Tuesday, March 19, 2013

We Have Many Questions

March 16, 2013 - The Vic - Chicago, IL

The city of Chicago takes their St. Patrick's Day very seriously and the festivities had CLEARLY already started when I arrived in town. The streets were absolutely littered with people wearing green, and leprechaun hats and beads and shamrocks and I think at least 95% of them were already drunk. Even though I arrived nearly three hours before doors, there were already about ten people in line ahead of me at The Vic. And it was cold. By the time the doors finally opened I was miserable because I couldn't feel my feet any longer. Also, thank goodness my friend Ana arrived when she did, as I had just realized that I left my camera in the car and was terribly grateful to have someone to save my spot in line while I ran to get it.

For the second consecutive show I have seen in Chicago, a couple got engaged in the crowd shortly before it started. Such a lovely way to begin a live together. I wonder what makes all the guys in Chicago think of it? There was also a couple of enthusiastic but very PDA heavy teenagers who started out behind me, but later pushed themselves into the front, in a space really only big enough for a single person. I felt off kilter all night because they kept bumping into me.

Moon Hooch has been doing the same setlist at all the shows so far, or at least as far as I can tell. The songs run together so much, I am not 100% sure I would noticed if they changed one. They got a very enthusiastic response from the crowd after they were finished. They keep doing all of their talking to the crowd after they are done though, which I find very awkward. Especially when they ramble about not knowing anyone named Leslie and asking anyone with that name to come introduce themselves at the merch stand to get a free CD.

TMBG setlist: You're On Fire - James K. Polk - Memo To Human Resources - Celebration - Call You Mom - The Guitar - Birdhouse In Your Soul - Fingertips - Cloisonné -- Drink! - Doctor Worm - The Famous Polka - Whistling In The Dark - Circular Karate Chop - They'll Need A Crane - Insect Hospital - He's Loco - Judy Is Your Viet Nam - S-E-X-X-Y - Nanobots - Puppet Head - 123 Band Intro - Ana Ng - Damn Good Times - When Will You Die Encore - Tesla - The Mesopotamians - Can't Keep Johnny Down Encore 2 - She's An Angel - New York City

Flans commented on all the revelers on the streets outside. "It is clear that tonight is unlike other nights. We have many questions."

During one of the first songs, Flansburgh, amusingly, walked across the stage to a small digital clock that was pointed into the stage at the band and flipped it face down. I guess he didn't want to be reminded what time it was throughout the show.

I am trying to figure out why I don't have more visual memories of the first few songs and I think it's because I was watching Dan and Marty deal with some technical issues at the back of the stage. Something with the monitors I'd guess though I can't be sure.

During Danny's bass solo in The Guitar, Flans ran around to each member of the band to inform them of an on the fly setlist change he wanted to make. Dan had left the stage at that point to put on his hoodie. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say he wasn't feeling well, but again, I can't be sure. I almost forgot at the end, that Flans had not yet informed Danny, of the setlist change, but fortunately Flans remembered even though I hadn't. And as it turns out, Birdhouse was tucked in before Fingertips. Based of Flansburgh's comments from the previous night about not doing Cloisonné right after The Guitar, I assume he wanted to give himself more time to recover. And I can understand it, as Flans was SUPER energetic on the first few group of songs. He was bouncing around like crazy, but I think he wore himself out quickly and kept needing to make use of a towel to wipe down his face.

I believe it was also during The Guitar, that all three of the guitar playing members of the band went back to their amps at the rear of the stage, where they all proceeded to bend over to play their instruments directly into the amps. It was a pretty neat sound effect they managed to produce and it looked kind of cool, if a little silly, to see them all lined up like that. Unfortunately, by the time I thought to take a picture of it, Dan was the only one still doing it.

Marty clarified with Flans before starting Fingertips, that that was in fact still the next song they were going to play. What was amusing, was that he did so not by asking, but by wiggling his fingers at Flans with a quizzical look on his face. Dan also seemed amused by this and was teasing Marty about it afterward. Linnell and Flans have been having fun with the I Don't Understand You portion of Fingertips, making weird sounds into the mics for an extended period before continuing the song. And at the end, Dan had to pause before he could deliver the second whispered "Fingertips" because there was too much whooping from the crowd.

Flans invited the audience to participate on Drink, calling this portion "where we reach out to you and hope you don't reach back. Join us and become music professionals if just for one song." He did the monster voice again but recommended we not sing in the monster voice because it would rip up our throats and we wouldn't be able to sing later, except in a monster voice. After our first soundcheck he declared us not good enough and told us we needed less feeling and more volume. "Just pretend you are outside. You know, it's funny to think of this as some kind of metaphor, when in fact outside there are people soooo fucked up. I'm gonna you a little story about the person directly outside this building." Flans told us that even though the song was quiet we should not be quiet. "We'll do the emotional part, you guys do the insensitive part."

Flans has been letting one lucky audience member each night play his guitar during The Famous Polka. Tonight it was a friend of a friend just to my right who got the honor. Flans handed him his pick first, but it wasn't immediately clear what he was to do with it, until Flans bent down and presented him the guitar. The funniest part about this routine, to me anyway, is that Flans always needs the pick back to play the end of the song and can't always get it from the audience member. Of the instances of this I have seen, he has attempted to go without once and the other times, asked for the pick back from the fan, then returned it to them when he finished. I have to admit, the thought of being given this job myself, terrifies me and I am a little glad I have not been chosen.

Flans discussed the album prior to Circular Karate Chop and joked about how they were still trying to remember songs they had only written a few months ago and only learned after the tour had started. Then he and Linnell had a discussion of the pronunciation of Nanobots. Flans said that he says it "Naanobots" because he isn't English, which Linnell agreed was the pronunciation in Chicago. Flans also went on this weird thing about "Mr. Dijon Mayonnaise" that I didn't entirely get, but I think was just a reference to words said differently in different accents.

Flans said that the new album was action packed with no time for chit chat "unlike our show," then asked Linnell to talk while he did a "personal thing." "I gotta make a couple of calls." Linnell said absolutely, but then said "You're going to call me right? And tell me when your done." Linnell was at bit at a loss about what to say, and just said how excited he was to be there, until he saw someone throw something at someone else. "Please don't throw shit at other people in the crowd. That's the only other thing I was going to say. Unfortunately, I didn't say it in time and a guy just got hit by a cup. Very sorry."

Then Flans told a fantastic story about their recent show in Louisville, KY.

"It was a Tuesday night be we didn't realize that the drinking begins on Thursday and works its way through. There was a lady in the audience, she took a beer...you could tell there was like, a situation, because people were kind of stepping away from her through out the entire evening. Her, and I should say, her methy boyfriend."

The crowd made some "ooooo" noises at this.

"Just the facts. No judgement," said Linnell. "It's written on his employment card."

Flans continued, "Hobbies: meth. Special skills: meth. But anyway, right in the middle of the show she took a beer, shook it up really hard and just went phhhhhhssssss." He said this last while miming holding the bottle out and spinning around as if spraying the crowd around him with the bottle. "The people of Louisville would not stand for this. And the security guy appeared instantaneously and went like...*pling*" Flans then mimed picking her up like a crane with his hand. "It was like one of those clamp games, or whatever you call them, and just kind of extracted her. We want to remind everyone to be on their best behavior. Be an example for the people throwing up outside. No bullying. It's all about love in here."

The Avatars seemed a little weak on the jokes tonight. They talked about their new album with Axel Rose again. "There's only two words to describe it. Perfec Tionist." They claimed that one song had taken them three years, but that they still had their cable TV show "with the special effect." I believe they were making a joke out of the fact that the screen was visible on their camera so they were both visible twice. And then they went straight into their song.

More classic robot voice material before Nanobots.

Robot Flans: "I have been given divine insight."

Linnell: "I understand you robotal infallibility."

Flans: "That is correct. Over the past two weeks, members of the crew and the band have been meeting in the back lounge of the bus to decide who will become Pope Robot One. And three days ago, giant clouds of smoke emerged from the back of the touring vehicle and declared me, Robot Flans, Pope Robot One. I have taken the name Pope Robot One in honor of my predecessor, Pope Robot Zero. Who sadly died of too much white smoke. Let that be a lesson kids.

Linnell: "Listen to the robot, people. So what are we gonna do now, Robot? We need your guidance."

Flans: "I don't know. I am slightly exhausted from the show already and I can not longer look at the setlist. I am suffering from metal fatigue. I would like that thank everyone at The Friar's Club for working so hard on my jokes. I don't the email. My wife shows it to me, but I don't understand it. Does this computer have Yahoo? I am suffering from metal fatigue."

Then they started the song. But Flans started singing in a completely different key than the rest of the band was playing and called a halt to the song a few lines in. Even that was funny since he was saying "whoa, whoa, hold up" in the robot voice still. Then he said "I destroyed the song with the notes that I sang. Such is the power of Pope Robot One." Linnell told him that it must have been the song's fault because he had robotal infallibility. And Flans just repeated infallible a few times. That part was probably even funnier than the bit before the song. Then Flans said he had found his note, and they proceeded.

This was certainly, the best band introduction bit I have yet seen. I don't remember if I have said so in the last few recaps, but they have got the drum cam that looks down over Marty's back, that they used briefly in Portland, up and running again for the band intros. The image is displayed on the screen at the back so you can see what it would look like to be standing looking over Marty's shoulder. Well, tonight, Flans went up on the back of the drum riser and stuck his stylophone thing that he uses for the intro, under the camera and played it so it was projected on the screen. Sensing a good thing, Danny then followed suit for his part, hopping up and sticking his bass under the camera while he played. Linnell, unable to bring the keyboard to the camera, but not to be outdone, leaned over and began playing the keyboard WITH HIS HEAD. Repeatedly. Hands never touched it. I just about died laughing. And then Dan went up on the drum riser and stuck his face into the camera so that he was peering out at the audience on the big screen, before leaning the guitar under to play his part. And then finally Marty wrecked so of his best shit for the crowd. It was epic.

Sadly, I remember none of the nicknames that were bestowed on the audience, but there was a hysterical exchange between the Johns. Flans had given Linnell the flashlight to pick out someone for a nickname and Linnell was just waving it around the crowd. He said he was trying to do a Stalag 17 (or possibly some other German prison camp movie, I forget exactly), but Flans told him it looked like Hogan's Heroes. Eventually, Linnell dithered with the flashlight for so long that Flans requested it back. "John, give me back that flashlight. You're not qualified to use it."

Flans had some guitar trouble midway through When Will You Die and ended up leaving the stage. The guitar solo mid way through sounds really strange with just Dan playing it. I don't think he had realized that Flans had left, because he looked around suddenly, I assume when he realized Flans wasn't playing. I think Danny attempted to cover for Flans' absence a bit, but there was one awkward bit of total silence near the end that was clearing missing some guitar part that Flans played. Flans did step back on stage to retrieve the mic at some point, and delivered his "Kid Rock!" line from the wings. The worst of it was he wasn't on stage for the "I'm John and he is also John" lyric. It was a little sad.

This time around, in the second encore, it really was She's An Angel that they played. Flans said congratulations to the couple who had gotten engaged after the song, so I wonder if it was by special request? Then, unfortunately, he had more guitar issues in New York City and gave up on playing it again. As Flans stood mid-stage singing with no guitar, Danny looked at Dan, flicked his eyes over at Flans and then back to Dan. Dan flicked his eyebrows in acknowledgement and in the next guitar section, seamlessly flipped over to playing Flans' part so that it wouldn't be missing. It was a rather cool bit of silent and almost imperceptible communication.

The show may have ended on that bit of weird vibe, but otherwise it was quite solid. Good times Chicago. Good times.

The night's pictures can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mynameisbluecanary/sets/72157633018133656/


  1. I'm glad you do such detailed recaps, i wouldn't have wanted to forget any of this!

    Another thing that made me laugh: at the beginning of the show, Flans was all "hello audience. Hello balcony." *looks up into the boxes on the side "hello one percenters. Job creators, I should say. I could go on."