

DaLuz: Boston Celtics stuck trudging in the mud -

May 18, 2016

Despite tallying double-digit hits, UMass baseball falls to Fairfield Tuesday afternoon -

May 17, 2016

Radiohead returns to the top with gorgeous, illuminating ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ -

May 16, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse advances to quarterfinal of NCAA tournament -

May 16, 2016

UMass baseball outlasts Rhode Island in series finale behind strong pitching of Brandon Walsh -

May 15, 2016

Eileen McDonald’s overtime goal advances UMass women’s lacrosse in NCAA tournament -

May 14, 2016

12 UMass students face possible arrests in connection to an alleged bad LSD trip -

May 14, 2016

UMass baseball falls in first-ever Division I matchup with UMass Lowell 7-3 -

May 11, 2016

UMass baseball gets shut out in nonconference matchup with UConn -

May 10, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse tops Richmond, wins eighth straight Atlantic 10 championship -

May 9, 2016

UMass baseball salvages last game of weekend series with Richmond behind strong eighth inning -

May 9, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse beats St. Joe’s, advance to Atlantic 10 championship game -

May 7, 2016

Lack of offense plagues UMass baseball in game two of doubleheader with Fordham -

May 1, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse tops Davidson 12-5 on Senior Day -

May 1, 2016

Two arrested after report of aggravated robbery in Washington Hall last night -

May 1, 2016

Former UMass wide receiver Tajae Sharpe selected in fifth round of 2016 NFL Draft -

April 30, 2016

Ryan Moloney pitches seven scoreless innings as UMass baseball takes series opener from Fordham -

April 30, 2016

Jeff Mangum leaves fans in awe in North Adams

Wikipedia

In North Adams on Feb.16, Jeff Mangum played to a crowd at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art that was packed to the rafters. Despite being buried deep within the Berkshires in one of the smallest city in Massachusetts, this solo acoustic show sold out within hours of being announced.

To the uninformed onlooker, Mangum’s draw might be a mystery— his graying beard and straightforward guitar work don’t seem extraordinarily impressive at first glance. But Mangum fronted the critically-acclaimed indie rock band Neutral Milk Hotel in the late ‘90s – a band that was known for its esoteric lyricism and unorthodox instrumentation often including booming bass and fuzzy guitar.

In 1998, shortly after releasing its second album “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea,” which saw little commercial success but was wildly praised by critics, Neutral Milk Hotel disbanded – allegedly due to Mangum suffering a nervous breakdown. After avoiding the public eye for roughly a decade, Mangum has returned to the stage occasionally, but with greater and greater frequency lately.

The intensely private Mangum influenced such acts as Arcade Fire, the Decemberists and Franz Ferdinand with his sonic experimentation..To see Mangum back on stage after his breakdown and his band’s subsequent breakup is truly a blessing, which is apparent by the wide draw of fans to the concert.

Preceding Mangum at the MASS MoCA were the melancholic folk duo Tall Firs and the wildly experimental indie pop outfit the Music Tapes. The latter is fronted by another former Neutral Milk Hotel member, Julian Koster, and featured such memorably eclectic instrumentation as a musical saw, orchestral banjos, a French horn and a 7 foot tall metronome.

The cheers were deafening when Mangum sat down at the front of the stage, patrol cap pulled low against the stage lights.

“If you would sing, well then, sing now,” Mangum said before launching into “Holland, 1945”

On stage, Mangum is subdued between songs, scarcely mumbling in response to the audience but during his songs he comes alive, staring straight ahead and singing with such passion that it seems he has his whole band backing him despite performing solo on this tour. Though he encourages his audience to participate, especially to hum the horn parts from the original recordings, most in the crowd couldn’t keep up with his rapid-fire and droning chants and were left solemnly hushed and slack-jawed.

The MASS MoCA proved an intriguing venue  – to get to the converted mill, fans had to traverse the hairpin turns of a mountain road and walk around the winding wings of the complex, which features an exhibit of trees growing upside down, suspended from telephone poles. In addition to the acoustically top-notch performance space, the museum also featured a cafe and a bar, which served delicious Berkshire Brewing Company beers for an unheard price of $5. Part of the profit of each ticket sale was given to the Children of the Blue Sky Foundation, a charity dedicated to supporting Mongolian street kids.

Taking up his musical saw again, Koster rejoined Mangum for a two-song encore, playing fan favorites “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” and the unreleased “Engine.”

Mangum departed without a word to ecstatic applause, and when the house lights came on the audience blinked and grinned sheepishly at each other, wondering where the time went during a sublime moment so transcendent that they forgot who they were.

Tom Barnes can be reached at tbarnes@student.umass.edu.

 

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