This guy I know was talking to me one day when
suddenly the topic of different bands came up. Seems he is a huge
fan of They Might Be Giants (TMBG) and wanted me to know how cool
they were, that they were playing in Chicago, and I should go cover
them. Me, I'm like "I recognize the name but can't recall any
of their songs." He rattles off some song titles, I look at him
rather strangely, and then say "Alright, I'll try to cover them,
they better be good."
They Might Be Giants
A Concert Review
Well, I make my way to The Metro in Chicago for the second of
their two-night, sold-out stand where I'm struck by the crowd. First
off, it's mostly dudes. Bummer. Then I'm noticing that all in all
it's pretty diverse - I mean it ranged from young clean-cut teens to
punkers, from yuppies to grandma and grandpa. Interesting. Then the
This turned out to be one of the "Tape Machine Shows,"
sort of a let's turn back the clock and play some oldies first, take
a short break, and then bring on the band. Starting off, on stage,
were John Flansburgh and John Linnell, known simply as John and
John. John plays guitar and handles vocals while John takes care of
an accordion (gotta love a band with an accordion), sax, keys, and
he sings too. I'm thinking "not much of a percussion
section," but then I realized exactly why they call it a
"Tape Machine Show." Suddenly, accompanying John and John,
came this really talented tape/drum machine, that, well, seems to
have lost its hearing because it was way, and I mean way, loud. And
so the show continued.
I have to be honest, other than the "Birdhouse in Your
Soul" song and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," my
knowledge of TMBG songs is slim to none. I guess that with the cult
following the band has, and none of my friends ever being in that
cult, I never was exposed to the weird genius that seems to be John
and John. But up there they were, John and John, who seem to be able
to mix a little stand-up comedy, witty commentary, and interesting
instruments (John played, for no better way to put it, a big stick
for one of the songs) into a show that had the crowd going wild at
the ding of a xylophone. My problem, and I think I was the only one
there with this problem, was that I wasn't familiar with the songs.
So, I'm trying to listen while the crowd is singing along, and that
damn drum machine dude is just drowning out what sounded like some
of the most fun and interesting lyrics I've heard in a long time. It
sounded kinda folksy, kinda rappish, kinda rock, kinda polka, but
that's the best I could understand while the crowd was bouncing up
and down, screaming as if they were in hell, and just plain old
having a good time. And so the end of the first set came to a close.
After an acceptable 20 minute break John and John returned with
some friends, a full blown band, and the bass still cranked up. So,
again, while the rest of the crowd is singing along, I'm in the same
predicament as before - the bass was drowning out the lyrics. Oh
well, it still seemed to be only a problem for me because the crowd
was having a blast, even grandma and grandpa were dancing up a
storm, and when the confetti tube blasted during "James K.
Polk" the place was up for grabs. Well, so I thought, that was
all until I got to experience two of the tallest "singers"
I have ever seen while the crowd went nuts. I guess calling them
"singers" is a stretch, but I always get confused on what
to call ventriloquist dummies. I mean they sort of have a
personality, but they aren't really people, so I guess I'll stick
with "singers" in the quotes. Approaching the height of
the ceiling in The Metro, these "singers" overshadowed the
crowd, and I now started to realize why TMBG had this cult
following. See, TMBG don't get a lot of radio play, at least not
here in The Windy City, kinda like a lot of pretty cool bands, but
they do put on a fun show, and fun shows go by word of mouth. Those
fans buy the CD's, those fans know the words, and those fans just
add to the fun of a group like They Might Be Giants.
As the night was coming to a close I was really pretty impressed
at the great band John and John had, how dedicated their fans are,
and I always like a band that can show its fans a good time. There
didn't seem to be many disappointed people there, well, all except
me, but that's my own fault for not knowing a lot of their songs,
and a lot of those same fans were glad to hear the older songs, with
John and John playing them as the duo they started as. Any band that
has an accordion and will play a polka automatically have a thumb up
on other bands, but toss that in with a fun time and a disco ball
and the other thumb rises to attention too. So, it's TWO
"THEY'VE GOT AN ACCORDION" THUMBS UP for the They Might Be
Giants boys. Next time around I should know a few more of their
songs so the deaf drum machine dude won't bother me so much, but I
just wish I could have picked up on some of the lyrics John and John
have become famous for. Oh well.
That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!