Depending on what part of Neutral Milk Hotel’s set you caught, you might be under the impression that you’ll be seeing much more of the band in Austin or that you won’t see them here (or anywhere else) again for a very long time. Sunday night the Jeff Mangum led psych-folk act closed out Fun Fun Fun Fest 9, marking the band’s last scheduled — and possibly last last — stop on their reunion tour.
"We don’t really know when we’ll be playing Austin again, so it means everything to us for you to be here," Mangum said. He kept the banter to a minimum beyond hushed thank you’s accompanied with a bow between songs, but Mangum did mention that Austin has always been special to the band and that he considered moving here when younger. "We still might," he said to cheers.
Since Mangum began touring again more than three years ago, his beard has grown ever longer and his crowd chit-chat shorter. He was practically begging audiences hushed in reverence to sing along in those first solo sets of 2011, but Sunday night there was no need to plead: The FFF Orange Stage crowd was happy to shout along the lyrics in unison without prodding. At times the audience singing rivaled Mangum’s massive voice in volume, though they tapped out as Mangum sustained on the long notes — holding those impossibly long stunning stretches for lengths of time that leave men with lesser lungs blue in the face.
Despite a couple of minor tempo hiccups, the set went over smoothly and should serve as musical bucket list fulfillment for many hardcore fans who had yet to see the indie icons. Mangum, his face hidden in the shadow of a military cap and drapes of shoulder length hair, screamed and strummed on an assortment of battered-looking acoustic guitars through the majority of the tracks from the band’s beloved second LP, "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" (with the notable absence of "Oh Comely"and "Communist Daughter"), and a surprising number of B-sides and rarities.
Mangum took on some songs solo — like opener "I Will Bury You In Time" and lovely pre-encore set closer "Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2," which drew lighters in the air — but called on anywhere from one to six other members of the band to accompany him with an orchestrated cacophony of singing saw, accordion, organ, banjo, horns and electronic bagpipes as needed.
SetlistI Will Bury You In TimeHolland, 1945The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 2–3NaomiFerris Wheel on FireTwo-Headed BoyThe FoolIn the Aeroplane Over the SeaA Baby For PreeGardenhead/Leave Me AloneSong Against SexRubby BulbsSnow Song Pt. 1Little BirdsGhostTwo-Headed Boy Pt. 2Engine [Encore]