Before the Decemberists, there was Neutral Milk Hotel, a band that unspooled bleak folk-rock songs brimming with gloriously obtuse lyrics and eclectic icing, from accordion and oom-pah brass to grungy bashing. The group also released its 1998 landmark In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a hallowed artifact for indie-rock hipsters in the wake of singer Jeff Mangum’s withdrawl from music shortly thereafter. After a round of solo dates, a bearded Mangum has revived Neutral Milk Hotel for its first shows in 15 years, and die-hard fans have snapped up tickets to a two-night stand at the Orpheum Theatre that concludes Friday. In keeping with the singer’s reclusive nature, photos or videos (even from cellphones) are forbidden, so take this rough, recent clip as a rare bit of stealth.
Once a rare opportunity as well, though now practically an annual rite at the Middle East Downstairs, is the chance to see David Lowery front both of his cult-favorite bands, the also-eclectic Camper Van Beethoven and the straightforward, once-mainstream rockers Cracker Friday. While we’re talking about reunited ’90s heroes, Boston’s own Pixies return to the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday, supporting a second new EP of cool rockers (if short of the magic of nuggets that still dominate the live sets), this time with touring bassist Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan) in place of departed member Kim Deal. Here’s a classic from a recent Pixies appearance (with previous replacement bassist Kim Shattuck). And here’s a jump to Sarah Hagman’s recent Q&A with guitarist Joey Santiago. Other Saturday options include the arena hip-hop bravado of rapper Jay Z, commanding the TD Garden on his own after his joint stadium trip with Justin Timberlake, and the brassy Trombone Shorty stirring up House of Blues with his powerhouse New Orleans funk-rock. You can also jump to my recent interview with frontman Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.