The Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour @ Lee's Palace by Adam Bunch

Lee's Palace has a pretty big stage, but on Friday night it was filled to the point of bursting. It was packed with weirdos, so many it was hard to keep count, about a dozen  people from bands related to the famed Elephant 6 recording collective: Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, of Montreal, Elf Power, The Music Tapes, The Sunshine Fix, The Gerbils, The Late BP Helium... They came and went all night, turning the stage into a cavalcade of toques and neck beards, leggings and straw hats, giant tubas, tiny pianos, automated organ-playing towers, singing saws and percussion pumpkins. At one point they even sent a giant snowman out into the crowd.

The night started with Scott Spillane (Neutral Milk Hotel, The Gerbils) alone on the darkened stage with his novelty-sized tuba. A song broke out at the back of the room—sweet harmonies drifting over the crowd from over by the bar. Before long, the full compliment of musicians had made their way up onto the stage, launching into a marathon set of tracks from their various projects. With the exception of  the Olivia Termor Control tunes and their makeshift cover of "Hell's Bells", they focused mostly on relatively obscure material—think plenty of songs from side projects but none of Neutral Milk Hotel's big hits. For the less Elephant 6-obsessed members of the audience, that was a shame, especially given the length of the set. But most of those in the crowd were clearly die-hard fans. And they were elated; a sea of unexpectedly young faces grinned like fools through sing-along choruses and the surrealistic storytelling that made up a good chunk of the stage banter.

Three hours later, as the collective launched into the tenth song of their encore, most of them would still be going strong.

Julian Koster (The Music Tapes, Neutral Milk Hotel)
Bryan Poole (The Late BP Helium, of Montreal, Elf Power)
Left to right: Laura Carter (Elf Power), Will Cullen Hart (Olivia Tremor Control), Bryan Poole (The Late BP Helium, of Montreal, Elf Power), Peter Erchick (Olivia Tremor Control), Andrew Rieger (Elf Power), Bill Doss (Olivia Tremor Control)
Julian Koster (The Music Tapes, Neutral Milk Hotel)
Scott Spillane (Neutral Milk Hotel, The Gerbils)
Peter Erchick (Olivia Tremor Control, Pipes You See, Pipes You Don't) and audience member, Cali
Julian Koster (The Music Tapes, Neutral Milk Hotel)
Andrew Rieger (Elf Power)
Bryan Poole (The Late BP Helium, of Montreal, Elf Power)

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


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