So, why am I going to remember February 15th? Two reasons: 1) I rode my bicycle into a moving vehicle (don't worry, the injuries were negligible) and 2) I saw Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over The Sea" covered in it's entirety with an exuberance that I like to think Jeff Magnum would have approved of.
Ok, so the reason I hit a moving car on my bike was a mix of being cut off, riding much too fast in slush, and the brakes not working properly. After hitting the car and exchanging a mixture of "wow I'm really surprised but ok!" gestures with the people in the vehicle, I hopped back on my bike and rode to Valentines. There was no way I was going to miss this.
Unfortunately, I missed both Littlefoot and Stacey Gets Drunk, but arrived in time for the third band of the night, who's name, I am sorry to say, escapes me. I heard it said several times during the set but I just never really HEARD it. (If you know what I mean.) I did manage to catch that they are from PA somewhere. I think I want to say Lancaster? I am probably making this up. If anyone still reads this blog, my most sincere apologies. Feel free to let me know the correct information. Mysterious name and mysterious origins aside, this band was really good. They were very tight and put together, there was definitely some nice harmonization. Whoever they were, I liked it.
After their set, everyone eagerly waited the few minutes it took Dunbar to get set up. After a few opening questions, comments, and thankyous, Alex Muro informed the audience that the band (and a few guests) would be playing the album straight through, no stopping. With that, Dunbar promplty started playing The King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1, and as everyone in the venue sang so loud you could barely hear the vocalist, you just knew the entire set would be an experience you wouldn't forget for a long, long time. Every song was solid, Muro sang with his usual energy and enthusiasm that worked perfectly for the songs he was the lead in, I thought this especially true for Holland, 1945. Oh Comely was covered by Aaron Smith from Scientific Maps and it was really well done. People would join in at some parts or mangle the lyrics, but Smith managed to get through some of the distractions (some people thought he was done once or twice) and cover the song beautifully. His inflections were pretty much right on with Magnum's. All the other members of Sgt Dunbar added significantly to the performance (I could name them all here, but at this point, most people reading this know who they are and furthermore, know they are an essential, talented part of Dunbar) ; their brass section has always been great and this time I think they were in excellent form. What is so awesome about Dunbar is the numerous amounts of instruments every member can play and you could tell everyone cared a lot about making these songs sound as good as they did.
The other good part of the show was definitely the audience. Everyone there obviously knew and loved the lyrics to "In Aeroplane Over The Sea" as well as Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned did. I still run into people who (nearly a week and half later) tell me how awesome they thought that show was. One girl told me how she had the album but it broke and she had forgotten to get a new one until she went to the show that Friday. The next day, she and her boyfriend went to pretty much every media store in the Albany area until they finally found the last copy of the record somewhere in Colonie. Others simply remembered how much they love In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, listened to it again, and gained a new perspective or appreciation for it. To me that album will always be timeless, every time I listen to it I forget that its been ten years since it came out. The lyrics still feel as fresh, stirring, and meaningful as the day I first listened to them.
I think that's what that night at Valentines was all about.
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