Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Not Heaven, Just Iowa

October 30, 2011 - Englert Theatre - Iowa City, IA

I had never been to Iowa before this trip (or Minnesota for that matter) and I love visiting new states, so I was pretty excited about Iowa. Everything I had heard about Iowa was basically true. It is very flat. There is a lot of corn, and farms in general. And a pretty little theater right in downtown Iowa City for TMBG to play at. We did also find that there is very little to do in Iowa City on a Sunday when you arrive way too early for a seated rock concert. We got some pizza at a place right next to a Kum 'n' Go. Wandered around a very sad little mall. But did eventually find a busy little coffee shop to sit in and stay warm and drink yummy tea.

Eventually, we decided to forego warmth and get in line even though it wasn't strictly necessary. As such we got to see some of the band come and go from the theater. Dan walked out and stopped at a trash can to open a piece of hard candy so he could toss the wrapper. But sadly, he dropped his candy and ended up kicking it off the sidewalk before heading off to the coffee shop we had previously been in. Poor Dan. No candy for him.

Inside, the theater had a very strange set up. There would have been a reasonably sizable dance floor between the front row of seats where we were sitting and the stage. However, where part of the dance floor should have been, there was a flight of stairs leading down under the stage. There was a railing all the way around it, to prevent people from falling down, but it didn't look terribly sturdy. It was distinctly odd. At one point before the show, the door at the bottom of the stairs opened and Dan peeked out of it. He looked like he had opened it just to see where it led and was terribly startled to find himself faced with front row of concert goers looking down at him. He shut the door again very quickly.

I also had some concerns about being able to see because a crowd of people came down to the front and planted themselves on the floor in front of the stage before the show even started. This kind of baffled me at the time but it definitely seemed like they were allowed to be there. My fear was that once they stood up I wouldn't be able to see over them from the front row. I was pretty anxious about it, but then, getting to the front always makes me anxious. The situation didn't change during Gold Motel's (completely identical) set. Then there was a brief tense moment when TMBG hit the stage when I couldn't tell if we would be encouraged to stand or not but people off to my right moved to jump up to the railing around the stairs in front of me. I remember looking up to the stage seeking the go ahead to stand up and I swear, for one second, Flans caught my eye and gave a brief "hell, yes stand up" look. I lunged out of my chair for the corner spot on the railing just as Flans called the crowd to their feet. Turned out the railing around the stairs made an awesome viewing spot because it provided the distance needed from the stage to see everyone at the same time and also prevented anyone from jumping in front of me. (Not that anyone cares, but I think I recently solved the mystery of the people at the front sitting on the floor. When I bought my ticket for this year's show at The Englert, I was given the option of a General Admission ticket, which I assume is what those folks were holding.)

The TMBG setlist: Celebration - Can't Keep Johnny Down - Why Does The Sun Shine? - Snail Shell - Fingertips - Why Does The Sun Really Shine? - Clap Your Hands - Birdhouse In Your Soul - The Guitar - Ana Ng - Withered Hope - Battle For The Planet Of The Apes - Damn Good Times - Dead - You Probably Get That A Lot - Cyclops Rock - Spoiler Alert - Cloisonné - Alphabet Of Nations - Particle Man - Careful What You Pack - The Mesopotamians  Encore - How Can I Sing Like A Girl? - Marty Beller Mask - When Will You Die  Encore 2 - Lie Still, Little Bottle - Istanbul - We're The Replacements

Now I have a confession to make. Unlike the previous two shows on this trip, I didn't take notes after this one. This show will forever and always be The Baloney Sandwich Show and while I remember the events of that story with vivid clarity, the rest of the show is a total blur because it got totally eclipsed by that event. Before I looked at the recaps on the wiki, the only thing I remembered was Flans suggesting that people could hang one of the giant six foot posters on their grain silo, and the audience correcting him and telling him that in Iowa it was corn silos. Looking at the comments on the wiki, I do remember Flans declaring that the nuclear reactions of the sun were caused by Marty, Dan, Danny and "the ladies" because I remember thinking that was funny. I vaguely remember Flans talking about their bus being owned by Slipknot, but I didn't even get that reference at the time. And I recall, though had forgotten, Linnell reading out the Marty Beller Mask lyrics because he didn't feel they had gotten the right reaction the previous night because the audience didn't understand them.

TMBG 10/30/11 #76

Sadly, not a single video from this show has made it to YouTube to help out my memory. Apparently, at least one or two of the tracks on At Large were recorded here but I don't even know which ones. The only other thing I can say with definite certainty is that the Avatars pulled out their Epic Fail Baloney Sandwiches jingle and schtick during their set because I remember thinking later how perfect it was that they had brought it back after not doing it at the previous couple of shows. Because, of course, that running joke was the impetus for my own personal Epic Fail baloney sandwich.

I have told this story before, in a Song of the Day post, and for those who read it there or had already heard it from me elsewhere, I apologize but I am going to tell it again. It is a good story and it deserves to be told in its rightful setting. It goes like this.

After the show, I approached the stage to get a setlist. After I had it, Victor, the stage manager, stopped and asked me if I had gotten one the night before. I had never actually heard him talk before and didn't realize he was talking to me at first. I had, in fact, gotten one from Mr. Brunette and I told him as much. He paused for a moment and then told me he had something else for me and to wait. Gary and I stood a little awkwardly by the stage for several minutes. Marty came out to hand out his drum sticks and couldn't even find anyone to take them. This crowd was definitely not into hanging around. He did eventually manage to hand them off to one guy and told the dude to share them. The guy tried to give one of them to a crowd of teenagers that was standing further back from the stage and they looked at it like they didn't know what it was or why they should take it. It was very odd. Meanwhile, I felt very conspicuous since I clearly already had a setlist and at least in my head, Marty was looking at me trying to figure out why I was still standing there. "I was told to wait," I wanted to say, but I didn't.

Eventually, Victor returned and took a very circuitous route around the stage before walking back over to me and handing me a plastic bag. At the time I thouht he was trying to add to the suspense or intrigue, but I have since figured out that he was just really nervous. He turned away immediately after handing off the mystery item and never said another word. The first thing I noticed was that the bag was very cold. That got me really curious, and I tried to look through the plstic to see what was inside. All I could see was a label on something that said Epic Fail. Sure, enough, I opened the bag and found it contained an actual baloney sandwich in a plastic bag, with an Epic Fail label (printed on a label maker, no less) on the outside. For the record, some after dinner mints were also included in the package for affect. I immediately started laughing so hard that I could barely show Gary what was in the bag.

Then followed some frantic texting of pictures of said sandwich to my friends before my phone battery died. I was freaking out a little over the awesomeness of the situation. We walked past the bus on our way back to the car and I was very tempted to leave a note on the door that said "Thanks for dinner" but I didn't. In the initial excitement, I was kind of desperate to actually know whose idea the sandwich had been and if Victor had just been the messenger. It took me a while, after I had time to clear my brain and think, to realize that he had orchestrated the entire gag himself, entirely for my benefit. What a guy, right? :-D

I can fill in a few more details that I have learned after the fact too, that I think improve the story. First, that Victor was actually so nervous about how I would react to the sandwich (it being a rather odd thing to give someone) that he almost didn't give it to me at all. He considered the fact that the Avatars brought back the song as a sign that he had to go through with it that night, since he didn't think I would be continuing with the tour to the west coast (and he was right about that). And even as he handed it to me, he was so worried about my reaction, that he never even looked back to see if I enjoyed it. He didn't find out until weeks later how thoroughly entertained I was by the gag. And, even more amusing to me, was the fact that he had had to "order" the baloney from Scott, the tour manager, when Scott was asking if anyone needed anything at the store. Because being stuck out on tour with no transportation, baloney isn't something you can easily acquire. Victor claimed he was having a craving, to justify the request. And apparently, the rest of the crew was was all over the remainder of the package after he made my sandwich. Baloney, apparently, is very popular.

TMBG 10/30/11 #83

And that, my friends, is the tale of my own personal Epic Fail Baloney Sandwich. It's a one of a kind, and even though I barely remember anything else from this show, it will forever be responsible for making this show among my most memorable.

To make up for my lack of other memories from this show, please enjoy some pictures (many with dramatic lighting).

TMBG 10/30/11 #5

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TMBG 10/30/11 #66
(I love this picture for reasons I can not exactly explain)

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