Cover band plays entire set on ukulele

BY EVAN CLARK | AUGUST 19, 2010 7:15 AM

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In 1998, indie-rock band Neutral Milk Hotel released a landmark album, In the Aeroplane over the Sea. The album enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim, and it is widely considered one of the greatest indie albums of all time, according to Blender Magazine.

Twelve years later, the group has long since disbanded, leaving a number of fans wondering whether there will ever be a follow-up record. In the meantime, they'll have to settle with the next best thing — Neutral Uke Hotel.

As were many fans, Shawn Fogel was deeply inspired by the band's classic album. But while the future of Neutral Milk Hotel remains in question, he has decided to take actions into his own hands by putting together an ode to In the Aeroplane over the Sea. Neutral Uke Hotel is his tribute band to the indie pioneers, featuring him playing the album live in its entirety on his ukulele.

The group will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Gabe's, 330 E. Washington St., as part of an extensive summer tour. Admission is $6.

The band's mission statement for its live shows is a simple one.

"There are so many people out there who really love this album," Fogel said. "And the band hasn't done anything in a long time. So, we just want to celebrate it and share it together with everyone."

The project was intended to be short-lived, but after a few shows generated major buzz and demand, Fogel now has the heavy burden of delivering fans their Neutral dose to help ease their addiction.

"When we played our first Boston show, our goal was just for that one show and for it to be something that'd be fun," he said. "But it went so well and we had such a huge demand for it, that we figured we could book more shows, and now it's sort of blowing up."

Neutral Uke Hotel was featured in the lineup for the Toronto-based music festival North by Northwest earlier this summer, and it will record some live sessions with the indie music website sensation Daytrotter prior to playing Friday.

Fogel's other band, Golden Bloom, will also play at Gabe's. Along with band member Josh Cohen, Fogel will perform some original songs before diving into the Aeroplane cover set.

Although the lack of stacked amps and double foot pedals may throw some people off, Fogel insists that his ukulele will do the trick.

"My favorite song to play live is 'Holland 1945,' " he said. "It's really high energy, and it's one of the songs that people know the best. The overall goal is to have the show become one big sing-a-long."

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