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A FINAL APPEARANCE

Certainly one of the more thrilling concerts we can anticipate is Athens, Georgia, songwriter Jeff Mangum, whose recordings as leader of the band Neutral Milk Hotel in the late '90s gathered enough cult fixations and record-store-clerk freakouts to break into the canon of independent rock music. The songwriter plays Portland as part of a 31-date tour this winter, hitting the State Theatre with Tall Firs and fellow Elephant 6 recording artist the Music Tapes.

Before setting out on the tour, which Mangum has said will be his last, the songwriter played a song with Guy Picciotto of Fugazi — another group seemingly on permanent hiatus — in New York in November. The appearance (the duo played one song: a cover of "Sign the Dotted Line" by New Zealand folk-punk band Tall Dwarfs) was part of a concert fundraiser called the People's Bailout Variety Show and Telethon, which helped launch the Rolling Jubilee, the new and radically progressive program that buys up and forgives distressed medical debt, which is an extension of Strike Debt/Occupy Wall Street organized by Mangum's wife, the filmmaker Astra Taylor (Zizek!, Examined Life).

If you know anything about Neutral Milk Hotel or the legendarily reclusive Mangum, it goes without saying he wasn't available for interviewing. Though it should be noted that he's never been more public than right now: the Neutral Milk Hotel discography has been dotingly re-pressed and packaged into vinyl box sets, and a portion of proceeds from the tour and record sales will go to Children of the Blue Sky, a nonprofit organization benefiting street children in Mongolia.

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LET'S GET HITCHED

More than anything else, we are really looking forward to a year of celebration. A year in which couples in Maine who love each other can get married — regardless of their sexual orientation. We're looking forward to the sky not falling as a result of gay marriage — and the smug I-told-you-so smiles we'll have a hard time wiping off our faces. We're looking forward to florists and venues and caterers and musicians making even more money off Maine's wedding season than they're used to.

But aside from those joyous days, 2013 will bring some nail-biters when it comes to equality, too. The Supreme Court has announced it will hear two gay-rights-related cases in 2013: one, a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act; the other, a reconsideration of "Prop 8," the law that banned gay marriage in California. The arguments are scheduled to take place in late March, with a decision expected by the end of June. Is it possible to keep our fingers crossed for six months?

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