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The Elephant 6 Collective Holiday Surprise Show-The Grog Shop, Cleveland, March 17, 2011 by jason
March 18, 2011, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Shows | Tags:

By the end of the show, I had tears in my eyes.

I guess I should start this off by telling you a little more about myself than I usually do on this blog. See, I used to be married. We fell out of love, I fell in love with someone else, and the whole thing was just a clusterfuck. There is no other word for it.

It was the darkest period of my life, and one that I almost didn’t make it out of. Then, I heard Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. It sounds corny, but at that moment, that album said to me, “No matter how ugly things are, there’s something beautiful in it.” It’s a philosophy I carry to this day.

So, even though NMH (and to some extent, Olivia Tremor Control) are the only bands in the Collective I know anything about, seeing the Elephant 6 Collective was kind of a big deal.

So, I got my beer at 8:00 PM and waited for the show to start. During that time, I contemplated all the bad things I was going to say about the hipsters. I kind of regret that now, but I digress.

Shortly after 9, the lights went out, and from behind the audience, by the bar, half the band started singing a kind of hippy-holiday carol. As they made their was towards the stage, the horn section came out from the side and joined them. It took a good couple of minutes for them to finally get on stage and get their instruments, all the while, continuing their chant.

Then, the real show began. I don’t know if actually knowing most of the songs they played would have helped me enjoy the show even more, or if not knowing what to expect added to the spontaneity of the whole thing. This wasn’t one of those shows where band after band gets up, plays for 1/2 hour, then leaves. The entire Elephant 6 Orchestra was on stage for the whole show, give or take a few members at a time who left to get beer or to just stand and watch. And they looked like they were having fun, which meant that everyone was having fun.

The Setlist. Which is now in my apartment.

This wasn’t just a concert, either. Occasionally, Julian Koster would stop the show to tell surrealist stories about his family (and how they carried dehydrated cities in their mouths as part of a magic trick). At one point, the band took a break so we could watch the Mechanized Organ-Playing Tower, a kind of animatronic puppet that pretended to play a keyboard. And at another point, an audience member was chosen to throw things at an inflatable Snowman. The whole thing might have screamed of “neo-hippy-fest” if it wasn’t so genuine.

After solid 4 hours on stage, the band made its way back through the audience while covering Sun Ra’s “Enlightenment.” Some of us followed the band like they were psychedelic pied pipers heading out the door. And I say us because by the end of the show, it wasn’t about how cool anyone was, or whether or not they were seen here. There was a true sense of unity that I’ve never felt at a show before. We were one audience, and the band was part of “us” too.

On a personal note, though, the highlight of the show came right near the end. Scott Spillane was heading to the bar, and I stopped him to tell him how much In The Aeroplane Over the Sea meant to me. He thanked me and said he was glad to be a part of something that was so important to people, and we hugged. It’s not often that you get to tell a musician how much he or she has personally affected you, and I was glad to get that chance.

This was easily one of the best show’s I’ve been to. It actually transcended being a “show” and turned into something that I’m not sure how to explain.

Unfortunately, I have no good pics or video from that show, but this is the closing of the Seattle show, and it’s pretty much the same thing.

-jason

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