Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Everything Is Catching On Fire

November 25, 2011 - Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun - Uncasville, CT

Oh, the Wolf Den. I have such fond memories of all the Mohegan Sun shows. I certainly hope this wasn't the last one I'll ever get to attend. Flansburgh said last year that Mohegan had cut down their show schedule and that TMBG were one of the shows they cut so we didn't get an audience appreciation show last year.

One of the best parts of the Mohegan shows is always getting to see the soundcheck, since the venue is open to the casino where you have to wait in line. I was a bit late, since it was Black Friday and I had to come straight from work (yay retail!). The Mohegan folks totally confused me by moving the spot where you stand in line this year. I wandered all the way around the Wolf Den before I finally found where all of my friends were waiting in line.

The new line position meant we couldn't see the sound check quite as well. They played Celebration and did some of the bridge from Snowball in Hell while testing out microphones. The highlight of the later was Linnell declaring that he didn't expect to find so many freakazoids in this coffee shop and Flansburgh responding that it was all about the ladies. Linnell also did a hilarious little boogie dance facing Marty during Celebration. Comically awkward. Also, you will have to excuse the extremely girly thing I am about to say, when I note that the first thing I recalled when I was recollecting this soundcheck, was that Marty was wearing a shirt that looked really good on him. Sadly, he had changed it by the time the show went on.

There were a few notable things about this show. First, it was the first show the band performed after the horrific trailer fire that destroyed a ton of their gear. Making things even worse, the truck that was supposed to be bringing them the remains of their stuff from the fire straight to the casino, broke down en route, so they were operating almost entirely with alternate or rented equipment.

Second, this was the first Lincoln show the band performed. For me that meant for the first time, in a long time, I got to hear a whole bunch of songs live that I had never heard performed before. I think I added at least seven to my list.

And third, on a very personal note, though he was still there with me at this show, this is the first show I attended after Gary and I broke up, which made for a lot of complex emotions going on. TMBG shows had always been something we did together and adjusting to shows being something I did alone was a difficult process but something I felt was very important to me. I think I needed to prove to myself that I could still enjoy the things I loved most as a solo experience. It was something I explored a lot more on the trip I took in the spring, but this was my first step.

Our group was rather massive at this show and I recall lots of debate over how to split everyone up across tables. I think we ended up taking over three or four. Then unfortunately, due to a very poorly timed trip to the bathroom, I wasn't even in the room when everyone rushed the stage before the show. It is a little startling to return to a room and find all your friends missing. Fortunately, they saved a spot for me around on the right so I had a nice view across the stage.

One of the first things I noticed when the show started was that Flans had shaved off his beard. I always assumed this was because he had spent Thanksgiving with his mother, whom he has stated dislikes the beard, but that is of course pure speculation on my part. Also, Linnell's hair was looking particularly good, or at least in my opinion.

TMBG 11/25/11 #2

Poor Dan had injured himself in some way or was sick or something and was limping around the stage. He spent much of the show sitting on a stool they had set up for him. I thought this was kind of coincidental since this was the second consecutive Mohegan show I saw where one of the Dan's was limping (it was Danny last time). Maybe these shows are just bad luck!

Setlist: Everything Is Catching On Fire - Can't Keep Johnny Down - Celebration - Mr. Me - Pencil Rain - Santa's Beard - They'll Need A Crane - Battle For The Planet Of The Apes - Cage And Aquarium - Kiss Me Son Of God - Piece Of Dirt - Stand On Your Own Head - Snowball In Hell - Shoehorn With Teeth - Cloisonné - Lie Still, Little Bottle - Where Your Eyes Don't Go - Purple Toupee - Cowtown - Ana Ng - You Probably Get That A Lot - Marty Beller Mask - Clap Your Hands - Birdhouse In Your Soul - Damn Good Times  Encore - How Can I Sing Like A Girl? - When Will You Die - Istanbul

After encouraging the crowd to get to their feet and join us at the stage, Flansburgh said "They Might Be Giants: no strangers to adversity. We have just recently had our trailer catch on fire and our truck not arrive. So we stand before you humbled, yet we are determined to entertain you." Flans said they would be performing every song they knew off the album Lincoln. Linnell point out that they would not be performing every song that _we_ (the audience) knew off of Lincoln, indicating that they would be skipping a few. Flans asked if everyone was winning tonight and then commented that it felt very Sammy David Jr. to be able to ask that.

Before they started playing Flans said the first song was a special long distance dedication to all of their equipment. And they they broke into Everything Is Catching On Fire. It was perfect. Humorous, poignant, just perfect. They didn't even play the rest of Fingertips. Just that one little song and then went straight into Johnny. Moments like that are one of the reasons I love these guys.

After Celebration, Flans told the crowd that if we had any kind of flash photography or cell phone "we don't give a rats ass about that." He requested that if we took video that it be posted immediately, and that you get a friend to shoot some flash photos while the video was shot because it made it look more glamorous.

Flans asked Linnell what other stage announcements they needed to make and Linnell pointed to the top of the room and said "There's wolves up there. So modify your behavior accordingly." This resulted in a lot of wolf howls from the crowd. Flans announced that they were embarking on Lincoln. But then stopped to thank Brian Eno for the ambient soundtrack, referring to the casino noise that could constantly be heard whenever they stopped playing. "Music for Casinos...it was one of the lost ambient albums of the 80s."After establishing that the ambient note was a C, which he called the "Terry Reilly note" Linnell attempted to recreate some casino sounds on the keyboard, with a little help from Danny on the bass, quite effectively I might add. "It's the sound of winning, ladies and gentleman," yelled Flans. "One million dollar slot machines."

After Mr. Me, I finally got a couple of songs I hadn't heard before with Pencil Rain and Santa's Beard. Flans commented on the later being a Christmas song and their desire to stay topical. He said that this was the first year he had ever noticed the term Black Friday being used in a public setting and how horrible it sounded. "Macy's Black Friday sale!" "It'll be horrible! Come on down" declared Linnell. "Run for your lives. It's Black Friday. No one will survive!" added Flans.

I have to type out this next section because it made me laugh out loud, both at the time and listening to it again now (yes, I have a recording of this one if that wasn't already obvious).

Flans: "The album is Lincoln. The year is 2011. The place is here. The people are you. The band is us."

Linnell: "The equipment is burned."

Flans: "Run for your lives!"

Linnell: "Black Friday!"

Flans: "They Might Be Giants! They're equipment is _gone_! How will they keep organized? They won't!"

Linnell then attempted to explain that they had learned that their trailer had been burned a week ago and had seen pictures. Flans interrupted to make it clear that when they said that their trailer had caught fire, it meant that their equipment had caught fire and it had all been burned. He even made exploding noises. He then said that they were using rental equipment which explained why they were looking at their hands and tethered to the stage. Linnell continued his story, to point out that they had not yet seen what was left of their gear. He said we were lucky because they were planning to bring to gear to the show in DC the following night and that apparently it really smells. Flans added that they couldn't clean the gear until the insurance appraiser had a chance to look at it so they were forced to march around the country with really smelly equipment. He said this was one of the sacrifices that had to be made being in a rock band.

Personally, while I was laughing right along with everyone else, I was just glad to see that the guys could still find the humor in the situation. They were obviously stressed and a little at a loss but still able to move past it in good humor. As a fan, hearing about the fire was horrifying and I felt rather helpless as I desperately wanted to be able to do something to help and yet knew there was nothing I could do. It was oddly comforting to be able to stand there and laugh about it with them and be assured that while it really sucked, everything was going to be okay in the end. It was kind of a metaphor for how I felt about what was going on in my own life.

And then they played They'll Need a Crane which was beautiful and heartbreaking and depressing and painful and I rather wish my first experience hearing it had been in different circumstances but I was glad to hear it none the less.

Afterward, Flans asked everyone to stand as if they were in church reading from hymn 333, so he could divide the crowd for the Ape battle. I was on team Ape. There was a tie. Linnell suggested the casino was rigged. Flans gave a shout out to the people on the perimeter of the venue, watching the show form outside the Wolf Den.

Flans said their were two super quiet songs they typically liked to perform right after the loudest part of the show. Linnell pointed out that it wasn't exactly typical as they had never played them together before. I admit, I had kind of forgotten that Cage and Aquarium existed before they started playing it. They did it with just Linnell and Flans on accordion and guitar. And they played an extended outro that got quieter and quieter. Between quiet songs, Linnell commented that he thought the era we are currently in was just the stepping stone to when we all just set up our cameras on tripods and don't even bother coming. "And then shotguns. Sights," added Flans. Silence from the crowd. "And then the laughter died," said Linnell. Big laugh. Flans said you couldn't make jokes about public assassination in a casino. Linnell asked if this was the wrong crowd for that joke.

Kiss Me, Son Of God was a beautiful sing along with just the accordion, the Johns and the crowd. When they finished, Flans declared that the hardest part of the show was behind them. Marty and Danny rejoined them for Piece of Dirt. Towards the end of the song I got very distracted watching Dan off on the side of the stage carefully folding up a piece of paper and threading it into his guitar strings. I couldn't figure out what he was doing. Turns out it was to help him achieve the banjo affect on his guitar during Stand On Your Own Head. This song was by far the highlight of the show for me, as I was just in awe of how friggin fast Dan moved his figures to play the banjo part during the chorus. I couldn't take my eyes off him. I remember nudging Heather who was next to me to get her to watch him too and us both standing there staring at him while he played. Someone told me afterward, that it wasn't actually that unusual, just a basic picking pattern. But damn, it sure blew my mind and it sounded so cool. Even listening to it now on the recording, I am still impressed. Damn.

TMBG 11/25/11 #11

Next up was Snowball in Hell. I can't even tell you how many times I have seen them do this since then, but this first time when it was just the Johns doing the bridge (the Avatars were in the truck with the gear) with a vocal effect on the mic to replicate the sound of an old recording may still be my favorite. And the Johns looked like they were having such a good time with it and cracking up the rest of the band. It was really fun to see.

Linnell: "You must be racking up a gigantic flaming pile of sales. Making a good income and a gigantic, steaming pile of living."

Flans: "When you ask me questions like that, Paul, I always think to myself, 'why don't you mind your own business...Paul.' But to answer your question...oh, I guess I'm going okay. Can't complain. Why? Are you back on that old time is money kick?"


TMBG 11/25/11 #17

When Flans went back to finish singing the song he was laughing too hard to sing and missed part of the line.

Introducing Dan on the keyboard for Shoehorn with Teeth:

Flans: "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the center stage, the most medicated man in rock music today."

Linnell: "That's no joke."

Flans: "We can assure you it's all legal. And totally psychedelic. Mr. Dan Miller, everybody. Please give him a warm Mohegan Sun round of applause. Wave to yourself on television, Dan. But don't stare too long. You'll get lost." (This was a reference to the huge video screen behind the stage that was displaying close ups of the show for those in the back.)

Flans briefly got distracted by the casino sounds again and mentioned how excited they were that the poker rooms were back. And then they began Shoehorn. Except this time, instead of Marty playing a bell, Danny provided the ding on his bass. It was very subtle the first couple of times, but the third time he made a big production out of it, holding the bass up in the air to go "ping." After the song, Flans gave another shout out to Dan. "No one knows what's going on in his mind."

TMBG 11/25/11 #28

But my personal favorite part (and honestly, one of my all time favorite pieces of banter) was this:

Linnell: "I just wanted to say, Danny Weinkauf was going "ding" on the bass. I just hope that was clear."

Danny: (Now at the keyboard mic for Cloisonné) "The bell got burned."

Flans: "Yeah. The bell burned. Not since Carrot Top have more props been lost in one fire."

Flans responded to someone's question about the puppets saying that yes, the puppets had survived. Linnell said he suspected they had caused the fire (which had been my theory all along). Flans said they were now in rehab. Flans pointed out that Linnell was playing the tenor sax for this performance. This is actually the one and only time I have ever seen Linnell play sax, as I came into the fandom far too late for the Linnell on sax era.

Linnell: "I think of it as the golden clarinet."

Linnell continued on the sax through Lie Still, Little Bottle. Flans also made some fake sax sounds into his mic during the bridge which was entertaining.

Flans asked Linnell if he had any memories of Lincoln he wanted to share. There was some nonsense about one armed bandits. Linnell said there were wolves everywhere. The audience howled. The show kept going with Where Your Eyes Don't Go. And Purple Toupee. And Cowtown, with Linnell playing the clarinet part on keyboard and the audience providing the screechy "woo" sounds. Marty pounded right into the hardcore intro to Ana Ng right out the end of the song, making for one long stretch without dialogue.

Linnell continued playing the final notes of Ana Ng for a while and lamented as Dan came to the keyboard for You Probably Get That A Lot that they couldn't make the transition smoother and have Dan continue the notes to fake everyone out and make them not realize the keyboardist had changed.

Flans made some amusing comments about the questionable judgment of releasing more than one album in a year and their choice of title for ARNTQ. Introducing Marty Beller Mask, Flans called it a song so unique it couldn't be denied.

TMBG 11/25/11 #26

I never quite understand when they chose to play Clap Your Hands at the end of a show, but I am always happy to do my dutiful clapping, stomping and jumping whenever it is demanded. And we clapped our way right into Birdhouse. Linnell's humorous introduction to the guitar solo: "Guitar players...play guitars!"

Flans rather screwed up the first chorus of Damn Good Times. He apologized before the second verse, saying he needed to get himself organized. Dan still pulled out a kick ass guitar solo despite being "the most heavily medicated man in the room tonight."

When the band came back after the encore, Linnell said "we couldn't leave." Flans made a plea to everyone to gamble so they could come back and play again next year (apparently, not enough people listened to him. I really can't see our nerdy crowd providing much gambling money for the casino). The Johns gave out some nicknames to members of the audience including Fumbles, Bill Wyman, and Honey Nut Cheerios.

The Johns did their acoustic version of How Can I Sing Like A Girl? with the accordion. When thanking the crew, Flans declared Scott to be the Most Valuable Player on sound and "crisis management." Linnell commented again on people liking the name of When Will You Die "because there is something wrong with them."

I hadn't actually noticed until now, but before Istanbul, Flans shouted that they would be "playing at Pier 5 at the end of January." Pretty sure he meant Terminal 5 at the beginning of March because that is the only thing that makes sense. Boy, was he confused.

I thought Dan's Istanbul intro was particularly well done, though not as long as he sometimes does. No fake endings on this performance, as I think the guys were tuckered out and eager to get to the poker tables.

Talking to Victor after the show while trying to get a ticket issue sorted out for Heather for the show the following day, he was disappointed to discover I wasn't going. I had to work it being Black Friday weekend and all. He told me he had something for me but it was in the truck that hadn't made it here. I told him to give it to my friends who were all going the DC show and that is exactly what he did. He presented Rebecca with a neatly packaged set of setlists for me, from all the west coast shows that I had missed, complete with smokey smell from having survived nearly being burned to a crisp in the trailer. An extremely kind gesture and my own personal memento of the fire (though by now the smell is all gone).

P.S. Check out Marty's super sparkly drum set he used for this show.

TMBG 11/25/11 #8

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the writeup! Brought me right back to this awesome show. :)