Concert Reviews

Last Night: The Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Show at The Loft

Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Show
March 1, 2011
The Loft

Better than: trying to make your own music out of tools you found in the garage.

It's hard to believe that The Loft's small stage would host such a huge act, but indeed that is what happened last night, with the venue showcasing a who's who of the Athens, Georgia-based Elephant 6 Collective. And, for those that are familiar with any of the bands int he group, there were a lot of recognizable faces last night -- musicians from Elf Power, The Gerbils, Olivia Tremor Control, The Music Tapes, Neutral Milk Hotel and other affiliated bands.

Bill Doss, almost unrecognizable after ditching his space outfit from the Apples in Stereo tour last fall, remained one of the main fixtures on stage, along with fellow Olivia Tremor Control bandmates John Fernandes and Will Cullen Hart, with Fernandes managing the near impossible task of making the clarinet look like a cool instrument. Meanwhile, Julian Koster of The Music Tapes switched from playing drums to guitar to musical saw, performing one particularly memorable number on the saw that got the crowd stomping their feet like the little monkeys dancing for cash.

The show was marketed as having surprises, and that was no lie. During the beginning of the set, the band brought out a hollowed-out pumpkin filled with candy, and haphazardly began tossing the candy into the crowd, almost as if they were feeding a pack of wild geese. Audience members jumped up to catch the Bubblicious gum and Now and Laters -- not necessarily the best candy in the world, but sufficiently throwable.

Koster later announced that there would be a game: One audience member had to throw a ball through a hoop that was set up across the room, and if they were successful the band had to play the song of their choice. After three people tried and failed, finally someone was able to complete the task, sending the band to confer for a few minutes to try and figure out how they would play Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back".

Turns out, nobody in Elephant 6 knows how "Sexy Back" goes. The song performance was hilariously awkward, with the band just jamming on their instruments and singing two words, "Sexy Back!" in different tones and inflections.

The band was having such a great time playing that they were eventually cut off by the stage managers, ending the night with a number that took them off the stage and into the crowd in a single file line, with Koster beating on a single drum and Fernandes coaxing notes out of his clarinet as if he were the pied piper.

And no, Jeff Mangum did not show up as some had hoped. But with so many seriously skilled performers on the stage last night, it was hard to care.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I own every album Olivia Tremor Control has ever released, so I was thrilled to see so many members of the band on stage last night.

By The Way: The way the ceiling was set up in The Loft made it very, very difficult for anyone to win the hoop game. I'm surprised that eventually someone was able to manage.

Random Note: Are plaid shirts making a comeback? For the past several shows I've been drowning in a sea of plaid.

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Chelsea Upton