Saturday, November 07, 2009

this one's for you, joel

when they might be giants came to salt lake two years ago, joel hilton somehow got ahold of some v.i.p. passes while we were all waiting in line. he and his group were invited in, leaving the rest of us standing in the queue, still hoping to get in. i texted him a "cold prickly" text in jealousy. an hour later, as nathan and i were standing delightfully close to the stage, waiting for the show to start, joel appeared beside me holding a large foam "#1" hand, the sort usually seen at sporting events and not alt. rock shows. not only did it say "they might be giants" on it, but it was signed by all of them. he handed it to me, smiled, and walked off. my heart melted.

last night, the johns were in town again and joel couldn't go. in asking if there was anything i could do to repay his gracious favor from last time, he asked me to 1) have double the fun and 2) write a very detailed blog post.

i certainly fulfilled the first request. this is my attempt at the second.

if you aren't a huge tmbg fan who wants a play-by-play recounting, then let me just say, it was the best. thing. ever. i could not have asked for a better concert from them.
and you're done with the post.

the full version:

two years ago, the venue had a very long line outside before the show, and, as i was determined to get as close to the stage as possible again, i wanted to get there an hour before the doors opened. I-15 traffic was horrendous, and we up at the depot after people had gone in. excitedly, we ran up the stairs and i made it to the very front, essentially one person away from the stage, standing with similar people who are evidence that "fan" is short for "fanatic". apparently the masses aren't so eager when the radio station isn't giving away all of the tickets. talking with the fellow tmbg die-hards, i learned that tonight was a "flood show", meaning that they would be performing the entire album of flood in honor of them recording it 20 years ago on this date.

in case you've decided to read this far but aren't a devoted tmbg fan, let me explain what flood is. most people who have heard of they might be giants know up to three songs: "istanbul", "birdhouse in your soul", and "particle man." all three of those come from flood. it's the album that people usually suggest when a friend asks where to start with them. it was not only the first tmbg cd i owned, i think it was very well the first cd i owned. to see them perform the whole cd would be like seeing pink floyd do all of dark side of the moon.
in short, it's seriously dang.

the opening band was a pair of irish folk guys called guggenheim grotto. they were very nice and played very good music. my brother bought a shirt from them after the show, while brooke picked up both of their cds. supporting cool struggling bands on tours is cool. what else is cool is that they came out early and were finished before 9:00. anyone at the last show will remember that we waited forever for everything to start. as such, i was expecting the main event to begin sometime around 10. while the roadies were setting up the stage, we did our best to dance along to the music being played, ranging from "the ballroom blitz" to some 70s funk song about a bucket with a hole in it.

before too long, the blessed moment arrived. they might be giants took the stage, opening with"meet the elements", one of the strongest songs (and videos) from their new here comes science album. it was awesome, i danced. and that was pretty much the way things would go for the next hour and a half. after the song, flansburgh announced that this was, indeed, a very special episode of they might be giants, one in which they would be performing the entire album of flood in sequence*. they fully meant it, too, starting with "the theme from flood." so, three songs into the show and we were already getting "birdhouse in your soul." they shot off the confetti cannons during "lucky ball and chain", and opened "istanbul" with an awesome clarinet solo from their horn player in the back. you've got to love a rock band that has a platform on the back of the stage with three different kind of saxophones. after the song, mark leaned to me and said that, after that, he was good to go. i told him that "particle man" was coming up in three songs.

police lights started flashing as a siren went off, announcing "escape from flood!" instead: sock puppets. the "they might be giants avatars" sang "what is a shooting star" then "shoehorn with teeth", during which the percussionist stood completely focused by the mic, successfully dinging the bell three times during the song. we cheered for him. and we also got a song about the eleventh president of the united states (from an early flood single), with the horn guy playing a giant split reed, changing the pitch by varying how much he pressed together. so cool.

they came back to flood with "we want a rock", leaving me wondering if my memory of the track order was off. *it turned out they decided to move around a chunk of the cd, since most of the rocking songs seem to come in the front of the cd. laurie jayne, i tried to call you during the song, but it ended before i got to your voice mail. but the thought was there.
we got to hear so many songs that are probably rarely played in concert: "minimum wage", "hearing aid", "letterbox" (which was so cool), everything.

"new york city", "cowtown" (which i went nuts for)(and for which kristin showed up just in time). they told a story of playing an early show and having to come up with new songs, taking the words from a science textbook and coupling them with an irish folk tune. it was the first time i had ever heard "why does the sun shine" in it's original style performed live. they then noted that 60 years of science has confirmed that most of the song is true except for it's actual premise, and began singing "why does the sun really shine."

"your racist friend", "particle man", and "twisting" came, along with the rest of flood. i'd never thought of "twisting" as being a particularly rocking song, but doing the twist with mary joy was one of my favorite parts of the show. after the melancholy "road movie to berlin", flansburgh said "thank you" and they left the stage.

the first song of the encore was the first (and only) song i didn't know. they did the band introductions (at the end of the show), had us sing along with "drink!" and the oh-so-wonderful "mesopotamians." the second encore included "the famous polka," one of their most obscure songs and leaving me wishing there had been enough room to actually polka . they ended the eclectic show appropriately with "fingertips." yes, all of "fingertips", delighting the fans and leaving the rest of the crowd to wonder what the heck was going on.

and they gave out bumper stickers afterward.

i could easily name another show's worth of songs i would have also liked to hear, yet i wouldn't have changed a thing about last night.
wish you were there.

i'm still walking on sunshine, that same elated feeling that comes the day after an awesome date.


Jaime said...

your memory amazes me

Joel said...

Wow. Wow, wow, wow!

MAN I wish I could have been there! I can't believe that I missed a Flood concert! And it was, in part, because of my own laziness and my focus on Halloween. But, you live and learn, and this post was very satisfying. Thank you, Jeff.

Ok, now for some specific questions and comments:

- Was that picture from two years ago? Or did you bring your foam finger BACK to the concert?

- I can't believe how close you were!

-I wholeheartedly concur with that "dark side of the moon" analogy. SO COOL!!!

-I will be purchasing Here Comes Science soon. I've listened to it on Rhapsody already and I'm a fan - of course. My 2-year-old already asks to listen to Here Come the ABCs, 123s and No! so I want to further her love for TMBG.

-Confetti cannons??? AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!! Jealousness!!!

-I once prided myself on the fact that I could sing the Flood album start to finish in sequence. I would have loved to see it play out like this.

-I didn't know the James K. Polk song came from an early Flood single! I only know it from Factory Showroom.

-I really, really, would have liked to see Hearing Aid live! And I can never get the words to Letterbox right when I sing them.

-I accept both Cowtown and New York City as acceptable sidenotes from the Flood album playlist.

-Twisting to Twisting is SO MUCH FUN! Great song!

-What is the name of the song you didn't know? Or lyrics? Anything???

-Wow! That is one amazing encore! Fingertips??? In it's entirety? Holy @#$%!!!

I felt uplifted just reading about how fun this concert was.

Thank you, Jeff. Thank you.

--jeff * said...

joel, to answer your questions:

1. the picture was from two years ago. now that you suggest it, i should have brought the foam hand.

2. we were close. it was dang.

3. thank you. i thought it was good, too.

4. you're a wonderful father. i gave a set of ABCs and 123s as a Christmas gift last year, and received a thank you from the four-month old boy. it really, really works.
'science' is, i think, their strongest of the children's cds. but it's certainly for those in the upper single digits and beyond.

5. same as they had at the last show. according to the johns, they're completely biodegradable, made from bugs, and the dye is poisonous. but as if "lucky ball and chain" wasn't already a surprisingly good song live, this made it even better.

6. you would have.

7. yep, came from the "istanbul" single, which is actually pretty solid. it also has "stormy pinkness", a decent slow song that i imagined slow-dancing with a girl to when i was younger, because that was the only slow song i really knew. someday....
and it has a remix of "istanbul" that's worthwhile, too. i think i picked it up off amazon for $7.

8. "hearing aid" was cool. "minimum wage" was a lot of fun. and they said that "letterbox" was the fastest they've ever had to sing, that it was quite a challenge, and that they were only able to pull it off when elektra actually put a speeding train behind them.

9."new york city" is a solid crowd pleaser, a modern-day staple, and one of three (or is it now four) songs that they did not write. i saw the original band ("cub") open for them, and when "nyc" was requested, the girls said john asked them not to, the looked off stage and said, "oh, i guess we can." it was alright, but tmbg are certainly better.
and "cowtown" was just sheer euphoria. i danced as much as i could.

10. yes, twisting to "twisting" is absolutely blissful.

11. sorry, mate, i can't remember a thing about the song i didn't know. i'm guessing it's off of "the spine", since that's the only mainline cd i don't have. i don't have "no", either, though i doubt it was from there. but even if i heard it, i don't think i'd recognize it.

12. yeah, every track of "fingertips" (no "spacesuit", though), with the spotlight jumping from their lead guitarist and the two johns. like i said, it probably weirded out most of the casual attendees, but for those who knew, it was pretty dang.

13. i'll see you at the next one. = )

Joel said...

Sidenote: I was at the concert when Cub opened for TMBG, and I thought it odd that they played New York City as well. I don't remember much else, except for the fact that we were so close to the stage at that show that we could tell the drummer girl didn't shave her legs. . .ever.

Wasn't that one at the Utah State Fairgrounds? Could it be that we were at that concert together before we even knew each other???