Friday, May 14, 2010

Thank You, Good Night: Part Deux of Neutral Uke Hotel

"Thank You, Good Night" takes a birds eye view of what it's like for a band to play a show that can only described as a pinnacle experience for the band themselves. In Part 2 of the debut Netural Uke Hotel show at the Arts at the Armory, Mike Epstein shares his experience.

Mike Epstein, lead singer of The Motion Sick and enthusiastic "Thumbs Up" guy on Facebook, had as much fun playing with Shawn Fogel as part of Neutral Uke Hotel as the audience did watching it. He was also completely terrified and nervous up to the night of the show. He had to learn to play the ukulele and fast. For "Thank You, Good Night," Mike described the evening events in his own words. We've also included a live video of his performance and even more description of what Mike is doing for the love of Neutral Milk Hotel.

"When Shawn asked if I wanted to participate in any way in Neutral Uke Hotel... I was immediately terrified. I can't say that I considered the idea much less than blasphemous. Nonetheless, I am a big fan of Golden Bloom and I thought, if anyone can pull this off, Shawn is it. So, I pondered how I might contribute and asked if I could play an outtake from Aeroplane. I thought it would be a nice way to take part without breaking or altering the flow of the record by changing singers.

So, I borrowed a ukulele from my bud J-Krafty (the number one arts and crafts gangsta rapper in the world) and took to learning, "Oh Sister," an unreleased sequel to "Oh Comely." I had an extremely hard time memorizing all of the lyrics (though I only fumbled a couple of words at the show) and an even harder time trying to decide how to deliver the song. The two existing recordings contain somewhat different lyrics and very different melodic delivery. I did my best to learn to play the song in a form that captured the simple melodic beauty coupled with the harsh, grated strains and the chaos of the song.

As for the rest of the show, Shawn kindly agreed to have me strum along to a bunch of other songs. I would have done even more, but I didn't have the time to learn them all on an unfamiliar instrument."

I was really looking forward to the show, but great trepidation remained. Would the sold-out audience react by taking offense? Would they understand the spirit of the project? Shawn made it clear at the beginning of the show that it was not about a band/audience delineation. We were all there to celebrate music that had deep and powerful meaning. People were encouraged to sing, clap, and stomp along...and they weren't shy!

The set began and I watched everyone in the room breaking out in smiles. By the time the instrumental break "The Fool" rolled around, it was obvious that every single person in the room was rapt. We had all been waiting a decade to catch NMH live, and NUH provided a way for a group of devotees to join together to quell the anticipation and desire, the magic and the beauty of Aeroplane.

It was amazing not only to hear the music come alive, but to watch the audience reactions. Just as (Jeff) Mangum's lyrics celebrate the immortality of beauty, dreams, and love, they teach us that there is nothing in this world for the pure of heart to fear.

I should have known all along that the show would be nothing short of magical and that the experience of merging performance and audience would be achieved. I am extremely honored to have taken part in it and I hope to get to experience it again."