Neutral Milk Hotel

by Guest Blogger, Angela Romero

Councilman Joe Buscaino has promised to do everything in his power to make the Warner Grand Theatre one of the premiere entertainment venues in the city of Los Angeles. The fruits of his labors have already started to blossom, the first being a very big get, Neutral Milk Hotel on May 27th.

When I first saw something about it on Instagram back in January, I had absolutely no idea who Neutral Milk Hotel was. As far as I could tell, it was a collection of random words. Lucky for me, I had a couple of friends who filled me in on just how big of a deal this show really was.

Neutral Milk Hotel (NMH) just happens to be the absolute favorite band of my married friends, Christian and Lessa. They told me that NMH was one of the very first indie rock bands, before indie bands got so popular. The last time NMH released an album was 1998 and they stopped touring in 1999. This album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, was so good that the band achieved cult status. Neutral Milk Hotel reunited in January 2013 for the first time in nearly 14 years. The band played the Hollywood Bowl last September and in December it was announced that the reunion tour would become a farewell tour, ending in June of 2015. Yes, the Warner Grand was one of the lucky venues chosen as a stop on the final Neutral Milk Hotel tour for the foreseeable future (never say never).

On the day of the show, I happened to drive by the theatre and saw that there were already early birds holding their place in line. When I came back a couple of hours later, the line continued to stretch down 6th Street as more fans hoped to get as close as possible to the stage in the General Admission seating. 

Before the show, Christian and Lessa told me the first rule of going to a Neutral Milk Hotel show. NO PICTURES! The band has a VERY strict “no pictures” policy. So strict that they didn’t even let the Hollywood Bowl film them for the sake of the poor people in the nosebleed seats. Any sign of a camera could send leader singer Jeff Mangum into a fit. 

When the doors were opened, there was a literal stampede into the theater as the concert goers made a mad dash to claim a seat. I had never seen anything like it in the Warner Grand before. You never see people jumping over seats to get close to Steve Fox from GSPO. 

As my group found our seats, I took notice of the crowd. There was no “type”. It was a pretty diverse crowd. All the kids who ran to sit in the first couple of rows seemed young enough to have been toddlers when NMH’s last album came out. There were older folks who may have been in their 30’s in the late 90’s. Fashions ran the spectrum from young punk to cool Dad. The one thing that brought them all together was Neutral Milk Hotel.

Once Jeff Mangum and company took the stage to thunderous applause from the sold-out crowd, they jumped right into their set list and I started to see what all the hype was about. I had never seen anyone play a banjo with a bow before but it was cool. The audience was all transfixed by Mangum’s soulful voice. Towards the end of the show, Jeff dedicated a song to D. Boon, late member of The Minutemen and a San Pedro legend. It sounded like Jeff even played a Minutemen song during the encore.

By the end of the show, most of the crowd on the first level had finally given up their seats to gather around the stage to be near the man whose lyrics they mouthed as they rocked to the beat. A great thing was happening and I’m so glad it was happening in San Pedro at the Warner Grand. 

This may have been a farewell tour for Neutral Milk Hotel but this show is just the beginning for great moments and grand performances at the Warner Grand Theatre. Later this month, comedian on the rise, Hannibal Buress will have us all laughing in the aisles. In September, Grammy Award winners Miguel and Chris Cornell will bring their unique styles of music to rock the house. New shows are being added all the time. This is truly a new era for the Warner Grand and San Pedro!

Article Posted: 6/19/2015