Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas to Me (And You Too)!

So I got myself a little Christmas present, something I've been wanting for a while. I'm quite happy with the way it turned out.

I fell in love with this logo the minute I saw it on the temporary site back in the spring. I was actually almost late to work that day because I was trying desperately to figure out how to snag the image off the site and print it out. I was very pleased to see it turn up on all the crew badges on the fall tour.

I think the tattoo artist nearly had a heart attack when I showed him what I wanted. All those straight lines. But he did a really nice job with it and it only took about an hour and a half. Of course I am already plotting my next design.

I am extremely excited about the New Year's Eve shows on Thursday. I can't wait. A lot of my enjoyment of Christmas was lost thanks to work craziness, a really crappy schedule and a lot of ridiculous driving to get both my boyfriend in I home for Christmas day (one car - opposite directions). And the last few years my New Year's celebrations have been nonexistent, so I am really glad to be able to spend the day with some awesome TMBG peeps. We shall bond while waiting outside in the cold.

See ya'll on Thursday!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bookstore Rock

December 2, 2009 - Border's Bookstore - Braintree, MA

Almost five years later, we returned to the site of my very first TMBG show for another in-store performance and signing. The last time I was at this Border's I was tagging along with friends. I was completely unfamiliar with the band, Istanbul was the only song they played that I recognized and I didn't know who the Johns were so I didn't get anything signed. Boy, how things have changed.

I have a pretty vivid imagination and I tend to spend too much time dreaming up in my head how things are going to go. Unfortunately, I think my experience at this show kind of suffered from that and I ended up being a little disappointed. Not by any fault of the band. The show was great. The Johns and Marty were really nice. I got my book signed. We got our picture taken. By all rights I should be ecstatic. Any disappointment on my part is with myself. I really wanted to come up with something meaningful to say to them. About what their music means to me. About what a huge part of my life the band has become. About how happy they make me. And I didn't say anything, except to spell my name for Flans and ask for a picture. I was totally intimidated by them and none of the words in my head seemed good enough. I also had something I really wanted to ask them but I lost my nerve.  And so I've been moping and mentally kicking myself instead of relishing what an awesome night it was. Maybe recaping it will help me with that.

We got to Borders at about 4:30 for the 6:00 show. We drove passed Flans on the sidewalk outside talking on his cell. There was a little stage already set up near the back of the store with a mini drum kit for Marty and Linnell's accordion on it. There was only one family and one lone guy waiting by the stage so we went to hang out with our friends who were already camped out in the cafe. We got to watch Linnell unsuccessfully attempt to enter the building via an emergency exit in the cafe.

About 20 minutes or so before the show we went over to the stage area. Most of the crowd was sitting on the floor so we stood in the back, figuring we'd have a better view over everyone's heads. Victor was puttering around the stage plugging things in and testing equipment. He seemed to be the only crew member they brought with them. The Borders staff had all the people sitting on the floor scoot forward so more people could sit down but we stayed standing. Right on time, I saw a Border's employee asking a man with a kid on his shoulders to step to the side and Flans, Linnell and Marty made their way onto the stage.

From my past experience at an in-store and what I have heard from others, I expected Flans to ask the adults without kids who were sitting by the stage to move further back so the kids could be at the front. Instead he said this was going to be a short show and asked everyone to stand up and hoist their kids on their shoulders if they wanted. So much for the better view. I briefly couldn't see anyone on stage at all, then when I moved a little I could at least see Linnell. Most of my view of the show was Linnell and the rear end of a little girl sitting on her dad's shoulders directly in my line of sight to Flans. I actually forgot Marty was there for a little while because I couldn't see him until Linnell stepped back to get his coffee.

Flans said this was their first attempt at a mixed age show and they did play a mix of kid and rock songs.
They started with Alphabet of Nations. The intro sounded so funny without the reverb and effects on the mics. The sound quality from the mics was terrible for the first song but it got better. I wasn't totally paying attention for part of the song because I was trying to find a place where I could see but I did enjoy hearing it on accordion rather than keyboard.

Flans talked about their new book and complimented Border's on their nice display. Someone next to the display stand held up a copy. Flans said they were going to play the song twice and that their performance would improve by the second playing. They joked that they were going to play it in different musical styles throughout the show. They also commented on the name of the book not being anywhere in the song and said that for the longest time their publisher thought the title was Go, Kids Go. They also talked about Bed, Bed, Bed and Flans said that the DVD from that book was apparently the most stolen item from some bookstore they had played in because you could easily take the DVD without anyone noticing. This led into a discussion of how the contents of the DVD would be what you were stealing if you downloaded the music online so it was really the same thing and eventually got into comments about stealing the new book. Flans did ask everyone to please pay for their copy though, I am sure, much to the Border's staff's relief. When they finally started the song, Flans used a very silly, extra deep voice for the beginning. I was pleased that they had learned the entire song by now since the last mention of it I had heard was that had played a 45 second version because they hadn't learned the rest. The first playing was good but the second was WAY better.

Next they played The Mesopotamians which, we discovered is not entirely child appropriate. The word "damn" is in the lyrics which I had never really thought about before. Nobody around us seemed to mind but I'm sure somewhere in the crowd there was at least one annoyed parent. It was odd enough hearing the song with accordion rather than keyboard but what I found even odder was the lack of Dan Miller's vocals. Don't get me wrong, it still sounded great and Flans really held up his end covering for both guitar parts but I hadn't realized before how much Dan fills out the background vocals. Apparently Flans was missing him as well, because after the song he commented that he didn't know when to start singing because he always looked at Dan on stage and just started singing whenever he did. Heehee. Doesn't he know you're not supposed to admit that sort of thing? :-)

Flans then started his pre-Pirate Girls counting lesson. He did the whole bit, asking everyone if they could count to 10 then saying that this was easier because they only had to count to nine. The first time he tried to get the audience to do it with him almost no one did. The second time he got everyone but most of the people around us counted all the way to ten. He had us do it one more time to improve our speed before introducing the song. "This song is about three things. It's about pirates. Arrrrrrrrrrrr. It's about girls. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. And it's about the number nine. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr." I think we, as an audience, did pretty well with our audience participation. And I didn't hear anyone say ten during the song.

"This next song is about a worm who thinks he's a doctor." Doctor Worm was the first They Might Be Giants song I really retained and liked and I first heard it at this very same Borders. It was like a little mini-anniversary performance for me. And a pretty rockin' one at that!

Clap Your Hands was pretty amusing in a bookstore. You usually think of bookstores as being rather quiet places and here are a hundred or so people clapping and stomping and jumping up and down. There was probably at least one person in the store who just came in to read and was shocked and disturbed to walk into a rock concert. The best part for me was that Flans mixed up which bookstore he was in and yelled "Barnes & Noble, clap your hands" in the middle of the song. Bet the Border's staff loved that.

Linnell did a fantastic intro to Istanbul on the accordion. I wish he would do that at one of the rock shows. I don't feel like I get to appreciate his accordion skills enough and the little bit of improv was the perfect outlet. Flans mixed in a little guitar strumming too. It was a little more obvious what they were starting to play than it usually is but I think plenty of folks in the crowd were still surprised. For me, it was like a little window in time showing what a show must have been like in their early days (substituting Marty for the drum machine of course). If anyone ever invents a time machine you will find me back in some little club at a TMBG show circa 1985.

Flans made some stage announcements about the signing before the last song. He said they would sign until the very last person got through the line so if anyone didn't want to wait or really needed to take a little one to the bathroom they could come back in a little bit and they would still be there. He even said we could go get dinner and come back and they would still be there. (I don't think that was quite true since they got through the line relatively fast and bolted immediately. I wonder if anyone came back after they were gone and was sad?) He also asked that any of the fans with 25 items to sign please stand at the end of the line so that people who have only limited interest in the band can get a book signed and drive away first. Those weren't the exact words which is too bad because his phrasing was funnier. There was also a little kid holding up a sign while Flans was talking that Flans read to the crowd. It said "You are my second favorite band" on one side and "The Beatles are my favorite" on the other. Flans told the kid The Beatles were his favorite too.

As they were leading into the second round of Get Up and Go, Linnell suggested that they play it in the style of The Pixies with some parts really loud and some parts really soft. Flans asked which parts were going to be loud and which were going to be soft and Linnell said something like "I don't know, we'll see." Flans had this momentary look of consternation on his face then asked if they were starting loud or soft. They decided on loud and that they would follow Marty for when to switch. And they started LOUD. With Flans doing to silly voice again. Then when Linnell came in on the verse he was very quiet and smirking while he was singing. And they kept switching back and forth throughout the song. Linnell kept making himself almost laugh trying to be quiet. It was awesome! I can't imagine I will ever hear a better performance of the song.

There was kind of a confusing crush towards the line after the song. We managed to get somewhere in the middle. It didn't take more than fifteen minutes to get to the front of the line. They were booking it through the signing with Flans urging people forward and keeping the line moving. Both of our friends were ahead of us and posed for pictures with Flans and Linnell. Then it was our turn. My boyfriend had brought his Bed, Bed, Bed and a copy of Kids Go! and his Hello Recording club version of the '85 demo tape. Flans asked his name first, then asked him how old he was so he could fill in the "age" line in the "this book belongs to" page of Bed. Flans signed his name with his age as well, then passed it down to Linnell. He did the other book, then took Kids Go. He asked my name and if I used the traditional spelling. I spelled it for him since I wasn't sure what he considered to be the traditional spelling. Then he took the demo tape with a little "woah" and made a comment about how old it was. I asked if we could have a picture. We got to go behind the table and stand between the Johns. Linnell asked for a count off so we'd know when the picture was taken. 1-2-3. Click. And that was pretty much that. I collected my book from Marty at the end of the table. Smiled at him while trying to shove everything back into my bag. Not even sure I said thank you. I hope I did. We hung around to watch the rest of the signing while I tried to get up the nerve to go back and ask them my question at the end. But I chickened out and they were too fast getting up and fleeing after the last person in line was through anyway.

So, excellent little show. I have a lovely signed book and a cute picture that may or may not end up being my Christmas card this year. And, with a little time, I will hopefully stop thinking about all the things I didn't say. Hopefully, it wont be my last opportunity to meet them.

Must admit too that I am pretty bummed I decided not to go to the NYC in-store. I could have. I considered it. I wanted to. But my boyfriend couldn't go and I didn't want to go alone. And of course they played an awesome setlist. Just one more thing I can kick myself over.

Next shows are New Years Eve. They'll be like my reward for surviving another holiday season in retail. Then we will see what 2010 holds.

Pictures are up on Flickr as usual.