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The Elephant Six Orchestra at the Brillobox

The following review appeared on Jersey Beat’s web site in October of 2008. It is no longer being hosted, so I’ve copied the text below. Enjoy.


The Elephant Six Orchestra Holiday Surprise Tour
The Brillobox, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 18, 2008

   Though it’s been a criminally long while since we’ve seen proper releases from many of the Elephant Six Recording Company’s most celebrated bands, Saturday night’s show in Pittsburgh proved that there’s no need to speak about the Athens collective in the past tense.

   Over the course of the night, roughly 20 different musicians took the stage in probably 30 different permutations, with each performer playing at least a few different instruments.

   The stage looked like a poorly tended garage sale before anyone even got up there — including two full drum sets and a 7-foot-tall metronome — but while it got crowded and a bit cacophonous at times during the set, no combination of musicians lagged for a second.

   The crowd was treated to a screening of the E6-produced short film Major Organ and the Adding Machine before the actual show, which featured just about every E6er you can think of (including but not limited to Jeff Mangum as a lobster and Kevin Barnes as a constable). Right from the opening credits, it became evident that “concert” would be selling the night way short.

   After the movie, 10 masked musicians took the stage for a rendition of “His Mister’s Pet Whistles” from its soundtrack. From there, the front of the room was a cross between a talent show and a game of musical chairs, but somehow less organized than either, as the cast of characters on stage was never consistent for more than a song or two.

   The canorous clusterfuck continued for more than four hours, touching on parts of everyone’s catalogues. From the Olivia Tremor Control to the Gerbils to the Music Tapes to Elf Power and a bunch of places in between, the set broached nearly every corner of the Elephant Six oeuvre.

   Oh, and Jeff Mangum was there, too.

   As he had at the tour’s New York City date a week earlier, Mangum sang backup on a few songs scattered through the set and even wailed on some drums during an especially raucous jam session near the end of the night.

   But unlike his appearance at Irving Plaza — or just about anywhere in nearly a decade, for that matter — Mangum punctuated the night with an exclamation point instead of a period. Joining singing saw-wielding Julian Koster in the middle of the crowd, Mangum dusted off a rendition of “Engine,” a b-side from the “Holland, 1945” single. Though more than a few patrons had already left for the night — it was 1:15 a.m. by the time Mangum picked up his guitar — those who remained cheered as loudly as they had at any other part of the show.

   Mangum, Koster and the five billion others who played on Saturday showed they could still put on an unbelievable live show while at the same time proving they could all retire forever and still have been one of the best things that ever happened to music.

   And the only people who had a better time in Pittsburgh that night than the sold out Brillobox bar-goers were the ones on stage.

-Adam Clair

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