Monday, December 30, 2013

A Year On The Road With TMBG

They Might Be Giants played exactly 100 shows in 2013, more than they've played in any single year since the Mink Car tour in 2001. Prior to this year, my own record for show attendance was 32 shows in a year, in 2009 (largely thanks to a number of "double feature" days with a family show in the afternoon and a rock show in the evening). But this year I blew that record out of the water attending 52, or just slightly more than half the shows they played.

To put this in perspective, I saw shows in 45 cities, 26 states (plus DC), 3 countries, and traveled a somewhat staggering 25,432 miles following the band between February 27 and November 21. Counting travel days, I spent slightly over two months following these guys around.

I think Dan Miller put it best. He told me, at my last show, that I had been on a year long scavenger hunt, locating the band in cities around the globe. And it definitely felt like that some days, wandering around unfamiliar cities, looking for venues, parking, doors, lines, etc, etc.

And a particularly amusing fact for me, I actually attended as many or more shows than at least four members of the band's regular crew this year. And I'm not even on the payroll!

I'm sure many of you noticed that I stopped posting recaps after the March tour ended. There were a number of factors influencing this, but the biggest one was, simply, time. Traveling alone, usually driving, and seeing shows back to back to back, left little to no time in between to write recaps and the more shows I saw, the less I remembered the ones back at the beginning of the tour. I actually got about half way through the recap for the first show in Boston (which was where my recaps left off), but never finished it because I've never been able to recall the punch line to a very amusing story that was told on stage and I always felt the recap was incomplete without it.

So, by way of making up for the lack of recaps, please enjoy this "year in review", recalling the highlights of 2013, on the road with TMBG.

February 27, 2013 - Port City Music Hall - Portland, ME
The tour begins in disgusting sleety weather, in my home state. Linnell appears on stage in snow boots. The band kicks off the tour with the live premiere of You're On Fire. And spontaneously plays a cover of the Rockford Files Theme halfway through the show.

March 14, 2013 - The Blue Note - Columbia, MO
I am re-introduced to Moon Hooch, who begin their set with 20 minutes of meditation on stage. And I have the pleasure of hearing the Columbia venue song live, even if Linnell did mess up the lyrics.

March 16, 2013 - The Vic - Chicago, IL
John Linnell performs a keyboard solo using only his head. The results are....interesting.

March 17, 2013 - Beachland Ballroom - Cleveland, OH
Dan sports a "My Other Truck Is They Might Be Giants" hat on stage, while Marty realizes the full potential of the Marty Cam and strikes the first and, without a doubt, the most terrifying of many triumphant/threatening poses for the camera at the end of his solo.

March 22, 2013 - The Paramount - Huntington, NY
The final show of the first leg of the tour coincides both with a Sweet Sixteen party at the venue and the final Song of the Day post on my blog. Needless to say, this performance of Birdhouse (the final song of the day), was rather emotional for me.

April 3, 2013 - Paradise Rock Club - Boston, MA
My 32nd birthday turns out to be my most memorable when a legit crazy man breaks into the band's soundcheck and starts yelling at the band about my birthday, among other topics. After a truly bizarre sidewalk screaming match between the guy and security, this incident eventually leads to my birthday being mentioned on stage three times over the course of the show. The line "I've been on your bus for an hour!" is entered into our official fandom lexicon and I walk away with, hands down, the most insane story I've collected in all of my 161 shows.

April 5, 2013 - World Cafe Live - Philadelphia, PA
One of the most unique shows I have ever seen. The band appears on stage for a short live radio set looking like they just rolled out of bed and found themselves on stage. Marty plays a drum kit constructed out of an upside-down recycling bin and various equipments cases, and just for radio, we participate in a Battle of Passengers vs Drivers.

April 7, 2013 - The National - Richmond, VA
Unexpected pre-show band member encounter leads to me being introduced to band family members as "one of our primary photographers." While outwardly I think I turned several shades of pink, inwardly, I was beaming with pride :-)

April 9, 2013 - Jefferson Theatre - Charlottesville, VA

April 10, 2013 - Cat's Cradle - Carrboro, NC
Still haunted by the terrifying image of Gitmo Elmo in the junk shop across the street. *shudder* After weeks of watching others do the honors, I am afforded the honor of playing Flans' guitar for the Famous Polka solo. Plus the "zipper incident" (if you know, you know).

April 11, 2013 - Music Farm - Charleston, SC
My first show in South Carolina! Best tour cupcakes of the whole year. And for being first in line, Susan and I are presented with chairs, bottled water and our very own potted plant to keep us company. Plus, Charleston venue song!

April 13, 2013 - Variety Playhouse - Atlanta, GA
There is a story from this day that I've sworn not to tell, but suffice it to say, it was memorable. Very memorable.

April 16, 2013 - Academy Records Annex - Brooklyn, NY
Fourth official signing with the Johns, following a neat little in-store performance that I couldn't see at all from where I was standing.

May 30, 2013 - The Vogue - Indianapolis, IN
Fresh off the Australian tour, the boys are back to conquer the remainder of the good old US of A.

May 31, 2013 - Turner Hall - Milwaukee, WI
Hilarious soundcheck version of 9 Secret Steps precedes show plagued by tech issues, on a comically slanted stage.

June 2, 2013 - Englert Theatre - Iowa City, IA
This show should get some sort of prize for prettiest lighting of the tour.

June 5, 2013 - Slowdown - Omaha, NE
First visit to exciting Nebraska! Live goal achieved - hug from Dan Miller :-)

June 6, 2013 - Crossroads - Kansas City, MO
Beautiful outdoor show. Live premiere of Icky (sans melodica)! Duo Istanbul!

August 10, 2013 - Prospect Park - Brooklyn, NY
And another beautiful outdoor show, this time with horns! Highlights include Dan's interpretive dance during soundcheck and Flans sneaking up on Dan, on all fours (the image of that just made me crack up while writing this).

September 7, 2013 - Penn's Landing - Philadelphia, PA
Combining two of my favorite things. TMBG and tugboats!

October 11, 2013 - World Cafe Live at The Queen - Wilmington, DE
They Day! Never have so many foreheads been decorated in one place! Plus, the band actually managed to surprise me by unexpectedly pulling out Rhythm Section Want Ad before the Pink Shows. Pretty sure I watched the entire song wearing a stupid grin.

October 12, 2013 - 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
The legend of the boa is born. Also, the delightful experience of the DJ Flans dance party complete with glowsticks, a contortionist, and a dancing ice cream sandwich lady.

October 13, 2013 - Ziggy's - Winston-Salem, NC
More beautiful lighting. What is it about these specific venues that transform the same lighting set up it something so gosh darn pretty?

October 25, 2013 - Marquee Theatre - Tempe, AZ
If any show was a Pink Show preview it was this one. Quite possibly the coolest setlist of the tour (outside of the Pink Shows themselves). And some truly hilarious/adorable antics from some guys named Dan.

October 26, 2013 - Royce Hall - Los Angeles, CA
CONFETTI! Marty dancing, Danny singing, construction hats, and that was just the first show! Did I mention the full performance of the Pink Album in the evening? Songs I pretty much never thought I'd get to see live. Spectacular doesn't even begin to cover it. Only slightly marred by Danny scaring the crap out of me (and himself) by nearly taking a header off the front of the stage.

October 27, 2013 - Rio Theatre - Santa Cruz, CA
Stop the presses. Linnell said hi to me. Voluntarily. Year=made. Extremely nice venue staff let me wait for this show inside once it got cold too, making this one of my favorite pre-show experiences of the year.

November 1, 2013 - Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun - Uncasville, CT
Awwwwoooooooooo! Let's be honest, the pre-show cocktails made this show pretty entertaining, even if I was watching it from under the keyboard. The ridiculously enormous post-show pancake didn't hurt either :-)

November 2, 2013 - Terminal 5 - New York, NY
Pink Album show in NYC. A thousand TMBG fans singing along with The Day will forever remain a live show highlight. And I walked away with the gift of a thoroughly soaked setlist, because who else would appreciate such a weird gift?

November 15, 2013 - The Queen's Hall - Edinburgh, UK
Surprise! This fangirl is international! My plan to surprise the band didn't go exactly as expected but I sure surprised Brunette!

November 18, 2013 - Vicar St - Dublin, Ireland
This show makes it onto my all time top ten. Killer jokes, hilarious banter, high energy, and an Irish crowd that was starved for some TMBG. So. Much. FUN!

November 19, 2013 - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - London, UK
I've got a lot of pretty cool souvenirs from my years on tour, but nothing quite as special as the guitar pick I was gifted at this show. Still stunned.

November 20, 2013 - Manchester Academy 2 - Manchester, UK
End of the tour. Happy day and sad day at the same time. But for the first time ever, I actually got to say goodbye to all three of the boys when I left, giving a valuable sense of closure to a year unlike any other.

One of the best things about traveling the country/the world to see the band, is all the wonderful and interesting people I get to meet along the way. And this year I got to spend a lot of time with friends I already love, and make a lot of new friends in places near and far. Thanks to all of you for helping to make the year so fun. I hope to see all of you again in 2015!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, Danny!

Every year, I write up a post for each member of the band's birthday, in which I wax lyrical about how awesome I think they are, and share a whole bunch of pictures of them from the last year. Well, this year, for Danny's birthday, I'm going to do something a bit different.

You are all, hopefully, aware by now, that Danny has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his new solo kids' album, No School Today. Thanks to 349 generous backers, the campaign has already been funded with 40 days still to go. But he's still about $3,500 away from his stretch goal, which will allow more music videos to be made to accompany the album. And every extra dollar makes a big difference in getting the album out into the world.

So, possibly for the first time, we have an opportunity to give a member of the band a real, tangible and very meaningful birthday present, by backing his album. If you haven't backed already, tell Danny "happy birthday" by doing so right now. Any amount helps. $10 will get you a download of the album. $25 will get you a CD. For $80 he'll make you a video teaching you how to play any of his songs. $100 will get you an Executive Producer credit. For $10,000 you can even have his car! Even, if you don't have kids, back the album to support Danny, and great music.

And if you have already backed the album, kick in an extra $10 today, as a special happy birthday wish. And then, please, share the campaign with your friends. I don't think I have enough clout to get him all the way to his stretch goal today, but I am sure as heck going to try and I need help from every one of you.

And for my part, I am making two promises. First, to any fan who backs at $10 or more or adds $10 to their pledge, I will offer a PDF of my TMBG calendar I put together every year. It has previously only been a Christmas present I make for my band friends, but I am offering it up as an incentive for TMBG fans who back the campaign. Just show me you've backed, send me your email and I'll send you the PDF near the end of the month, when I finish assembling the calendar.

And second, I will, personally, kick in an extra dollar for every person who backs today at any level. Whether there are ten of you or 100. 

I can honestly say that Danny is one of my very favorite people. A tremendous musician, and just the nicest guy you are ever likely to meet. He has been nothing but kind and supportive of me over the years, and it means a great deal to me to be able to give back in such a real and positive way by helping get his album out to the world. I sincerely hope you will all join me in saying, "Happy Birthday, Danny. We are behind you 100% and can't wait to see the results of your new endeavor!"

Now go, Red Pants Team, go!

I also made this video to celebrate Danny's birthday and his quest to reach new heights :-)