The Mighty Debut of The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library (with Neutral Uke Hotel) – video included

I just want to give a HUGE thanks to everyone involved with making The MJEML’s musical debut a smashing success.  Agent Bishop did a great job setting up the show and trusting us to come through and sell out a 200-person room with just two acts.  His trust was not misplaced as the final ticket was sold before the show began. Cafe 939 was quite the classy place.  It didn’t even have genital graffiti in the green room.

First and foremost, you can watch some video from the show…

That was kindly presented to us by Glenn di Benedetto of Killer Suit Pictures.  Glenn and Sophia also shot some video of the Neutral Uke Hotel set…

There were also some great videos shot by Jesse Nicole (MJEML and NUH).  One additional version of “Every Time I Visit You, It Rains” was shot by Rick Taylor.  This take perhaps best captures my first time breaking a ukulele string on stage (around 2:09).

Sophia plays the ukulele and considers founding
gospel act, The Cacciola Sisters (Photo by Tanya Palit)

Here’s how it all went down: The librarians all waited nervously as the sound crew tried to figure out how to deal with the 700 inputs we needed for all 9 people to sing and, often, play multiple instruments.

We got everything in place, but our sound check had to be cut short.  The doors were already opening around 20 minutes late. We finished our brief sound check and got to play through a song or two and the doors opened.  We sat in the green room and ate from the mighty fruit bowl provided for us!  There were also sandwiches and cookies, but man, I love fruit bowls, especially this fruit bowl because it had lots of berries and good stuff.

While nibbling on raspberries and having a band pep rally, we were informed that the show was officially sold out!  What a great honor to play our first show to a sold-out room!

Holly (Photo by Tanya Palit)

Sasha (Photo by Tanya Palit)

We took the stage and lots of people were sitting.  I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  Naturally, I was a little worried that, because Neutral Uke Hotel was headlining, many of the people there would simply be annoyed that they had to sit through our set before hearing NUH.  I was delighted to find that people were not only quiet and attentive (almost disturbingly so, in fact), but most were totally engaged the whole time.  The lights in the room were kept pretty bright, so I could actually pretty much make eye contact with individuals in the audience the entire time.  This is, admittedly, a little disconcerting at times, but I also like being able to see smiles appear when we sing funny lines and just generally watch people react in all different ways.  It was particularly nice to see a lot of positive response to our most controversial lyric, one about “menstruation.”

I ended up talking a lot more than I normally might, partly to try and keep everyone in the band in a light, calm mood and also because it was just such a quiet, receptive audience, that I felt like I had a little more flexibility to interface with them.

At one point, I made a joke about how Neutral Uke Hotel was coming up next and that they might recognize someone in the band.  I also said that the ukulele (pointing at the instrument in my hands) might be a giveaway.  Several seconds later, an audience member blurted out, “I get it, it’s him!”  Everyone laughed.  I didn’t quite catch what was funny, so I asked for a repeat and someone informed me of what the other audience member had said.  I assumed that it was said jokingly and I made fun of the person a bit, assuming it was a joke.  It turns out, not so much.  Now, I feel a little bad for making fun of her…but not actually too bad.  (Update: I just got word from the shouter and it turns out that she was most definitely joking, so I no longer feel bad.)

I had a great time playing.  I think everyone else did as well and it seemed to me, from immediate response and later feedback, that the audience had enjoyed us as well.  That’s always a concern when you are presenting yourself to people that might not expect you.  We made lots of small mistakes and only what I’d consider a larger set of mistakes on one song.  Hey, eight pretty solid performances and one that’s a little off…not bad at all for a first show.  Not bad at all!  I really look forward to working more on these songs and taking this to the stage once again on October 1 at Church!

The Neutral Uke Hotel (I am also in that band for anyone not aware or who didn’t gather an understanding from the earlier discussion of the loud audience member) set was also a blast.  What a great and respectful crowd, albeit, a little quieter than we’re used to for NUH, but no matter!  We played through In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and then performed a set of 4 originals – two Golden Bloom songs and two The Motion Sick songs and then closed with a really fun finale of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Song Against Sex,” (alt take from Jesse Nicole) which we performed without any amplification in the middle of the crowd and spun around each other and shifted positions.  It was a fun bit of chaos to say the least and a really great way to end the night!

Here are some more photos of us prepping for the show and performing on stage:

Sophia and Michael (Photo by Tanya Palit)

Sasha and Holly (Photo by Tanya Palit)
Rachel (Photo by Tanya Palit)

Tanya (Photo probably not by Tanya Palit)
Sasha, Holly, Michael, Lisa, Susannah, Tanya (Photo by Joel Edinberg)
Sophia and Jane (Photo by Joel Edinberg)

Tanya, Rachel, Sophia, Jane (Photo by Joel Edinberg)
Holly, Michael, Lisa, Susannah, Tanya (Photo by Joel Edinberg)
Photo by Joel Edinberg

Lisa, Tanya, Rachel (Photo by Joel Edinberg)
Rachel (Photo by Joel Edinberg)
Michael (Photo by Joel Edinberg)
Tanya (Photo by Joel Edinberg)
Rachel, Sophia, Jane – Sophia holds up rain stick at the end of
“Every Time I Visit You, It Rains” (Photo by Joel Edinberg)
(Photo by Joel Edinberg)
Rachel is not a vampire (Photo by Joel Edinberg)
Jane (Photo by Joel Edinberg)