Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Okay, So I Took One Photo of Neutral Milk Hotel

At last weekend's Merge 25 festival, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Merge Records, Neutral Milk Hotel closed the big concert on Saturday outside the legendary Cat's Cradle in Carrboro.   Many may know that it's a standing request of Jeff Mangum's and Neutral Milk Hotel's that their shows not be photographed or videotaped.  One can debate whether that's a cynical move with capitalist motives, an attempt at stemming the sometimes obscene reliance on technology that we've developed, or a heartfelt plea from an individual who grapples with legitimate anxiety issues.

But this is not the place for that debate.  This is my confessional.

I tried to respect those wishes.  I really did.  But about three songs in -- right about when Mangum began to strum the opening notes of King of Carrot Flowers Part 1 -- I just couldn't.  The lighting was just so... so... perfect.  Pale blue spotlights, dimmed at the band's request, illuminated Scott Spillane's beard like an inverted phoenix.  They cast a cobalt halo over Mangum, setting him aglow, making him seem almost angelic.  As if that wasn't enough temptation, the sunset began to paint the sky behind this scene with a turquoise hue that could only be described as surreal, a perfect natural complement to the artifice of the stage lights.

So I stole my way to the back bleachers.  And yes, I discreetly pulled the Nikon D3100 out of my backpack.  I removed the lens cap.  I checked my settings.  And then I snuck this one, quick, guilty homage.  I can't say that I regret it.  I won't.

Scroll down to see the photo...

It's one of the best photos I've ever taken, if I do say so myself.
Also, below are a couple of close-ups cropped from the original (since I didn't want to risk more than one shot).

Julian Kostner and Jeff Mangum...

Scott Spillane and Jeremy Barnes...

Forgive me, Jeff.

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