So, what is Neutral Uke Hotel? Well, it's just what it sounds - A ragtag group of musicians with horns and ukuleles that plays covers of their favorite band, the similarly named Neutral Milk Hotel. Original? Not exactly but when it comes to pairing ukuleles with an album as great as Neutral Milk Hotel's seminal classic In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, does originality really matter?
Lead by uke masters Shawn Fogel and Michael Epstien (With horns galore from Josh Cohen and Matt Girard), Neutral Uke Hotel takes their kitschy-turned-viral instruments and tackle some of my personal favorite songs with a rambunctious attitude that leads me to believe a Neutral Uke concert would be one of the best parties I'd ever attended. If there's one thing I love, it's the work of lead N.M.H.-er Jeff Mangum and if there's another thing I love, it's knowing all the lyrics to the songs and Neutral Uke Hotel combines just that.
The only bummer about the foursome is the fact that the internet holds alarmingly little information about the band. Looking for a cover of "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea"? Well, you might have to settle for Eisley's. An mp3 of "Holland, 1945"? Try Kevin Devine. The internet is built on impatience and I know that when I find a band I love, I want to digest them in their entirety immediately, so naturally, I'm dying for a track-by-track recreation of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Sadly, it doesn't look like that's going to happen any time in the immediate future.
The great thing about a band that's as revered in the indie community as Neutral Milk Hotel is the fact that not only can a bunch of fans can get together and cover their songs but those covers will be embraced. I know I was thrilled when I first stumbled upon the band because I realize that Neutral Uke Hotel is probably the closest I will ever get to seeing Netural Milk Hotel live, unless I spend a few solid weeks creeping in Athens, hoping Mangum will venture out of his house with his Anne Frank-alike wife to grace me with a rendition of "Gardenhead".
But hey, if it's Neutral Uke Hotel or nothing, I will not only gladly take the Ukes but also embrace them as if they were my own offspring. The only question that remains is when Neutral Uke Hotel going to hit the Midwest.