Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We Are The Opening Band

It's audience participation time again people! Hopefully this will be a little easier than the last one and encourage a little more participation.

By request from TDK, our topic this week is, to paraphrase Paul & Storm, probably not the band you came to see tonight but rather the poor schmucks tasked with entertaining us for 30-45 minutes while TMBG makes their coffee run before the show. That's right, it's the opening band. Good or bad, I actually have a lot of respect for these guys. It takes guts to go out and play for a group of people who, most likely, haven't heard of your band, have no interest in hearing your music, will probably talk all the way through your set and really just want you to finish and "get the hell off the stage."

I always try to remember when I'm watching an opener that, no matter how bad I think they are, somewhere out there is someone who loves this band just as much as I love TMBG. So I try to be respectful, eyes front, pay attention, clap at the end, etc because that is what I would want someone who was stuck at a TMBG concert that they didn't want to be at to do. I also feel more of an obligation to pay attention since I am usually in the front row or close to it and thus completely visible to the band on stage. It just feels extra rude to be carrying on a conversation or playing with your phone or whatever in full view of the band. That probably sounds preachy but I have seen some shockingly rude behavior at shows and it really bugs me.

Worst case scenario you are stuck listening to some bad music for a half hour. More likely you listen to some music to which you are simply indifferent. You may even moderately enjoy it. If you are very lucky you find a band you enjoy enough to take home their CDs and maybe someday even go see some other band open for them.

Now for the audience participation. Your task is to list your favorite bands you have seen open for They Might Be Giants. You can do Top 3 or Top 5 or Top 10 or just name your favorite, what ever floats your boat. We'll see how much overlap there is and maybe we can help each other discover some awesome new bands.

I'm going with Top 5 because despite seeing 50 TMBG shows, I've actually only seen 12 different opening acts. Partly because I've seen several of them at multiple shows and partly because I have been to quite a few shows with no opener.

I will give honorable mentions though, to both Lincoln and OK Go. Even though I wasn't yet going to shows when they were on the tours I discovered both afterwards. I bought a used copy of the Lincoln CD unheard because of the Dan connection and despite not liking it the first time around have gradually become addicted to it. The lead singer's voice took some time to grow on me but the lyrics are spot on. And OK Go I discovered through my boyfriend who did see them open for TMBG. We actually just saw them in concert last night which makes this blog topic particularly well timed. They make truly amazing videos and if you ever thought you saw a lot of confetti at a TMBG show you have never been to an OK Go concert.

Now on to my actual list...

5. Driver Quartet - This band narrowly beat out another more widely known TMBG opener mostly thanks to a clever song about an unhealthy obsession with Tina Fey. I already knew David Driver from the People Are Wrong recording and his guest appearance at the previous month's LPR show singing Mink Car. He was a most entertaining performer to watch with overly exaggerated mannerism and lively songs. He made me laugh, he had good musicians in his band and he has a great voice. That about covers it.

TMBG 11/29/08 #1

4. Joshua Fried's Radio Wonderland - Probably the most unique act I have seen. Joshua Fried uses a laptop, a steering wheel and some upside down shoe drums to remix live radio into dance beats worthy of any nightclub. I went in skeptical and came out impressed. He even turned a commercial into a dance mix. Awesome. And seriously fun to watch.

Joshua Fried #4

3. Oppenheimer - Sadly, these guys just broke up, but Rocky and Shaun remain my second favorite Irish duo. I can not listen to their song Major Television Events without dancing. Their music is poppy and dancy, heavily synthesized and auto-tuned and oh so good. Plus they have that drummer-who-sings-while-drumming- thing going for them which has always impressed me. I may not be able to see them live again but I can listen to their albums and remember the awesome.

Oppenheimer #3

2. Guggenheim Grotto - Totally by accident these guys have become the band I have seen 3rd most often. We saw them open for the Giants seven times on the fall tour, then saw them on their own just steps from my workplace last month. Another Irish duo, Mick and Kevin are a folk rock band with guitar and keyboard. They do a beautiful blend of lyrics and melody and at least as far as I can tell from their stage personas, are genuinely nice guys. They have officially made it onto my list of bands I will see anytime they come through my area and they will in fact be in Cambridge for the launch of their third album in June if anyone would like to check them out.

Guggenheim Grotto 10/8/09 #3

1. Jonathan Coulton - This kind of seems like cheating because I was already a JoCo fan before I saw him open for TMBG. The announcement that he would be joining them on the spring tour was like icing on an already tasty cake for me. I wont try to explain, you either know him or you don't. And if you don't you should.

JoCo 3/10/10 #4

Ok, that's my list. What's yours? I'm very curious to see if anyone else overlaps mine or if you totally disagree.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Boston - Eye Contact Special

First I have to make my plug again so it will be seen by all the people who are frightened away by the length of this post and never make it to the end. The new They Might Be Giants fan forum over at is off to an excellent start. We've already had more than a 100 posts, so come on over and say hi! We don't bite. Much.

Also, I feel I should warn you before you start that I think this re-cap is a little more fangirlish that I usually shoot for but it couldn't be helped.

April 22, 2010 - Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway - Boston, MA - Earth Day show

Five years, two months and a day after my first They Might Be Giants show I have hit 50! It was up in the air for a while where 50 was actually going to be, but a free outdoor show in Boston to celebrate Earth Day, attended by all my best TMBG buds seemed pretty perfect. I was looking forward to it like crazy from the moment it was announced. Usually my problem with looking forward to something so much is that I end up building such elaborate fantasies in my head of what it is going to be like that no event can possibly live up to them. In this particular case, the band did not disappoint in the slightest. I can not exactly say the same for where I ended up having to watch the show from but then I guess I have been pretty spoiled in that area.

My boyfriend and I took the T into the city so we wouldn't have to deal with traffic and parking. We stopped at South Station to meet our friend, Fouroftwo, who had come down on the bus, then set out to walk to the event site. The Greenway is a long strip of grass that runs between two roads for about a mile between South Station and North Station. It is the former site of the I-93 overpass which was taken down during the Big Dig and replaced with park land. The new Central Artery runs right underneath all the grass and benches and art pieces.

We weren't exactly sure where on the Greenway the stage was set up, just that it was between the Aquarium and Rowe's Wharf. Walking down the sidewalk, we came around a corner and were faced with an enormous picture of the Johns on a banner on the back of the stage and were pretty sure we had found the right place. We were about 2 hours and 15 minutes early for the show and spent a little time trying to figure out where we should wait. Using the below picture to illustrate, the stage was set up on a large cement area, the edge of which can be seen at the bottom right of the photo behind the row of poles. There was maybe 15-20 feet of cement in front of the stage then a drop with two steps in the center into that triangular grassy area that was another maybe 20-30 feet wide. Then there were another two cement steps leading down to the main lawn. There were metal "parade" barriers set up at the top of the lower set of steps but nothing preventing people from entering the upper grassy and cement levels. There was a row of benches at the side of the cement level (seen by those poles) with some people sitting on them but there was also a lot of crew activity going on in that area so were weren't sure where we were allowed to be and where we weren't and there was nobody around who looked like the right person to ask.

Photo by John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

We ended up briefly going to sit in that little park area with all the oval grass patches until we spotted some friends back at the benches by the stage and went back to join them. I felt a little awkward standing around so close to the stage because a number of the members of the band were milling about on stage and in the vicinity, getting ready for sound check and I felt a little too obvious.

By the time another of our friends had appeared a few people had started spreading blankets on the grass behind the barriers and we decided that we should probably stake out spaces there, figuring that if it turned out we were allowed in the area in front of them we could always move later. Fouroftwo went and did some recon work and was told by a staff member that they did not currently plan to allow people in front of the barriers but they would let us know if that changed. They also strung some string along the sides of the area in front of us to prevent people entering. We were pretty sure there was no way that Flansburgh was going to tolerate the audience being a good 40-50 feet back from the stage and it turned out we were right.

This is somebody's pre-show picture I snagged from Twitpic showing the group of us waiting at the barrier (we do not know the guy in the green shirt in the middle of our group. He was already there and we had to spread out around him). The angle is bad but you can kind of see the gap between where we were and the stage. Somewhere out there in the world there also exists a very similar picture to this one, taken from the other side, as Linnell photographed us from the stage with one of his old cameras just before they started sound check. Nifty. He also had the camera still over his shoulder while he was playing the keyboard during sound check.

They started soundcheck with 813 Mile Car Trip but they were having issues with Linnell's mic so we could barely hear the words. It sounds pretty cool without them. Then they launched into The Kids Are All Right by The Who. Random. It took me a minute to recognize what they were playing. They played a little of The Guitar and seemed to have sorted out the mic issues for Meet the Elements.  For Pirate Girls Nine, Linnell pulled out a shiny, beautiful new accordion. It's a bit larger than Main Squeeze but still red. It's purdy.

TMBG 4/22/10 #2

I've noticed before during shows that Danny often takes the lead on passing instructions about sound levels to whomever is on monitors. I was amused to notice during this sound check that he seemed to be checking Linnell's sound as well as his own. He was giving Will instructions about the keyboard, then after Pirate Girls asked Linnell to play a little bit of accordion to check it's levels. Not sure what tickled me more, Danny doing Linnell's sound check or the fact that Linnell chose to play the opening to Subliminal to have his sound checked. I <3 those guys.

We saw Scott, the tour manager, come out to talk to the organizers about how far back the barriers were. He obviously wanted the audience to be closer to the stage. They hemmed and hawed over it for a while, obviously worried about people falling backward off the cement level into the grass (there were only stairs in the center, the rest was a ledge about 2 feet high). They did end up putting some barriers on the sides and running string out to the edges and we thought they were going to let us in but they never did, despite Scott coming back to talk to them at least twice more.

The Greenway filled up as it neared noon and there were people as far back as we could see. The last of our friends arrived and we made a new friend who joined us because we were the cool t-shirt area. If he happens to read this, hi, new friend! On the topic of t-shirts I had made a special one to celebrate my 50th show and Fouroftwo had designed her own awesome band shirt. I posed for a couple of pictures, one for one of the radio station employees helping out at the show and one for another fan. Unbeknownst to me, I also got photographed by one of the professional photographers who was working the event and he was kind enough to send me a copy.

Photo by Frame of Mind Photography

If I look a little less than enthusiastic, it's because the photo was shot during the opening act. Let's just say that I was not a fan of Citizen Cope and even more so, I was not a fan of his fans. The whole concert was sponsored by 92.5 The River and about 20 minutes after noon, when the show was supposed to have started, one of the radio DJs came out to explain that Citizen Cope was having sound trouble and would be on shortly. When he did come on, his music was just not to my taste and I found his voice grating. And his fans were obnoxious. They were essentially a bunch of stoners who lit up smelly joints shortly after his set started and pushed in front of other people who had been there a lot longer so they could be in front. Cope only played 4 or 5 songs (though they were long) before leaving the stage and his fans screamed obnoxiously and rudely for an encore while a woman from the Greenway Conservancy was trying to speak, even though it was obvious that he had no intention of returning. Fortunately, they all left once they realized he wasn't coming back. Good riddance. 

There was also drama going on in the crowd during his set, as a woman had fainted and the paramedics had to come in and take her away. Though I felt bad for the woman, it did make for some amusing jokes about how Cope's music was so bad it had made someone pass out. To be fair I didn't mind his instrumentals, it was the lyrics and singing that I didn't care for.

A group of people wearing VIP badges were allowed into the grassy area in front of us during Cope's set which was annoying but most of them sat so they weren't blocking our view. Then they all got up and walked back behind the barriers to the side at the end of the set. Weird. Scott came out for one more conversation with the organizers, which once again didn't have any immediate results. We were beginning to fear that our early jokes about having to leap the barriers when Flans called people down (or in this case up) to the stage were going to become more of a reality than we had originally intended. 

And we were proven right shortly after. Just before They Might Be Giants set, Scott came out on stage and invited everyone to come down by the stage to dance if they entered in an orderly fashion from the right (his right, not ours). At first only the VIPs came in and we weren't sure if he meant everyone or just them but then we noticed lots of other people who had been standing along the sides of the Greenway coming in. We were rapidly loosing our view and front row spots but were stuck in the middle of the crowd unable to get in to the stage area without leaping over the barriers, which we were pretty sure the security guards weren't going to permit. 

And the situation devolved into chaos a few minutes later when TMBG took the stage and Flansburgh, of course, immediately encouraged everyone to come up to the stage and actually told us to come over the barriers. Despite protests from the guards we were up and over pretty quickly but in the chaos and confusion I had to go back for my boyfriend and we got separated from all of our friends. There were already so many people in front of us who entered from the sides that there was no way to get near the stage. We tried standing on the upper stairs but I couldn't see, so we moved to the right. That turned out to be even worse and feeling pretty defeated and disappointed I ended up picking a spot near the back of the crowd on the grass, slightly to the left of center, where I at least had a reasonably clear view. 

To give you an idea of how far back I was, take at look at this picture. You can see the back of my boyfriend's head just above the woman in the blue bandana in the left foreground, and I am just to his left.

Photo by Frame of Mind Photography

Needless to say, after waiting for two and a half hours it kinda sucked. The concert from that point on however, did not suck. Not even in the slightest. I kind of missed the beginning of Upside Down Frown while I was finding a spot to stand and for the first three songs, including Your Racist Friend and Ana Ng, I was in a bit too much of a huff to appreciate them but I calmed down and really truly enjoyed the rest of the show. It helped that somehow, impossibly, despite all of the people in front of me, Danny still spotted me in the crowd and smiled at me and gave me sympathetic shrug and head shake, as if to say, "Aw, you ended up way back there? Sorry about that." I shrugged back to indicate "whatcha gonna do" and felt enormously better.

Flans complemented Linnell, sarcastically, on his excellent singing on Ana Ng since he had screwed up the words.

Flans told us we were standing on the only Greenway made entirely of money. "Your tax dollars at work." He told us they were from New York City and Linnell started flapping his arms and said their arms were exhausted. Flans pointed out that their carbon footprint is astronomical. They then transported us back to 1997 for the release of their new album and played lucky track 13, The Mesopotamians.

Introducing Dan Miller on the keyboard for Alphabet of Nations, Flans said he was the only member of They Might Be Giants' support band who hadn't shown them his birth certificate and they require proof of origin from all their members. Afterwards, Flans commented that they still didn't know where he was from and Linnell suggested Xylophone.

Flans had Marty do an electric drum demo before WDTSS and said that everyone usually hates electric drums and that Marty may even hate the electric drums. Marty claimed that he didn't but who knows.

Best version of WDTSS ever! Linnell told us that the sun is so hot that everything on it sounds like an EBow and then demonstrated what an EBow sounds like on the keyboard. He then told us that a million earths would fit inside the hollowed out sun comfortably. Flans started making weird noises into the mic and his moving arms around which Linnell interpreted as a chimp playing a theremin on the a sun.
Linnell: "A chimp playing a theremin on the sun...people!"
Flans: "This show isn't free. They're torturing us!"
Then both of them made some more chimp on a theremin impressions.
Linnell: "Yes, there really is a chimp playing a theremin on the sun. I lost my place. Where were we?"
Apparently the heat and light of the sun are caused by:
"Um, Mr. Jigs, Bonzo the Chimp and um, thats it I'm out of chimp names. And helium."
Thank god one of my awesome companions got video of this.

Describing the origins of Why Does the Sun Really Shine, Flans blamed the Golden Book Encyclopedia for not sending them the update that the sun was really plasma and explained that they had already made the "moderately expensive rock video" for WDTSS for Here Comes Science when they learned that it was incorrect so they had to write the new one so they could still use the video.

Good part about not having horns at the show: Dan got his Istanbul solo back. Hurrah! Oh god, how I have missed that solo. It amuses me how many people in a crowd do not recognize that the song is Istanbul almost until they start singing.

TMBG 4/22/10 #39

They followed with Meet the Elements and Memo to Human Resources. Flans commented that this was a good set-up for an outdoor show. They weren't getting free Lasik treatments from the sun, it wasn't raining and it was nice to play for a crowd that didn't hate them. Which, he said, was a good segue into the next song, Asbury Park. Flans announced that they were playing at the Stone Pony in June and that it was so small that even if only a small section of the crowd in front of the stage that he pointed to showed up, the place would be full. He said he would put those people on the list. Don't worry Flans, most of us will be there anyway!

Part way through the show, possibly during Meet the Elements, though I am very unsure of that, someone in the crowd released a single orange balloon which Linnell watched float up into the air as he sang. After the song, he told Flans about it and said it was like and art piece and that they should consider that for the future instead of the confetti that they usually dump on people but couldn't because they were outside and it was Earth Day, after all.

When Linnell picked up the accordion for Doctor Worm the crowd cheered and Flans commented they we liked the new accordion. Linnell said it was probably because the black keys are red. And they are!  I also got a reasonably good picture of Danny flying into the air during the song.

TMBG 4/22/10 #76

TMBG 4/22/10 #60

Then The Guitar, with the awesome Future of Sound solo, followed by Clap Your Hands. The foot stomps just don't sound as impressive on the grass.

Linnell introduced Where Your Eyes Don't Go as the song no one was waiting for, not even the band, but they were going to play it anyway. They followed it up with New York City. Flans sang "I'm four hours from New York City and I'm four hours from you" which is just about right from Boston.

Linnell took multiple photos on the stage during the show with his Horizon camera, pictures from which have previously popped up on both his blog and Marty's website. I hope a few of these eventually get to see the light of day.

Flans decided to flip the next two songs on the setlist and instructed us on the call backs for Drink! He asked if the tall building behind us was an office building or apartments and upon hearing that it was apartments decided that the cops would be there in ten minutes.

At some point in there he also pointed out, that for all the parents who mistakenly thought this was a family show, they would be playing a family show in Arlington in May. This for some reason made me very happy, that he pointed out to all the people who had brought their kids that this was in fact not a kids show. It also made me happy to see kids yelling "Drink, Drink!"

They followed Drink! with We Want A Rock, then She's An Angel. Yay! I am growing increasingly fond of that song and love that know one can tell what it is from the strange intro.

Proving once and for all the this was not a family show they did Damn Good Times. Dan climbed up on Marty's drum platform to play the solo with him at the end, putting me in mind of all my favorite Where's Dan moments from Fingertips. It wasn't quite the same but it was close.

TMBG 4/22/10 #89

And then they did the band intro which made me sad because it meant the show was almost over. Flans asked Dan where that birth certificate was when he introduced him. He went back to the old "The bass, the bass, the bass is Danny Weinkauf" chant. And in reference to Marty, "He needs to hear you scream, ladies. He's a socialist!"

TMBG 4/22/10 #97

They thanked co-writer Tim Cawley before playing 813 Mile Car Trip. They also thanked everyone for coming and the radio station and Flans' mom.

They came back for one encore. Flans first ascertained that it wasn't really raining yet, though the sky had gone dark and cloudy. It seemed like they had been debating cutting the encore short if it was actually starting to rain but decided to go ahead since there were only a few sprinkles. They started with We Live In A Dump. Danny was singing the ba-ba-ba-da-das with Linnell and Dan even though he had no mic. Dumb things like that amuse me (not that it was dumb, more that it was dumb that I noticed).

They did What is a Shooting Star? but without the puppets. I assume that they figured the puppets wouldn't play well to a crowd that largely couldn't see the stage. Flans did say hi to the people at the back of the Greenway a few times. Incidentally, the title of this blog entry comes from a note across the top of the setlist, which was, I presume, meant to be ironic :-P

Flans announced that Here Comes Science was now available and you could download it for free if you Googled They Might Be Giants and bittorrent and they would of course get all the money. "I'm so glad I came up with that bittorrent idea."

TMBG 4/22/10 #106

It did start to rain during Shooting Star. Not too badly, but enough to be a little uncomfortable. I made eye contact with Danny again toward the end of the song and he kind of laughed at me sympathetically, as I was hunched up under the raindrops. He also leaned over and said something to Linnell immediately after, which may have been unrelated but which also may have been something along the lines of: "maybe we should skip the last encore because the crowd is getting wet." I kind of hate to think so as then hundreds of people may hate me for preventing them from hearing Particle Man (which was written on the setlist as a possible second encore with question marks though they didn't end up doing it) simply because I was getting dripped on. Though the thought has obviously crossed my mind, I shall choose to believe otherwise to avoid the wrath of the fans and also so I don't blame myself for missing out on another song.

They finished the show with a kick-ass performance of Birdhouse. Much bouncing ensued. I once read a review of a show that described the audience's movements during Birdhouse as "enthusiastic pogo-ing" which I think is the best possible description. Woot!

We were able to reconnect with our friends after the show at the front of the stage. The security guards were being absolute dicks to us while we waited for setlists, insisting that they had been told to let us touch nothing from the stage, that we weren't going to get anything and that we were going to be in the way of them breaking down the stage. Even after we explained that members of the crew always come out to give out setlists, they were still being jerks. This one guy in particular found out someone was signing autographs at the side of the stage and tried to convince us that that was better than a setlist to get us to leave. One of my friends pointed out that if we had a setlist we'd have something to get signed and his response was "Well, you aren't getting one." Fortunately, just after that Iggy appeared on stage, saw my shirt, commented on it being my 50th show and asked if I wanted a setlist. Yes, please! I got Linnell's and he gave a couple of others out to a few other people that were waiting. So there, obnoxious security guard!

TMBG 4/22/10 #113

It turned out to be Marty that was signing by the side of the stage. Fouroftwo had already been through the line of people waiting for autographs and said that Marty kept saying he needed to leave but he stayed and kept signing like a trooper. He signed my setlist and commented on my shirt. So I have a nice memento from my 50th show.

I was really glad I got to spend some time with my friends both before and after the show since we got separated during the show and it was lovely to be able to do the post-show re-hash with most of the group. We definitely need to make that happen more often.

So, crummy organizing resulting in so-so view (and bad sunburn, unrelated to the organizing) but a spectacular show to make up for it. Can't wait to do it all again in Arlington and more importantly at The Stone Pony. Whee!

There are a bazillion pictures up on Flickr. I had a good photo day and wasn't self conscious about taking pictures since I was so far from the stage.

There are photos from two of the professional photographers out there; a spectacular set on this website that I am absolutely in awe of and the set from the photographer who snapped me on this website.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Sound Is Bringing The People Round

First, I must make a plug. The very awesome Fouroftwo has just created a shiny new TMBG forum for all of us fans to play on. Please come check it out. It's a great opportunity to talk with other fans and make some new friends. You can find it here:

And in other news.... My last audience participation blog entry seemed to be pretty popular (or at least as popular as anything gets on this blog) so I am bringing back the concept for round two.

Since this is, for the most part, a blog about live shows, this round is going to be about.... you guessed it: live shows. I'm going to round up my top 10 live shows I've attended (and why they were my favorites), then you, the audience, can share yours in the comments. (You don't have to stick to 10 if you don't want to, you can do 20 or 5 or 1 if you want.) Then we'll see how much cross-over there is.

Putting together this list was actually a lot harder for me than I thought it was going to be. There were several shows that, looking back on them, there was some aspect of the show that really stood out but not necessarily the whole show. There were also fantastic shows that had a single aspect I didn't like that kept them off the list. My second show at The Stone Church should be on this list because it had an awesome setlist and something like six or seven of the Else songs played at that show were the debut performance. But I don't remember it. I didn't care about the band yet so I wasn't really paying attention. I didn't know the songs were new at the time. Which is truly sad.

So, here we go. This is what I came up with.

10. 4/19/08 - The Egg - Albany, NY - This was the first show I went to as a fan. It was actually my fifth show but it was my first show I attended after falling hard for the band. It was the first time I recognized all the songs. And they were almost all still new to me. It was my first time by the stage, getting to bounce and dance and really enjoy the show. Flans played right in front of me. I heard Seven for the first time. Dan played Darkened Corridors from the top of the theater. It was a wonderful experience for me.

9. 7/11/09 - Prospect Park - Brooklyn, NY - This is the only family show on the list, not because I don't enjoy them, because I do, but because they are usually more subdued affairs, they get eclipsed by the rock shows. Not so with this one. This show was just fun. All the confetti. All the goofy jokes. Paleontologist and Balloons. Marty's dancing. Broom covering All Star. Just fun.

8. 8/9/08 - Wolf Den - Uncasville, CT - I have a feeling this show was one of those once in a life time experiences. There were songs played that I am pretty sure I will never hear again (unless they do another Factory Showroom show). This show would actually be ranked much higher on the list if I had attended it more recently because FS has since become my favorite album and at the time I just didn't appreciate some of the songs the way I would now.

7. 1/30/09 - Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel - Providence, RI - This is a show that might have been left off the list due to a bad audience experience (drunk girl..very annoying) but was actually so good it made the cut anyway. The setlist played like a greatest hits show with some of my favorite rarities thrown in. The banter was some of the most memorable I can recall with the Lizard People and the Tom Poston story that popped up again repeated over the next several shows. The bitter cold and the KFC lights. The best Older confetti launch I have ever seen. And Dan playing the Darkened Corridors solo from atop the giant speaker set with wild abandon while the security and techs looked on worriedly. Just so good.

6. 1/31/09 - Le Poisson Rouge - This was a good weekend for me, obviously. There were a lot of really good shows at LPR but this was my favorite. I seem to have a thing for shows where stuff goes wrong and this was definitely one of those. There were sound problems almost all the way through. But the setlist was so good. Museum of Idiots and End of the Tour, two of my favorite songs, both for the first time for me. And Puppet Head. Dan playing in my face for the whole show. Watching Danny try to get all the sound issues fixed from the far side of the stage. My only stage side spot in eight shows at this venue and the awesome view that came with it. Good times.

5. 10/9/09 - The Pageant - St Louis, MO - Speaking of shows where things went wrong. This was the gloriously screwed up Flood show. But it was so much fun watching them try to put it back together again. The whole sequence of events with Danny running around the stage trying to re-insert skipped songs until he finally gave in to the ridiculousness of it all and took up Marty's drum mallets. Flans asking if they had forgotten to play anything else, like all of Lincoln. Ralph and his made-up instrument and fruit maracas. The Guggenheim boys. I laughed so hard, got covered in confetti and had a marvelous time.

4. 3/12/10 - Recher Theatre - Towson, MD - Best puppet show ever. From where we were standing at this show it was so easy to believe that the whole show was being played especially for us. It was ground shaking. Literally. And the Towson venue song is one of my favorites.

3. 10/1/09 - The State Theater - Ithaca, NY - Tour kick off show that totally shook up the live act and launched it into it's current version. Tons of new Science songs. Youth Culture and Where Your Eyes Don't Go. The very first Avatar show, when they were still figuring things out and Linnell played keyboard while operating his puppet. And enough confetti to fill a small swimming pool. Flans playing on the right and sitting down in a chair to do Science is Real. Really, really good.

2. 9/29/08 - Chameleon Club - Lancaster, PA - I went into this show tired and sick and kind of miserable and came out so happy I couldn't stop talking about it. The conga. The Stick. Unsupervised and West Virginia. Linnell playing the cowbell. Dinner Bell. The surprise add-on of the Polka at the end (I'd never heard it before). Why Does the Sun Really Shine? for the first time. I think it really says something that I've seen 41 shows since this one and only one of them topped it. Damn, that was a good show.

1. 3/11/10 - The National - Richmond, VA - Wow. A lot of the reason this show is my favorite is due to context. The disaster that was the show before, JoCo playing my request, talking to Danny after the show. All of those things definitely have a strong influence on it's placement. But the show also rocked so hard. The reverse Flood plays so well and the guys played with such energy and enthusiasm. We drowned in confetti, just got absolutely buried. It was awesome.

And the Grand Prize for my very, very favorite show goes to.......the next one. My favorite is always the next one down the line. I look forward to my next show now as much as I ever did, if not more. There is so much possibility in it. The next show can really keep me going through some pretty rough patches. Like right now. I've been pretty miserable lately but I've never looked forward to Earth Day more. It can't come soon enough.

Your turn! What are your favorite shows? Comment away (and don't forget to visit the forum)!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Filling In The Blanks

If you have been following this blog for a while you may remember that back in the fall when I was blogging about all my past shows before I left on The Great TMBG Road Trip 2009, I ran out of time and never blogged the last five. There is a batch from May-June of last year that have gone undiscussed and I've decided that has gone on long enough. Unfortunately, they are now so far in the past that I don't remember them very clearly but I'll share what I do remember and add in a bunch of pictures to make up for what I don't.




May 30, 2009 - LPR - NYC

The last of the Rent Party series at LPR was billed as a Non-Stop Rock show. I remember thinking at the time that it would have been more appropriately titled Kid's Music for Grown-Ups because they played so many songs off the kid's albums.

The opening act was a band called Mixel Pixel who were not great and had bizarre outfits. It looked like they were wearing pajamas on stage. One of them had no shirt and seemed to be wearing a cape made out of a blanket. They used video projection while they played but it didn't really help improve their music. Just not my cup of tea, I guess.

Mixel Pixel #2

The TMBG setlist:

WDTSRS? - Birdhouse - Figure Eight - Clap Your Hand - Guitar - Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes - It's Kickin' In - Thunderbird - Hearing Aid - Mesopotamians - John Lee Supertaster - Paleontologist - Polk - Broom - Don't Let's Start - I'm Impressed - Puppet Head - Subliminal - Meet James Ensor - Polka - Damn Good Times - Istanbul  Encore - Asbury Park - I Palindrome I - NYC Encore 2 - Older - Dead - Fingertips

This was the only one of the LPR shows where they did not have the horn players with them. It was kind of sad and yet kind of nice to be back with just the five-guy line-up for a change.

This was the first time I heard Figure Eight. They had premiered it in Kansas City the weekend before so this was only it's second appearance. Also the first time I heard Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes and Thunderbird. It was a pretty exceptional setlist.

For Hearing Aid, Flans pulled out a little stylophone to play the weird noises at the end. (Yes, I know they are technically some brand of synthesizer and not REALLY stylophones but it's the same general thing and I like the word better). He was making all these great faces then Linnell pulled one out too and started playing behind him. He got this great surprised look on his face like he was shocked that there was another stylophone and then they did a little stylophone dueting.

5/30/09 #21

When Danny introduced Paleontologist, he said that this was the first time the song was being played for adults and only the fifth time it was being played ever. He promised this would be one of the top five performances.

Broom came out to play and proved that he can be very inappropriate for children. Linnell commented that he doesn't usually get to play for adults and Broom said he thought the audience looked taller. Linnell told him he was "working blue" and Broom said he felt like Bob Saget. Then he said fuck quite a bit. It was pretty fucking funny. They continued to banter for quite a while before eventually getting to the song. It seemed like Linnell was trying to drag out the banter because he was having such a good time.

5/30/09 #35

Subliminal! Yay!

5/30/09 #42

Flans let some of the crowd play his guitar during the Polka. I got probably the best picture I have ever taken. Actually, I have better pictures from this show that almost any other. The stars must have aligned.

5/30/09 #55

It was an awesome way to wrap up the series. I wish they would do another batch of shows like these. It was so nice to have something to look forward to every month.

Some extra pictures:

5/30/09 #37

5/30/09 #25

5/30/09 #53

5/30/09 #26

5/30/09 #45

June 12, 2009 - Port City Music Hall - Portland, ME

This was the start of a very hectic but TMBG centric weekend. I was meant to be doing bachelorette party stuff for my friend's wedding that I was in and I had already changed plans once to accommodate the TMBG show in Boston on the 13th when this show was announced. I am from Maine and just couldn't resist seeing the band in my home state. So I changed plans again so I could go to this show too and skipped out on some of the party on Saturday. I felt bad and I hope the bride understood. To make up for it we took her with us to this show. I think she enjoyed it, or at least I hope she did.

We drove up to Portland after work on Friday and got there plenty early. While we were exiting the parking garage we ran into another fan whom I recognized from other shows but had not actually met. This would turn out to be one of those fortuitous fateful meetings as we have since become good friends and she is probably reading this blog right now. Hi!

The parking situation was very stressful as we parked in a garage that closed at midnight and weren't sure we would be out of the show in time to get back to the car. The encores were very tense as we kept looking at our watches, wanting the show to keep going but also needing it to end on time. We ended up making it back with about 10 minutes to spare.

We were among the first people to arrive at the venue but everyone just milled about rather than making a line. Enough people went through the door in front of us that we might have ended up standing off on a side of the stage but everyone of them headed straight for the bar. Not quite believing our good fortune we took spots absolutely dead center stage, up to that point the best spot I had ever had at a show.

Port City Music Hall was at the time a newly renovated and recently opened club (I suppose it still is, just not quite as new). It is very deep and rather narrow and does not exactly look like a rock club. There is unusual sculpture in the front window and the whole place actually has a more art gallery feel. And there is an unexpected drop in the floor at the top of the stairs leading to the bathrooms so watch out!

The opening act was a woman called Audrey Ryan who did a mix of music mostly in the folk/rock genre. She did kind of a one woman show thing, playing guitar, accordion, maracas, tambourine and drums often at the same time and all while singing. She was actually pretty good but it got a little tedious to watch because she would lay down a rhythm track before starting each song which would take several minutes and then if she messed up she had to start over. She did have a friend come out and join her on glockenspiel for a few songs but, sadly, was lacking the G-L-O-enspiel song.

Audrey Ryan #4

There are two things about this venue that particularly stick out in my mind. One of which was the crazy camera-nazi lady who worked for the club. Before the show started one of the staff told us we could take pictures as long as we turned off the flash. That's fine, I usually do that anyway. Then part way into the TMBG set an employee came over and told me no pictures so I turned my camera off and set it down. Fine, whatever. But this crazy woman was obsessed with the idea that people were taking flash photos. She came over and talked to me again after I had turned the camera off and hadn't been using it for probably 20 minutes, telling me off for using the flash (which I had never done in the first place), then later ran across the front of the stage to do the same to some other girl who was not using her flash either. I think she was actually seeing light reflecting off the mirrors on the lighting stands because I never saw a single person take a flash photo except for the official photographer who had a photo pass. Then after the show someone tried to take the setlist off of Linnell's keyboard and she lunged at them and snatched it back. I actually applauded this but then she wouldn't let anyone else near the stage to even ask one of the crew for one. I think she was enjoying the role of enforcer a little too much. Fortunately Iggy was much nicer and gave me his.

The other thing about this venue was the heat. It was SOOOOOO hot. Like, sweat soaking through your clothes, t-shirt plastered to you hot. It was a level of heat I have never experienced before or since in a club. Obviously, they hadn't installed the air conditioning yet. And if we were hot, the poor band was melting. By about halfway through, you could see that they had all soaked through their clothes and many of the guys were having to use towels to wipe the sweat off their hands so they could continue to play. And yet Danny, who was wearing a long sleeve shirt over a t-shirt, never took off the long sleeves. Despite being sad that the show was over, I have never been so happy to exit a venue into the fresh air as I was after this show.

6/12/09 #6

Yet another reason this show was particularly memorable is that it was on Linnell's 50th birthday. Many people in the crowd were shouting "Happy Birthday" to him between songs and at one point he said that it would not have been as happy without all of us. Awwww. Even if he was just saying it to be nice, awwwwww. Thanks, Linnell!

6/12/09 #5

6/12/09 #4

The setlist: Twisting - Mesopotamians - Ana Ng - Memo to Human Resources (1st verse only) - Thunderbird - Hearing Aid - Birdhouse - Clap Your Hands - The Guitar - Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes - TMBG - Polk - NYC - Don't Let's Start - Seven - Doctor Worm - Particle Man - Meet James Ensor - Polka - Alphabet of Nations - She's an Angel - Damn Good Times  Encore - Drink! - Asbury Park - Fingertips  Encore 2 - Older - Dead - Istanbul

They started Memo but Flans called it off part way in and said he didn't feel like playing it so they moved on. He actually still said "Celebration" in a left over from those spring kids shows. They pulled out the stylophones again for Hearing Aid and I got some great pictures. They had brought Curt with them so we got some great trumpet solos. He was in top form, probably because he got to leave to stage periodically and go stand somewhere cooler.

6/12/09 #10

6/12/09 #12

6/12/09 #14

Alphabet of Nations wasn't on the setlist but they added it in, I believe because someone had been shouting for it in the audience. I think that may be the only time I've seen them take a request. Dan did an encore presentation of Where's Dan? for Fingertips, playing from the raised VIP area on the side of the club. He may have even been standing on a chair or a table. I'm not sure. But that was the last time I saw him do it. I wish he'd bring that back.

Despite the heat and the camera-nazi and the fact that I had been up since 5:30 in the morning, this remains one of my all-time favorite shows. The official photographer actually snapped a picture of all of us at the show. I am making a ridiculous face singing along to either The Mesopotamians or Birdhouse, I'm not sure, but it's nice to have the pictorial evidence anyway.

They Might Be Giants
Photo by Bryan Bruchman

June 13, 2009 - Berklee Performance Center - Boston, MA

We missed the family show in the afternoon because of the bachelorette thing and then ended up running so late to get to this show that we missed the beginning of the opening act. It was a good thing that it was a show with assigned seats or we would have been all the way in the back. We were in the front row of the balcony because all the good floor seats had been sold by the time I realized tickets were on sale and I thought the view would be better from the balcony than the middle of the orchestra. It definitely was but I don't think I have ever been so far from the stage (except maybe at an outdoor show).

The opener was Jed Parish whom we had seen in Tarrytown. I think I was still so burnt out from the mad dash speed walk I did from Boston Common to Berklee before the show that I didn't really pay that much attention to him. Sorry, Jed.

This was Flood show number four. They did Alphabet of Nations - Damn Good Times - James K. Polk - Asbury Park and The Guitar before Flood. Then Clap Your Hands - Mesopotamians - NYC - Older - Drink and Doctor Worm for the encores. All the pictures I have are from the encores because cameras weren't allowed but I snuck mine in and everyone was standing for the encores and thus blocking the security guard's view of me. I didn't really get any good ones.

6/13/09 #1

The Johns kept talking about why they liked playing at Berklee. It had to do with it being a music school, memories of shows there when they were kids and the theater being so much nicer and having better acoustics than what they were used to. They also liked that the audience was so much more polite and actually clapped after solos. I believe they also made mention of the fact that both the Dans went to school there.

Curt was with them again (he was along for the ride the whole weekend) and got to do the Istanbul intro and outro. They played with their stylophones again on Hearing Aid.

I saw someone I am pretty sure was Flans' mom down in the orchestra area. No one stood and rushed the stage until the encores. I actually ran into a teenager at work the next day who had also been at the show and was very disappointed in the lack of energy and dancing in the crowd. They really were a very polite crowd.

Flans' attempts to divide the audience for the call backs on Drink were only marginally successful and the audience's rhythm was not very good considering how many of them were probably music students.

It is very hard to jump in the air in a balcony.

Iggy's lighting "booth" (for lack of a better word) was up in the balcony with us. We waved at each other as we exited the theater.

This was probably the most subdued non-family show I've attended. But at least there were no drunk idiots.

June 14, 2009 - New Haven Town Green - New Haven, CT

Free show as part of the International Arts and Ideas Festival. Originally I wasn't sure I wanted to go to this one for some reason, then decided I did and complicated my weekend even further. I had to work in the morning; I think I left a little early. Then had to drive to New Haven to get there by six. We were there in plenty of time but the Green was already packed. I read later that there were 22,000 people there which was the most the Festival had ever had at a show.

We originally found a space right on a corner of the path by the sound tent but when the show started everyone stood up and I couldn't see at all. So I went and found a better spot a bit closer up. It was great except for the tall guy in my direct line of sight who kept putting his kid on his shoulders. He moved after a while. This was the first time I had really tested the digital zoom on my new camera and it worked pretty well though the pictures are rather grainy.

6/14/09 #21

I am sorry to say I remember only two things that happened at this show. One was an ongoing joke about how Curt had come down from his ice cream mountain to perform at the show. Flans was basically making him out to be the king of Candyland or something and teasing him about how far he had had to travel (he's from Connecticut).

6/14/09 #73

The other was Danny dedicating I Am A Paleontologist to "that dude with the green mohawk." There was a person with a bright green mohawk in the crowd that I had noticed earlier and apparently so had Danny. The funny part was, it was a girl. I believe Dan point this fact out to Danny while they were playing the intro to the song and after some squinting he had this very funny "whoops" face. I actually had a brief back-and-forth with the mohawk girl on Flickr afterwards and she didn't mind at all and was very excited that he had noticed her. I also noticed that she joined the wiki recently. Hi, if you happen to be reading this!

6/14/09 #14

I was going through my videos from shows trying to see if I had a video of Paleontologist at this show. I don't but I did find video of I Am Not Your Broom that is very funny and which I do not remember AT ALL. I have never posted any of my videos (save one) because I always figured there were better ones out there but after going back through them today, I decided to throw most of them up on YouTube, partly so I can link to several of them in this blog.

The setlist: Alphabet of Nations - Birdhouse - Guitar - Seven - Paleontologist - Pirate Girls Nine - Particle Man - I Never Go to Work - Figure Eight - No - Clap Your Hands - Polk - Older - NYC - Alphabet Lost and Found - Broom - Four of Two - Doctor Worm  Encore - 813 Mile Car Trip - Istanbul

6/14/09 #18

After the show we went and got some food at the concession stands along the green and while we were eating we saw the band all milling about the trailer behind the stage and packing up their stuff to go home. I also got a nifty picture of the guitar rack on stage after the crowds left so you can see just how many guitars they travel with. Note - most of them are Dan's. How many does he need?

6/14/09 #76

And finally..

July 11, 2009 - Prospect Park - Brooklyn, NY

I felt like this was really venturing into TMBG's home turf. And the show was awesome. So much energy, soooo much confetti, so much fun.

We got to the park early but there was already a large crowd in line. I think we had to wait for close to an hour before they let us in. I saw Marty down by the door at one point talking to some friends in line. When we got in, there was a large section of folding chairs on the floor or spots to sit on the grass on a hill. We chose the chairs. There was a big chunk in the middle reserved for members and sections on the side for everyone else. We picked something in the middle where we could see but not feel like we were stealing good spots from the families. There was a long wait before the show started but some good people watching. Several band members could be seen on or around the stage, not even having changed for the show yet.

There were two "openers" for the show. One was a giant purple anteater looking thing called ZoZo who was the mascot for something but I don't remember what. He introduced the concert with some adults but they wouldn't let him say what band was coming on because they didn't want to get the kids too excited that the concert was going to start before the next opener.

TMBG 7/11/09 #3

Next was someone called Claudia Marshall who was, I believe, a radio DJ, reading two of Ezra Keats' books. I think it was some sort of anniversary for him and there were people there who were trying to get his art on a postage stamp. I've always liked his stories but it was weird to have story time before a concert. Ms. Marshall also humorously said Bronx when she meant to say Brooklyn at one point and got lots of "oh, no she didn't" type response from the Brooklyn crowd.

TMBG 7/11/09 #4

TMBG started with Fibber Island. A little kid managed to get on stage and ran part way across, then stopped to look out at the crowd, very proud of himself before he was scooped up by an adult. The band seemed remarkably unfazed by this though it did seem to amuse Danny. The Johns did some great silly flubbering sounds before leading into Zilch and got a lot of the crowd going with them.

TMBG 7/11/09 #6

The rest of the setlist: Alphabet of Nations - Seven - Clap Your Hands - Guitar - Paleontologist - I Never Go to Work - One Dozen Monkeys - Particle Man - Figure Eight - Happy Birthday - Pirate Girls Nine - Bed Bed Bed - Alphabet Lost and Found - Broom - Where Do They Make Balloons - No - NYC - Doctor Worm  Encore - 813 Mile Car Trip - Brooklyn - Istanbul

There was so much confetti at this show. Iggy really got into the canons, probably because he didn't need to do much with the lights at an outdoor show, and he and the guitar tech just kept reloading and reloading them. There was even one accidental shoot off while one was being loaded.  I believe they went off four times in total. The best of which was during Bed Bed Bed when a large portion of the confetti landed on Linnell's head and keyboard and he just kept playing without bothering to brush it off.

TMBG 7/11/09 #28

I have some fantastic pictures of Linnell making extremely silly faces from this show, including a great "Guatemala" shot. I also must be allowed a very short fangirl moment to point out that after the very unflattering cut it received in January, Linnell's hair had once again reached optimum length.

TMBG 7/11/09 #23

TMBG 7/11/09 #58

TMBG 7/11/09 #8

TMBG 7/11/09 #38

Flans introduced not one but two euphoniums for Seven and Dan and Curt had a nice little euphonium party center stage.

TMBG 7/11/09 #10

Flans promised they would keep playing if it started to rain, as the sky was looking a little threatening but it held off until we were driving home several hours later.

Flans introduced Paleontologist, asking us to stand up and pretend that it was our favorite song even though we had never heard it before. No need to pretend! I loved that song already :-)

TMBG 7/11/09 #13

Linnell didn't insert a song into Particle Man but still dragged out the bridge with some ad-libbing about how he was making the song longer just so we would clap more.

TMBG 7/11/09 #18

They sang Happy Birthday to a little girl named Flora who was sitting in the member section. She must have been a friend of someone in the band. It was very cute.

TMBG 7/11/09 #15

Flans told us that Marty was going back to his boy band roots with Alphabet Lost and Found and that unlike the rest of the band, he was only in it for the money.

TMBG 7/11/09 #36

Broom performed a little bit of "All Star" trying to get Linnell to sing something else but he wouldn't bite. They also stopped the song to explain that servitude was what happened when a server has attitude.

TMBG 7/11/09 #40

I am convinced that they did Where Do They Make Balloons only because an article that the Johns had been interviewed for before the show for one of the Brooklyn papers listed it as sure-to-be-played (probably not realizing that they hadn't been playing it since they started doing Paleontologist). When Danny came back to the mic he said, "Remember me? I'm the guy that sang your favorite song." He also asked us to help him with the words but he did fine on his own.

TMBG 7/11/09 #42

Flans introduced Doctor Worm with some shtick about worms under then bandshell being graduates.

This show being part of the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival, they of course did the Brooklyn venue song. It's a bit of an odd song for a family show but they really couldn't not do it.

TMBG 7/11/09 #51

And they finished with an excellent horn performance on Istanbul. We attempted to get a setlist after the show but couldn't get close enough to the stage. Did get to see Marty signing some things for other fans but didn't have anything to get signed.

TMBG 7/11/09 #56

There! I have finally recapped all my shows. For now anyway. That was kind of exhausting and kind of fun. I'll have another audience participation blog coming soon.