January 25, 2015

Scrolling Headlines:

UMass plans to fail again with Super Bowl guest policy -

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Special teams play fuels late UMass rally, forces tie -

Saturday, January 24, 2015

BLOG: UMass hires Mark Michaels as special teams coordinator, outside linebackers coach -

Friday, January 23, 2015

Former Tibetan political prisoner overcomes odds in Tibet and the US -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

UMass basketball falls flat in loss to St. Joe’s -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

‘Selma’ resonates with the here and now -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How to start meditating (because yes, you really should) -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

UMass library falcon dies at age 14 -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

UMass set for weekend series with Merrimack -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

You drink, You drive … You lose? -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Minutewomen ousted by Fordham -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

UMass men’s lacrosse hopes to move past difficult offseason -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Derrick Gordon: ‘We’re not quite on the same page’ -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Coming together for HBO’s “Togetherness” -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

“The Imitation Game” plays into mimicry with an underwhelming narrative about Alan Turing -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The dangers of ‘educate yourself’ -

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Professor of practice: Ambassador Baibourtian teaches with a global touch -

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Town Gown Steering Committee makes recommendations to UMass chancellor, town manager -

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Limited services available for Continuing Education students -

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

UMass aims to carry momentum into St. Joe’s -

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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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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