Monday, March 25, 2013

The Electric Banana, It Ain't

March 20, 2013 - Mr. Small's Theatre - Millvale, PA

It's been a while since I have visited Mr. Small's and they have done some renovations. Where I remember waiting for the show in a rainy courtyard last time, that entire area has been enclosed now, in some sort of partially finished construction. This year we spent much of our waiting time hanging out on the steps of the old church that has become this rock venue. And the rest crammed into a tiny walled area outside the new construction. My companions were a mix of old friends and acquaintances and new ones, as I got close enough to home to be joined by some of the regular crowd.

We were early enough to hear the whole soundcheck. They ran through the venue song again, as well as Your Racist Friend. They were also doing Dr. Evil, and I briefly thought Robin was there. Until I realized, that it was one of the Johns singing Robin's part. And doing a terrible job of it. By the time they got to the high note at the end it was truly horrific. I couldn't even begin to say which of them it was butchering this poor song. But on the second run through it was definitely Linnell. Fortunately, the second go round, they didn't get to the end. They also sound checked Mammal, which I was very excited about, as I have only heard that played twice, and only at Apollo 18 shows. But I wasn't about to get my hopes up for hearing it outside soundcheck, as I have had that experience too many times before.

After a long and chilly wait, we were finally admitted into the sanctuary of Mr. Small's. Keeping with my alternating pattern, I went for the left side of the stage at this show. I am quite a fan of Mr. Small's. The restored church makes an awesome rock venue. My only wish was that is had been a bit warmer inside. By this point in the tour I had succumbed to tour plague, aka some vicious version of sinus infection/cold, and while we waited for the show to start, it seemed like there was constantly a door open, blowing cold air right on me. Not a pleasant feeling.

The Moon Hooch boys experienced a shake up at this show, in the form of equipment failure. Mid way through one of the songs, the battery on the mic on Mike's sax crapped out. He smoothly crossed the stage and lowered the mic that was in front of Wenzl and started playing into it. It took me a minute to realize what had happened. But they made it work. And then as they transitioned into the next song, Wenzl reached into his bag, which was sitting on the stage, pulled out some batteries still in the charger and handed them to Mike. He then started the next song, while Mike changed the batteries in his mic pack. And within a minute they were back up and running. "Good save" became the phrase of the night after that point. Maybe I am crazy, but I always enjoy watching shows where something goes wrong and the performers are able to go with the flow and make it work and find their way back out of it, without making a big deal of it. And these guys still knocked it out of the park.

TMBG setlist: You're On Fire - James K. Polk - Memo To Human Resources - Celebration - You're Racist Friend - They'll Need A Crane - Cloisonné - Drink! - Doctor Worm - The Famous Polka - Whistling In The Dark - Circular Karate Chop - Where Your Eyes Don't Go - Insect Hospital - He's Loco - Lost My Mind - Pittsburgh - S-E-X-X-Y - Withered Hope - Nanobots - Puppet Head - Birdhouse In Your Soul - 123 Band Intro - Damn Good Times - When Will You Die Encore - Tesla - Can't Keep Johnny Down Encore 2 - Mammal - The Mesopotamians - New York City Encore 3 - Istanbul

Following their bow a the end of James K. Polk, the Johns had a discussion about how to end their final show. Linnell suggested just mashing his face into the keyboard (though he called in an organ) to signal that the show was over. They also discussed the controversy within the band over the proper way to pronounce Nanobots. Linnell claimed that different regions of the country pronounce it differently. Flans said that "this side of the stage pronounces it differently." "The western side of the stage pronounces it Naanobots." Then Linnell asked, "How are yinz doing?" "I can't believe you went ethnic," replied Flans. "People love the yinz," said Linnell. "Everyone loves the yinz." "That's pandering, John," accused Flansburgh. And Linnell had to agree. Flans said they had a new album out, "with tons of songs on it that we're not gonna play right now." And then they played Memo to Human Resources. I am sorry to say it, but damn, am I sick of that song.

They did in fact play Your Racist Friend, after doing it at soundcheck, which was exciting for me, as they had played virtually the same setlist for days in a row prior to this point. Before Cloisonné, Flans pointed out the "pointing stick" on the end of the bass clarinet again, and talked about how One Eyed Joe had learned his lesson about getting too close to it. I ended up accidentally getting a very intense picture of Danny staring straight into my camera while he was playing the keyboard. I didn't realize it until I looked at the picture afterward and was extremely startled.


In his introduction to Drink!, Flans encouraged us to use our whole bodies as vessels, "like a giant iron lung of volume," to chant the call backs. Also, "This next song features the acoustic guitar stylings of Mr. Dan Milller. You might remember him in the music store, playing that Heart song. Something about that A minor chord." Dan then took the cue to play the riff from said Heart song. I don't know Heart, well enough, but I think, from later comments that it was Magic Man? Maybe?

After many, many, attempts at capturing the Doctor Worm leap shot, I finally came as close to getting it as I have ever been at this show. It still isn't absolutely 100% what I want, but it is pretty damn close. Danny checked in with me after they finished the song, to see how he had done and I had to report that it was pretty damn good.


Flans talked about their iPhone app prior to Circular Karate Chop, and said that it played a different song everyday, which was great because you never have to hear the same song twice, because you hate that song. Then Flans asked Linnell to talk for a bit, and he said sure but he needed a topic. The audience suggested some, but Linnell said they were no good. Then he and Flans pretended to be soliciting for improve topics. "We need a felony." "An occupation, a mind altering drug, a way of having a tragic accident." "A story line." "An idea." "A punchline." "We need something funny to happen. Can someone help us with that?" "Just shout out any three things that are funny." "We need a plot. We a script actually. We need an entire double spaced typed....."

The Avatars had a pretty entertaining monologue tonight.

Green: "You have a human hand Blue Avatar."

Blue" "I have emotional problems. Deep troubling emotional problems."

Green: "Those two things go together. Once you introduce the human hand, emotional problems follow."

Blue: "I'm tugging on my neck in a nervous, nervous way."

Green: "How's that Bell's Palsy coming along?"

Blue: "That's not funny man."

Green: "No, I was concerned. I'm asking out of friendship and concern."

Blue: "You don't even like me."

Green: "I don't even know you, man."

At this point Blue got distracted by the fact that there was a shadow of a microphone on their camera screen, and it looked like he was singing into it on their video feed. He became rather obsessed with this fact.

Green: "I'm the green one. He's the blue one."

Blue: "I'm the one with the microphone."

Green: "He's got the microphone. I got the loud voice. Hey!"

Blue: "He doesn't need a microphone."

Green: "No microphone!"

Blue: "And he doesn't need a light because he's lit from within."

Then the puppets did some more of the cable TV Channel J schtick they were doing at the start of the tour.

Blue: "Mystery puppets!"

Green: "Hours and hours of puppet dancing!"

Blue: "It feels wrong, because it is."

Green: "Because the budget is so looooow."

Blue: "I'm dancing just for you, baby. I'm a puppet. I'm _your_ puppet. Where's my microphone? Oh, here's my microphone."

They talked about their new collaboration with Sire Axel Rose, who was recently knighted in a ceremony with Dennis Rodman and Seung Yong-il (spelling questionable on that as research shows that Blue seems to have made up the person with bits of several notable names, unless I am totally missing something.) They claimed that Rodman and Seung Yong-il, had knighted Axel with a crown and then he had immediately sent them some lyrics. They expressed their wish that someone was blogging this news as it was very important. In this performance of He's Loco, Green substituted Wild Wild West with Contagion. "Gwyneth Paltrow, people!" The boys also did a nice instrumental version of He's Loco as the Avatar exit music, that I appreciated. When he got back to his microphone, Flans commented that it smelled like wool.

Lost My Mind managed to stay in the setlist tonight. Yay! After they finished it, Danny pointed out to Linnell that they hadn't yet done the venue song. Linnell suggested this to Flans, who got rather confused, asking if they wanted to do it now. Danny told him that he was just pointing out that it wasn't on the setlist at all. "Touché," said Linnell. "You win this time, Danny," said Flans, who then agreed to do the song now.

But first, (or maybe it was just after, I'm not sure) there was a lengthy discussion of The Electric Banana and Johnny Banana himself. Flans confirmed with the crowd that The Electric Banana was, in fact, no longer open. He then told a story about seeing the list of venues they were playing at, the first time they were booked at the Banana and questioning their booking agent about playing at a place called The Electric Banana. Someone else that was there at the time advised him that the guy who ran the place, Johnny Banana, was a real tyrant, but they would be fine as long as Johnny wasn't drinking. And when they arrived at the venue, he was chugging alcohol straight from the bottle from the moment they walked in the door. Some people off to my left, kept indicating that Johnny Banana was there, at the show, but whether or not they were being serious, I do not know.

I have a note on my setlist that says "Fireproof" but I have no memory of what it is referring to. I have a sense that Flans was calling one of the boys "fireproof" but I can't remember which one or in what context. Maybe someone else who was there can remember?

This is how tonight's Robot Flans exchange went:

Linnell: "How's it going Robot Flansburgh?"

Flans: "I don't know. It seems like something's on fire. There's an awful lot of smoke. I think something's burning. Somebody's burning a hot dog or something."

Linnell: "Probably."

Flans: "Seem like, maybe, actually it smells like two hot dogs are burning. Or maybe a hot dog and a hamburger."

Linnell: "Yeah, I'm smelling that, now."

Flans: "People don't know it, but I am infallible."

Linnell: "That's true."

Flans: "Damn right, it's true."

Linnell: "I guess you've recently acquired robotal infallibility. Thanks to your being crowned Pope Robot the First. Perhaps you read it in the news. I think there was a big story about that."

Flans: "Bow down, people. Yes. It's a very a very elaborate ceremony. You take one or two hot dogs or a hot dog and a hamburger and you burn them, and when the smoke turns white a whole new robot pope can be named. I gave myself the name Robot Pope One, in honor of Robot Pope Zero."

Linnell: "He mysteriously disappeared."

Flans: "There was some kind of hot dog/hamburger burning accident, in which Pope Robot Zero perished."

Linnell: "We'll never know what happened."

Flans: "Some people say it was poisoning. The hamburger was poisoned. But I just think it was very burned. It was the smoke. La, la, la, la, la."

Linnell: "So would you like to sing a song with us, Robot Flansburgh Pope?"

Flans: "I would love to sing a song. I want to sing the song Nanobots. What, what, what, what note?"

Linnell: "What's the matter?"

Flans: "Is it a B?"

Linnell: "You're cool. You're infallible. In fact, the great thing about this song is, if we screw it up, it's still infallible. Cause it's ex cathedra. You get what I'm saying? No mistakes. It can't be a mistake."

Flans: "I love Nancy Sinatra just as much as anybody, but I'm not gonna screw this up."

There was some nostalgia talk about cassettes and CDs surrounding Puppet Head.

Another classic 123 Band Intro. Dan was going to do his bit laying his guitar on the floor again, but Flans suggested he play some more of the Heart song instead, which he did. And Marty had some more fun with his drum cam, this time posing with his fist in the camera.

I got very distracted in the encore by a woman to my left attempting to make a request by holding her phone out to the stage for the band to read. As if they were going to be able to read something on her phone. I was a bit glad they didn't acknowledge the request, given how annoying she was. And also amused that she was requesting a song that had been in the set, every single night prior to this one, but was taken out at this show.

When they came back for the second encore, Flans played a couple of chords from The Guitar and apparently confused Linnell, as to what they were playing next. But Flans said he was just checking his sound. So Linnell announced that they were going to play a song they hadn't played in a long time and they'd see how it went. And they actually played Mammal!! I was so excited! They don't surprise me with songs very often any more, but it's always nice when they do. Especially one of my favorites.

When they returned for the final encore, all I could hear at first was Dan starting the intro to Istanbul. At first I couldn't figure out where it was coming from, until I realized that Dan had gone up to the balcony in the very back of the house and was playing from way up there. God, I love it when he does that. Makes for some seriously epic rock star moments. He did eventually return to the stage for the end of the song, in time to do a couple of fun fake endings where Flans was teetering on the drum riser, looking like he was just on the verge of toppling off. Once again, they managed not to rock the quite hard enough to roll down the hill, but it was close!


The rest of the pictures are available on Flickr:

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