Sunday, January 27, 2013

Delivering Disappointment Since 1982

October 28, 2011 - Pabst Theatre - Milwaukee, WI

This show was the first of a three show road trip with Gary and our friend Rebecca. Not gonna lie, my primary reason for wanting to go was the opportunity to see the First Avenue venue song live. That may be a foolish reason to drive halfway across the country, but the shows were excellent and I came back with some pretty awesome stories so it was totally worth it.

Here's the first one of those stories. We headed out across the country the day before the Milwaukee show. After stopping to pick up Rebecca, we were continuing through Pennsylvania to a half way point I had selected to stop for the night. It was late at night, dark, and I was driving along I-80, a seemingly endless road with not much to see, especially at night. I was driving in the outer lane and casually noticed there was a large bus in the inner lane. I didn't think much of it. Then I looked closer. "That's funny," I thought. "That looks an awful lot like the band's tour bus." Then I thought, "What if it actually is the tour bus?!" I spend another minute looking at it before I decided I needed to determine if it was pulling a trailer to confirm that it was actually the tour bus. I slowed down a little. It was pulling a trailer. "Um, guys?" I said to my companions. "Tour bus," I said, pointing at the bus. There was some brief incredulousness but it soon became very obvious that it was in fact the band's tour bus. We watched Scott walk past a window, and could see Victor removing something from a cabinet inside.

Needless to say, we kind of freaked out. I mean what are the odds that our two vehicles, coming from different destinations, would end up on the exact same stretch of road at the exact same time?! We got a little silly, attempted to take some pictures (which didn't come out very well). I passed the bus and drove in front of them for a bit. Then the bus passed me and we drove behind them for quite a ways. We discussed whether or not we were freaking out the people on the bus by attempting to photograph their bus. Or whether they were aware of us at all (my car does have a TMBG bumper sticker on the back which may have been a giveaway). Rebecca thought she saw someone look out the window at one point, but we couldn't be sure. Eventually, we reached the exit for our hotel and waved goodbye to the bus as we pulled off the highway. To this day, this remains one of my favorite stories, because of the extreme "what are the odds?" factor. And there is a funny coda to the story if you read through to the end of the recap.

The Milwaukee show was seated so there wasn't a need for hours of line waiting. We collected tickets from will call and hung around on the sidewalk outside for a bit, reuniting with the bus, which was parked on the curb. I believe we attempted to watch the You Probably Get That A Lot music video which had just been released, while we were standing outside. I'm not sure which day it was, but Album Raises New And Troubling Questions was also announced while we were on this trip, and I ordered my copy on my phone from the car.

We had tickets that were for the front rows of the theater, but when they began letting people in, we discovered that the front rows had been removed to create a dance floor at the band's request. Anyone with tickets for those rows had a choice of standing by the stage or sitting in the balcony. We of course chose to stand by the stage, as that would have been our preference anyway. But there were people in line in front of us who were pretty miffed about loosing their front row seats and didn't want to stand. It was a very weird place to be, as nearly everyone else in the theater was seated and there was just us a couple of others standing at the front, totally blocking the few of the early rows. Some more people did eventually join us, but venue staff also came through and checked all our tickets again and people that didn't have the tickets for the removed seats were asked to return to their seats until the show started.

The opening band, Gold Motel, was interesting and entertaining to watch. The music was listenable, though I didn't run out and buy their album, but it was the members of the band that made them an entertaining act. Most notable, was their lead guitarist who had clearly spent a lot of time perfecting his "look." Skinny pants and boots, with a tailored jacket. Very deliberately styled hair. And his mannerisms while he played were so put on. He must have decided at some point, "This is the image I want to give off while I play" and then spent time in front of a mirror perfecting it. Rebecca and I spent a good portion of the weekend imitating him. He was a pretty good guitar player though. The frontman of the band, another guitarist, was nerdier and at one of the shows even cardiganed I think. And their lead singer was a girl with a nice voice and light, easy banter with the frontman. One of the other members was a sub, though I can't remember now if it was the drummer or the bass player. I think it was the drummer. I may be mixing them up with another band, but I think this was the drummer who played barefoot too. And the bass player was by far the most normal looking guy in the band. If I had to put a label on them, I'd say they fit in the hipster category pretty well.

Gold Motel #1

The TMBG setlist: Subliminal - The Famous Polka - Can't Keep Johnny Down - Celebration - Snail Shell - Why Does The Sun Really Shine? - Clap Your Hands - Birdhouse In Your Soul - The Guitar - Ana Ng - Battle For The Planet Of The Apes - Dead - Don't Let's Start - Damn Good Times - You Probably Get That A Lot - Spoiler Alert - Cloisonné - Alphabet of Nations - Particle Man - Careful What You Pack - Withered Hope - The Mesopotamians  Encore - Fingertips - When Will You Die  Encore 2 - Lie Still, Little Bottle - Istanbul

Now here's the fun part. This show was over a year ago and my memories of it are pretty vague. But I wrote notes in my phone to help me write the recap, shortly after the show. Trouble is, they are just quickly jotted words and looking back, I have no memory of what some of them mean. They also aren't in chronological order, but just in the order that I remembered things. So here is what I am going to do. I am going to share my notes with you all. The ones I know, I will expand upon. The ones I don't, I'll include just for entertainment purposes or in case someone else reads it and remembers what I was referring to. Hopefully this will still make for an entertaining, and possibly amusing recap.

Indoors men/baseball
Oh good, at least I get to start with one I know. After briefly discussing the World Series, and then admitting they didn't really follow sports, Linnell declared, "We're indoorsmen. We're two with nature."

Teach you how to clap
At one of the times we were required to clap, Flansburgh criticized our technique and then said "We're not going to teach you how to clap, people. We don't have that kind of time."

Dividing the crowd by individual people
In discussing diving the crowd for the ape battle, they joked about dividing us by individual people rather than groups. I can't quite remember what the full extent of the joke was beyond that.

Dan done with guitars, keyboards, rocking climbing, spelunking, French thing
When Dan moved to the keyboard for You Probably Get That A Lot, Flansburgh declared that he was done with guitars and was moving on to the keyboard. Dan played along by waving his hands at his guitars in a dismissive motion. Flans didn't end it there though, declaring that actually Dan was done with music altogether he was moving on to rock climbing. Then it was spelunking. Then "that French thing." (He meant parkour.) Eventually Dan was just laughing. This is actually one of the things that most stands out in my memory of this show, even without my notes. It was just really funny and random.

Mysterious whisper arms
(Clearly this is the Dan Miller section of my notes) When they started Mysterious Whisper in Fingertips, Dan didn't just raise his arms to sway with the music. He shot them into the air like a little kid desperate to be selected to answer a question the teacher just asked. It was sudden and pretty adorable I thought, as he did it with total seriousness.

Guitar bouncing
The guys always bounce up and down when they are playing The Guitar. It's kind of traditional. But on this occasion, Dan got more into it that I ever remember seeing before. He was pogoing up and down on the stage while playing with such enthusiasm it made me giggle.

Dan stealing Danny's spot
I don't remember what song is was, but at some point while Danny was off in another part of the stage, Dan positioned himself in Danny's usual spot. When Danny tried to return to it, Dan indicated that no, he was going to be standing there now and that Danny should go stand in Dan's usual position. He was just being a goof and giving him a hard time, but it was such a perfect example of the easy camaraderie that is apparent between these two guys that always warms my heart.

Linnell yelling Jon Carter
Linnell was attempting to get John Carter's attention off stage to get him to adjust something and Carter wasn't hearing him. So Linnell's yelled his name from the middle of the stage. It was startling for everyone, because you just don't usually hear Linnell say anything that loudly. He apologized and explained he just needed to get his attention. And I believe Flansburgh teased him about it. 
Clarinet mic not working
This one seems pretty self explanatory, though I don't specifically remember it. I guess the clarinet mic wasn't working. I don't even remember if this was the thing Linnell was trying to signal John Carter about?

"back up"
I have no memory of what this one was. Not a clue

Delivering disappointment
In explaining Why Does the Sun Really Shine? Flansburgh said, "They Might Be Giants: Delivering disappointment since 1982." (Thus the title of this recap :-))

"not faking" guitar
No idea what this one was either.

Polka a TMBG tradition
After playing The Famous Polka, Flans commented about polka being popular in this section of the country and said that polka was a TMBG tradition. I found it an especially funny comment given the history of The Famous Polka in Milwaukee.

Flans mimicking Linnell
I thought I remembered what this was but then I realized I was actually remembering a different show. I was gonna say that Flans was standing on stage with his arms crossed doing an impression of Linnell, but now I am just not sure. Stupid failing memory.

Drum circles 6 hours ago
Occupy TMBG
These next few are all part of the Avatars segment. They began it by saying that they needed to hear us scream because the drum circle left six hours ago and it was day 40 of Occupy They Might Be Giants. (Fortunately, Rebecca videoed this part, so I know what all of these references are.)

Wait in suitcase for equal treatment
"We are just going to wait here in our suitcase until we get equal treatment from the crew."

"We are the 5%"

No arms human dignity
"We don't even have arms. It's about human dignity, people."

Dad 60
"Whoa, video feedback. Dad, tell me what the '60s were like."

Party album for adults with swears
The Avatars claimed to be working on a party album for adults that used all the "dirty words."

Bit torrent theyll never find out
Blue Avatar claimed that he had downloaded the song they were about sing on bit torrent. "They'll never find out."

Counting money cigars with 100s
Green said that TMBG never watched this part of the show. They were downstairs counting their money and lighting cigars with $100 bills.

Drum circles after the show
Blue claimed that drum circles would be forming in the parking lot after the show, keeping with the Occupy TMBG theme.

Everyone will get a turn on keyboard
I believe this was a Cloisonné reference Flans made when it was Danny's turn to play the keyboard. 

Experimenting with being an old man
I have since heard both Johns use this line and I couldn't even begin to tell you which of them it was this time. It might have been Flans when he sat down on the drum riser to sing Cloisonné.

Gwenyth Paltrow "that's how it's done" infectious disease Charlie Daniels country strong
This is pieces of a somewhat stream of consciousness tangent that Linnell went on that I couldn't even begin to relate in full because I could barely follow it at the time. I think Flans made a reference to someone's face falling off, or melting off. Linnell said something along the lines of "Like Gwenyth Paltrow in that movie." Which let to some bizarre back and forth between the Johns when it was clear that Linnell was thinking of Contagion. But Flans didn't know what he was talking about.  And somehow they made the connection to Country Strong which had been out fairly recently. I didn't understand the Charlie Daniels reference at the time and still don't. And I have no memory of how the "that's how it's done" fit into it all. 

This time it's John Linnell on keyboard
Continuing the joke about everyone getting to play the keyboard. 

I'm gonna join you on that one Danny
I can't remember who was joining Danny, or on what. Yet another moment lost in time.

San Fran Spokane drinking during the day
Talking about their upcoming tour dates, Flans mentioned San Francisco and Spokane and then made jokes about those places and claimed the people out there would be drinking during the day. I can't remember the exact joke, but it was something about how different the west coast is from the rest of the country.

Wagner/Beethoven murder suicide
Linnell noted that there were busts displayed high up on the wall to the left and right of the stage. I think they may actually have been Wagner and Beethoven. Linnell decided that the two composers had some sort of murder/suicide pact that had resulted in their heads being mounted on the wall.

Sexy bass clarinet
I don't actually remember this reference but does it really need an explanation?

Borders 15 dollar cd sale
This was a reference to shows the band had once played at Borders and the fact that the chain was now out of business. They were joking about taking advantage of the $15 CD sale at the now defunct store. I can't remember if this was actually the same story or even the same show, but I think Borders may have come up because they were describing the fact that it had been very cold when they played there and they learned that the store had no control over their own thermostat because it was controlled by the headquarters which were once near Milwaukee. I believe Flans also made a joke about books being a dying business that made me sad.

Linnell balconey what are you doing way up there VIP section extremely ip
Linnell suddenly noticed the upper balcony and asked the folks what they were doing way up there. He told them they were in the VIP section and they were extremely IP. If memory serves, this was also pretty late in the show, and Linnell noted that he hadn't noticed them up there.

Well, there we go. That is the end of my notes. Hopefully that was entertaining and not too painful and irritating to read.

And I did promise an amusing coda to my bus story for making it through this recap. After the show, Mr. Brunette come over to hand me my setlist. He started to walk away and then turned back to ask, "We you driving here last night in a silver car?" "Yeah," said I, a bit embarrassed. "We saw you!" he said. "We were like, I think it's that girl with the pigtails." I was both mortified and tickled if those two feelings can co-exist. And thus I was officially christened among the crew as "that girl with the pigtails."

Here are a few of my favorite photos from this show:

TMBG 10/28/11 #8

TMBG 10/28/11 #19

TMBG 10/28/11 #25

TMBG 10/28/11 #28

TMBG 10/28/11 #31

TMBG 10/28/11 #38

TMBG 10/28/11 #34

Linnell took a level of enjoyment from accordion-ing over my head I would believe. He certainly seemed entertained by my reaction :-)

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