Jeff Mangum, arguably one of the most influential indie-folk musicians of the late 20th century, is back from an extended hiatus from touring — performing a rare and undoubtedly intimate concert here in Eugene. The former Neutral Milk Hotel frontman will perform on Sunday, April 7, at the McDonald Theatre in downtown Eugene. Mangum is the man responsible for founding Neutral Milk Hotel, who are regarded by many as one of the most influential indie-folk outfits of the early 1990s. The self-described “fuzz-folk” project was one of the primary outgrowths of the Elephant 6 recording collective — a coterie of like-minded lo-fi indie groups like the Olivia Tremor Control, the Apples in Stereo and Secret Square — who shared musicians, ideas and sensibilities. The artists from Elephant 6 were all similarly influenced by classic rock bands like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Zombies, Pink Floyd and Sonic Youth. Interestingly, throughout high school in their hometown of Ruston, La., these aspiring musicians exchanged home recordings and played in each other’s bands.
Sadly, Neutral Milk Hotel disbanded in 1999, shortly after producing their highly acclaimed album “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” The album, however, has since gone on to sell more than 300,000 copies and has received critical acclaim from several important publications including Pitchfork, Allmusic and MAGNET. Since the band’s breakup, Mangum has produced two solo albums, “Orange Twin Field Works, Vol. 1″ and “Live at Jittery Joe’s,” which exhibit a similar mastery of the psychedelic folk rock sound.
In many ways Mangum’s solo projects are very much different from his work with Neutral Milk Hotel. “Orange Twin Field Works” pushes the limits by featuring a slew of unique yet bizarre instruments (everything from bagpipes to singing saws), but he does so in a way that allows for an album with a typical musical idea to be accessible for a typical American audience.
Mangum has kept largely out of the public eye since his band’s breakup, only rarely playing acoustic sets and concentrating more on his recorded sound and music collages.
Most notably, he played with several others at Zuccotti Park in New York City for the protesters participating in Occupy Wall Street and then at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Those who have witnessed his rare sets describe the performances with blissful excitement and zeal. Mangum commands a large and devoted following, so expect an energetic- and audience- involved set — and don’t be afraid to sing along.
Mangum performs Sunday, April 7, at the McDonald Theatre alongside the Tall Firs. Tickets are available for $26 in advance and $30 at the door, and $1 of every ticket sold will benefit the non-profit organization Children of the Blue Sky.