Friday, March 8, 2013

Free Snow Shovel With Every Ticket

February 27, 2013 - Port City Music Hall - Portland, ME

Holy disgusting weather, Batman. I've been in line for shows in extreme cold and extreme heat and torrential rain, but I think this show may win the prize for most disgusting weather I have ever had to wait it. The drive up to Maine got progressively worse the further north I got, and the roads got scarier to travel on. Somewhere along the way, a chunk of ice hit my windshield and put a serious crack in it. After finally parking and checking into the hotel, the walk to the venue was nasty, with the sidewalks covered in slush and freezing rain pelting my face.

Once at the venue, and meeting up with Megan, we actually had to get out of the way as a truck drove down the sidewalk, plowing as it went. Classy. The upside to it taking so long getting to Portland, was that the wait wasn't that long, despite them opening the doors a half hour later than was stated on the ticket.

I've been to Port City before, and remembered the stage being small, but I am not sure I accurately remembered just how small the stage actually is. It may very well be one of the tiniest stages I have been at, at least for a full show anyway. After some debate, I ended up selecting a position that was actually in front of a barrier off the end of the stage, and not really even in front of the stage at all. But it was better than having tall people's heads in front of me in the second row.

The opening act, Vandaveer, was pretty good. Folk rock, heavier on the folk. The lead singer's voice is reminiscent of Dylan. The band consisted of him, Mark Charles Heidinger, on guitars and vocal, Rose Guerin on vocal and J. Tom Hnatow on guitar and pedal steel guitar. Apparently, Mark is the only truly consistent member of the band, though Rose usually joins him. And Tom was a special guest for this tour. They had a few songs I like more than others. Mostly, I was just fascinated by the pedal guitar. I had never seen one in action before and even after watching it played for three days, I still don't understand how it works. But the guy playing it was very talented and it sounded really cool.

When the Giants hit the stage, there were two things that I immediately noticed. The first was they they kicked things off immediately with the premiere of You're On Fire. And I must say, that is an excellent show opener, just as it is an excellent album opener. And it sounds awesome live, though I think they were still adjusting the mix at little at that early point in the show and the vocal was a tad washed out. The second thing I noticed was that Linnell arrived on stage wearing snow boots. Serious, clompy snow boots. This was too funny to appreciate alone and I had to immediately share this fact on Twitter. It was too good not too. So NOT a rock star look :-)


I had actually already noticed that Flans had a new guitar on stage as well. The odd thing was he never played it at this show. It was hooked up with one of those serious coiled guitar cables that looks like a spring, but I think they were having issues with it, because I think he was going to play it at one point and then changed his mind because it wasn't working.


Back to You're On Fire for a minute though. I was thrilled to see Dan joining Flans on the backing vocals on "combustible head" making his signature silly faces while he sings. Perhaps the very best of these is the one he makes while singing "oh damn" near the end. Classic.

They played straight into When Will you Die before pausing for some banter. Flans thanked us all for coming out in the snow and announced there would be a free snow shovel for every member of the audience after the show. He commented that people were making a big deal out of the weather and they were like "It snows in Maine, dude. We've spent some time in New England. It's not the fucking end of the world. It's snow. It's Maine. It's February. There is going to be snow. We'd worry if there isn't snow."


Linnell pointed out that this was the first show of their tour and that they had already premiered a song. He said that that, plus the snow shovel should be the value of our ticket right there. Flans said that the first song had already been viewed 200 times at Ask Jeeves. "My preferred search engine." Linnell replied, "Jeeves is grateful that you asked him. He's like, 'what is it, John?! What do you want?!'" Poor Jeeves.

Then followed a run of Memo to Human Resources, Celebration and Call You Mom. Flans screwed up the lyrics to one of the choruses of Celebration and even Linnell chuckled at his mistake, good naturedly, of course. I was very curious how they were going to handle Call You Mom without the horns since the song is so horn heavy. The solution is just to let Marty lose his shit all over the drums. It is phenomenal. Even better than watching him do Judy if you can believe it. He just explodes but in such a perfect, tightly controlled way. Damn.

After the song, Flans said that by the end of the tour they would have orchestrated a bow for the end of that song. Linnell suggested the sort of bow where you aren't really bowing, which he then demonstrated by just leaning over slightly. Flans said he was thinking more of an awkward one footed puppet curtsey, which Linnell referred to as "the marionette bow." Flans said they were going to Australia and asked if they liked the Thunderbirds in Australia. Linnell said they LOVED the Thunderbirds in Australia, so Flans thought the marionette bow would go over well. Linnell said they actually weren't going to Australia, they were going to send marionettes instead. Flans said that their management had been looking forward to that third stage in their career. "The marionette stage."

Flans explained that the last song was off of their new album and then made some jokes about how brilliant their marketing strategy was, promoting an album that wasn't actually out yet. Flans mentioned that they did have CDs of the album at the merch stand, if you were feeling nostalgic about CDs, and Linnell had to ask him if the album was actually out yet, which I thought was very silly. Linnell joked that they were selling bootlegs of their album. Flans said if we acted quickly the album could make us a tremendous amount of money on eBay.


Fingertips followed. The best part of this was I Don't Understand You. Flans started just muttering his backing vocals into the mic and Linnell responded by making a series of "ah-ah-ah-ah" vocals into his own mic. They went back and forth like this at least three times for well over a minute while the rest of the band stopped playing entirely. It was one of those great jokes where you were wondering how long they could keep it up and have it still be funny, and each time you discovered that, yup, if was still funny. And they stopped at the perfect time not to lose the humor. Comedy genius.

Flans went back to the old joke about stealing bass clarinets from high schools to give back to the schools later, in his Cloisonné introduction. He noted how easy it was to bribe a high school custodian.



They once again shut off most of the lights for Whistling in the Dark. And as a result, I got some of the best pictures of the whole show. It really says something about how unconducive the new lighting is to photography when I can get better photos with them shut off than on. (It's also a great advertisement for the low light setting on my camera.) I also noted that they had turned the bass drum around so that the Join Us hearse that is stuck on one side, was facing the back of the stage. I guess they didn't want to be advertising their old album that blatantly while on tour for the new one. After the song, Flans apologized to Marty that he couldn't hear the high hat during the song and was thus off on some of his bass drums beats.


At a couple of points in the show, they turned on what they called a "drum cam." This seemed to be a camera positioned somewhere behind Marty that displayed, what was essentially, his view on the screen. Thinking back on it, I am not sure I remember them using it at any of the later shows this week, which is odd in retrospect.

Flansburgh commented that he had gone back to review the setlist from the last time they played Portland before the show and found that in the time since then, they had gone very far away from that setlist and then come right back to it. So he said they were going to play something he didn't think they had played since that show. I got very excited thinking maybe it would be something cool, because they played a few things at that show that I haven't heard much since (mostly I was hoping for Thunderbird.) But I should have know better than to trust Flans because it turned out it was just Drink!, which I have most definitely heard since the last time they were in Portland. And I really should have known not to get my hopes up because I heard Dan test the opening chord when he picked up the acoustic and then second guessed myself when I heard what Flans was saying. Silly me. Flans gave the audience full out instructions for doing the drink call backs. And had a big debate with the crowd on whether we were to say the "word drink, drink" or the "words drink, drink."

Linnell got into a bit of trouble during this one as he bent down to pick up a bottle of water during a verse in which he didn't play. He got the strap of his accordion caught on the end of the bass clarinet while he was bending over and it came off his shoulder. He did manage to stand back up without knocking the accordion over, but then he was left holding the accordion with one hand and the water with the other, with no free hand to fix the strap. Danny offered to give him a hand, but he indicated that he was okay. He ended up deciding to just leave the strap dangling while he opened the water and drank and then set the bottle down before readjusting the accordion. And yes, this kind of misadventure is the sort of thing I pay attention to :-P


Next up, Doctor Worm! Yet another opportunity for me to fail to get a good picture of Danny's leap off the drum riser. On the plus side I believe I have finally established the most effective setting on my camera to eventually achieve my shot. The rest is all up to my timing now. Humorously, as the moment approached in the song, Dan was encouraging Danny to get into position. I believe Danny was concerned about there being enough room and Dan pointed that he should drum in the direction behind him and he himself would get out out the way. Which is exactly what happened. I am very entertained that Dan now seems to be as fond of Danny's jumping as I am.


Then they really did surprise me by breaking into Puppet Head. Now that is one I don't hear very often but it seems to have been incorporated into the regular set for this tour. Can't complain about that :-) Linnell was being especially goofy in his "dancing" around while playing the accordion, leaning over and jumping around a little.

After the song, Flans joked about their debut album being available in record stores and then introduced a new of Lincoln. And they started to play Where Your Eyes Don't Go. Except Linnell still had an effect on the keyboard on that wasn't the right one for the song and he stopped them. He said it just didn't feel like they were in 1988. Flans said he thought Linnell was gonna start playing The Rockford Files. Linnell agreed that that was what he thought too. Then Flans asked when they _were_ going to learn how to play The Rockford Files. Linnell declared that he already knew it. Or he thought he did. Flans said that Dan knew it. "He knows the first season version. He knows the second season version. He knows the fourth season re-recorded version." Linnell agreed that Dan knew it, he himself knew it and Marty knew it. And then he asked Dan how it started. Dan played a couple of chords. Linnell asked what key in was in. Dan said G. And then, in one of those "I can't believe that actually just happened" moments, they played The Rockford Files. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad. (I am ashamed to admit, I had not heard The Rockford Files theme prior to this and only afterward listened to it for comparison.)


Afterward, Flans declared that there were things you could do with samples that you just couldn't do with analog. And then made some joke about Kanye telling someone to "suck my dick" except I couldn't understand what he said to get the reference. A lot of people laughed though. Linnell reminded Flans that they had met Jim Post one time. Flans said that it was at the Grammys. Danny's pointed out that the man's name was actually Mike Post. Linnell joked that clearly they had cared a lot about meeting him. Flans said that Jim Post was the composer in Friends and Lovers. Linnell asked, "Didn't he draw Garfield?""No," said Flans, very matter-of-factly. "He wrote the song 'I Think It's So Groovy Now People Are Finally Getting Together." Linnell, getting back to his story, said that they had told Mike Post (who is, apparently, the composer of The Rockford Files) that they loved the song and were thinking about learning it. And he responded with "Key of A!!!" Linnell did relayed this impression very forcefully, pointing emphatically at Flans and then added "or whatever it was he said." Flans didn't seem to recall this. Linnell said it was like Mike Post was prepared for them to ask about it. "Don't fuck it up!" said Flans, continuing the Post impersonations. Linnell suggested that perhaps he had a chip on his shoulder about bands performing his TV theme songs. "First season, long version." said Flans. "Okay, alright," said Linnell, pretending to back away. "We just wont play it." "Nice guy," added Flans, to conclude the story. "Anyway, that's our story," added Linnell. And then they just went immediately back to what they were doing, playing Where Your Eyes Don't Go, while I attempted to catch my breath from laughing so hard my sides hurt.

During The Guitar, Flans did an introduction to the bass solo before the third bridge. And then a strange squealing sort of sound appeared in the background behind what Danny was playing. Dan attempted to figure out what it was and turned to Jon Carter to see if he could identify it. He had no idea. Dan looked across at Marty questioningly and Marty gave him this eyebrow raise, which Dan took to mean that Marty was making the noise, which he then relayed to Jon Carter. But then he looked back at Marty, who indicated that no, it wasn't him, it was Flansburgh, at the back of the stage playing around with a very subtle sound on his little electronic do-hicky he uses for the band intros and Lie Still, Little Bottle. He clearly had everyone confused.


Flans did his usual routine with the flashlight to separate the crowd for Battle for the Planet of the Apes.  He informed everyone that they needed a means of egress for the band to roll down. I keep waiting for the day when one of the members of the band runs off stage down the means of egress but it hasn't happened yet. While Flans explained the rules, Marty and the Dans held a strategy meeting about where to best place the drum sticks for the Dans to use and how many they wanted. During this, Marty sat there with fists full of sticks. He had at least three in each hand. And they were ultimately placed in convenient places, to be taken up and used to inspire the "people" to victory. Flans told us that competition was the only purpose of this exercise. The only goal was to win. But sadly, my "ape" team was defeated by the "people."

Afterward, Flans made some comments about the apes infiltrating the people to rise again later. This brought some renewed ape chanting from the crowd. Flans said he had waited fifty minutes into "that movie" for the apes to rise. Linnell asked him is he had actually seen the movie. Flans admitted that he had not and had been lying. "Everything I've said on stage is a lie actually." "Including that," added Linnell, who then mimed his head exploding with sound effects. Flans pretended to be being blown over. Flans did say that he had recently seen Less Than Zero, which was fantastic. "If you guys are into New Wave movies about freebasing cocaine." Some members of the audience started chanting "people, people." Flans continued, "Featuring a very young, very attractive Robert Downey Jr. He's a person."

Flans asked "Whose next? And by who, I meant what." Linnell said that they personalize their songs. That they are their friends. "Oh, it's Mr. Crane," said Flans. "That's right," Linnell said. "Bob Crane." And then they started They'll Need A Crane. Which is rapidly going from a song I never thought I would hear to one I hear frequently. Afterward, Linnell did this thing he has been doing frequently, where he said the name of the song with the accent of the wrong syllables. Which he followed by saying "accenting the wrong syllable" with the accent on the wrong syllable.


Insect Hospital has now become the go-to Avatar lead in song, except this time, Flans couldn't get the camera working. The band stalled for a bit, letting the song play on a little long, but they eventually gave up and the Johns came back to the front of the stage while the crew came out to try to get the camera working. Flans did a round of band introductions including pointing out that Danny had two pairs of red pants "but he only wears one." Danny did actually have on reddish pants, but they were really more orange. Not sure if they were just his old faded ones, or simply a different shade of red, because he did have the real red ones on later in the week. Flans also did a little advertisement for their "Motion Pro" camera, stating some of its features, including, apparently, "an automatic off switch that is perfectly in sync for fucking up our show which was going really good until now."

Linnell suggested they just play Nanobots while the crew worked on the camera and Flans made some jokes about giving the crew about 45 minutes to fix it and letting them know when it was ready. He also commented that after 25 years of touring they have realized that they only remember the stuff that went wrong. And Linnell added that that is some people's favorite part. Flans impersonated someone fondly remembering a show where the ceiling caved in. "Four people were hospitalized. It was awesome!" Right about then, the camera started working and they moved to try the puppet show again. Poor Danny got very confused. He had left the stage when they first started to do the puppets, but then came back when they were going to play Nanobots. And then Marty and Dan started to play the end of Insect Hospital again to walk the Johns back over to the camera, and Danny was looking back and forth trying to figure out what was going on and what they were playing, before he caught on to what they were doing. And then the camera died again.

Flans told Jon Carter that he thought a wire was too tight and when the camera was turned around to face the audience, "it's perfect...and off." Flans declared that they should just skip this portion of the show. "I know I'm riddled by self doubt." Then the camera briefly started to work. Linnell said, "it's a big tease." Flans started to say "Is there any..." in a big rock start voice... and then the camera died. And they gave up on it. Linnell told us people later in the tour weren't going to get to see this part and we should be excited. Jon Carter could be heard declaring "Video guy's fired." Flans said he was going to pretend he was in Memento and everything was moving backward. Then he pretended to introduce Insect Hospital again. And they finally played Nanobots instead. God, I love that song.

Then Birdhouse. And the 123 Band Intros. And the distribution of nicknames. Someone was dubbed "Honey Nut." A girl was called "Can't Stop, Won't Stop." And a guy in the front row was nicknamed "Rusty." He got several shout outs over the last few minutes of the show.

The closed the main portion of the set with The Mesopotamians and finally Istanbul, with Dan doing Miller Time on the electric guitar. No fake endings. I think the camera failure was a bit of a mood dampener for Flans.


The returned for the first encore with Alphabet of Nations. While Linnell was doing his best crazy arm movements, Danny was fooling with Dan, playing notes of the end of the keyboard while he played. Linnell actually ran back over to the keyboard to do something to it early on in the song too, though I don't know what. But Danny was definitely being a goof.


Then followed New York City. And Ana Ng. Flans briefly mentioned their iPhone app during the intro to Ana. But brought it up again when they returned for the second encore. He pointed out a man holding up an iPhone, except it was actually a beer can. Flans declared it to be the iPhone 6. Which was kind of buggy but they liked the red, white and blue motif. And then he pointed to another guy with a beer and called it a prototype for the iPhone 7. He asked Linnell if they had anything else they needed to share. Linnell responded with "Don't be careful driving home. It doesn't matter. Just close your eyes and hit the accelerator." Flans told him he was starting to sound like him. And then they closed with Twisting.

After collecting a setlist and saying hi to Mr. Brunette, who has grown a beard, (and incidentally, I think his name may actually be Burnett but I am going to continue to call him Brunette because that is how I think of him, from a year of hearing him called that) I went to the merch stand to get a copy of Nanobots. Only to find Anna had sold the last one to someone just in front of me. I was sad. But I got a new Nanobots hoodie and the yellow cryptids shirt anyway, so my trip was not in vain. And then finally, back through the crappy weather and a very large puddle, to the hotel for much needed sleep.

(They skipped They Might Be Giants in the encore, in addition to the Avatar stuff)

And finally, I will leave you with this picture where it looks like Dan has replaced his nose with a microphone. You're welcome.



  1. looks like the new flanstar is the very same guitarlin he used in the "snail shell" and "albany" videos! it's a neat one

  2. Its Brunette. You are correct.