Tuesday, August 31, 2010

#12 - Stripes, Plaids And Geeky T-Shirts

There is something incredibly appealing about the fact that, right down to their wardrobe, the band never tries to be more than what they are on stage. They don't have costumes or some other gimmick to help them get into character. They just walk on stage wearing the same jeans and t-shirt they put on when they got up in the morning. Grounded and comfortable.

On the other hand, the guys are so consistent in their fashion choices, I suppose they might as well be costumes of a sort. One of my friends had the idea to make a list of "You Know You've Been To Just Enough TMBG Shows When..." things (because there is no such thing as too many) and having one of them be "you can name three items of clothing worn by each band member on a regular basis." Personally, I find this aspect of going to shows very comforting. This probably sounds creepy though I don't mean it to be, but I enjoy having that moment at the start of a show when I think, "Oh good, Linnell is wearing the red and navy baseball shirt again. I like that one." I think most fans can identify with the pleasure of seeing them in the same piece of clothing they wore at their first show or their favorite show or their last show or whatever, even if it's just while looking at pictures.

TMBG 10/10/09b #16

Flans can usually be counted to to wear either a polo or a button-up of some sort, frequently in plaid. And then there are those cardigans, which is just about the least glamourous thing one could wear at a rock concert and yet they suit him to a tea. And I think I can count on one hand the number of shows in the last two years at which Flans has not worn those green sneakers with the orange stripes.

Flansburgh's Shoes 1/31/09

Linnell goes even more basic, nine times out of ten, sporting a plain or striped T-shirt. We make jokes about him having an entire closet full of that red and black striped one. I remember being amused at one he was wearing at a show last spring which he had obviously worn so often while playing that the bottom of the accordion strap had rubbed a hole in it.

TMBG 11/29/08 #20

And then there is the whole array of wonderful T-shirts I've seen them all sport. From Linnell's caffeine molecule one, to the one Curt had on at The Stone Pony with the question mark with the world as the dot. I love fun T-shirts. In fact, one of my biggest resentments is that I can't wear gloriously geeky tees to work every day. A few of the others that I enjoy are Danny's Sapphire Bullets shirt (am I correct in thinking that one is fan-made? Does anyone know?) and his OK Go one (because I love OK Go and it's the one with the OK Go logo that reminds me of the TMBG logo I have branded myself with). Also Marty's red tee with the floating water tanks on it. If anyone can explain that one to me, please do, because I've been trying to determine the significance for ages.

5/9/09b #36

TMBG 10/17/09b #11

2/28/09 #8

TMBG 12/31/09 #13

Also, though I haven't seen it in quite a while, if we are discussing endearing clothing choices, special mention needs to be made of Dan's grey knit hat. It's adorable. (Psst, you know the Lego versions of the band I mentioned in my Fan Confessions? Lego Dan is wearing that hat.)

1/31/09b #8

Thus concludes my mini-ode to the band's wardrobe. That could have been so much more fangirlish than it was.

P.S. Before you cry foul, a whole separate entry shall be devoted to the red pants.

Don't Know Where I Got The Inspiration Or How I Wrote The Words

There is a reason I've been avoiding doing a favorite lyrics list for so long. I am horrible at choosing lyrics. There are so many songs that I just love as a whole. I have picked out a batch of ones I know I love, to share with you but there are certainly others. They aren't in any particular order by favorite (actually they are chronological). There are songs I adore that don't have a lyric on here because there wasn't one line that stood out over the others. And I will most likely think of 20 more lines I love as soon as I post this.

"The words I'm singing now mean nothing more than "meow" to an animal." - Don't Let's Start

"D, world destruction, Over an overture, N, do I need apostrophe, T, need this torture? - Don't Let's Start

"And the truth is we don't know anything" - Ana Ng

"If it wasn't for disappointment, I wouldn't have any appointments" - Snowball in Hell

"I could never sleep my way to the top 'cause me alarm clock always wakes me right up." - Hey Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal

"Bluebird of friendliness, like guardian angels it's always near" - Birdhouse in Your Soul

"Too late or soon to make noise about love and there's no time for sorrow. Run around in the rain with a hole in the brain till tomorrow." - Letterbox

"There's only one thing that I know how to do well and I've often been told that you only can do what you know how to do well, and that's be you. Be what you're like. Be like yourself." - Whistling in the Dark

"He drops his car keys, and crawls on the ground. Finds her old hair comb she'd wear into town. Can't bear to keep it or throw it away. Gets back down on his knees, puts it back where it lay. Back where it lay." - I Blame You

"The bells are ringing, the song they're singing, the sound is bringing the people round. They hear the instructions. They follow directions. They travel great distances to the sound." - The Bells Are Ringing

"They revamped the airport completely. Now it looks just like a nightclub. Everyone's excited and confused." - Man, It's So Loud In Here

"You could be a float for the Fourth of July based on your theme of "Wildflowers Grown Wild." - Drink!

"Hungary isn't hungry and french fries aren't from France. Turkeys aren't from Turkey. They can't fly but they can dance." - Where Do They Make Balloons?

"Is it that time again? Wasn't it already then? So does it have to be the time it was again?" - Am I Awake?

"If you and I had any brains we wouldn't be in this place." - Museum of Idiots

"I'm not much of a natural dancer but I know a girl who's a natural dancer. You could call her a jumping bean. She's got ants in her pants and she's gonna dance." - Damn Good Times

"I was all out of juice, like a moose, like a moose denied." - Stalk of Wheat

"Missing vowels to the left, please. I-N-G, anybody lose an ING? More than two syllables to the emergency room." - Alphabet Lost and Found

"The deep end, the deep end. People talk a lot but they don't know. They pretend. They pretend. They don't really know how deep it goes." - Climbing the Walls

"Hey man, I thought that you were dead. I thought you crashed your car. No, man, I've been right here this whole time playing bass guitar." - The Mesopotamians

"A cell knows what it has to do, to grow into a moss or a shrew, algae or a kangaroo, bug or a sunflower, Dwight David Eisenhower, a frog, a fish or you." - Cells

Also, every single last solitary word of Nine Bowls of Soup. I decided not to pick a line because I'd just end up typing the whole song.

EDIT: I can't believe I forgot the lyric that I probably mention loving most often.
"Remember love's a verb" from Love is Eternity. That's a piece of advice we should all heed.

I think when it comes down to it Nine Bowls of Soup, Birdhouse, Don't Let's Start and Man, It's So Loud in Here contain my highest percentage of favorite lyrics. Guess that makes sense since they are all in my top 10.

Monday, August 30, 2010

#13 - The Puppet Johns

"I've got a mustache."

"But I've got...googles."


"Hey John, what's your favorite animal?"



"Well, thats what it says here."


"What band were you in?"

"I was in Hot Tuna."

"Oh right, I thought so."


You've probably realized by now I like the goofy kid stuff. And of all the goofy kid things I think I love the Puppet Johns most of all. The Friday Night Video Podcasts were one of the few pieces of TMBG output that I got to experience as they happened, being a late comer to the TMBG fan club. And I am oh, so fond of them. The silly jokes, the goofy costumes, and the occasional bits of humor that are clearly meant for the adults in the audience. Perhaps most appealing, the puppets are really just miniaturized, knitted versions of John and John, not just in appearance but in personality. They often riff off each other in the same fashion the Johns do on stage. I admit, I was quite disappointed when the puppets didn't appear on the Here Comes Science DVD. I hope we haven't seen the last of them.

Here is one of my favorite episodes of the Podcast.

Incidentally, I was re-watching the Podcasts in preparation for this entry and it occurred to me to wonder about the music playing in the background while the puppets are performing. It seems to be primarily guitar and keyboard. I wonder if the Johns recorded it separately themselves and then laid it on as a track, or if Dan Miller is hanging around in the studio while they record, providing background music? I suppose someone has to be directing, right? Hmmmm. Something to ponder.

Also, was anyone else as shocked as I was to realize how large those puppets are when you first saw the picture of the Johns holding them? They are huge compared to the little hand puppets I always pictured.

#14 - Higher Education

If it weren't for TMBG, I would never remember that James K. Polk was our 11th president. I wouldn't have a clue who James Ensor was. I would not know what causes the nuclear reactions on the sun, or that an echidna was a mammal or that marmalade originated in Scotland (or at least one particular kind did). I would probably still be confused about the difference between speed and velocity and I wouldn't remember nearly as much about the blood cycle as I do. And I most definitely would not immediately think Constantinople when ever I shelf a travel guide to Istanbul at work.

As someone who relies heavily on popular culture for a significant amount of the knowledge I have retained, I am eternally grateful to TMBG for furthering my education and providing me with catchy tunes to help me remember facts that will, hopefully, someday help me win Jeopardy. Or at the very least a game of Trivial Pursuit.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

#15 - Melody, Fidelity, Quantity

Ok, so I am really just using that as a handy title that uses melody which is what I am focusing on. (Not to say I don't appreciate the other two as well.)

When it comes to music I tend to be more lyrics and vocal focused, but of course lyrics are just a poem without a good melody (and oddly, I don't tend to like poetry). Sometimes there are melodies or a particular riff that just reach out of a song and grab me. This happens to me more often with TMBG than with any other artist I listen to, partly because I take more care and pay more attention when listening to their music than with most other performers and partly because they have a knack for writing really catchy, pretty, ear grabbing melodies. I also find they do an excellent job layering in the parts of the various instruments to create a whole piece of music, particularly on the later albums with the live band.

Having finally acquired my own copy of The Else recently (rather than coping off my boyfriend's) I've been listening to that in the car a lot and realizing what an incredible album it is musically. I think I discounted it too much at first because not enough of the lyrics grabbed me but I am coming to realize that it's the music and instrumentation that get me on that record. The bass on Take Out the Trash, pretty much everything on With the Dark. And I will say it again. The keyboard part of Withered Hope is probably my all time favorite musical phrase.

One of my favorite things to do at a show these days, when I am listening to a song i have heard a billion times before, is to focus in on one instrument's part and listen to it all the way through. I find this rather eye opening for me as I suddenly discover a really interesting rhythm guitar line in something or a particularly complex bass line that I never noticed before because the music blends together so well.

I seem to have these "Ah-Ha" moments a lot. I was listening to something in the car the other day, I think it might have been My Man, and suddenly realized that it was a really pretty song and I had never noticed.

I keep meaning to make a mix collection of all the TMBG instrumentals. I can't think of any other rock band that has produced so many lovely little instrumentals, partly a product of doing incidental music I'm sure, but also, I think, just out of a love of melody. I'm waiting for the TMBG symphony.

Some of my other favorite melodies: Road Movie to Berlin, Self Called Nowhere, Dig My Grave, We Live in a Dump, Someone Keeps Moving My Chair, Apartment Four, 813 Mile Car Trip, Electric Car, Subliminal (duh), AKA Driver, Museum of Idiots,  End of the Tour, Bangs, Man, It's So Loud in Here, Fibber Island, Sleepwalkers, Damn Good Times, Ana Ng, She's an Angel, I've Got A Match, They'll Need a Crane, Don't Let's Start and The Famous Polka.

#16 - Unusual Instruments

When it comes to atypical instruments in rock music, it's more a question of what haven't They used than what they have. Flex-a-tone, Marxaphone, rauschpfeife, euphonium, clarinet, glockenspiel, stylophone, Kaoss Pad, musical saw, harpsichord, melodica, piccolo, gong, whip, harmonica, mandolin, kazoo, cowbell, ukulele, autoharp, celesta, banjo, and possibly my very favorite of all these The Stick. I'm sure there are countless others. I really enjoy that all of these things are used out of a desire to include things that sound cool and find the sound that works best in the song, rather than as just a gimmick. And all these unusual instruments are just one of the many things that makes the band so unique.

I wish I had a picture of Flans with The Stick or Linnell playing cowbell to share but I didn't have my camera with me at the show that included both. So you will have to settle for this stylophone picture.

6/12/09 #10

More Cowbell!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stage Announcements - 8/27/2010

All reports seem to indicate that the band had an excellent trip to the West Coast last weekend.

There is a review of the Napa show with a few pictures here:


There are pictures from Stern Grove from Flickr user michaelz1 here:


And check out this cute story about an awesome marriage proposal the band helped to orchestrate. I would like this to be me someday.


And it case you missed it (and I doubt anyone did since they already have 6,533 followers), They Might Be Giants now have a Twitter account. You can follow them here: http://twitter.com/tmbg

Thursday, August 26, 2010

#17 - Lyrical Masterminds

Boy, do these guys know how to craft a line. From sad to funny to profound and back again within the space of a single song. Even when the lyrics are complete nonsense the words flow together in such a way that it makes you forget you are listening to a song about, for example a floating hat. And then when you do realize this the lyrics are even more brilliant BECAUSE they are about a floating hat.

I have said before that I am not huge into interpreting lyrics, mostly because I tend to take them at face value. I would rather assume Hovering Sombrero is, in fact, just an encouraging song sung to a floating hat than read more into it. However, some of the brilliance of lyrics like these is that they can be equally enjoyed by those wish to find a deeper meaning in the floating hat.

I'm kind of fascinated by the way Linnell has said he writes songs, which is, typically, melody first. I always picture him piecing in lyrics after the fact based on words the rhyme nicely and have the right number of syllables. My theory is that songs about floating hats, night lights, mammals and pencils all exist out of a need for a theme to tie a bunch of lines together with a melody and Linnell wandering about the world until something struck his fancy. The fact that wonderful, profound lyrics come out of this process is mind boggling. I choose to think of Don't Let's Start as my favorite "piece the words in" method song and I love it, love it, love it. (And yes, I do realize that this is in itself a form of interpretation so I am, in a way, contradicting myself.)

I find Flansburgh's songs to be a bit less literal which may be part of the reason I tend not to favor Linnell's. I find that I have to actually think about Flans' songs and sometimes I just don't get it. Then others I adore, so who knows. But he has a beautiful way of writing a line. One of my favorites of his is from I Blame You, a song to which I am otherwise largely indifferent. This is just a beautiful and heartbreaking idea expressed in a beautiful way.

He drops his car keys/ And crawls on the ground/ Finds her old hair comb/ She'd wear into town/ Can't bear to keep it/ Or throw it away/ Gets back down on his knees/ Puts it back where it lay/ Back where it lay

I've already said I love the songs told by the Unreliable Narrator. I also love the songs that are one giant tongue twister. Especially because it is not so much that the words are particularly hard on the tongue, it's the speed with which they are sung. And that the rhythms of those particular words sound good at those speeds. Songs like Letterbox, Dinner Bell and Rhythm Section Want Ad come to mind. I love trying to sing along to these in the car and getting my tongue all tied in knots.

A few of my other favorite lines:

You could be a float for the Fourth of July/ Based on your theme of "Wallflowers Grown Wild"

Is it that time again? Wasn't it already then? So does it have to be The time it was again?

And the truth is we don't know anything

I'll save others for a Audience Participation post on favorite lyrics that I've been attempting to do for ages.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#18 - Foam Fingers

How cool is it that a rock band gives out giant foam fingers to their fans? Not only fun and silly, but generous too. Sure, they've been mostly reserved for the kiddos lately but I went to my fair share of shows where it was "foam fingers for all." I admit I have been greedy with the giant hands. I believe, between the boyfriend and I, we have 10, mostly orange, with a few yellow. There have been green ones at recent shows and I covet one. Seems like a silly thing to covet but there it is. I have fond memories of waving my foam hand enthusiastically at my first stage-side show at The Egg while I danced and bounced around like a looney.

Here is a picture of my portion of our hand collection in my room. If you stuck you hand in them, you would find that many of them are stuffed with confetti. And yes, they are displayed with my Lord of the Rings action figures, thank you very much. For I am a geek, and proud of it!

Foam Fingers

There's A Picture Opposite Me - 8/25/10

Another offering from Jamie.


"Bangs are that on which the world hangs." Bangs - They Might Be Giants

Please send submissions to theroommustlistentome@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#19 - Accordion

There are less than 20 days left in the countdown!  I am finally feeling like I might actually make it.

Accordion! You can not really love They Might Be Giants and not love the accordion. It just doesn't work.  I guess I am a fan of unusual instruments in rock music, in general. This certainly qualifies. The accordion has such a unique sound to it, that oddly blends in with the electric guitars and drums and horns quite well. Especially on the really bombastic rocking songs. Sometimes I look back and am a little sad that I missed out on the earlier years when the accordion was more heavily used in live shows. (But I think I just unintentionally named why it isn't now; the thing is heavy!) A couple of my favorite moments from recent shows were when, for one reason or another, Linnell started to play Ana Ng on the accordion before switching to keyboard (my very favorite being in Chicago when he did it without notifying the rest of the band that they were going to play it and left everyone scrambling for appropriate instruments). I love how the crowd cheers every time he picks up the accordion now.

Remember my story from my last show in Baltimore? Where Stacy and I got all accordioned on in the front row in Particle Man and the woman behind us leaned over to say "That doesn't happen everyday!" and Stacy whispered to me "well, actually it kind of does." Well, I wouldn't have it any other way :-)

TMBG 5/23/10b #11

Stop Rock Video

Inspired by this weekend's Direct from Brooklyn viewing with my band pals, today's Audience Participation topic is Favorite Videos. Anything released or condoned by the band is eligible.

I am giving you my list but I can never quite make up my mind about which videos are my favorite so I can't promise they will be in the same order next week or next month.

10. Hovering Sombrero - The little Quickcam vid in the airport. It so obviously looks like Linnell just got bored and decided to make a video and yet it is wonderful in ways I can't fully explain.
9. Older - The Brave New World video. Oddly, a still from this video was my very first introduction to The Band of Dans and yet even though I watched it once, I completely forgot about it's existence until last week. Which is a shame since I discovered I find it endlessly amusing.
8. D is for Drums - The bit where Flans sings "I can't think, there's too much noise" and Marty stops playing to twirl the drum stick around. And I heart those puppets.
7. Electric Car - This video is a work of art. I can not even imagine how long it took the animators to put it all together. And it's adorable too.
6. Ana Ng - Everything about this one is wonderful.
5. Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head - My two favorite moments of this are the brief shot where Linnell sticks his tongue out at the camera and the last shot of Flans touching his cheek with that dopey expression on his face.
4. They'll Need a Crane - Linnell's dancing. That is all.
3. Nine Bowls of Soup - "Please can I some Mr. Ichthyosaur?" No, you can't. I've saving them for friends." See my blog icon photo for the explanation on this one.
2. Robot Parade - The bonus video on the ABCs disc. I only rediscovered this recently but OH MY GOD, I love this video. I love it so much it almost edged out my number one (psst... it's the presence of the band that does it, you know I have a fondness for those guys).
1. Don't Let's Start - I had to think about this really hard to come to this decision. I might change my mind yet, but there it is.

Bonus points also go to the Birdhouse video which I find I do not love in the way I love some of the others but yet, I continually half-joke about re-enacting this video at my wedding as a flash mob thing with members of the wedding party during the first dance. So if you ever get invited to my wedding, beware, you may be recruited.

Monday, August 23, 2010

#20 - John Linnell's Hair

Ok, let's all just get this out in the open and admit it. Everyone has favorite Linnell hair. Yes, even you tough looking guy in the back. You know you do. Even the most devout Flansburgh fans among us have an opinion on the matter. Let's face it. The man just has wonderful hair. Obviously, the world recognizes this, as Linnell is one of only a very few people to have an entire Facebook group dedicated to his hair (believe me, I checked).

I try to steer clear of getting too overly fangirlish on this blog (which may be a bit relative), but it slips out sometimes and this entry simply can't be helped. I apologize for my deplorable lack of self control when it comes to discussing Linnell's hair.

Here I go, damning myself.

My favorite Linnell hair style has everything to do with the appropriate length. Typically, I think it hits it just before he gets it cut. It can't be too short (yikes) and definitely not too long (double yikes). It has to achieve the optimum level of floppiness when he jumps up and down during The Guitar or Birdhouse in order for me to rule a particular show or photo to have perfect Linnell hair. It comes and goes. Excepting the extremes, (either too long or short) his hair looks wonderful no matter what but occasionally when the stars align it looks simply phenomenal.

To give you an idea of how much I pay attention to this, last year I had to work during one of the band's TV appearances and asked my boyfriend later how it was. He told me the performance had been excellent but that he had to warn me that Linnell had gotten a haircut. "Bad," I asked? "Not as bad as in February," he replied, "but it's pretty short." "Well, at least it has a few weeks to grow out before our next show," I said.

While part of me recognizes how sad this conversation truly was, there is another part that appreciates how well my boyfriend knows me, that the state of Linnell's hair would be a matter of concern. The fact that he, as a decidedly straight male, can recognize good Linnell hair when he sees it, would seem to prove my point that everyone has favorite Linnell hair.

To give you a visual reference, the They'll Need a Crane video has perfect hair. The Puppet Head video too. I actually think Birdhouse is a little short and The Guitar is far too long. I can live with Statue Got Me High but it's not my favorite.

I believe my least favorite cut I've seen is this one (the aforementioned cut from last February) :

2/28/09 #36

While my most favorite I've seen in person is this:

TMBG 7/11/09 #19

I could come up with a dozen other pictures that are lovely but I don't like cribbing other people's shots. I'm sure you get the idea without me waxing lyrical for hours on end. Suffice it to say, you know that Facebook group I mentioned? I am so a member.

#21 - Broom

Proving it takes very little to amuse me, I adore Broom. He's a broom. With a face made of tape. That changes color depending on what type of tape they picked up when they went to put his face on. And occasionally still has dust and dirt on his head from being an actual broom that comes off in poofs when Flans swishes his head. I find this endlessly entertaining. I love the silly voice Flans uses for Broom and how he is completely visible while operating Broom but pretends that he isn't. I love how often Broom can completely crack up Linnell. Some of my favorite Broom moments include his MC duties at the recent Baltimore show, the Celebrate Brooklyn show last summer where they stopped mid-song to explain that the meaning of servitude was "a server with attitude" and the Tarrytown show where we actually saw a tech run out and purchase "Broom" at a local hardware store before the show. And my very, very favorite was his rare appearance for adults at LPR last May when he felt like Bob Saget and said "fuck" a whole heck of a lot. Oh, Broom. The poor put-upon piece of stage equipment who wants to be a star and never, ever gets around to cleaning up the confetti. I'll see you at your next gig at Pianos.

5/9/09a #18

Saturday, August 21, 2010

#22 - The Dunkin Donuts Ads

TMBG's string of Dunkin Donut ads were one of my very early introductions to the band. I was actually aware of the ads before I knew they were TMBG and was very excited to learn this fact later. While some call these little commercial ditties selling out, I call them not only clever and catchy advertising but also just fun and silly little songs that stand on their own even outside the ad. I really appreciate that TMBG does not compromise on their music no matter what they are writing. For the most part, these are fully realized 30 second rock songs. And the DD folks didn't due to bad with the visuals either. These two are my favs. I especially love the turtle in the second one.

#23 - The Kids Videos

When TMBG does kids music they do it right, with visual accompaniment. I love the kids songs. I LOVE the kids videos. They are adorable, funny, educational and enhance the music rather than distracting from it. They showcase a wealth of talented animators who often include smart little in jokes that make me giggle. It Might Be Pizza anyone? My favorite buddies, the puppets pop up now and then. And the occasional live videos are stellar. Don't tell anyone but I think I may like the Robot Parade video better than any of the rock videos. Shhhhh.

Here are a few of my favorites.

P.S. One of the kids videos (One Two Three Four) is also responsible for what is by far the best design note I have ever heard: "Linnell sees tugboats." You might need to know the little known fact that I LOVE tugboats (I even got to ride on one last year!) to understand why I find this so funny.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stage Announcements - 8/20/2010

Two pieces of news today.

First, Flansburgh offers some quotes to this article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Unfortunately, the rest of the article reads like it was culled from Wikipedia.


And second, They Might Be Giants have written a possible theme for Madeleine Brand's radio show on NPR. She's collecting comments on the theme and seems unconvinced as to whether it is appropriate for a morning radio show. Take a listen and see what you think.


If any of you are in California and planning to attend any of the three TMBG shows this weekend, I would much appreciate setlists, show reports and most especially pictures. I would pretty much give my right arm to be there right now.

Oh, and don't forget to tune in to Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child tomorrow to hear the new theme song TMBG has written for them. 8:00am Eastern.

#24 - Marty's Many "Drumming Faces"

Marty makes the most entertaining faces while he drums, possibly without even realizing it (I've always kind of wondered about that - whether it is completely unconscious or not). The percentage of time he spends drumming with his tongue sticking out is highly amusing. And while I partly love watching him screw his face up because it's funny, I also love it because it shows just how into it he is. It doesn't matter what he is playing, he throws himself into every song with such force and wild (yet controlled) abandon that it shows on his face. This is never better illustrated than when he attempts to wreck his drum kit at the end of each show, but look at him at any point in a show and he probably has a fantastic expression on his face. I'm going to let the following pictures illustrate my point.

5/30/09 #53

5/30/09 #54

6/13/09 #10

6/14/09 #68

TMBG 7/11/09 #22

TMBG 10/8/09 #71

TMBG 10/10/09b #3

TMBG 10/15/09 #25

TMBG 10/17/09b #19

TMBG 4/22/10 #22

TMBG 4/22/10 #40

TMBG 4/22/10 #42

TMBG 4/22/10 #63

TMBG 4/22/10 #86

TMBG 4/22/10 #94

TMBG 4/22/10 #97

TMBG 4/22/10 #110

TMBG 5/23/10a #2

TMBG 5/23/10a #14

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

#25 - Audience Participation

I am a fan of audience participation (as long as it does not involve me being singled out and humiliated in front of a large group of people). I like feeling like I am a part of what is going on and the solidarity of doing something (usually quite silly), with a large group of strangers.

At a TMBG show, I sort of feel like the audience participation parts are my roll in a piece of theater. I feel it is my civic responsibility as a front row fan to execute this roll to the best of my ability so as to act as an example and motivation for all those standing behind me. Also I am afraid to say no to Flans when he tells me to do something.

I also love knowing what my part in the show is. I guess it makes me feel like a real fan somehow. I know when to clap and jump and stomp my feet. I can holler back "drink" and demand cake on cue. I have learned to count to nine and clap on the back beat even when the music stops. I will always wave as the lion says goodbye. I dutifully chant for Danny and scream until my throat is sore for Marty. When pressed I will even do jazz hands and conga. Do I look like an idiot doing these things? Probably. Do I care? Not in the least. Does it make me feel good to bounce in the air with 500 other fans? Every frickin' time.

Incidentally, I have lately been listening to a recording of the Apollo 18 show at LPR from a couple years back. I must say that, while I did not appreciate it at the time because I was so distracted by the obnoxious asshole behind me, that show has some of the best uninstructed audience participation I have ever heard. There are entire songs where the audience is providing the harmonies and the backing vocals. There is the stellar See the Constellation where the audience provides the "hey" samples in all the right places. Mammal, where you can beautifully hear Linnell sing "Mammal" and the audience reply softly, "mammal". Turn Around, where the audience provides the backing "round" in each chorus. And my personal favorite, in the middle of Fingertips when the audience is singing along so purposefully that they beat Linnell to the punch on "Mysterious Whisper" so loudly that he stutters and comes in halfway through the word "mysterious" in an attempt to catch up with the crowd. I realize that these aren't quite true instances of audience participation in the sense I was referring to, but I have to say I am so proud to have been part of a crowd that was that familiar with every note of every song, even if I was too much of a newbie at the time to participate myself.

Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap, Stomp, Stomp, Stomp, Stomp, Jump, Jump, Jump, Jump, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

There's A Picture Opposite Me - 8/18/10

Roy G. Biv

Roy G. Biv - They Might Be Giants

Please send submissions to theroommustlistentome@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

#26 - The Unreliable Narrator

This guy gets a lot of play in interviews as one of the staple tools of the They Might Be Giants song writing. Essentially, he is the anonymous character telling the story in a lot of their songs but he has a tendency to forget things, twist the truth or just flat out lie a lot. Oddly, I see a lot of parallels with the persona Flansburgh cultivates on stage. Hmmmmm. I wonder where he got that idea from?

There are probably dozens of songs from the point of view of the unreliable narrator, most of them wonderful, but I don't think he ever appears more prominently and brilliantly than in Purple Toupee, twisting and confusing his memories of the 60s into one flat out awesome song.

I look forward to future encounters with this well traveled character. He seems to have led such an interesting life. Can't wait to hear his next story.

This Is The Way The Talking Part Goes

Keeping on the stage banter theme that I started in my earlier post, today's Audience Participation entry is a list of some of my favorite bits of stage banter. I'm not going to go so far as to say these are my absolute favorites because it is highly likely that I am forgetting even more. They are largely from the last year because I wasn't terribly good at noting down specific quotes before then. I am also sticking with shows I attended rather than recorded live shows, with two exceptions from a show that my boyfriend attended without me and has the recording of. If you haven't been to many live shows or there are just recorded shows you like, feel free to include them on your own list.

The numbers are only to indicate how many there are, not necessarily an order of preference. Also, I apologize for all the swearing. It would appear I favor quotes with "fuck" in them. Also, very heavy on the Flans quotes. Not sure why.

15. Flans: "Do you know why I pulled you over Mr. Whale? Do you know how fast you were going?" - AMNH - 10/4/09 - After Marty demoed some whales sounds followed by police sirens on the electric kit.

14. Flans: "Did we miss anything else? Did we forget to play all of Lincoln before we started?" - The Pageant - 10/9/09 - After being constantly reminded by Danny that they had skipped various songs while playing Flood.

13. Green Avatar: "The phrase 'rock out with our socks out' is TM the Avatars so you better not use it on your blogs or our lawyers will be on your ass faster than you can say Walt Disney Corporation." - The Pageant - 10/9/09

12. Flans: "Have you been drinking?"
      Linnell: "Have you NOT been drinking?" - Wolf Den - 11/27/09

11. Linnell: "This next song is about a bunch of guys who really made a MESS of things."
      Flans: "John, our freak flag just fell on the ground. We need to burn it." - Calvin Theater - 12/31/09

10. 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 kids show is it?" - Exit/ In - 3/9/10

9. Flans: "This one's mine. Fuck you." Stone Pony - 6/11/10 - In reference to what the imaginary Guitar Center employees wrote on the guitars before donating them to the club.

8. Linnell: "A chimp playing a theremin on the sun...people."
    Flans: "This show isn't free. They're torturing us!" - Rose Kennedy Greenway - 4/22/10

7. Flans: "Linnell's slogan for his 2004 presidential campaign: John Linnell - Givin' a shit." - Avalon - 9/18/04

6. Flans: "Marty Beller: Strong enough for a man but made for a woman." - Beachland Ballroom - 10/15/09

5. Flans: "Does anyone in the audience have a mallet?" - The National - 3/11/10 - After being unable to find a mallet to play the bass drum with on Whistling in the Dark

4. Linnell: "How ya' feelin', Flans?" - Visulite - 3/10/10 - Checking up on Flans after a bad night.

3: Linnell: "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 wont help him when he's dead!" - Orange Peel - 3/9/10

2. Flans: "Danny was backstage smoking a menthol and was like pirate style?! I better get out there!" - Stone Pony - 6/11/10

1. Flans: "We've been saying fuck it since 1982." - Avalon - 9/18/04

Monday, August 16, 2010

#27 - Stage Banter

Let's face it, half the fun of going to a show is the stage banter. It doesn't matter how many times you've seen them do Flood (ahem, 12), every show is made unique by the candid dialogue on stage. I am pretty sure the Johns could have had a pretty successful career as a comedy duo if the rock thing didn't work out for them, but then I suspect at least some of the reason the rock thing DID work out is their on stage antics.

From Flansburgh's biting observations on venues, fans and the general state of the union, to Linnell's stream of consciousness ramblings on whatever happens to strike him at the moment, I am usually just as entertained by what goes on between songs as during them.

I think part of the reason the raps (as Dan Miller used to call them) work so well is that really a lot of them are basically just two friends riffing with each other, only there happens to be an audience. My very favorite moments are when one of them manages to crack-up the other, or even better, when they manage to crack-up the entire band. I also love the recurring jokes, especially those that pop up several nights in a row, often without explanation at the later shows (if ever). I feel like my reward for going to so many shows is being in on those jokes.

So bring on the talking part, whether the topic be current events, beards, the last horrid venue they played, the current status of Dan's citizenship or the meaning of the H. in Danny's name. I promise I will laugh in all the right places. And the wrong ones.


P.S. Stay tuned for today's Audience Participation, also on the topic of stage banter, coming shortly.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

#28 - Miller Time

This seemed like an appropriate pick for today since I mentioned it in yesterday's post.

The only downside to having horns at a TMBG show is that I miss out on Dan Miller's fantabulous guitar intro to Istanbul (because the horns do the intro instead). Dubbed Miller Time on many a setlist (among other things), Dan gets the opportunity to take the basic rhythm of Istanbul and run wild with it, usually in a sort of Spanish flamenco style that shows his mastery over the acoustic guitar. To let Dan describe it himself:

"There is acoustic solo in front of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” that I really enjoy doing. It’s a chance to work into the show some things that I’ve been working on in private study. The only criterion is that at some point I state the melody to show the crowd where we’re heading. If the tune is going well the band will join in and it becomes this spontaneous composition. When the stars align and I’ve done my finger exercises I think it’s one of the high points of the show as neither we nor the crowd know how it’s going to end up. Occasionally it’s a train wreck, but there is learning in those times, too." (Quoted from this interview.)
 At a lot of shows you can tell that the majority of the crowd has no idea what he is playing until he weaves in a little bit of the Istanbul melody and they all erupt into cheers. This allows me to have a private moment to enjoy being one of the few people in the room to know what comes next. And oh, what comes next. Aside from fact that Dan is a KICK-ASS guitar player and the solo displays this brilliantly, my favorite part of the whole thing is the end where he increasingly revs up the speed until his hand is moving so fast it is just a blur and yet he is still playing actual notes and rhythm and absolutely blowing my mind EVERY TIME. Plus I love watching the entertaining way he bobs his head while he plays.

I've included my video of what is probably my favorite Miller Time I remember hearing, but there was also a fantastic one in Worcester a couple of years ago where they started the show with just Dan on stage doing the solo in a single spotlight. It was pretty epic. But then, Dan is pretty epic in any lighting.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

#29 - The Velcro Horns (and friends)

Horns!! Wanna know a secret? OK, it's not really a secret. I used to be a horn player. I played trumpet in school from fourth grade until my senior year when I played my last concert and then never picked up my trumpet again. (It wasn't that I didn't like it, because it did, it's just that I was never very good and I knew it.) So I have a soft spot for horn players.

There are some TMBG songs that are made so much better by the horns they almost shouldn't play them without at least one horn present (The Guitar springs to mind). And there are so many other songs that are made so much better by adding a trumpet or a sax or the whole bunch. There have been several incarnations of the horn ensemble over the years, but that's OK because I love them all. I must claim the current group (Dan, Stan, Curt and bonus point to Ralph) as my own though because they are the only ones I have seen live.

I love watching Dan on stage because he always looks like he's having so much fun even when he's just sitting and waiting for his turn to play. I love Stan's parade of flashy and exciting shoes. I love the endless ice cream mountain jokes about Curt. And even if it was only for one tour, Ralph's level of showmanship blew me away.

If it wasn't for the fact that I would miss seeing Dan Miller's intro to Istanbul I would gladly welcome horns at every show.

TMBG 12/31/09 #10

TMBG 10/10/09b #10

TMBG 7/11/09 #10


30 Things I Love About They Might Be Giants

I am 30 days away from my next TMBG show. As you can imagine I am looking forward to this more than just a little bit. I have only missed these guys like I would miss my right arm.

I thought it would be fun to do a little countdown of sorts, kind of my equivilent of marking days off on the calander.

So I am going to countdown 30 Things I Love About They Might Be Giants, one a day, between now and September 11th. They won't be in any particular order. It is entirely likely that many of them will end up getting posted after midnight (like this one) because that is usually when I am awake and motivated, but I will still count them as the previous day's entry.

So, in keeping with the puppet centric theme of the day...

#30 - The Avatars of They

TMBG 10/2/09 #7

Sock puppets at a rock show. Let me repeat. SOCK PUPPETS AT A ROCK SHOW. Menthol smoking, snack stealing, grouchy, bitter puppets at a rock show. I heart them from the tops of their coffee cup hats to the bottoms of their...oh wait, they don't have bottoms because they are sock puppets. Blue Avatar's constant obsession with his coffee cup hat and propensity for sticking his eyeballs in the camera. Green Avatar's random comments and occasionally visible human controller. I love that the puppets seem to go over better at rock shows than kids shows and their set often lasts longer. I love them for singing Lay Lady Lay at a family show. I love the James Cameron jokes that the kids don't get and the slave driver James Cameron who threatens to choke them if they don't sing. I love the way they stare at Dan during his solo and it really looks like they are staring at him even though their eyes are made of yarn. And I love them for resurrecting songs like Shoehorn and Stalk of Wheat. I am proud to say I was there for their first show and I hope to be there for their last if there must be one. I am thoroughly looking forward to whatever videos they are doing with them no matter what form they take.

It is our pleasure to serve you indeed.

Sea of hands, people.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stage Announcements - 8/13/2010

Actually have a new interview for you today with some exciting tidbits about puppets. I am really looking forward to this :-)


And if you live in the UK, make sure to download your copy of Birdhouse in Your Soul, so we can see how high it can make it in the charts (mostly thanks to a shoe ad no less).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

There's a Picture Opposite Me - 8/11/10

Like the Longines Symphonette

"My story's infinite, like the Longines Symphonette it doesn't rest." - Birdhouse in Your Soul - They Might Be Giants

Please send submissions to theroommustlistentome@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Every Album

I'm sorry for this terribly rushed post. I felt awful earlier today, then had to work and I need to get to bed for work again so this is going to be very hurried. I apologize.

In an effort to do a quick and easy post, I am giving you a list of my favorite song of off each album (just the regular ones, not all the extras). But to keep it from being too boring and too much of a repeat from other entries, I'm also going to give you a sleeper favorite from each album. By which I mean a lesser known and loved song that I happen to adore and don't give enough (or any) attention to on all of my various favorites lists.

Here goes.

They Might Be Giants
Favorite: Don't Let's Start
Sleeper: Rhythm Section Want Ad

Favorite: Ana Ng
Sleeper: Mr. Me

Favorite: Birdhouse in Your Soul (Duh)
Sleeper: Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love

Apollo 18
Favorite: Fingertips
Sleeper: Dinner Bell

John Henry
Favorite: Subliminal
Sleeper: Thermostat

Factory Showroom
Favorite: Till My Head Falls Off
Sleeper: Metal Detector

Long Tall Weekend
Favorite: Certain People I Could Name
Sleeper: Dark and Metric

Mink Car
Favorite: Man, It's So Loud in Here
Sleeper: Wicked Little Critta

Favorite: Where Do They Make Balloons?
Sleeper: The House At the Top of the Tree

The Spine
Favorite: Museum of Idiots
Sleeper: Stalk of Wheat

Here Come the ABCs
Favorite: Alphabet Lost and Found (but only because I find the recorded version of Alphabet of Nations on this album so inferior to the live version)
Sleeper: D is for Drums

The Else
Favorite: Withered Hope
Sleeper: With the Dark

Here Come the 123s
Favorite: Nine Bowls of Soup
Sleeper: Nonagon

Here Comes Science
Favorite: I Am A Paleontologist
Sleeper: Photosynthesis

This is actually kind of an interesting exercise because there are several albums that have multiple of my very favorite songs on them so this forces me to look at my favorites just in terms of albums and pull out some songs I don't recognize enough. It's also just given me an idea for another entry. Maybe I'll give you a bonus one tomorrow to make up for this rushed one. Hmmmmm.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stage Announcements - 8/6/2010

Ok, I admit it. I forgot to do Friday's post before I went off on my day's adventures. There wasn't any news to report anyway but you can have this tiny belated post as consolation.

Interesting bit of trivia from my day: I saw Iggy doing lights at the free outdoor OK Go show I went to in Providence this evening. I came around a corner and there he was. He was on the phone but we had a brief "hey, I know you" moment and waved at each other. It was an excellent show too, even though I couldn't see very well.

On the subject of stage techs, I found this article interesting. Vince was the sound guy on the leg of the Fall TMBG tour that we road tripped.


And one from the retro files:



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

There's a Picture Opposite Me - 8/4/10

This is another from the mind of Megan.

Withered Hope

"And he cut out a paper heart, pinned it to his arm, gave her everything he was holding in his head, this is what he said" - Withered Hope - They Might Be Giants

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fan Confessions

All right, we are going to have a little fun at our own expenses today. It's time to embrace the shame and air all of your embarrassing secrets. Well, all of your TMBG related ones anyway.

Maybe it's the lyrics you misheard for years (Come on, somebody entered "I don't want the world, I just want to wear hats" into the wiki. Was it you?) Maybe it's the song everyone else in the world seems to love that you can't stand (There has to be a fan out there somewhere that hates Birdhouse). It could be the album you've never listened to, the video you've never seen, the picture of Flansburgh that is tacked to the ceiling over your bed. Anything that puts a ding in your uber-fan street cred or just makes you cringe a little to admit.

Please note, this is meant to be funny, not painful or creepy. Keep that in mind when you are sharing. In other words, that thing you'd really like to do with that member of the band (and I don't mean get a cup of coffee), yeah, keep that one to yourself.

Here goes nothing:

  • For probably two years, I thought the line in Till Your Head Falls Off was "There were 87 apples in the bottle."
  • I do not actually know all the lyrics to probably about half the songs. I know all the songs, I know at least some of the lyrics of all of them but there are dozens of them that I couldn't sing through without a lyric sheet. Which may not seem that strange until you consider I still know most of the words to the songs in my third grade musical. I blame this mostly on the next thing on the list.
  • I do not own all of the albums (and thus I don't have all the liner notes to look at while listening). My boyfriend has everything and I have made a huge series of mix CDs from his albums that I listen to in my car constantly but they are grouped by favorites rather than albums. Which puts me in the strange position of not actually owning my two favorite albums (John Henry and Here Come the 123s) and leads to:
  • I can not reliably link songs to albums. Because I don't usually listen to the albums as a whole, I frequently forget which songs are on which records. The only ones I know reliably are Flood (because I have heard it live soooooo many times) and the kids records because they are so nicely themed. Beyond that it's a crap shoot.
  • I have repeatedly had to ask my boyfriend if the correct name of the song is Where Your Eyes Don't Go or Won't Go while writing recaps on the road. I never remember the answer from one time to the next.
  • I do not particularly care for Particle Man, especially the recorded version. 
  • I actually tend to prefer the later years to the early years. 
  • I have an entire collection of pictures of the band's shoes. It's on Flickr. You can go check (and yes, there is a story behind it. I don't just have a thing for shoes, though I now get excited when I see one of them is wearing a new pair.)
  • I joined MySpace, Live Journal and Tumblr all specifically to follow band related things.
  • My boyfriend and I have created Lego version of all of the band members. It is a work in progress but we have actually gone so far as to order specific parts online for the purpose.
  • I skipped most of one of my best friend's bachelorette party to go to a TMBG show.
  • Not counting people I work with, I see the band more often than I see most of my friends.
  • I bought two different collections of Rock music Silly Bandz so that I could represent each of the guy's guitars (I wanted the Fender and the Gibson and yes, I can tell the difference in Silly Band form).
  • I will readily admit that Linnell is my favorite John personally, but I feel somewhat bad admitting that I prefer his songs almost across the board. You might note in my top 25 songs I listed a while back, there are only 2 Flansburgh tunes (plus one he wrote that Linnell sings). I am not actually ashamed of this, it just feels disloyal somehow to admit it.
  • Flansburgh actually terrifies me a bit. Don't get me wrong, I love him dearly, but I find him very intimidating. I fear him in the way I feared my old boss, meaning I really just fear pissing him off. 
  • I harbor a fierce loyalty to the members of the backing band and for a long time I would not allow myself to choose a favorite among them because it felt disloyal in the way that picking a favorite child does. I still feel this way, however.....
  • (Pssst, as you may have suspected I've got kind of a thing for Danny.)
  • I am actually a little disappointed if Danny doesn't smile at me at least once at every show. How's that for stupid fangirl?
  • It is my dream to someday conduct fan interviews with each member of the band. This will never happen but I can dream right?
  • I secretly hope that I will someday be invited out for coffee with the guys. Really, who doesn't?
  • My very fondest wish would be to work for the band. I would love to be the office girl/personal assistant/gal Friday/merch queen whatever. As long as I got to go out on tour I would be happy doing anything. And if you know me at all, you know I would actually be pretty damn good at the job too. Ok, now you can laugh and tell me to keep dreaming.
  • And finally, I am in love with this picture. I am not sure why but I keep going back to it again and again. This one and the one of the guys at Sasquatch which I am too lazy to go find right now. http://twitpic.com/19cirz (Sorry the formatting isn't working for me to embed it.)

That's all I can come up with for now. If I think of more I'll add them in. I do actually have one other thing that I could add but I am still hoping there is an outside chance it might happen someday and I don't want to spoil it. I promise I'll share if it ever happens.

Please feel free to laugh and tease (that's kind of the point) but only if you submit at least one confession of your own to be fair :-)