Monday, February 25, 2013

Beware Falling Microphone Stands

March 10, 2012 - Terminal 5 - New York, NY

I am gonna come right out and say it. Not a fan of Terminal 5. The events of getting into this venue stressed me out so much I was in tears by the time I got to the stage, and it really affected my enjoyment of the whole evening. The venue treated fans like cattle in the stocks, herding us around the facility in bizarre fashion with little idea of what was going on. And they treated the folks on the IFC list even worse, forcing them to wait outside while the rest of us were dumped on a rooftop terrace. I'll spare you a more detailed rant, but suffice it to say, I have never had such a bad experience with a venue and I didn't even get the worst of it.

And it's too bad, because if I can get past the bad memories that preceded the show, the show itself was fantastic. High energy. Super rockin'. There was a celebratory air to the night, I think, both because it was the end of the tour and the band was once again on their home turf. The set was light on banter but heavy on knock-out performances of some of the band's greatest hits.

There was some entertainment to be had while waiting for the show. We took an expedition to Crumbs for delicious cupcakes. And while we spent a lot of time waiting in the cold, the entertainment mostly came from the band's failed attempts to get in to the front door of the venue. The stage door was a block over on the other side of the building, but apparently about half the band didn't get the memo. First Mark Pender, who was once again joining the band on trumpet, appeared and wandered among the fans scattered about the sidewalk. Eventually, Becky took pity on him and told him where to find the door. Then Dan appeared and had to be similarly directed.

Finally, Linnell showed up, having parked in the garage across the street. We saw him peaking out the garage door and then disappear and were sure he was seeking an alternate exit from the garage to avoid the hoard of fans. But he reappeared several minutes later, with a rolling case in tow and headed straight for the crowd. I swear Linnell just has an aura around him that demands respect and the fans on the sidewalk instinctively stepped away to make a path like he was a higher being walking among us. Meanwhile, I drummed up all the courage that was in me and stepped forward to tell him the door was a block over on 55th. Only a sentence but one of my more nerve wracking life experiences. He initially looked alarmed when he realized I was going to say something to him, but switched to relief when he realized I was just offering directions. He said thanks, and rapidly headed off around the block. And I can forever add "gave Linnell directions" to my list of band encounter highlights. (Note: this was the first thing I ever consciously remember saying to the man.)

Then followed all the stressful crap with the venue. But I eventually ended up slightly left of center, in the second or third row. My view was somewhat limited by the very tall people to my right. And our safety was threatened by some overly enthusiastic moshers at center stage, but they pissed off enough people that they were subdued early on.

Jonathan Coulton got things started with a rockin' set of his own. The highlight of his set was that he had invited Suzanne Vega to join him on stage for a performance of Now I Am An Arsonist, which was beautiful and moving.

JoCo setlist: Code Monkey - Sticking It To Myself - Big Bag World One - Still Alive - Je Suis Rick Springfield - Now I Am An Arsonist - I'm Your Moon - Shop Vac - Re: Your Brains - I Feel Fantastic

TMBG setlist: Birdhouse In Your Soul - Cowtown - Mr. Me - Clap Your Hands - Can't Keep Johnny Down - Damn Good Times - Snowball In Hell - Particle Man - Ana Ng - Careful What You Pack - Battle For The Planet Of The Apes - Paranoid - Pandor Jingle - Spoiler Alert - The Mesopotamians - Lie Still, Little Bottle - Cloisonné - Don't Let's Start - We Live In A Dump - Where Your Eyes Don't Go - New York City - Spy - Dr. Evil - Doctor Worm Encore - Celebration - When Will You Die Encore 2 - How Can I Sing Like A Girl? - Istanbul

Several songs in, the Johns paused for a moment to examine their surroundings. They commented on the multiple balconies and the "VVIPP" section. Then scolded someone from throwing something from the balcony. Flansburgh also asked if they used to build boats in the venue. It was just that huge and cavernous.

The Avatars continued to develop their Snowball bridge. Paul informed Joe that he had been drinking coffee for 14 hours, which Joe disputed. But Paul insisted that he knew because he spent all his time watching him. After delivering his "time is money kick" line, Joe told Paul he was going to back away slowly. And Paul said that was find because he could still tell him how he had been following him around even while he was backing away.

The Avatars opened their set with Paranoid rather than talking first. Afterward, Blue declared he was "fucking high" in a falsetto. Then Green said he was low in a deep voice and they riffed back and forth briefly switching from high to low. That amused me. The Supreme Court made another appearance, having once again taken all the Avatars' supply of Pandor and voted 9-0 that the Avatars were awesome. The puppets thanked Jonathan Coulton for letting them ride in his van. They said the Giants had kicked them off the bus halfway through the tour because they got tired of them eating all the cookies. So they had ridden the rest of the way with JoCo and Christian and Adam.

Flansburgh claimed that the bass clarinet had been declared the most endangered instrument in rock music by National Geographic. He also called it the "policeman of the orchestra".

Linnell did his narration about the 30s again during Spy. He actually did it word for word which makes me think he must be quoting something. "This is the sound of the '30s. The sound of the swing era. Sounds kind of scratchy after all these years. If only it sounded like this." Then a bunch of noise from the band. And then a bit about how the music reminded him of being back and some of the classic ballrooms but that you would be unable to recreate it on you 78s.

Robin came out to do Dr. Evil and asked everyone if they had a good Purim. She said that she had realized that there are only two kinds of doctors in the world: good ones and evil ones. After the song, Flans said they were continuing with doctor songs because it was New York. And Linnell added that this song was about the third kind of doctor: the worm doctor.

Which, of course, led into Doctor Worm. And a very memorable performance it was. About halfway through, just after he finished singing some backing vocals on one of the choruses, Dan Miller's mic stand toppled off the stage and onto a photographer in the photographer's pit. It seemed to take Dan a minute to realize what had happened but when he did, he stared down at the scene below for a second with a look of such shock on his face, I couldn't help but laugh. Then he signaled Victor and jumped down into the pit to collect the mic stand and check that the photographer was okay. (He was, as was the camera, miraculously.) Dan passed the stand and the mic back up to Victor, who had it hooked back up in no time flat. Meanwhile, after, giving the photographer a hug, Dan ran around the side of the stage to get back up. Flans and Danny were doing the "solo" and Linnell went over to the keyboard to deliver the all important "horn" sound effect at the end, just as Victor stepped away from the mic and Dan ran across the stage to seamlessly slide back in to the keyboard for the chorus. You wouldn't even know anything had happened if you only saw it from that point on. Danny leapt off the drum riser, the band finished the song, and The Gothamist, whose photographer had been on the receiving end of the mic stand, had a seriously awesome headline for the next day: "They Might Be Giants Almost Killed A Gothamist Photographer Last Night."

The band went right into the 123 Band Intro when they came back for the encore, again without actually introducing the band. Pender rather showed them all up, blowing the roof off the place when it was his turn. Danny responded by taking his towel and walking across the stage to drape it over Pender's head. Pender proceeded to shake his head around with the towel on it, causing it to flap around. It was rather ridiculous.

When they finally wrapped the show with Istanbul, it was loaded with fake endings and Flans loosening his guitar strings to be able to pull them off rock n roll style while he played. It was the culmination of an excellent show, despite the issues with the venue, and an even more excellent tour. And eventually, some many hours later, I even got to where I was supposed to sleep, after missing a train and being stuck in a New Jersey train station in the middle of the night. Good times, people. Good times.

TMBG 3/10/12 #5

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