Monday, March 29, 2010

Things I Have Learned About Geeks

This is only They Might Be Giants related by association but some of you might be interested anyway. Plus it explains the pictures currently streaming in the slideshow at the top of the page. We went to PAX East on Saturday (for anyone who doesn't know, PAX is a huge gaming convention put on by the people at Penny Arcade). We partly went for all the gaming convention fun and partly for the huge concert on Saturday night featuring Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm.

I should start by saying that I have never been to a convention like this before. I have been to one convention previous to this (it was a Harry Potter one) but it was spread out all over the town of Salem, MA and was almost all women. This was all confined in one giant convention center and was a pretty good mix of women and men. Probably about 40,000 of them. Geeks everywhere!

We spent a large portion of the day standing in line for one thing or another, about 5 and a half hours all told. We saw the 2nd round of the Omegathon video game competition being contested. We went to a panel where they used a (supposedly) scientific method to determine the 10 best video games of all time. We played some old arcade games, rather badly. We attended a Q&A panel with the convention's musical guests, including JoCo, Paul & Storm, MC Frontalot, some of the ProtoMen, a couple of members of Anamanaguchi, Metroid Metal and the creative director of the Video Game Orchestra who I felt bad for because he never got to say anything. The panel was both informative and very, very funny.

In between things we wandered around the Exhibit Hall where all the game companies were demo-ing new things. I wasn't as excited by this as I thought I might be, mostly because none of the companies had brought games I really cared about. The Nintendo booth only had Pokemon, the Disney folks only brought a racing game, the Traveler's Tales people weren't even there and the Harmonix stuff was off in a different area that was so crowded we didn't even go in.

Wil Wheaton (the key note speaker) walked past me while we were watching some people play Rock Band, basically in a hallway. Total geek moment.

There were some fantastic costumes. I saw most of the characters from Mario, some Fall Out people, a whole bunch of anime style folks that I didn't recognize and some crazy costumes that I have no idea who they were. There was a wookie that I never saw with his head on, a guy in a chicken outfit, a person who as far as I can tell was dressed as a slice of lime, a person in a green skin suit. There were also a bunch of guys wearing utility kilts. I find these amusing. Paul and Storm also made fun of them later (one guy in particular actually). I had on one of my TMBG shirts and my boyfriend was wearing his Road Crew hoodie and we got multiple comments from people who were also fans of the band. There was even a guy who stopped me to show me that his baby was wearing a TMBG onesie. Too cute!

We didn't arrive early enough to get the guaranteed entry wristbands for the concert so I wanted to make sure we lined up early so we could get in with the first come/first serve group. They weren't starting the line until 6pm but people were unofficially lining up to get in line at about 5:30. The PAX people tried to discourage this but only succeeded in getting everyone to move back about 10 feet. Then when the opened the line everyone rushed the doors anyway.

The best part of waiting in this line was that they gave out pipe cleaners for everyone to build things with while they waited. There was no particular purpose other than so they could get pictures of what we built but people made some amazing stuff. There was a guy who made an excellent Katamari character with a ball. Someone constructed a blue shell hat with wings. There was a Portal companion cube, a Zelda Triforce, multiple crowns and tops hats and tiaras and such. Some girls made a one-up mushroom, a guy made an awesome T-Rex and some other little orange dino. Someone spelled out "PAX East hearts pipe cleaners" on the floor. I built a little dragon and a sheep for him to eat. I attempted a Moogle too but he didn't come out very well. Anyone who has to have a large number of people waiting in line for any purpose should seriously consider something like this because it kept people entertained and passed the time really quickly.

The concert was epic. It started with the 3rd round of Omegathon which was a Rock Band competition. Then there was a long wait during which so many people were trying to link their DSs to play Mario Kart that the connections all pretty much crapped out. The Video Game Orchestra started the concert portion of the evening and they were amazing. They had brought a "chamber group" to PAX because their whole orchestra wouldn't fit on stage but it still had a complete string and woodwind section as well as electric guitars, keyboard and percussion. Who knew that video game music could be so much fun. They did a song from Castlevania with just the "rock band" members of the group that rocked so hard we might as well have been at Guns N Roses concert or something of that ilk. At the end the audience wanted an encore but they hadn't prepared anything so they just played a song again. And nobody minded. It was really cool.

Paul and Storm started by punking the audience. They did a re-enactment of a weird video that's been going around that people are calling the Russian or Communist Rick-roll. They had Wil Wheaton with them and were wearing silly wigs. People were laughing their asses off. It was great. When they came out to sing they did Opening Band and not only had panties thrown at them but also some pipe cleaner panties and a fruit pie which wacked Paul in the face. They did one of the songs from their Christmas project of songs in the style of TMBG (see I worked TMBG in there :-)

They had MC Frontalot join them for a song but all he did was stand on stage and bop his a head to the music a little. That too was great. The whole concert was probably the most I have laughed at anything live in... well, probably ever. They might as well of been doing a comedy act. I guess they kind of are. They got the audience going on mock displays of sympathy saying, "Awwww" after everything and then couldn't make it stop. And it worked in every situation. They asked everyone to hold up their lighters or Lighter apps, or cell phones or DSs for one song and wave them in the air and there were more people with DSs than anything else. There was even a guy holding up a laptop who had managed to get "awwwwww" to display on the screen.

They finished with their pirate song and lots of people saying "Arrrrr" which continued right through JoCo's set. JoCo started with Ikea. Yay! It's like he knew I was there! (For the record I do not believe this was anything more than coincidence). He did most of the songs he played while opening for TMBG, including the most amazing version of Mr. Fancy Pants I have ever seen. The stage was really bouncy and when he put the Zendrum down after the song it kept playing when he stepped on the floor near it. So he did some bouncing and running past it and made a whole other mix with it completely by accident that was almost better than the song.

He did Curl with Paul and Storm which I was very excited about, and another song that I don't think I had heard live before. Then he had the guys from Metroid Metal come out and join them and they formed COLTRON. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I really hope they make this concert available on DVD as they have with past PAX shows because I will buy it in a heart beat.

So at the end of this day these are some things that I have learned that geeks are really good at.

10. Embarrassing themselves in public and not caring.

9. Laughing at themselves and each other.

8. Finding the most awesome t-shirts in existence.

7. Making incredible/silly costumes and wearing them with pride.

6. Turning their geeky hobbies into careers.

5. Pretending to be zombies.

4. Pretending to be pirates.

3. Keeping a joke going way after it should have stopped being funny.

2. Building things with pipe cleaners.

And the number one, totally under-appreciated geek skill:

1. Waiting in lines.

These are my people.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Sparked by a few of the conversations we had while on our recent trip, I have been pondering the evolution of a fan. Specifically, how ones view of a live show changes as you pass by your first few shows, travel through your middle 20 or so and on into the upper 50s.

In the beginning, everything is new. You get really excited when they play your favorite songs. Everything the guys say and do on stage is unique to you even if it's a part of the show they've done twenty or thirty times. You don't know any of the other fans. You don't get the best spot to stand because you don't know where that spot is. (And if you are anything like me and aren't actually familiar with the band before your first show, you spend half the time trying to remember which John is which and just how many of them are actually called Dan.)

By the time you get into the teens and 20s in your shows, you've past all that. Now your still excited that they play your favorite song but you're actually more excited when they play something you haven't heard live yet. You may actually even discover new favorites because the live version is so awesome. You know all the regular bits and while most of them still make you laugh, you probably find some little off-hand comment even more funny. You've probably made a few friends in the crowd by now and recognize a half dozen others from the internet that you've never spoken to. You are getting pretty good at finding the best spot, until they move the stage set-up around on you. And not only can you tell the band apart by now (I hope) but you're starting to get familiar with their personalities and tune into their dynamics. You may even have met one or two of them when you chased them down to sign stuff, depending on how brave you are.

Then eventually you reach a point, probably somewhere in the 30s or 40s, where you realize you have actually gotten tired of some particular song. You rarely hear anything you haven't heard live before anymore but you've grown to love a few things you never thought you would. You can recite some of the jokes by heart but there is always, ALWAYS some new banter to make you laugh. At some point you will look down the stage and realize you know every single person all the way down the row and some of them are your best friends. You can now have extended conversations about the virtues of the left side of the stage versus the right but have come to realize that there is no bad spot as long as you are in front. And by now you have gotten to know the band so well (at least their stage personas anyway) that every show is like a get together with old friends. And you know what? Whether you realize it or not, they probably know you too.

I realize this probably isn't exactly the same for everyone. The process can be greatly accelerated if you are hanging out with people who are already 10 or 15 shows ahead of you, or heck, if you spend a lot of time watching YouTube. We've also been speculating that somewhere out there, there is probably some guy who doesn't use the internet and always stands in back that no one ever notices but he's actually been to about 850 shows since 1982.

My basic point is you notice different things the longer you watch. Early on you're focused on the music and the stage banter and what they are going to play next. By the 45th time you hear Particle Man, you are probably more likely to notice a particular expression that always appears on Linnell's face when he sings a certain line, or the way Danny uses his thumb to play the bass rhythm. It's things like this that will always keep me going back. Because no matter how many times I've heard Particle Man there is always something going on on stage that I haven't noticed before. It's like watching your favorite movie. You can watch it 30 times and still see something you hadn't noticed.

I had a moment in Charlotte, where I suddenly realized that instead of hearing the song as a whole, I was hearing all of the instruments individually in my head. It was like someone had separated out all the tracks for me and I was realizing for the first time that the bass line followed the keyboard part and the drum was on the back beat. I know that is totally not how you are supposed to hear music in a live venue; the whole point is that the instruments are supposed to blend. And I'm sure I was influenced by the amount of time I have spent lately, concentrating too hard on separating tracks in my head to discern different instruments in order to fill in credit pages on TMBW. But it was, oddly, a very zen moment for me.

No really, what is the point of all this rambling, you are wondering?

Well I've been wanting to spark some conversations with top ten lists (or five or seven or twenty, however many you can think of) but I didn't want to start with something so pedestrian as favorite songs or albums or what not. So I am starting with moments. I am narrowing down a show into ten second flashes. The little instants that I anticipate as much as my favorite song. This may sound weird, but seeing these little things again and again is what makes me feel like a capital letter FAN, more than the 48 times I've heard Istanbul.

So here we go, my favorite minute (give or take) of a They Might Be Giants show:

(I should probably note that not all of these things all happen at every show as several of them depend on a specific song being played. Also they aren't really in a particular order.)

11. (Honorable mention since it doesn't happen often) Any time Dan finds something crazy to climb on the play the solo at the end of Fingertips, be it the balcony, the bar or just a giant stack of speakers. I also love watching him try to get down.

10. The moment in Older after Linnell sings "Time" and then launches the confetti canon, when they all freeze and watch the confetti fall before continuing.

9. The false ending on Istanbul where Flans plays while balancing on one foot with the other stuck out at the crowd.

8. The first keyboard riff in Withered Hope. Ba-damp Ba-damp Ba-damp Ba-damp Ba-damp Ba-damp Ba-dump Ba-daaaaamp.

7. The beat of silence in Letterbox.

6. The absolutely crazed look on Marty's face as he "wrecks his best shit" at the end of his drum solo. I scream myself horse every time.

5. Guatelmalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. 'Nough said.

4. Dan's guitar intro to Istanbul. I know this is longer than 10 seconds but I love the whole thing. If I had to narrow it down to 10 seconds I'd pick the last 10 when his hand is moving so fast you can barely see it.

3. Danny's leap in the air on the "I am a real worm" line in Doctor Worm just after the slow part.

2. Linnell jumping up and down during The Guitar, while still playing the keyboard.

1. The music just after "But I am" in Birdhouse before the lyrics pick up again. More headbanging and bouncy than anything else out there.

I can think of about a dozen more but those are the ones I'm going with. Now it's your turn to share. Post comments. Get this discussion started. We've got to do something to keep us busy until the next show :-)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Interrupt Me As I Struggle To Complete This Thought

I keep remembering all these little things from the shows on this trip that I forgot to include in my write-ups, so rather than go back and do edits that no one will see I am writing them all together here.

Let's see...

At the end of the Nashville show, Flans ripped all the strings off his guitar. A girl down the row from me grabbed one that he tossed into the crowd and was very excited about it.

They repeatedly mentioned a venue that they had played in earlier in this tour that smelled like poop. I believe it first came up in Charlotte and then was mentioned again in Towson. Apparently, the whole place smelled like "human feces"(Flans' quote, not mine) the whole time they were there. In Charlotte he made some kind of comment like "What's up with that shit?" To which Linnell responded, "Pun intended" and Flans said "What pun?"

I was standing right next to the old confetti canon in Charlotte and I was just finishing taking a picture when Linnell reached for the switch to set it off so I missed the motion. And it scared the shit out of me. It made a much bigger pop than I ever realized they make and I thought my heart was going to spring right out of my chest. Of course Will was just the other side of the canon from me and was laughing at me.

I managed to forget the best part of the puppet show in Towson. After announcing that we were all locked in sock puppet jail, Flans puppet said that The Avatars of They are not nice. "Perhaps you can finally see the truth in my left eye." Then he stuck his right eye into the camera. After a few moments, "Then why are you staring into my right eye? Fools!" Then Linnell-puppet chimed in, "He meant stage left, you idiots!" That combined with the invisible James Cameron stuff pretty much made me laugh myself silly.

Also in Towson, they announced that their next three shows were kids shows so (in Linnell's words) "we'll be working blue." Flans then said something with fuck in it. It's in the videos. Go check it out.

At some point in Asheville, Dan bumped into his mic stand and almost knocked it over. It went careening off in one direction then he caught it only to send it bouncing the other way. It was right in front of my head and I was completely oblivious because I was taking a picture. I got the distinct impression afterwards that I almost got clocked in the head. The "my bad" look on his face afterwards was adorable though.

Speaking of near accidents, in Charlotte, Danny got up on Curt's platform at the back to play for a song. He was rocking back and forth from one foot to another and the whole platform was rocking with him. With the way that show was going I was sure the whole thing was going to collapse under him but obviously it didn't. It didn't look very safe though.

That's all I can remember. For now anyway. Feel free to chime in with your own missing moments.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Secret Rock Show

March 12, 2010 - Recher Theatre - Towson, MD

Last show of the trip, for me and the boyfriend anyway, though not the last stop. It was a great one to close it out with. We drove from Richmond to Baltimore on Friday morning, intending to visit the Maryland Zoo before the show. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the zoo was closed due to severe snow damage and would not be re-opening until the next day. Bad timing. The weather was kind of crummy and we couldn't find anything else to do that was either a) not outside or b) easy to get to. So we ended up hanging out at a local Barnes & Noble for a while.

We headed for Towson early, which ended up being fortunate as there was a lot of traffic. Even so we were the first ones at the theater. We staked out a spot right by the front door which was, thank goodness, under the marquee as it was either raining or drizzling the whole time we were outside. The crowd that joined us was not so much a line as a large cluster, with people trying to crowd under the marquee to stay dry. We could see into the venue straight through to the stage and got to watch some of the crew activity. Marty came out our door, at one point, with some friends heading out to dinner.

As we were the first ones into the theater we had our pick of stage spots. We had been debating left vs right outside, having tried both earlier in the week, but discovered upon entering that they had the stage set-up in the pre-fall 2009 fashion with the keyboard off to the right instead of in the center. So we picked dead center giving us a perfect view of everything. The venue had barriers set up on the side of the stage, angled out towards the room. The stage was pretty small so the lighting units were set up on the floor in front of the corners of the stage instead of on the stage where they usually are. The barriers were, presumably, to keep people from banging up against the light stands but they had the odd effect of funneling the audience into the stage, in sort of a wide arrow shape with us at the point. There was only really enough stage frontage to stand the three of us plus two people to the left and a group on the right that were basically under the keyboard, then the sides started to angle. I am probably not describing it well, and you probably do not care. Suffice it to say we had the best view in the house.

There was no opener at this show, as JoCo was already booked for his own show elsewhere. I missed him, but we'll be seeing him at PAX East next weekend so that will make up for it.

TMBG did the same setlist as the Charlotte show, except they substituted the Towson venue song for Drink! and completed the Avatar segment and both encores.

Setlist: Meet the Elements - Memo to Human Resources - Istanbul - Dr. Worm - Clap Your Hands - Where Your Eyes Don't Go - We Live In A Dump - Birdhouse - No One Knows My Plan - The Guitar - Ana Ng - Hearing Aid - Shooting Star - Stalk of Wheat - Towson - The Mesopotamians - Upside Down Frown - Electric Car - Withered Hope - Dead - Damn Good Times - They Might Be Giants  Encore - Alphabet of Nations - Turn Around  Encore 2 - Don't Let's Start - S-E-X-X-Y - Twisting

I still say that Richmond was my favorite show of the trip (if not ever) but that may have been slightly tainted by my post-show experience ;-P That being said, this show was a very close second.

Flans commented on the lay-out of the venue and how he could actually see Iggy because the place he was sitting was raised above the crowd. Flans was admiring his high tech equipment and touch screen computer and wondered, "How are we paying for this shit?"

They asked if it was raining outside when some people said yes and others said no, Linnell commented that, "The people that said no were lying."

I did end up taking some pictures, but I'll admit that at first I was a little gun shy. Between our completely front and center position and the previous night's confirmation that at least some of the band definitely recognizes us now I was a little nervous about sticking the camera in their faces. I mostly got over it. There definitely seemed to be an exchanged look and a comment and a nod in our direction between Danny and Linnell early on, as if to say "Yup, those are the people I was telling you about that have been following us around." Then I looked over at one point and Linnell was squinting at me oddly. I looked away and back again and he was still staring. Best I can figure he was trying to figure out what my t-shirt said (it was my "I heart the bass player" shirt with the heart made from two bass clefs). And yes, I realize that this entire paragraph makes me a huge dork. Moving on....

Linnell figured out early on that the bass levels in the club were turned up quite high and that by using a particularly low effect on his keyboard he could create an "earthquake." He discovered it briefly at the end of a song then later proceeded to see if he could "cause an earthquake with another earthquake." He was trying to see if he could get Danny's bass to play just from the vibration of the room. Danny turned the bass all the way up but it didn't quite work so he wacked it on the back of the neck to make it hum so it would seem like it worked. Man, did the whole room vibrate. The floor was humming and you could feel it in the air. But being by the stage, I think we had the best effect since we could lay our hands on the stage and feel the whole thing vibrating. It was like a little mini-massage! And it sounded like a platoon of tanks driving through. The effect was so popular with the crowd that Linnell did it again and again over the course of the night, always to great effect. He actually shook the stage so much at one point that the cowbell and something else fell out of the shelf in his keyboard stand and lay on the ground for the rest of the show.

Dan's red guitar got knocked over on it's face by someone walking by (it was either Flans or Curt) and had to go back to Dr. Victor to be retuned. So Dan played his snazzy new rainbow guitar for the next song. That thing is flashy! There was a great quote about it in a review I read of the Nashville show where the reviewer said, "We never thought we'd get so excited about such a silly-looking ax." Perfect!

When introducing We Live In A Dump, Flans was explaining that Cast Your Pod to the Wind is now available on iTunes and went into this great riff about how buying it was supporting a great cause and it would mean a lot to a lot of people, like it was a charity donation instead of merchandise. It was pretty funny.

They actually did Everybody Conga before No One Knows My Plan with the words this time. Despite this being the third time they played it on the tour this was the only time they actually got the conga line going. It took a while and a lot of "I'm not fucking kidding" for people to get going but there was a line going through the middle of the club. It fell apart pretty quickly, I think we the people from the back reached the front and realized that if they stopped they would be in a much better stage spot. There was definitely a couple right behind be who were ecstatic with the spot they managed to score.

Linnell said they had had a bunch of pretty great shows all week then recounted a conversation that Danny had overheard from the crowd walking out of The National the night before. There was apparently a couple talking about the show and Linnell imitated them, saying he was probably going to butcher it. "It was good, it was good. I thought it was good. I liked it. Yes, it was good." Or something like that, all said really fast. I can't really get the humor of it across in writing but trust me, it was funny.

And oh god, the puppets. Funniest puppet bit I have ever seen. They were doing their whole album produced by James Cameron thing. Linnell puppet pretended to be being choked by Cameron (with Linnell's hand wrapped around his neck). Flans-puppet said he was back with them forcing them to sing, then Flans briefly flipped the camera on himself. Then he swung the camera down and put the puppet down by the floor saying "he's down here, making himself magically invisible." After their first song, they sobbed and pleaded but agreed to do another song. And at the end, Flans still cried "Meg Ryan!" even though he picture no longer seemed to be attached to the drum. God, I love running gags.

Linnell introduced the Towson song and started into it. He started to forget one of the lines to the first verse and even though he remembered it, he still stopped and had the band start over. Flans asked if he wanted the sock puppets to do it and Linnell said yes, but he'd fuck it up even more that way. Then he refered to his puppet as a "little sawed off runt." He said if he forgot the words this time he'd make up better ones. But he did pretty well on the second go round, considered they haven't played the song but the one other time six years ago.

They were having a fair amount of trouble tripping over the carpets laid on the stage in the later quarter of the show. There were two that met right at center stage but they weren't taped down. I know Flans and Danny both tripped on the edge and I think Linnell may have a little a one point too. It was particularly bad towards the end of the show, I think during Don't Let's Start, as the carpet started to bunch under Flans' mic stand. Since the edges of both carpets met right where I was standing, I grabbed onto the corner and tried to flatten it back out again. Then Danny almost took a header on it really kicking it up in the middle so that Flans had to flip it back over. After that, I spent the last song or two just holding onto the edge, trying to prevent it from flipping up again and breaking someone's neck. I have no idea if it would have helped at all since nobody tripped after that point but I'd like to think I tried.

I am sure there was other humorous banter and stuff to recount, but that it all I can remember at the moment. Fortunately, one of the other wikians videoed the whole show so you can watch it on YouTube in all it's glory. The link is off of the show page on TMBW.

After the show, while we were waiting for a setlist, this crazy guy came up next to my boyfriend and started yelling at the crew and picking up the fallen cowbell. He'd pick it up and put it down, then pick it up again and we were really afraid he was gonna try to steal it. Eventually, when he put it down at one point, my boyfriend grabbed it and slid it back out of his reach, then Danny ended up kicking it to the back of the stage. Rescued=one cowbell. The guy kept yelling at the crew, asking for a setlist and if Linnell (whose name he could not pronounce right) was going to come back out and sign stuff. Will told him he was off eating his dinner. We ended up getting our setlist from Victor, but Danny did lean over after giving one to someone else under the keyboard to say "We made it through that one!" They sure did!

We drove to Gettysburg that night so we could visit the battlefield in the morning before driving our friend to the Pittsburgh show. She had managed to get a ticket before they sold out, unlike me. We were hoping there might be someone with extras at the door or that someone would have turned a couple back in to the box office but no dice. So our friend went in and saw the show and we waited in the car. I admit that I was pretty crushed, especially as they have started playing High Five, which I have never seen and wont have the opportunity to again until October at the earliest and that's assuming they are still playing it then. I had to work pretty hard at not crying with limited success. But we did see Linnell walking off the bus with his coffee as we walked back to the car so at least there was something. Our friend has some great pictures up on Flickr from the show here.

So it was a fantastic trip. Far too short, especially compared to the last one, but it was fun having a friend along for the ride with us. Next stop, The Stone Pony in June. I promise not to steal anyone's beer.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Way Better Than Last Night

March 11, 2010 - The National - Richmond, VA

This show rocked so hard I am still reeling from it. Awesome x10.

We started the day still in Charlotte and decided we needed to make a detour for a photo op before heading north. We had passed a store called Fancy Pants the day before and decided that we NEEDED a picture to send to JoCo. This is obviously where Mr. Fancypants gets his pants (except that it's a children's boutique).

That done we started north and promptly got stuck in a dead stand still traffic jam. We had left plenty of time to get to the show so that wasn't a problem but our plans to do anything else but drive that day vanished. The drive between Charlotte and Richmond was long and boring. Once we finally arrived at the hotel we realized that doors at The National were an hour earlier than everwhere else so we went straight over.

Due to separate lines for will call and ticket holders we were first in line, however, diners at the adjoining restaurant got first entry so there were already 10 or so people inside when we went in.

We saw Dan and Marty outside while parking the car and Danny hanging around while we waited in line. Confirmed the presense of the red pants and were pleased.

I should also note that I had, on Wednesday sent JoCo a message on Twitter requesting Ikea be played at one of the TMBG opening gigs. It didn't appear that night but I was still holding out hope.

The National is a huge, old-style theater with the seats removed from the first floor but the ones in the balcony were all in place. The stage was enormous, even bigger than The Orange Peel. There was tons of room for the guys to move around and rock out and boy did they ever.

We decided to go for the left side of the stage because the view was better (the only spots on the right were too far down behind the electric kit). So we ended up in front of Danny and the drum platform. This ended up being an excellent viewing spot as there was an aisle in front of the drums where Danny, Flans and Linnell all came to play at various points.

JoCo came out with his joke about killing time while the Giants put on their elaborate make-up and costumes again. He also announced that they would be playing an entire Gwar album. He played Future Soon and Shop Vac and I figured he was just doing the same set again. Then he announced the next song was about furniture and I practically fell through the floor. Ikea! My request worked! He played it instead of Skullcrusher Mountain and I am sure there were a few people at the show who were sad he didn't play that. Good thing they didn't know it was all my fault :-) After the song (which is just so awesome - I LOVE that song, in case that wasn't obvious) he said he had played it at the opening of an Ikea at 6:30 in the morning in a parking lot proving just what his soul was worth (about $50).

He did Creepy Doll, the highlight of which was someone in the audience yelling "I'm scared" part way through and JoCo saying "I told you it was scary." Then concluded with Mr. Fancypants ("Only my audience would cheer at me putting this thing on") and Re: Your Brains during which my boyfriend amused me with his zombie impression.

The turn over between acts seemed pretty fast. There was a club security person who was a little overly concerned about us touching the tube lighting on the edge of the stage (Iggy told him it was fine, the stuff was pretty hard to damage). There were also some interesting adds on a video screen for upcoming acts. I didn't even know The Goo Goo Dolls were still playing and I am always amused by the name Mastadon (I amuse easily).

Absolutely the only bad thing about this show was that I was standing in front of a vent blowing cold air so I was freezing until I started jumping around.

The TMBG setlist:Meet the Elements - Fingertips - The Guitar - Clap Your Hands - Dr. Worm - Memo To Human Resources - Upside Down Frown - The Mesopotamians - Road Movie - TMBG - Sapphire Bulletts - Women and Men - Hot Cha - Whistling in the Dark - Letterbox - Minimum Wage - Hearing Aid - Shooting Star - Stalk of Wheat - Someone Keeps Moving My Chair - We Want a Rock - Twisting - Particle Man - Racist Friend - Dead - Istanbul - Lucky Ball and Chain (sort of) - Birdhouse - Theme from Flood. Encore - Damn Good Times - Withered Hope - Don't Let's Start. Emcore 2 - WDTSS - Alphabet of Nations - Turn Around

TMBG plowed through their first several songs without any interuption and they were rocking so hard and were in such a good mood, it was like there was energy flowing off the stage. Such a change from the night before.

Flans missed the beginning of a line in Fingertips because he was adjusting his amp but there were so many people singing along it almost didn't matter.

During Dr. Worm, Danny came out to play right in front of us and executed this fantasic classic rock style leap in the air with his bass designed to make girls swoon in the aisles. Thud.

When they finally did get around to talking Flans mentioned the number of beards in the audience again. But half the people there thought he said beer (myself included) and held up their beer. He had to yell, "Beards, not beer." He said the beard is a commitment, it's getting that tattoo on your face.

Flans explained they would be playing Flood backwards and Linnell commented that the musical theme of the night was crescendo. Danny commented to Flans that this was another word of the day which Flans shared with the audience and referenced the "regicide" from the other night.

During the early verses of Road Movie before the whole band comes in on the bridge, Danny was standing at the back of the stage using the corner of an amp to scratch his back. Both Victor and Dan were laughing at him when they noticed.

Linnell coughed part way through Women and Men and missed a couple of lines (his face while laughing at himself trying to sing while choking was kind of priceless). After the song he and Flans were laughing that this was just a sign of what years 25-50 of their performing careers was going to be like. They said the percentage of coughing to singing will graudually grow until their act is 70 percent coughing.

When Flans went over to the drum for Whistling in the Dark he couldn't find the mallet and first asked Marty if he had taken it then asked, "Does anyone in the audience have a mallet?" He decided he'd just wreck the drum playing with the sticks but Marty sent one of his mallets across the stage by courier for him to use.

They introduced Letterbox as the song they sing really fast and make look difficult. Then Flans commented after Minimum Wage that the statute of limitation on the samples they used on Flood must have run out. Not entirely sure what he was after but he made Linnell laugh.

They launched the big blizzard confetti canon at the end of Hearing Aid and we got thoroughly coated since we were standing right in front of it.

The puppet segment went off without a hitch this time. The puppets claimed we were all locked in with them in sock puppet jail. Flans-puppets announced that they should sing Lincoln in it's entirety and began doing the beginning beat of Ana Ng in a kind of "shhhing" sound. They also managed to get their Meg Ryan joke to work this time as her little cut-out was actually visible on the screen when Flans yelled her name.

The guys were all confused by a strange noise on stage after the puppets went away and Flans said there was a mic left on but Danny figured out the it was the screen being raised. Not only did the screen retract, the whole beam it was attached to rose in the air which was what was making the noise. High tech!

Flans got confused when they went to play We Want A Rock and asked Linnell if he was going to play keyboard and didn't he usually play this one on the accordion. Linnell confirmed that he was going to play keys but said that the accordion was a keyboard too. I can understand Flans' confusion as I have seen Linnell play the song on both instruments, seemly without rhyme or reason.

A few songs after the puppets Linnell informed us that his coffee was full of confetti, that he had removed some, but there was more in there and he was still drinking it. Flans told him that the confetti was laced with LSD but Linnell said it was overpowered by the even stronger stuff he already had in his coffee: methedone.
Then he reneged and said that he meant method acting and proceeded to do some weird posing.

They launched the confetti blizzard for round two at the end of Istanbul and that confetti had some serious staying power. Flans started Lucky Ball and Chain but had to stop because he said the confetti was distracting him. It was flying almost up to the ceiling and hung for quite a while after the launch. He said that perhaps he should not have mixed the LSD and the methedone. He made a second attempt at Lucky but also cut that one short and decided it just wasn't happening tonight. A few people in the crowd made noises of disappointment but Flans promised they'd make it up to them with the next song and they launched into Birdhouse.

The major advantage of playing Flood backward is that Birdhouse is back at the end. And oddly, Theme from Flood makes a nice wrap-up to a Flood show and got a good sing along.

They finally managed to get Don't Let's Start into an encore this time, wrapping up the first one with it. They came back for round three, introducing Marty's electric kit and doing a similar demonstration of it's sounds to the one they had done the other night, complete with the John Kerry joke.

Danny jumped up on Marty's drum platform to play during the nuclear reactions section again. While he was waiting for the right part he did something with the sticks that made Victor crack-up so hard he couldn't stop laughing and even when he did, every time he looked back at Danny he started again. I couldn't actually see Danny's head to see what he had done but I'm pretty sure he licked the end of the sticks. I could be wrong but that was what it looked like from where I was. Whatever, it was amusing to watch Victor's reaction.

Linnell did some factastic scat at the beginning of Alphabet of Nations that I hope someone has video of because it was excellent.

Flans has been doing a new chant for Danny during the band intros this week. Instead of "The bass, the bass, the bass is Danny Weinkauf" we've been led in "Danny Weinkauf on the bass, Danny Weinkauf on the bass." It's much easier to chant actually and he still asked only the sexy people to chant one time and then had us whisper.

I was kinda hoping when Linnell picked up his accordion at the end of the encore that they would close with Subliminal but they did Turn Around instead. Fair enough. That's a good song too.

Afterwards, we waited for a setlist and it was actually Danny who started passing them out because someone asked him for one while he was picking up his stuff. He gave one girl a setlist and a hug. Then he saw me and went and got another one and gave it to me then leaned over and said "Better than last night?" "Way better," says I. Then I had a full on squee about the fact that he had talked to me. Totally made my night. And then it got better.

I was going to try to see if he would sign the setlist for me but he went backstage so we left. We were walking along side the building back to our car when I saw him standing in a side door by himself. I decided to go for it and walked back and asked if he'd sign the setlist. He said sure, then I believe I said something stupid about bringing my own pen (I always carry a sharpie with me a shows just in case). While he was signing he asked, "You aren't going to be there tomorrow too, are you?" I said yes. He said, "Wow, that's dedicated. Where do you stay?" Me: "Where ever's cheapest." Then he went on the say how bad they felt about that Charlotte show and they didn't know what they should do and wished they could have done another show for free or something. I told him it really wasn't that bad. He thanked me for coming and I said "see you tomorrow" and that was that.

And then I pretty much floated home. I tried to remain cool but it just wasn't happening, I was far too excited.

Danny Weinkauf = Classiest guy in showbiz

I've pretty much known for a while that he recognizes me, since St. Louis last year I think. He frequently notices me in the audience and smiles at me but I did not have actual confirmation until now. Of course I have a massive capacity to over analize things and am now concerned that his wording of the "you aren't going to be there tomorrow" question was more because he finds me annoying and creepy and was hoping I wasn't going to be. I hope not. I try really hard to draw a hard line between enthusiastic and creepy and the last thing I want to do is annoy the band. I will choose to believe that the question was worded in disbelieve that we travel so much to see the band. I really hope so, otherwise I would just be crushed.

See, now I have gone and had a total freak out because I am a nerd and a worry-wort. And this was totally the best show of the whole trip and pretty much ever.

Next and last there will be the Towson re-cap. I know, I am running behind. That show was almost as good at this one. Almost.

Pictures from the trip should be up tomorrow evening once I am reunited with my computer.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Weatherman Detective

March, 10, 2010 - Visulite - Charlotte, NC

Wow. This show was kind of a disaster on wheels. There were some really great and funny parts and the setlist was fantastic but so many things went wrong it was like having a ticket to a friend's really bad day. It actually kinda stressed me out because I felt so bad for the guys. I'm gonna kinda gloss over the bad stuff cause really, would you want someone blogging about your bad day?

We waited in a light drizzle outside the Visulite and were forced to listen to some alternately maddening and frightening conversations held by the people in front of us in line. But we had some yummy noodles from Nothing But Noodles while we waited which made up for it. Incidently, the guy who waited on us at the noodle place could have been Flans' blond cousin.

Inside, the club had several floor levels. We, of course, went for the stage-side level, which was down several steps. It was kind of like standing in a sub-basement or an orchestra pit. It was all cement and there were speakers set up on the floor on either side of the stage limiting the amount of stage space. We went for the right side despite the presence of an oddly placed trash can, right in front of the stage. We tried moving it but were informed by club staff that it had to be there because otherwise it blocked the speakers. Not sure why it needed to be there at all since it was completely inaccessible by anyone except the people standing right next to it (ie. us). I ended up wedged in a corner kind of between the speaker, the stage and the trash can. Awkward, but worth it for the great view.

Due to odd equipment and stage positioning I was also basically next to Will on the monitors, just on the otherside of the speaker platform. It was weirdly, almost like watching a show simultaniously from the front of the stage and the wings.

Jonathan Coulton did the same set as Asheville. He continues to be enormously entertaining and I continue to forget most of what he says which is a shame because it's always funny. He said he was hear to kill time while the Giants put on their elaborate costumes and make-up. Someone in the audience asked him how his thumb was (he had posted a picture on Twitter the day before of a scratch on his thumb). He said it was much better. "Those of you who follow me on Twitter would know that I injured my thumb yesterday. The rest of you can go to hell. *pause* Not really."

During the break I got to watch Will and Victor fail to communite from opposite sides of the stage on three different communication devices while they tried to hook up part of Marty's kit. Turns out face to face is still the best method of conveying information.

The TMBG setlist: Meet the Elements - Memo to Human Resources - Istanbul - Dr. Worm - Clap Your Hands - Where Your Eyes Don't Go - We Live in a Dump - Birdhouse - No One Knows My Plan - Guitar - Ana Ng - Hearing Aid - Shooting Star - Drink - Mesopotamians - Upside Down Frown - Withered Hope - Dead - Damn Good Times. Encore - Alphabet of Nations - Turn Around

They started out the banter commenting on the weird levels of the venue. They couldn't quite figure out where the floor people were standing and said that if chicken fights broke out they wouldn't be able to tell what was going on. One of them said the place used to be an old movie theater. Huh.

Linnell asked if anyone had seen them on local Charlotte TV that morning. They had apparently been on a program with Rob Tanner. Linnell thought this name sounded made up. They decided it sounded more like the name of a detective in a dime store novel. "Rob Tanner: Weatherman Detective." Flans said he had picked up books in the Rob Tanner series in a truck stop. Linnell said that at that point he had been called Storm Tanner. They kept bring Rob Tanner up at various points later on. Nothing like a running gag :-)

Flans said the last time they were here there had been a woman experiencing her first Ecstacy trip. I guess she was driving Flans crazy and, as he put it, he was thinking "get out of my mind lady and she was like, what mind? Ahhh."

Several people in the audience were shouting requests and Flans said they didn't take requests. They made some kind of crack about knowing how to play those songs but they still weren't going to.

After Curt played his solos on Istanbul, Flans said they had him along to play that one song but they were going to do something no rock band had ever done before. They were going to have a trumpet player on more than one song!

There already seemed to be some technical issues at that point with either instruments or monitors, it was hard to tell. But it wasn't running smoothly at any point.

My sound experience during the whole show was pretty unbalanced. Pretty much all I could hear for large portions of the show was Flans' guitar because I was in front of his amp. It was so loud it washed out a lot of the other instruments. It was also disorienting to see Dan playing in front of me but only being able to hear Flans playing from the other side of the stage. All of the bass was also coming from the left which was an equally odd sensation. It wasn't how I normally would have chosen to listen to a show, but then, I did pick the spot.

Linnell did some fantastic riffing on the Future of Sound (ie. a combo of keyboard synth and Kaoss pad) at the end of The Guitar. I appreciated the irony of having The Guitar solo not played om the guitar.

And right about that point everything started going downhill. Flans didn't appear to be in a good mood to begin with and by the time four or five things had gone south his looked like his head might explode.

Dan had to leave the stage during one song to get his guitar fixed. Then Flans walked off stage during Ana Ng. He came back about halfway through the song but didn't play and looked angry. When it got to his "I don't want the world" line he just stood there staring with the guys staring at him and didn't say it so they proceeded on without it.

They had the puppet rig set-up back stage and a huge screen the size of the whole stage dropped down for the video. Curt was rummaging around trying to retrieve his Euphonium and music from underneath it. First they couldn't find the puppets, then they lost the video image just before starting Shooting Star. They decided to do the song anyway with the disco ball "stars" shining on the screen. It was funny watching Dan and Danny and Curt try to find a place to stand on stage that wasn't blocking the screen. Meanwhile, backstage Flans gave up on his puppet and was trying to get Linnell to do the same. They decided to bag the bit after that song even though the image came back on the screen just as they came back to the front of the stage. When Flans went back to close the puppet suitcase, Linnell puppet's head got stuck in the lid. Poor little guy!

Somewhere in all the puppet confusion, a bottle of water got knocked over on the horn platform amd Flans' box of guitar picks (which is shaped like a coffin) got knocked to the floor. Just not a good night.

Linnell asked Flans if he wanted to do Stalk of Wheat without the puppets but Flans said no, he wasn't in the mood. I think Drink! was a more appropriate song at that point anyway. Flans could have used one.

I was really stoked to finally hear Electric Car. The live arrangement sounds really cool. Flans told everyone that "this song is usually sung by my friend Robin Goldwasser but she is home taking care of her emotionally needy cats."

The funniest part of the rest of the show was Linnell turning to Flans at some point near the end and asking "How ya feelin' Flans?" It was like he was testing the waters to see if there were still sharks.

When they came back for the first encore they started Alphabet of Nations which was on the setlist as the second encore (we could see a setlist from where we were standing). I looked over at Will and he looked right at me and shrugged. He didn't know what was going on either.

The guys left after the first encore, then all of a sudden the house music came on and after a minute so did the lights and people started to leave. It was weird because it seemed like the band was coming back. This was confirmed when Danny came back out to talk to Will. He asked him what had happened and Will didn't know (it seemed like it had been a club employee responsible for early end). Danny told Will that the show wasn't supposed to be over, that they had just decided to flip the order of the encores. Oh, well. Two nights in a row Don't Let's Start managed to get skipped in an encore.

We got our setlist, then headed out. Even with all the issues, it was still a fun show. They did a great job of keeping it going when I am sure they just wanted to give up and go to bed. And I bet a ton of people in the audience didn't even notice most of the problems.

And they totally made up for this show with the Richmond show, which was one of the best shows EVER! Stay tuned for that one :-)

Edit: I forgot something! There was this great moment when Flans went chasing after a piece of confetti that was floating across the stage. Once he caught it, he pretended to read it like a fortune. Then he suggested they make fortune confetti, but then admitted that this would be confusing since some people would get 800 fortunes and they would all contradict each other. He did this great combo fortune that started with great fortune and ended with no hope. It was pretty funny. I can't believe I forgot.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I Was Once Part Of Your Orange

March 9, 2010 - The Orange Peel

Major adventure getting from Nashville to Asheville. There was a rockslide on the main road between Knoxville and Asheville and the road was closed at the North Carolina border. We had to turn around and attempt to figure out another route. My first try took us immediately into Deliverance country on a tiny road called Cripple Creek. Eventually on a dirt road with a cliff on one side and a ditch on the other the GPS gave up and instructed us to turn around. A sad old dog sitting on the porch of a shack with a rotting car in the yard watched and I attempted to turn without falling in the ditch. I think there may have been banjos playing in the background.

We ended up driving on a smaller road up through the Smokies on a frighteningly switchbacked "highway" where the posted 55 mile and hour speed limit probably results in numerous traffic deaths every year. Passing through Hot Springs, NC (not a spa town no matter how much they want it to be) we finally reached Asheville.

Tuesday morning we picked up our traveling companion at the airport in Charlotte and, not having anything better to do, ended up at The Orange Peel several hours early. We wandered around the area for a little bit (in the opposite direction than I intended to go because apparently I can't properly read a map) then settled in for a long wait at the club.

We did get to hear soundcheck pretty clearly through the walls again and got a nice taste of the Asheville venue song. They were obviously attempting to re-learn it. We had only just figured out the line about the French Broad river the day before (it always sounded like French Frog to me) after crossing over in several times on our trip through the mountains.

We also got to hear No One Knows My Plan (very exciting since we haven't heard that in about a year and a half) and an amusing mixture of Meet the Elements and Everything is Catching On Fire. Got to hear JoCo warm up Future Soon as well.

Finally got into the club and got a free The Else poster for no apparent reason, then picked a spot on the right side of the stage by the electric kit. The Orange Peel is pretty massive and built like a big barn with high ceilings and the most enormous circular fan I have ever seen. The blades were like helicopter propellers. The stage was also pretty massive, in stark constrast to the tiny one in Nashville.

JoCo did pretty much the same set except he subsituted Creepy Doll for Betty and Me. He warned us before hand that the song was scary and it we were sensitive we might want to cover our ears. I really enjoy his explainations of Mr. Fancy Pants, about how it doesn't make any sense and he isn't sure why there is a fancy pants contest and how it's actually quite sad because Mr. Fancy Pants looses and has nothing left. Then he proceeds to do a mash-up of Single Ladies and the Super Mario Brothers theme in the middle of the song which is pretty nerd-tastic.

The TMBG setlist was as follows: Meet the Elements - Memo to Human Resources - Istanbul - Dr. Worm - Clap Your Hands - Where Your Eyes Don't Go - Ana Ng - Hearing Aid - Shooting Star - Stalk of Wheat - We Live in a Dump - Birdhouse - No One Knows My Plan - WDTSS - WDTSRS - Mesopotamians - Damn Good Times - Dig My Grave - West Virginia - Unsupervised - Dead - They Might Be Giants. Encore - Asheville - Sexxy Encore 2 - Particle Man

The Johns had a running conversation about why they liked The Orange Peel so much, always coming back to the architecture. The decided later that it might also be the people. "And by the people we mean the architects. And the bartenders." Linnell also tried to chip in the guys selling t-shirts but Flans ignored him.

Flans also commented on their being fewer beards in the audience on this trip but that the beards present were bigger because the guys were committed to the beard. Linnell tried to suggest that perhaps the beards that were missing had been added to the present beards and started trying to figure out some sort of beard ratio but he let it go.

Following Clap Your Hands Linnell feared for the safety of his coffee cup resting on his keyboard. "I feel like we must have realized this before but is this a sprung floor? I almost just lost my coffee on that last song." People were stomping before the first encore as well and I could see the keyboard swaying on stage. Yikes!

The Avatars instructed us to tell the staff to lock the doors because we were all in sock puppet prison now. They also told the band they would be paid in Unobtanium. They wanted to thank their producer, Mr. James Cameron, who they said is a super nice guy. They also said the Giants are super nice guys,"just like James Cameron, meaning not at all."

Flans puppet thanked us for coming and admitted that their shows haven't been going very well and started to sob into the camera. He managed to crack up, not only the audience, but the rest of the band as well.

He also stuck his face in the camera lens and said this was the closest he had ever been to a camera and he didn't know that his eye looked like that. Linnell puppet told him his eye always looks like that, he just usually can't see it.

After they finished Stalk of Wheat, on which Curt plays Euphonium, Flans puppet said, "Euphonium, a word you won't hear again in The Orange Peel any time soon."

After they put the puppets down, Linnell ran around the drum to prop up the Meg Ryan cut-out and Flans pointed the camera at it and yelled, "Meg Ryan? What?" Unfortunately, by that point the video screens had been turned off so no one knew what he was talking about. Linnell had to explain that we couldn't see it but Meg Ryan had just been here. It was a strange joke when you could see her and without the video it didn't even make sense.

They played the Everybody Conga song before No One Knows My Plan but did not sing the words and did not actually ask to start a conga line, so no one did. This was kind of sad but also avoided the problem of losing stage spots while conga-ing.

Flans introduced Marty as he moved the the electronic kit for WDTSS and then Linnell randomly said, "Regicide."
Flans:"John, have you been reading your word a day calendar?"
Linnell:"Erm, yes.."
Flans:"What does that even mean?"
Linnell:"Regicide. Death of king of drums."
Audience Member:"We love you Marty!"
Linnell:"That won't help him when he's dead!"

Flans went on to lead a demo of the drum sounds for WDTSS. He said the kick drum sound had been recorded by John Kerry before his unsuccessful presidential campaign.

The WDTSS lines:

Everything on the sun is a gas: iron, copper, aluminum and Meg Ryan.

The sun is 93 million miles away. Fucking 93 mile..million miles away.

The heat and light of the sun are cause by the nuclear reactions of the following 1960s children's drink flavors: rootin' tootin' raspberry, goofy grape, lefty lemon and jolly olly orange.

Linnell also returned to the earlier conversation later, just saying "regicide" in a very dramatic tone.

Flans explained the origin of WDTSRS. He said they have been performing the song for over 20 years, just waiting for them to be ready to release a Science album to put it on and then they gave it to their science consultant. "I really like that sun song, that's my favorite one you wrote.( We didn't tell him it was a cover.) But the title is wrong. And we were like, FFUUCCKK." So they wrote an answer song.

Linnell said the Mesopotamians was about digging up an ancient rock band that had been buried for thousands of years. Then Flans said, "we'll come back and dig you up later" which made them both laugh. Flans explained was a reference to a 70s commercial that probably only he got. Linnell said he got it and Flans said he made the joke just for him. There was also a lady to my right who obviously got it because she was laughing pretty hard too.

After the Mesopotamians, Linnell called Flans over and asked him about rearranging the setlist saying that he needed a break and something about being weak. So they did Damn Good Times and stuck Dig My Grave in, which wasn't on the setlist. Then preceeded through the rest of the setlist as it had been written until the encore.

They came back with Asheville and Linnell explained that it had been written when they were here in 2004 and there had been a big Flood. I was particularly impressed that he played both accordion and keyboard on the song.

They skipped Don't Let's Start which was on the setlist and went right into S-E-X-X-Y. Flans left somewhat abrupting as they were jamming at the end of the song but continued to play off stage and the rest of the guys gradually stopped and left one by one until Dan was the only one still playing with Flans until he was off stage too.

It was a long time before the second encore and they just did a quick shout-out band intro and went right into Particle Man and that was it. Turns out when we got the setlist later, they had been planning to do Electric Car (which I really want to hear)N Subliminal and The Famous Polka. Don't know why they changed there mind but it looked like Flans might have gotten ticked off about something. Or maybe one of them wasn't feeling well. Who knows.

There was more people grabbing the setlist off the keyboard again and this time they took it a step further and also took Linnell's coffee cup. Come on, people. It's rude. Just ask.

I would have liked to hear that encore as planned but otherwise an excellent endeavor. And now we conga our way to Charlotte.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fine Family Dinning

March 7, 2010 - Exit/In - Nashville, TN

(I apologize for the mixed tenses in this entry. I wrote some of it in the club between acts and some after the fact so my present and past have gotten confused.)

Greetings from Nashville! We have driven for two days to get here, past thousands of cows, several sheep, a donkey, 13 road-side crosses, and the titular poorly spelled restaurant advertisement. Arrived in the Country Music capital in late afternoon. Realized that, oddly, Nashville is in a different time zone and we had traveled back an hour.

Headed to the club just before 6pm and discovered a quite sizeable crowd already in line. Turns out most of them thought doors were at 7 (they were at 8). Waited in boredom and increasing cold. Heard soundcheck through the walls of the club: Hearing Aid, Someone Keeps Moving My Chair and part of WDTSS. Saw Curt Ramm waling out of the club. Jonathan Coulton (seriously, the best opener TMBG could have provided) poked his head out of a side door at one point to let some friends in and inform the crowd by said door of the late door time. These same people only recognized him after about the third time he stuck his head out, having apparently missed all announcements that he was opening (where have they been?).

Managed to get the slightly obstructed but direct Linnell eye-contact view in front of the keyboard. Struggling to get Oscar updates while waiting for the show to start. I am a HUGE Oscar fan and this is the first Oscar ceremony I have missed watching in probably 15 years. Only for TMBG. Thus far from what I have gathered, all of my predictions have been correct, except maybe one. (Post script: I got 17 out of 24 categories right.)

In a bizarre move Hanson has been added into the pre-show mix. Also several songs about food: one about potato chips and one about beans.

JoCo was AWESOME! I can't imagine a more grin-inducing combination for me than a show that contains both him and TMBG and I get four! He did Future Soon, Shop Vac, Betty and Me, Skullcrusher Mountain, Mr. Fancypants and Re: Your Brains. Our crowd made excellent zombies. He didn't do too much banter but responded to a lot of things yelled at him by the crowd. The best of which was the guy who yelled "show me your Hoover" after Shop Vac. Jonathan said he didn't know the Hoover of whom you speak but if you had said "show me your Dyson" he would know what you were talking about. He also did some explaination of Mr. Fancypants, saying that even though it wasn't one of his best songs it didn't matter because we weren't going to be listening to the song because we were going to be too distracted by his strange musical instrument. I am not going to try to explain this thing. If you haven't seen it, go look up the song on YouTube. He started the drum beat on it, then did this "where's that coming from, there is no drummer on stage" thing. At this point someone in the crowd yelled that there was and pointed at Marty's drums. Jonathan had to point out that there was no drummer and that "this is what we in the rock business call a drum set."

I admit that I have not been doing as much of my post-opener crew watching between the sets because I have been blogging but I did watch Iggy scale a light fixture and pull a piece of confetti out of a light box. I have also been amused by the proximity of the men's room to the backstage door. Men needing to use the facilities were fighting with crew for space.

Setlist:Subliminal - Meet James Ensor - Damn Good Times - Meet the Elements - Fingertips - Memo to Human Resources - Mesopotamians - Road Movie to Berlin - They Might Be Giants - Sapphire Bullets - Women and Men - Hot Cha - Whistling in the Dark - Letterbox - Minimum Wage - Hearing Aid - What Is a Shooting Star - Stalk of Wheat - Someone Keeps Moving My Chair - We Want a Rock - Twisting - Particle Man - Your Racist Friend - Dead - Istanbul - Lucky Ball and Chair - Birdhouse - Theme from Flood. Encore - Clap Your Hands - Withered Hope - Polk. Encore 2 - Guitar

When TMBG opened with Subliminal I was ecstatic. Subliminal is one of my favorite songs and possibley my very favorite to hear live. I heard it a couple of times in the spring, then all fall I kept reading about it getting played in other places but they never played it at the shows I attended. Finally!

Flans made some cracks about all the fans standing on the stairs being a fire hazard and how they'd gone 10 years without an industrial accident (but they didn't want to talk about what happened 10 years ago.) He referred to them as the Fire Marshall dancers and the Fire Marshallettes. He also commented on the people in the balconey looking sleepy.

He explained the format, that they would be playing eight songs before Flood so there were seven left. He asked Linnell later how many songs they had left and told him they were numbered on the setlist but Linnell couldn't read the numbers. He kept doing the countdown but he had been wrong about the number they started with so by the time they got to Flood they had only played seven songs.

Linnell introduced Meet the Elements as being about the periodic table and that lots of people leave during this song and don't come back for the good ones.

My view of the stage was severely limited by the keyboard. I could see Linnell (obviously) and I could sometimes see Dan off on the left. Flans moved in and out of view but except for a view occations I could mostly just see his head and feet. I could see Danny's legs behind the keyboard (which was good since he was wearing the red pants) but could only occationally see his head. And Marty was just completely invisible.

A few songs in Danny took off his long sleeved shirt and was wearing a black t-shirt that said Jingle Punks underneath. Dan said something to him about this and Danny put a large piece of tape over the name. I have no idea why. Eventually, he put the long sleeves on again. Odd but funny.

Since it was Academy Awards night Flans made several jokes about the awards. He introduced one song as the winner of Best Costume Design and one Best Special Effects.
Before starting Flood, Flans explained that they had tried multiple ways of playing it and the one that seemed to work best for them was backward. This also made me happy as I had seen that they had already played it backward a few times and I was looking forward to the variety. He also said later that if we knew the order of Flood backward we were better off than the band. He and Linnell also had an amusing discussion about doing the whole album in Ubbi Dubbi and proceeded to recite a few lines. Linnell thought it could be done but sadly they did not try it.

Curt Ramm joined them on stage for Road Movie. I like the trend of bringing a horn player on the road. It makes some of the songs sound so much fuller. Flans shouted "Rock me" just before the bridge, which they definitely did :-)

After one of the big confetti launches Flans said they should have warned us that there would be confetti. "Confetti and strobe lights."
Linnell: "And a tidal wave of blood."
Flans: "You ruined the surprise."
Linnell: "It's going to wash us all out into the street."
Flans: "That's my favorite part of the show."

Some other amusing interludes...

Flans asked everyone in general who had won awards at the Oscars and got a lot of unintelligible response. He said that their Coraline song was eligible but it hadn't been nominated.
Flans: "Fuck everyone. Twitter this: Fuck everyone. That's 40 characters. I can even double up. F-F-U-U. Then my one Twitter follower can read it."
Linnell: "It's me. Fuck me? Fuck you!"
Flans: "This isn't a kid's show is it?"

The puppets did a lot of amusing facial expressions. They said they wanted to play their 2012 Avatar release but they didn't want to go to sock puppet prison. "First they take your ears, then they take your dignity." They also told the rest of the band that they were fired and that the Johns had made the puppets tell them because they were too lazy. And they sang Stalk of Wheat which was a first for me (haven't had one of those in a while).

At the end of the puppet set the camera panned in on a picture of Meg Ryan stuck in front of the camera and they thanked her for coming to their show. After the puppets left Linnell said she had been at the show in Atlanta too and she must be a real fan.

Flans asked the club to turn on the ceiling fans at one point and some suggested they might just be for show. Flans said that would be cruel. When they did turn them on showers on confetti fell from them.

During the band intros in the encore I finally caught a glimpse of Marty under the keyboard when Linnell stepped aside. Linnell started to step back in front of the keyboard while I was trying to take a picture of Marty and noticed and stepped back out of the way. Thanks John! Then he bumped into Flans when he did step back.

The Guitar finale featured an awesome trumpet solo and to me excitement the people of Nashville all recognized the appropriate time to wave in the song. Yay!

After the show there was a very uncool girl who reached over everyone to rip Linnell's setlist off the keyboard, then came back to get a piece that had torn off. Not cool, chick, not cool. We managed to get a setlist by being patient (and because Victor recognizes my boyfriend). It has this great note between two songs: JL look at JF. I wonder why...

Excellent start to the trip. They managed to make Flood fresh and exciting and I totally won't mind hearing it again later this week. Next stop The Orange Peel!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happy New Year! (Very Late)

So I totally blew it when it came to doing a write-up of the New Year's Eve shows. I started it over a month ago and never finished and of course now I have forgotten most of the good bits I wanted to write about. So here you have what I wrote in January plus some random memories. I invite those of you who read this blog and were there (and lets face it, I think three of my four readers were there) to add your own favorite moments in the comments.

We ended up leaving for Northampton a lot later than I originally intended. And once we got there it took us forever to find parking. The city was having a big New Year's celebration all day so there were a lot of people competing for parking spaces. We got to the theater just a little after the doors opened for the early family show and met up with our friends. I passed the entire Linnell clan walking into a side door of the theater just as we approached. I managed to contain myself.

The early show was general admission so we picked seats on the right side of the theater about four rows back. We intended to stay in our seats for the show and let the kids and parents fill the dance floor but after Clap Your Hands the guy in front of us remained standing and stood his son up on the chair in front of him so we couldn't see at all. So we ended up going down to the dance floor so that we could see.

The set list was very similar to the other family shows we attended this fall.

Setlist: I Never Go To Work - Clap Your Hands - Get Up And Go - Where Do They Make Balloons? - Pirate Girls Nine - WDTSS? - Bed Bed Bed - Famous Polka - Roy G. Biv - Alphabet Lost and Found - Older - Seven - Fibber Island - Zilch - Particle Man - In the Middle - What Is a Shooting Star - Alphabet of Nations - My Brother The Ape - Doctor Worm Encore - Meet The Elements - Istanbul

It was a great show but not much new. Even a lot of the banter was similar.

Some of the stand out moments:

Linnell messed up the words to Particle Man, starting the wrong verse in the middle. We were speculating that it might indicate the end of the world but so far so good.

The nuclear reactions in Particle Man were caused by Goofy Grape, Rootin' Tootin' Raspberry, Lefty Lemon and another Fancy Face pack flavor that I can't recall. After the song the Johns were remembering the Red Sox baseball player Lefty Lemon and teasing Marty about his love of the Yankees. This prompted Marty to end Alphabet Lost and Found with "I think there's a box of Yankees in the back."

There was some incredible clothing sported by the men on stage. Flans was wearing shiny silver sneakers. Stan had on black velvet shoes with moons and stars on them and Dan Levine was wearing a shirt almost as loud as his trombone.

We had to wait outside the theater between the afternoon and evening shows for quite a while and it was really quite cold. My feet were pretty much frozen. But we were treated to a lovely fireworks display by the town of Northampton. We watched numerous members of the band and their families come and go out of the theater. By far the most exciting was when I saw Flans, Marty and John Hodgman (who was appearing as a special guest) walking toward us and realized that they also had Jonathan Coulton with them. I was so excited by this that I completely missed the fact that Flans said "Happy New Year" to our group as he passed. But Hodgman waved at us which made it all ok. I spent much of the rest of the wait groundlessly speculating what Jonathan Coulton was doing there and if he would be appearing in the show. It turned out that he had just given Hodgman a ride and was there to watch but it was still awesome.

Once back inside the theater we scored prime stage side space (taking up most of it since our group had doubled in size while waiting in line). Iggy came out on stage and told us it was going to be an awesome show. He also heard someone commenting on the plastic birds on the lights that I have mentioned before and explained that they were Rock Doves. I found this very funny and appreciated the three dimensional pun.

The setlist for the evening show: Doctor Worm - Withered Hope - Birdhouse - Guitar - Dig My Grave - Meet the Elements - Take Out the Trash - WDTSS - Meet James Ensor - Los Angeles - Anaheim - Albany - Dallas - Vancouver - Pittsburgh - Glasgow - Charlottesville - Asbury Park - Brooklyn - Museum of Idiots - Clap Your Hands - Whistling in the Dark - Seven - Istanbul - New York City - Mesopotamians - They Might Be Giants  Encore - Shoehorn with Teeth - In the Middle - Damn Good Times  Encore 2 - Alphabet of Nations - Mr. Me

I was anxious to see what role Hodgman would be playing in the show but it turned out to be a reprisal of his Venue Songs performance. After a warm-up set he came out and stood behind the camera that the Avatars use and they projected his face onto the big screen. In his role as the Deranged Millionaire he provided narration for the whole Venue Songs set. He had written some new material to suit the evening which he was reading off his iPhone. I've heard them do this set twice live now plus on a live show I downloaded and the narration has never been exactly the same anytime which keeps in fun. I do have to admit that I was a little disappointed they didn't do anything new with Hodgman like they had done on Conan but I was happy enough to have him there. The best part was watching him use his iPhone as a lighter (though he didn't seem to have the lighter app) during Brooklyn.

Stan did an absolutely ridiculous sax solo in one of the early songs. I think it was either Withered Hope or The Guitar unless I am completely misremembering and it was at the afternoon show. Flans kept yelling at him something like "more notes, less feeling." It took Stan a little while to get what Flans was saying and once he did Flans kept making him keep going and going. It was pretty amazing and funny. Poor Stan probably blew all his best stuff at the start of the show.

Marty did a great demo of the sound each of the drums in his electronic kit plays during WDTSS. Flans made jokes. I don't remember them but they were funny.

Linnell accidently spit while singing at one point. It probably hit some girl in the audience who then fainted.

Linnell made a fantastic joke before the Mesopotamians that hopefully someone else remembers because it was so good and I've forgotten it (are we sensing the theme here?).

They played the most in-tune version of Dallas I've ever heard. They can never seem to start that song in tune with one another and this time it came out perfect. I think they may have surprised even themselves.

I still love the puppets. I don't care how many times Flans-puppet does the "stick an eyeball in the camera lens" thing. It is still funny.

The second bell on Marty's bells that he uses for Shoehorn did not work. It was sad. But also funny.

And that is pretty much all I remember. If you were there and you remember more, please, please comment and remind me.

We got a setlist and one of Dan Miller's guitar picks after the show and then went for late night ice cream with all of our friends, old and new. We even went out and watched Northampton's strange New Year's ball raising complete with overly-startling cannon fire. It was a pretty spectacular day. I may have been just a tiny bit disappointed that they didn't play anything I haven't heard before but even so. Pretty spectacular. I actually found pieces of confetti still stuck to me while I was in the shower the next morning. It made me very happy.

There are just a few pictures up on Flickr. I didn't take as many and many did not come out great. But there are pictures of the fabulous shoes.