Jeff Mangum, the formerly reclusive frontman and creative force behind the revered indie-rock band Neutral Milk Hotel performed a surprise concert in New York City October 4th. The concert, which took place in Zuccoti Park, was part of a weeks-long protest being held in the heart of the financial district of the city.
Occupy Wall Street has garnered support from a wide swath of musicians and artists. A rumored performance by noted millionaire rock band Radiohead failed to materialize earlier in the week, but Providence, Rhode Island rock band Deer Tick played a well-received set in honor of the protesters.
Neutral Milk Hotel disbanded in 1998, following a tour to promote the seminal album "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Reportedly feeling pressured and uncomfortable with his new-found fame, Jeff Mangum retreated from the public eye, only very rarely performing (or even being seen) in public. Alleged sightings of him were duly reported in the indie-rock press and, for a time, he was considered the Howard Hughes of the independent music world.
Recent developments, however, have seen that reputation quickly fade. He announced a solo tour on February 16th 2011, with dates scattered throughout the summer and fall across Canada and the US, culminating in an appearance at "All Tomorrow's Parties", a festival held in Asbury Park, New Jersey on September 30th.
When asked for the reason behind his somewhat shocking return to the stage, Mangum simply said, "I saw how it made people happy and that made me happy." Video taken of the Occupy Wall Street performance shows Mangum, surrounded by a large group of fans, leading the audience in a boisterous singalong of several classic Neutral Milk Hotel songs including "Ghost", "Two-headed Boy", "Holland, 1945" and "Oh Comely".
Fans hoping for a follow-up to "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" might be disappointed, however. Responding to fans hungry for new NMH material, Mangum said, "I'll make [one] if my heart tells me to, but not for any other reason."
"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" remains one of the best-selling indie-rock albums of the 1990's. A 2008 reissue was the 6th best-selling vinyl album of 2008. A book about the record, part of the "33 1/3" series, was released in 2005. Jeff Mangum is preparing a box-set of Neutral Milk Hotel albums and rarities, to be sold independently via his official website, beginning on November 22nd.