Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Merge 25 Day 4: Caribou, Neutral Milk Hotel

All photos by Kevin Norris
The sounds emanating from the Cat's Cradle parking lot shifted dramatically on Saturday evening as the Merge 25 festival's penultimate act took the stage.

As the four members of Caribou dressed in all white and grouped around the center of the stage launched into "Leave House," the festival was transformed into a dance party.

Dan Snaith stood at the front of the cluster leading the band with samples, vocals and drumming. They hit their new single "Can't Do It Without You" from their new Merge album Our Love along the way.

The band closed their set with an epic, ten-minute version of "Sun" which capped off the set perfectly. This new incarnation of Caribou is tight and ready to take on the world with their new album when they hit the road this fall.

Once the sun had set, Merge co-founder Mac McCaughan came out to introduce Neutral Milk Hotel, who he noted were playing their first anniversary festival for the label though they have one of the best selling albums in Merge history, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

With most in the crowd observing the band's request of no photos, frontman Jeff Mangum appeared and launched into "I Will Bury You in Time" by himself before the band joined him for "Holland, 1945." The night continued with all the old favorites including "The King of Carrot Flowers," "Two-Headed Boy," "Song Against Sex," and so many more. The band walked a tightrope at times where the cacophony of sounds emanating from the stage could have devolved into total chaos at any moment but they always keep their balance.

One time when things didn't come off so great was when the band kicked into "Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone" where Magnum stopped the band shortly after starting and said, "That sounded like shit." They started the song over and it sounded much better.

As a shout out to Merge Records Magnum simply noted in between songs that, "Record labels can fuck you and they don't fuck you. They take care of you."

The band closed the main set with somber epic "Oh Comely." Mangum returned to the stage for an encore starting solo again with "Little Bird." The band rejoined him once more for a rousing rendition of "Ghost" and "Untitled" before leaving Mangum alone once more to close out the show with "Two-Headed Boy, Part Two."

The little Georgia band that was initially estimated to sell about 7,000 copies of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and went on to sell over 300,000 is a landmark of indie rock history and a fitting capstone to an epic four-day event. Now we'll just have to see how Merge manages to step things up again in five years for the 30th anniversary.

Neutral Milk Hotel set list
I Will Bury You in Time
Holland, 1945
The King of Carrot Flowers, Part One
The King of Carrot Flowers, Parts Two & Three
Ferris Wheel on Fire
Two-Headed Boy
The Fool
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone
Song Against Sex
Ruby Bulbs
Snow Song, Part One
Oh Comely
Little Bird
Two-Headed Boy, Part Two

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