i spent the day listening to naught but they might be giants. yet despite all that had led to what was to come, i wasn't especially euphoric or ecstatic. i donned my black 'apollo 18 tour' shirt and picked up nathan. due to this, that, and the other, we left a little later than i would have liked, and a couple of collisions ['accident' implies that it was unintentional] on I-15, we got to salt lake a little later than we'd hoped.
utah is an unusually big tmbg market, presumably because all us mormons like the goofy, quirky, clean lyrics. sounds about right. thus, the line at the depot was long. 'long' as in 'it snaked back and forth about four times out in front of the building and all the radio promo stuff [playing tmbg music, of course] and went off downt the street'. that kind of long. nathan and i took our place at the end of this long line amidst all these other late 20's-early 30's pseudo-nerds. people began to line up behind us and i felt that feeling that often comes when i'm waiting in line without tickets for general conference: the odd justification that, the more people are behind you, the better chance you have of getting in; after all, the more people who line up behind me, the higher up in the line's percentage i become. never mind that the number of people in front of me hadn't changed; i was now in the top 94%, and after twenty minutes i was in the top 60%.
one of these people was joel hilton and his wife, a good friend of mine from many years back, our friendship being solidly founded on our mutual appreciation of movies and they might be giants. we passed the time with discussions tmbg lore, occasionally saying something intriguing enough or inflamatory enough to elicit comments from other concert goers. on the other hand, mormons and tmbg fans are generally friendly and talkative to begin with.
as we were debating just how good 'mink car' is and what 'fingertips' really means, if anything, we began to hear whisperings that our tickets did not guarantee admission, that this had been over-booked. i told myself not to worry, that we were early enough in line to certainly get in, that this was just a concert and that i had already had an amazing concert experience just two nights before, and began scanning the line for anyone to whom i could plead my case and prove that i was more of a fan than any of these people and certainly deserved to be among the elect.
i texted a panicked message to those who would appreciate the dire gravity of the situation in hopes of consolation or divine intervention. meanwhile, joel left his group and went ahead to the front of the line. when he came back, he was carrying a handful of what looked to be v.i.p. passes. i tried to count and see how many he had, if i would be among the chosen. he passed us and went to his friends just a few people behind me. like kevin costner watching james earl jones enter the cornfield, i confusedly and yearningly watched them walk past me, past all the lonely people, and enter into avalon. i withdrew my cell phone and texted joel, what we would call back in the old ward, a 'cold prickly', thereby ending our friendship, effective immediately. kaput.
eventually, and certainly after the printed 'doors open' time of 7:00, prayers were answered, fears were quelled, and we made it inside. in a narrow entry way, past the shop selling tmbg cds and t-shirts, and up some narrow stairs into the main venue area, nicer than where we experienced tally hall, but about the same size and with a trendy bar in the back.
as i walked in to the room, i rush of elation hit me--it was almost empty!! at the tally hall concert, we fit somewhere in the back, and i would have been happy with that for they might be giants. but, while there were people scattered here and there, nathan and i were able to walk up to about five or six people from the stage. i couldn't believe it......
'I'M 10 FEET FROM THE STAGE!! WE'RE STILL WAITING FOR THE OPENING ACT, BUT I MAY VERY WELL DIE FROM PLEASURE OVERLOAD! = D' i texted to anyone who would appreciate the grandure of the situation.
as demonstrated by my buying a 'guster' shirt even before i had heard them [or the opening act, which proved to be much more paradigm-shifting], i'm firm believer of buying a shirt at the concert you're at. nathan and i took turns going down to the t-shirt booth, so that we would not lose our oh so precious place on the floor. he got the green with the classic u.s. presidents' heads [they might be giants have several motiffs/recurring themes, and past u.s. presidents are one of them]. i got a red one that said 'the mesopotamians' on the front and listed the four 'band members' on the back [a reference to a fictious band from their newest cd--i quite liked the pseudo-in-joke].
basking in the beauty of our spot on the floor, a pair of friends came and joined us: a production designer, erica, from school, and her husband, both of whom had worked on 'food boy' with me earlier this summer. they were relatively new to they might be giants [i suspect nathan and i were among the die hardest fans there, with him being the most devout of anyone there], but tmbg can be enjoyed by all.
the opening act was someone no one had heard of, an irish duo called 'oppenheimer': a skinny dude with a shaved head who provided the drums and vocals, and a shorter, stockier guy with longer hair playing the guitar and keyboard. and that gives you an idea of what their sound was--soft vocals with an electronic+guitar and drum sound. different but it works. the crowd really seemed to like them, which was cool, since they were very nice and had had a very bad day. they announced that their van had broken down as they pulled into town and were in desperate need of a way to get it fixed. but the salt lake crowd genuinely liked them and the two guys sincerely appreciated that.
they were everything than an opening band should be--they got us warmed up and ready for the main event without overshadowing the headliners.
the problem was that we were warmed up and the was no one on stage. the room's density decreased as people migrated toward the bar, and as nathan and i were discussing tmbg lore, my ex-friend joel came up to me, still wearing his v.i.p. pass, and handed me a foam '#1' hand that had 'they might be giants' printed on it. 'no hard feelings,' he said with a smile and a pat on the back.
did i mention that it was autographed by both johns and the band? [john flansburgh's signature was just a blocky 'jf']
i was stunned and feeling like a moron, even if my 'end of friendship' text was in jest. i stammered as joel walked away smiling. evidently scum can text, because my phone proves i sent him this message:
'wow man. seriously thanks. many times over. heart.'
to which he replied with sincerity: 'anything for a friend.'
i never did talk with him afterward to find out the story behind this, though it seems that the v.i.p.s were up on the balcony, and that these hands were given to them, as i saw many up there [though i don't know how many were signed].
after much too long of painful waiting [the ticket said door open at 7:00, i think oppenheimer went on at 8:00, and it was now close to 8:45], parker, the station dj, came out to introduce the show. he thanked the sponsors, as ken garff auto paid for us to have free tickets, and let the dealer representative say a few words.
'well, they might be giants, but we hope you're all ken garff customers,' he quipped.
this is why you never let car salesmen kick off a rock concert.
they did the drawing for a free signed guitar and told us to make sure we continued to listen to 101.9 and then got off the stage.
the house went dark, the lights from the stage shone into our eyes as they might be giants appeared on stage like ninjas.
the music started.
it was all happening.
it was all i hoped for.
it was they might be giants.
and it was fifteen feet from me.
they opened with a song from their new cd ['the cap'm'] and would eventually play a good percentage of 'the else'; and who can blame them? they tour almost continuously and have probably played 'don't let's start' ad nauseum [they didn't play it tonight]. it's got to be nice to play new things. plus, it's made me like the album a lot more.
but the johns know that it's because of their fans that they get to do what they do, and so they repay the favor. the third or fourth song was 'new york city'--this early on in the show! oh boy! i called becky, since it's her favorite tmbg song. not that she's a big music fan; she was amused, but that was about it. i think she'll look back on that in a few years and realize how lucky she is.
a few songs later came 'birdhouse in your soul'--my favorite song in sixth grade, one of my all-time treasures, was being played live right on front of me! i grabbed my phone and called jack--it was too loud to tell if he answered or i got his voice mail, but i just held up the phone for a while, hoping it would come through. [i later got a text from him, saying that he got the voice mail and that he, his wife, and brother all gathered around to listen to it and loved it--we're all a bunch of nerds...]
at one point they turned on a slide projector, showing a cartoon drawing of some tombstones in an old graveyard and announced that they had a telephone that could talk to the dead. that's pretty crazy by itself, but what was really eerie was that as john was talking about this, the phone actually rang! he answered it and it was eleanor roosevelt--calling from the grave! but she was very cordial, and said that she had written a screenplay to submit to sundance. as i write this, i can't help but wonder how she wrote it, but i bet she'll get accepted. think about it: not only is she dead, which certainly gives her a new perspective in the festival, but she's also a respected and notably figure from history.
with most bands, a deceased first lady would be the highlight of the show. here, it was just one of many. their lead guitarist [one of the 'dans'] played an incredible long intro to 'istanbul', hearing 'the alphabet of nations' made me an instant fan [it looked so much fun, i wanted to hop on stage and join them, but i didn't know the words, and most likely would have been escorted off stage, had i known the words and so hopped up there], and when john picked up his accordion about two thirds through the main set, someone yelled 'it's about time!' 'particle man' was just as good as it should be [and inspired me to get my hands on an accordion again and learn that solo], and the confetti canons went of during 'experimental film', which was a visual manifestation of just how awesome that song is.
i was dancing and bopping and jumping for the pretty much the whole show, trying not to be too much of a nuisance [although everyone was moving with me, so i'm not too worried], but there was this one dude very close to me who just stood there the whole time. he didn't move, didn't smile; just stood there with his arms crossed facing the stage. i can't figure out who goes to a tmbg concert, gets as close to the stage as possible, and then does nothing.... if he was some girl's boyfriend and was there just for her and if that girl is reading this now, well, it might be time to find a new guy.
sometime late in the concert a pair of cup-of-beer holding drunk dudes appeared behind us and started yelling for them to play 'spider'. but i'm not going to mention them. instead, i will note that as john was standing in front of the mic with his accordion, getting ready for the next song, some girl in the back yelled out, 'oh my gosh you're so cute!!' that was pretty funny.
near the close of the second encore, john f. came out and displayed their new album, 'the else', on vinyl. with qvc-style background music, he displayed all the features of buying an actual record, including the opening in the second flap, which he could not account for. noting that this was also autographed by the band members, he said he would be downstairs after the showing, selling them for $15 but accepting only $20s and not giving change. and then they played their final song.
nathan and i looked at each other: did he say HE would be selling them?
the song ended, the lights came up, and we moved as quickly as we could whilst still being polite toward the only exit in the back. at the bottom of the stairs, we rounded the corner and he was right there! not standing behind the counter, but out in front: john flansburgh, holding a stack of records and selling them for $20. what surprised me most was how not-mobbed he was. nathan and i composed ourselves and i loaned him my last bit of cash then pulled out my camera. he talked with john while i fired away. i then handed nathan the camera and asked john if i could get a picture. 'i'm just selling records, man.'
ok. i didn't want to annoy one of my childhood idols, so i just quietly stood behind him and told nathan to snap one. and yet the photographic evidence shows me looking off somewhere and the merciful john waving at the camera. who cares? i was walking out with proof that i had met one of the guys from they might be giants. i was grinning from ear to ear.