Friday, May 28, 2010

TMBG In My Backyard

Ok, so they weren't exactly in my backyard but these two shows kind of felt like it. I've driven up to 1,187 miles to a show and Sunday's shows were only 22 miles down the road. Between this and the Boston show last month I feel like the band is paying me back for all the mileage they have put on my car. Thanks guys! I really appreciate it and so does my carburetor.

May 23, 2010 - Regent Theatre - Arlington, MA

I shall start this off with the disclaimer that I am going to forget some of what happened at which show. There were two family shows back to back with only an hour between them so they are a little blended in my mind. Also, sorry about the font size change mid blog. Blogger formatting hates me and I don't feel like fighting with it to fix it.

The early show was at noon and we arrived at about 10:30 thinking the doors were at 11:00. Turned out they weren't until 11:30 but no big deal, as we have waited MUCH longer on many previous occasions. We met up with Fouroftwo and another friend of ours (the same one who was with us at the Portland show last June) making a nice little party of adults with no kids. While we were waiting outside, before most of the crowds showed up, an elderly woman came walking down the sidewalk wearing a vintage They Might Be Giants t-shirt. I took one look at her and said hey, it's Flanburgh's mom! (Ok, I did actually wait to say this aloud until she was inside). Both shows were benefit performances for Boston by Foot, the non-profit walking tour group that Polly Flansburgh founded. I was pretty sure she was going to be there but it was amusing to have her walk right past us and she smiled and everything. Super cool lady.

Doors ended up being late. A staff member came out and apologized at about 11:45 and said they were still sound checking. I think it was just after noon when we actually got in. We picked seats in the fourth row on the right side. I think the place used to be either a movie theater or an old vaudeville theater, but either way there was no room between the front row and the stage so all dancing by the toddler set was done in the aisles. I would have had the perfect view had I not been in the one seat in our group with an adult sitting in front of it instead of a three year old. I could see fine but did not have a good angle for pictures of Flans.

My pictures from the day are largely awful. I took a ton and only ended up with 18 usable ones from the first show and 16 from the second. The lighting was just reeking havoc with the auto-focus. I did end up with some nice ones of Linnell and his new accordion though. Side note on the new accordion: I realized after the Boston show that what I was calling a new accordion is actually the same one seen in this promotional photo which was, I believe taken last year. So it is new to concerts but not necessarily new to Linnell.

TMBG 5/23/10a #4

Setlist (same for both shows except for minor edits that I will note): Fibber Island - Meet the Elements - Bed Bed Bed - Never Go to Work - Clap Your Hands - Kids Go - One Dozen Monkeys - 813 Mile Car Trip - High Five - WDTSS - Pirate Girls Nine - Famous Polka - Roy G. Biv - Shooting Star - In the Middle - Paleontologist - Older - Particle Man - Doctor Worm - Istanbul  Encore - Alphabet of Nations

The band finally hit the stage with Hot Dog! as the intro music. Flans introduced the members of the band first, finishing with Dan Miller who started up Fibber Island. At one of the shows Flans prefaced Dan's introduction by noting that Dan was "lit from within" which made Dan laugh pretty hard.

Flans greet the people in the balcony and commented that he couldn't see their faces which worried him, to which Linnell replied, "I'm worried they don't have faces."

Introducing Bed Bed Bed, Linnell said that he was really tired and it was time for bed except that he was on stage so he couldn't go to bed. So he was going to sing about going to be bed, except really he was going to sing about getting ready to go to bed. And then he did. Flans briefly stole Marty's horn to honk it into the mic but didn't keep it to hang on his mic stand as he has done in the past.

Flans welcomed Curt to the stage (yay Curt!) saying he had come down from his ice cream castle on his ice cream mountain in Connecticut with not just one but two trumpets (he put the other one down for later). Flans said that I Never Go to Work was about the laziest member of the band which he insisted wasn't Curt but we didn't really believe him.

We all had to stand up for Clap Your Hands which was difficult to perform properly in between the seats but then everybody sat down just as Linnell was singing "get on your feet and go" during Kids Go. Silly people, weren't they listening to the song?

Then because there aren't enough songs about monkeys and everybody loves monkeys they followed up with One Dozen Monkeys. Flans is still singing, "I am a dude 47 years old" even though he's aged several years since then and it's no longer true. I guess those syllables fit better into the song.

813 Miles Car Trip is a pretty rockin' song for a kindie number. It would also make a pretty apt theme song for a band always on the road. It certainly got the kids dancing.

Marty came down to do High Five and I finally got to hear the song live! Twice! Linnell mentioned Marty's love of tracks and then offered him a choice between a sample of the High Five track or a sample of the Alphabet Lost and Found one. He went with the one of the setlist. In general if I had to choose between the two I'd pick Alphabet but I'm glad I finally got to hear High Five.

Marty ran back and forth across the stage high fiving kids in the front row during the chorus but he kept missing their hands and high fiving a lot of air. He was also restricted somewhat by having a wired mic which he was dragging back and forth with him. When he got to the line about celebrating with all your friends he leaned on Flans which was cute. He ran around at the end of the song high fiving all the guys on stage. He was also eating something when he got back to the drum kit after the song. I guess all that running around made him hungry.

And now we come to THE BEST part of the show. Flans said he needed some help with audience participation for the next song and that they were going to introduce the kids to the choreography of Bob Fosse. He then explained briefly who Bob Fosse was and said he would like all the kids in the audience to do jazz hands whenever they heard the word sun in the next song (he demonstrated the jazz hands while saying it). He said they should practice since they say the word sun about 28 times during the song and led the kids in a tiny sea of jazz hands. He had them do it twice because the first time wasn't sudden enough.

Then he asked Linnell what voice he was going to do the song in and Linnell said he was going to do his Katherine Hepburn voice. I totally thought he was kidding or I would have turned the video camera on much sooner. Flans said he was going to do the pirate voice and then introduced the name of the song in the pirate voice.

The version of Why Does the Sun Shine? they played was somewhere in between the two recorded versions. It wasn't all the way into the rock version and Linnell was doing the spoken part but it was certainly not the slow version either. I guess it was kind of a slow rock version, if that makes sense.

But OH MY GOD, Linnell actually did the Katharine Hepburn voice and Flans did the pirate voice for the whole thing and it was so funny I nearly cried. Add in all the little kids doing jazz hands and it was pretty much the funniest three minutes I have ever seen (only to be rivaled by the performance at the next show). Linnell was actually singing in the Katharine Hepburn voice too but the funniest part was the spoken section since he had the voice and the shaking and it was just so damn perfect. He was obviously struggling with the nuclear reactions but eventually came up with hydrogen, helium, Spencer and Bogey.  I'm sure it went right over the heads of most of the kids except for the fact that he was doing a funny voice, but the adults in the audience were cackling. I have a little bit of video of the last spoken section. I actually have another that is the earlier spoken part and the sound is fine but it is completely out of focus. I'll post it if there is actual demand for it.

Keeping with the pirate theme, Flans instructed us on counting for Pirate Girls Nine. He said that most bands would ask us to count to ten but they were only going to ask us to count to nine. He did the demonstration but most of the audience wasn't following along and he realized the band hadn't been ready either so he asked Linnell to demonstrate the counting in the song. The second demonstration went much better. 

I love that The Famous Polka has become a family show song, as it means I get twice as many chances to hear it. Flans usually says they only have one polka and that is why they call it The Famous Polka. The song shows off the bellows on the new accordion fabulously. 

Flans finally remembered to mention Boston by Foot and explain that our tickets were good for a free walking tour. He pointed out her mom and asked her to stand up. He also mentioned her 1985 TMBG t-shirt saying she has all of their shirts from over the years (he actually changed it to 1986 when he pointed it out at the later show). At one of the shows he asked us to clap for her because that would help raise him in her esteem. 

Flans talked about Here Comes Science before Roy G. Biv, noting that it was unusual to have a song about a tiny elf on an album about science but that was just how they roll. He then started to sing the song but was having trouble with key and had to stop after the second line and ask what key the song was in. Linnell said E and they had a brief debate in which Flans found this hard to believe but said it explained why he was having trouble. He made a joke about them being professionals or something of that nature then actually managed to get through the rest of the song without incident.

The Avatar segment at this show was pretty typical. Between the two shows each of the Johns accidently referred to the other's Avatar as John which they then had to explain away as a nickname. I can not for the life of me remember which show it was but at one of them the Avatars briefly started doing a Dylan impression and sang a tiny bit of Lay, Lady, Lay which seemed wildly inappropriate for children but was very amusing. (Side note: my boyfriend completely doesn't remember this part so confirmation that I wasn't imagining it would be greatly appreciated.) 

Between Shooting Star and In the Middle, the Avatars were very excited by the applause but commented that they wished they had ears to hear it. I also found it funny that they played like they weren't expecting an "encore" then announced they had another song prepared. Cocky little fellas. 

Danny came forward to sing Paleontologist but couldn't find a mic. Flans had taken his with him to the Avatar camera because it wasn't wireless and that was apparently the one Danny was supposed to be using. Flans introduced Danny singing on his microphone and said Danny had two request, first that we stand up and second that we rock out. Danny said we had to rock out because he wasn't a singer and we needed to make up for that fact. "I am a paleontologist." This is just a guess, but I think perhaps Danny was not feeling so well because he wasn't quite as lively he usually is but he still turned in a fine performance of Paleontologist. The setlist had Where Do They Make Balloons listed in the encore but they didn't do it at either show which may or may not support my theory that Danny was sick. They could have just been running short on time.

Flans let the kids play his guitar at the beginning of Older and there was lots of twanging. When it came time to do the confetti launch they all froze on stage. Linnell was watching the confetti, then checking his imaginary watch as if he was wishing it would hurry up, then staring at it some more as it fell. They waited until almost all of it had hit the crowd before they picked up the song again.

TMBG 5/23/10a #10

Linnell did a riff on triangle man and particle man fighting in the bridge of Particle Man rather than inserting a song. Though I admit, I am a bit sick of Particle Man I do still enjoy the accordion mashing at the end. Yay!

Even after all this time, Doctor Worm is still one of my favorite songs. Flans and Danny did their solo standing directly behind Linnell which was odd and not conducive to pictures and Danny didn't do his customary jump at either show.

They finished it out with Istanbul, with Curt doing the solo at the beginning. They dumped a bunch more confetti on us at the end. I always love watching the little kids play with the confetti. Makes me grin.

TMBG 5/23/10a #17

They came back for one encore and did Alphabet of Nations. Dan was having some trouble getting the sound guy to put the keyboard in his monitor. It was not their usual guys on either the FOH or the monitors so I guess they didn't know the routine. Maybe that's why sound check took so long.

Between shows we waited out in the lobby and Flans' mom came out the door. There were some people trying to go in at the same time and she stopped them but they said they were with the sound guy so she let them in. But then a third guy tried to get in and he was obviously a fan (he asked about a bathroom but that may have just been a ploy) and she wouldn't let him in. Flans' mom means business. She's obviously been around the block in the rock and roll world.

We picked seats on the left side for the second show and sat in the second row so we were much closer to the stage. The first row was available but just seemed to close, like it might actually be hard to see from.

Much of the second show was the same so I'll just re-cap the parts that were different.

Linnell said Bed Bed Bed was about going to bed or, for him, insomnia.

TMBG 5/23/10b #6

Flans implied that, in fact, Curt might be the laziest member of the band. Curt had a great expression on his face as if he was possibly more offended by the idea that he was NOT the laziest member than that he was.

The audience actually managed to remain standing for Kids Go so we all got to boogie. Whee!

One of the Johns commented that the show was going by very quickly and in fact it was. They weren't stopping to talk much.

Marty had a wireless mic for his second performance of High Five and was much more free to run around. He attempted to high five a baby in the first row who just stared at him which was impossibly cute. There were two little girls on our left who came down to try to get high fives but he didn't get to them at first so the littler one had walked away. Then he came back and high fived the older one while the little one was facing the other way so she came back down to try again. To her credit, her sister pulled her forward to put her in front for another attempt. He finally managed to catch her at the end. Awww, little kids are so cute! When it came to the "celebrate with all your friends" line, Marty pointed at Danny and threw his arm around his shoulder and Danny did this foolish grin that was adorable. I wish I had a picture but you can sort of see it in this video (which was, incidentally, posted by the mom of the two little girls). At the end of the song, after high fiving the band, Marty went to put his mic back and said, "yeah, I got a wireless mic." Marty makes me smile.

The second performance of WDTSS was almost as good as the first. Flans asked Linnell if he was going to do his Katharine Hepburn voice again but Linnell said no, that he couldn't keep it up all day and he had to drive home.  Flans asked what he was going to do instead and gave him some options including pirate and irish. Linnell said he felt like it wasn't going to be spontaneous anymore if he decided now, it was going to be self-conscious. Flans then suggested that they do "that Irish tenor who is always on Letterman. Mandy Potemkin?" The band all laughed at his mispronunciation of Patinkin and Linnell was like, "Irish? Potemkin?" Flans clarified, saying that he always sings Irish songs. 

Flans gave everyone their jazz hands instructions again and said that the grown-ups could participate too if we wished. He also commented that he liked the "shimmer" that many in the crowd were doing after the first demo. He had been just putting him hand out but many were doing the traditional shaking of the hands too which he adopted. I tried to remember to do the jazz hands when they said sun but Linnell was making me laugh so hard I forgot some of them.

They went into the song with Flans doing his Mandy Patinkin impression. Linnell went to do his first spoken part in a voice then stopped himself to say we were going to know who he was doing right away. He then proceeded to do this slow paced Mid-Western accented voice. At the end of the line Flans said "Pledge break only comes once a show, ladies and gentleman. It's Garrison Keillor." Linnell managed to keep the voice going and did the nuclear reactions as "a little lost dog, an anecdote about an older Scandinavian person, a political jab at Jesse Ventura and hydrogen." I think I laughed harder at this one than the Katharine Hepburn. And if the kids didn't get Katharine Hepburn, they certainly didn't get Garrison Keillor. See there IS reason to go to the family shows even if you don't have kids.

Flans didn't get a chance to do counting instructions for Pirate Girls because Linnell just started into the song. We counted anyway.

They did the Famous Polka then Flans decided they should do it again twice as fast and as quietly as possible. They ran through it again only playing about a third of the notes very quietly (though Marty did ramp up the volume a little at the end). It was extremely silly and very fun to watch them try to execute. I think getting up so early for these shows put the guys in a wacky mood. After they finished, Linnell pointed out that they used to say "hey" during that song but he didn't know what happened. Flans said we had gotten insight into their song writing process. "We write all the songs really fast, then slow them down later."

TMBG 5/23/10b #12

The Avatar segment of this show was much funnier. Flans puppet was talking about how they were doing commercials for GMC trucks (this may or may not be where the Dylan impression came from, I just don't remember). Linnell puppet said he wished they had hands to drive the trucks (or maybe it was ears, I'm not sure) and Flans puppet said he wished they hand legs to push the pedals. Somewhere in all this Linnell puppet asked if that (and no I don't remember what that was) made them vampires and Flans puppet said no, they were Avatars, like the movie. "We're in 3-D" Then he started pulling pack and forth from the camera trying to look like a 3-D image. 

TMBG 5/23/10b #14

Danny told us that his friend Flans asked us to rock out to Paleontologist. We did. 

There was a little kids playing Flans guitar at the beginning of Older who kept jumping up to hit the strings. He looked like he was on a pogo. Jump. Twang. Jump. Twang. Jump. Twang. He made Flans laugh.

Linnell did Here You Come Again in the middle of Particle Man and then said, "Dolly Parton!" after the song was over. They were really trying to educate the kiddies about other public figures today, Hepburn, Dylan, Garrison Keillor, Dolly Parton. Sheesh.

Flans included "shy people" in his list of types of people in the audience he had chant for Danny during the band intros. 

We got absolutely covered in confetti at the end. There were kids that came down our row to get closer to the canon and were standing right in front of us. Their mom was worried about the little one getting trampled but he came back all excited because Fouroftwo had given him confetti out of her lap. Another of the little kids had seen this and reached down and snatched some from my lap thinking I couldn't see him. Have I mentioned how cute little kids are?

I love watching Flans watch member of the band so solos. He always looks so happy and excited, like this is the most fabulous thing he has ever seen. He was just grinning like a Cheshire Cat while watching Curt do the Istanbul intro.

Dan had more monitor trouble on the second go round of Alphabet of Nations. Flans actually said into the mic "John Connor look at Dan" (at least I think that was the guy's name, I assume it was the sound guy). Then Dan was having to point at Linnell and indicate "not his, mine." They got it going eventually.

We hung out for a few minutes after the show to get a setlist, which took almost no time at all. Victor walked out on stage, picked up something, saw me, walked over to Danny's setlist and took it off the clipboard and walked back over to hand it to me. There are definite bonuses to being recognized by the crew.

I am sure I am forgetting some parts. I'll update if I think of anything else. I had a fabulous time and am now greatly looking forward to the Stone Pony in just two weeks. I assume I will see many of you, dear readers, there. We shall have a party.