by Paul Bowers
Calling all two-headed boys and kings of carrot flowers: Jeff Mangum, former singer and guitarist for the seminal '90s indie rock band Neutral Milk Hotel, just announced a show at the Charleston Music Hall on Tues. Jan. 29. The opening band will be New York folk-rockers Tall Firs.
Mangum, a Louisiana native, created an artistic statement that most music critics will tell you was way ahead of its time, the 1998 NMH album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. With sometimes-disturbing lyrics about Anne Frank delivered in Mangum's distinctive nasal drone over singing saws, horns, and thrashy acoustic guitar, the record paved the way for freaky, folky indie bands to come — from the Decemberists to the Mountain Goats to Frontier Ruckus.
It's a pretty big deal that Mangum is playing a show at all, much less in Charleston. Since Neutral Milk Hotel went on extended hiatus near the turn of the millennium, he has kept a low profile, occasionally emerging to play a solo acoustic show to crowds of fawning fans. Other than that, he's kept busy making field recordings of Bulgarian folk music (seriously), selling scribbly pen drawings (really), and turning down interview requests from the media.
We asked Mangum's event promoter if there would be any sort of a backing band at the Charleston show, and he replied, "Past shows I've done for him have had minimal accompaniment. I would expect the same here."
Starting Thurs. Nov. 15, advance tickets will go on sale for $26 on Etix or through the Music Hall ticket office (1-800-514-3849). For each ticket sold, $1 will go to benefit Children of the Blue Sky, an organization that works to get Mongolian children off the streets. Tickets will go for $28.50 on the day of the show (assuming there are any left), and doors will open at 7 p.m.