Thursday, October 23, 2014

Here's A Good One That We've Been Ignoring For Too Long

October 17, 2014 - Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun - Uncasville, CT

I haven't done one of these recaps in forever but this show was so notable I feel I have to.

This was my first concert since moving to New York City as a permanent resident and I set out for Mohegan with a whole car full of likeminded fans, blasting TMBG (and others) from the stereo as we crawled through NYC traffic.

Every show involves this line waiting and fan bonding experience but for some reason the Mohegan shows always seem special. Maybe because of the sheer number of fans who turn out. Maybe it's something about the environment of waiting in line all day in the middle of a casino. Whatever it is, the hours melt away in good company.

One of the best parts of Mohegan Show line waiting is getting to watch soundcheck and this concert was no exception. Marty pounded away on his drums for quite a while before the rest of the band turned up. Linnell appeared on stage in stocking feet, testing out a tiny symphony of clarinets (okay it was just two, but that is one more than usual). Soundcheck began with the very end of S-E-X-X-Y complete with the Tricachops horns, which we all spent an embarrassingly long amount of time trying to identify. This was followed by the majority of Doctor Worm and some When Will You Die and possibly some other little bits of things that I am forgetting. Mostly there was a lot of noodling.

Met some lovely new people in line. If any of them happen to be reading this, hello! Danny came out and handed out flyers to everyone in line for his next kids concert in NYC, but he told me I didn't need one. It's like he just knows I'm going to show up no matter what.....oh, wait.... ;-)

Our rather enormous group got split up once we entered the Wolf Den due to the majority of the floor tables being reserved. Pretty sure there were only four tables that were available on the whole first level. That part was a bit frustrating but out of our control. The tasty drinks almost made up for it.

The challenge of the Wolf Den is in knowing when to anticipate the stage rush. I'm not sure it has been the same any two years I have been there. Some years we have remained seated. One year it happened so early I was in the bathroom and missed it entirely. This time, we were ready, and with one signal from our line leader, the entire group stood up en masse. It happened so fast that someone else who came up behind us asked what the signal had been because they hadn't been ready and couldn't figure out how everyone knew to go.

The show began with the seldom heard Orff Intro and let straight into the duo version of Istanbul. My favorite part of the back and forth "take me back" yes/no banter in the bridge was Flans begging Linnell to reconsider because the venue had a curfew. Linnell remained unmoved.

The rest of the band, including the horns, joined the Johns for a semi-rare performance of With the Dark. Now THAT is a song made for a horn section. They followed it up with Birdhouse and a horn-tastic rendition of Withered Hope.

Flans paused to say that they had a whole bunch of songs he didn't know how to play tonight. Linnell chimed in to say there was a variety of "don't know how to play songs". "High, low, fun, not fun." And then Flans announced "a good one that we've been ignoring for too long."

Now let me pause a moment. Any one who has been reading my blog for any length of time, or knows me at all, knows that I have been waiting my entire show going history to hear Man, It's So Loud In Here live. It was last played in 2003, a good five years before I started going to shows regularly. And it is my absolute favorite TMBG song. But I had actually managed to attend 164 shows without ever hearing it live. I'd almost given up hope.

But the previous night, Susan had handed me her phone with a series of tweets from Flansburgh on it. I started reading at the top and was scrolling down wondering what exactly I was supposed to be looking at when she told me to read the last one."@tmbg: Tomorrow night we'll perform Man It's So Loud in Here with our 8 piece band. Exciting!" I think I starred in dumb shock for a minute and then just said "really?" several times before sharing a number of expletives. Susan, can probably elaborate more on my amusing reaction, but suffice it to say I was shocked and elated and actually maybe just a tiny bit disappointed that it wasn't going to be a surprise at the show because that would have been the ultimate in epicness.

But suffice it to say, I was prepared for Flans to introduce Man, It's So Loud in Here but no less enthusiastic for the performance. They changed up the arrangement of the song a bit to incorporate the horns and it was kind of part way between the old rock version they played long ago and the super dancy/disco version on Mink Car. But HOLY CRAP they played the song I've been waiting years for! I'm still kind of reeling from it. It is the main reason I felt the need to recap this show, because I feel like it is sort of the culmination of years of touring and blogging and the ultimate example of good things come to those who wait.

Thanks to Victor for this video. I feel compelled to comment on something that I only noticed after the fact when reviewing the various videos of the performance (probably because I was just a teeny bit excited at the time). I am really impressed with Marty's ability to replicate the essence of the drum machine beat from the recording live on the kit. Especially since, just as I had never heard the song live, Marty had never played it before, in any version. High five, Marty!

After the song Flans made a crack about Marty being the "best theatrical drummer in show business" which he then explained he had a recording of Frank Sinatra saying. But he always suspected that Frank meant it as kind of a dig. "Everything was provisional with Frank. That was the kind of guy he was.

And THEN, because my brain wasn't already melting, Flans made some cracks about songs about the government and I was sure they were going to play Shadow Government or maybe Black Ops, but they played Working Undercover for the Man! ANOTHER song off of my bucket list that I've never heard. This might not seems like such a big deal to some people, but short of a new album coming out (or one offs like the Pink Shows), it is really rare that I hear anything I've never heard live before, so a double header is just unheard of. Damn. Someone please tell me what I did to deserve it so I can keep doing it!

Round about this point, give or take a song or two, Linnell paused and said he remembered what he had been meaning to say and then howled into the mic like a wolf, the traditional Wolf Den greeting.

With my head still spinning, the show marched on to Call You Mom which Marty knocked out to the friggin, casino. And then Flans moved to the back of the stage for Whistling In the Dark. He didn't actually have a bass drum this time around and I think he just moved because he was conscious of not having much of a part in the song. Linnell later teased him about being so far away.

Before the next song, Linnell made a comment about something and I believe howled into the mic again just being a goof and Danny asked him if he was ready to start. Linnell asked him if he was in a hurry for some reason and Danny looked amusingly chastised. Linnell then made a point of stating that Danny started the next song and asked him to proceed into Museum of Idiots. After the song, the rest of the band left the stage and Flans said Danny was the glue that was holding the band together and keeping them on track, :-)

Somewhere in here, Flans noted on the setlist that he had neglected to include any audience participation in the show. I feel like him made an amusing joke about it which I've now forgotten.

They performed the duo version of How Can I Sing Like A Girl? and then Flans made some cracks about asking the audience to clap along to the next song except he couldn't because there was absolutely no audience participation in this set. Pretty sure some of the audience clapped along with We're the Replacements anyway.

Flans made some jokes about fake New England accents that I can't really remember the context of, but I did enjoy the fact that his analogy for a broad New England accent was "Saturday Night Live levels of broad." He declared that there was nothing quite as fake as a fake New England accent, but Linnell begged to differ. Though he didn't offer an alternative. Just the next song, Hate the Villanelle.

Afterwards Linnell declared the benefit of playing new songs. "New songs. Most people don't know that we're fuckin' em up. You can't tell!" Flans added that they had that kind of transparency with their audience. "Full disclosure," said Linnell. "That was wrong, and if you liked it, you were wrong." Flans said if they messed the next one up, we would know. It was Letterbox, but Linnell declared it was a perfect performance.

Flans pulled out his robot vocal for Nanobots and carried on some humorous banter about the horn players. I swear they keep that song in the set just because Flans has so much fun doing the robot voice.

They played S-E-X-X-Y with Linnell chiming in on the outro on the clarinet (the normal sized one, not the bass). Linnell and Flans riffed on Jonathan Letham whom Linnell credited with writing the lyrics to the next song "but then I just took the title and wrote new lyrics. I hope he's okay with that." Flans mistook him for a podcaster and Linnell expounded on the fact that Lethem is a MacArthur genius, though Flans said Linnell would never know if he was angry about Linnell stealing the title of his song because he wouldn't return his calls. The song in question was the also seldomly played Bee of the Bird of the Moth. Not actually one of my favorites but it's still nice to hear something I don't hear often.

For Cloisonné, Linnell pulled out not the bass clarinet, but the contra bass clarinet, a truly deep clarinet. And a huge one. The thing was almost as tall as he is. Jokes were made, as the should be.

They closed out the main portion of the show with Turn Around and Mr. Me with the horns, who got a lot of play time in this show, though I could not see them due the keyboard.

During the encore Flans announced both the return of Dial-A-Song (yay!) and their gig in Brooklyn in January (double yay!). This will actually be the first show occurring in a town where I am currently living, that I can commute to via subway. Of course Danny's got a gig in Manhattan earlier in the day so I'll be hopping about town, but at least it gives me an excuse to not stand in the freezing cold line until a bit later in the day.

The encore consisted of Number Three, The Mesopotamians, When Will You Die and Doctor Worm. For whatever reason I was not anticipating the Doctor Worm leap, possibly because the drum riser was only about six inches high and I missed my once a show opportunity to attempt the jump shot. Good thing there will be others.

It was, at the end of the day, a truly epic show, and a day spent in the company of all my favorite people. We finished it with a pancake dinner with pancakes the size of our heads and wound our way out of the casino with hundreds of teenagers just exiting a Demi Lovato concert in the Arena. How's that for a juxtaposition?

Pictures can be found here if you are so inclined. Thank you all for sticking with me through to this point. I know I have kind of dropped off the face of the earth where this blog is concerned, but I really wanted to share this show of all shows with all of you.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Happy Birthday Dan!

It's Dan Miller's birthday! Let the traditional birthday chanting begin!