I don’t find corporate sponsorship of festivals to be particularly offensive – especially when considering the amount of money that they have to give to artists so they can continue making their music. Others undoubtedly feel differently. I only bring this up because Neutral Uke Hotel played an acoustic set at the Bacardi Stage on Friday afternoon, while girls in shorts and tanktops tried to give away samples of their pink, undoubtedly sugary alcoholic wares.
Neutral Uke Hotel is comprised of members of two bands: Golden Bloom and The Motion Sick, both of which are based out of Boston, and both of which make upbeat, shimmery rock. Shawn Fogel, leader of Golden Bloom, also takes the lead in Neutral Uke Hotel, and cleans up Mangum’s seminal wail a bit. As a whole, the band is respectful of the quirks of the original album, incorporating the trumpet and melodica to round out the ukeleles and drums. They asked everyone to sing along if they know the words, to stomp and clap along. To our left, there was a couple from another band who oblige, also using a tambourine to complement the band.
I had been afraid that the whole experience would be kind of kitsch-y, but I was wholly incorrect in that assumption. The group is obviously reverential, and they impart their love for an album that was formative for them, and one that they personally cherish in the way they know best. To some extent, everyone has albums like that, but not everyone can express their appreciation for them in such a stirring manner.
While we weren’t able to catch their full set later on that evening, I am certain that it was a communal, moving experience to witness – made somewhat better without the distraction of Bacardi girls. Check out the band’s limited tour dates here, and make certain to see them if you get the chance.
Neutral Uke Hotel – King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. One (mp3)