to eleven

Neutral Uke Hotel at the Grog Shop April 22, 2011 by jason

As I may have mentioned in the past, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of the most important albums in my life. In some ways, not to sound cliche, it saved my life. So when I found out that Shawn Fogel’s NMH cover project, Neutral Uke Hotel, was coming to the Grog, I knew I’d be there, too.

I got there a little but after the doors opened, ordered my Baltika 9, and got ready for what ended up being an amazing show all around.

The first band was the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library. You know I love concept bands, so when the girls in the band all came out dressed as librarians and started the show by telling the audience “Shhhhhhhhhhh!” I knew that this was right up my alley. Musically, they were kind of a light indie-pop…sort of like Papas Fritas. The violin and flute screamed “class,” though not too loudly…this is a library, after all. They were solid, and they had a lot of good stage banter, which is really the difference between a good live band and a great live band.

The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library. Check them out!

Next up were indie-rockers Golden Bloom, Shawn Fogel’s main project. I had heard a few of their songs on Daytrotter a while back, so it was cool seeing full band play songs that I only knew by their stripped down versions. Shawn has a great stage presence, and you can tell that he really enjoys being on stage. He also makes sure that every member of the band gets props; he told the audience to create a rock n’ roll moment to “earn” a drum solo, and he pointed out that the lead guitarist rocked so hard that “the e string quit the band.”

Golden Bloom getting ready to rock.

The third band was Akron’s own Shivering Timbers. As soon as vocalist Sarah Benn brought her upright bass on stage during set-up, I knew it was going to be awesome. Shivering Timbers have a minimalist, bluesy sound, with Sarah on bass or banjo, Jayson Benn on guitar and banjo, and Brad Thorla on drums. I pretty much ran over and bought their album as soon as they got off stage, and I’ll be watching for them to play this area again. Upright bass FTW!

The Shivering Timbers. Akron's own!

Finally, Shawn Fogel and crew got back on stage with Neutral Uke Hotel. What they do is they play NMH’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea album in it’s entirety on ukuleles and melodica. Fogel said that the show was all about appreciating that album, so the audience should do whatever it had to to enjoy it, including singing along and dancing. And the audience did.

When we meet on a cloud, I'll be laughing out loud...

Just like the Elephant 6 show a few weeks ago, the audience had a sort of unity to it, like we were all part of a family who have all been touched by this album. For an encore, Neutral Uke Hotel brought members of The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library up to play a couple songs by Golden Bloom and Epstein’s old band, The Motion Sick, and the band took the floor to cover NMH’s “Song Against Sex.”

Neutral Uke Hotel. Does that mean that's a ukulele drum?

This was one of the best show’s I’ve been too. If Neutral Uke Hotel, or really, any of these bands, come to a venue near you, just go see them.

Keep watching To Eleven for our video interview with Shawn Fogel (It should be up in the next couple of days!)



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