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Secret show for John Flansburgh's 47th birthday.


Peremptory but awesome is what I'd call the show. A minimum of stage banter represented the band's need to plow on through and get to the relaxing and their hallowed day off from this breakneck tour of New England. This was the sixth show in sixty-eight hours, over a span of something like 700 miles. It's a miracle they could smile, although I understand they're used to it. I was just thrilled to be there.
Mostly the crowd appeared to be college students looking for a good time, and Flans had to persuade everyone to crush forward against the five-foot stage which he declared to be set at the "optimal tilt we prefer." He doesn't take no for an answer, apparently. If an audience isn't emotionally there or warming to him he'll warm them up through sheer charisma.
I saw Natalie Portman there. Maybe she goes to Princeton or has a friend who does. I heard later that Flans knows her but was unaware she was there, though some of the crew noticed her.
At the end of Damn Good Times, Flans put his hands on Dan Miller's shoulders and propelled him forward until Dan was parked over the front row with his black guitar, rocking out the world. He was to be subject to further shoving later during their shared guitar moments, when Flans put his back against Dan's and dug his heels in to push Dan again toward center stage. This cracked Dan up, of course.
"This is certainly the squintiest show we've had in quite a while," Linnell said, squinting into the sun at the beginning of James K. Polk. The band turned to look at him, one by one, as he continued squinting mesmerized into the sun. "I'm not going to play this song. I'm just going to squint." He played anyway, and dancers got doused in confetti.
Eleanor Roosevelt rang up Linnell again for Phone Calls From The Dead. She informed him there was a party in the graveyard kicking ass, and invited the crowd to their party. She claimed their DJ (DJ AM) was better than their band. Linnell stammered, pretending to be taken aback by this.
As soon as Flans sang the first syllable of, "Everybody conga!" I howled in joy, a visceral response I didn't even think to censor but realized how loud I was when I noticed no one else was making any noise. No One Knows My Plan has to be my favorite song I've ever seen live. I'm holding out hope that one day Am I Awake? will make the stage, but until then 'Plan' is my man. I wasn't so afraid to lose my place at the front of the stage as I was in Chicago at the Lincoln Park Zoo, where I refused to join the line. Plus I would have felt like a bad, bad fan if after all Flans's instruction--"I'm not f***ing kidding!"--he looked down and saw me still standing there. On his birthday, no less. It turned out to be the best conga ever for me. I had no trouble at all regaining my exact spot. No one was jockeying for the prestigious and hallowed positions to which myself and another couple of fans gravitated.
Flans's lyrics cheat sheet for Take Out The Trash got caught up in a gust and flung from where he'd placed it during Drink!. The fan next to me grabbed it and we frantically tried to get his attention, not realizing what it was or looking at it to discover how useless it was since the song was long over and done. Linnell saw us waving frantically and tried to reassure us he didn't need it, but we thought he didn't understand what it was. Finally he walked over and lifted his left foot high, stamped it down on the page, and slid it scraping back over the carpet before parking one of the feet of his mic stand on it. So secured, I could finally read what it said and laugh at my stupidity. I also got an inside look at what key words Flans needs to remember in that song, though I didn't jot down a copy and I let the resourceful fan who'd originally nabbed it ask for it in the end.
At the end of 'Istanbul,' Flans and Dan took off their guitars and held them up by the necks as if about to smash them on the stage, looked up at each other, grinned at the fake-out and put the guitars away.
Flans switched his glasses in the midst of 'Fingertips.' We also had this line from Linnell: "Aren't you the guy who hit me in the eye? YES!"--pointing randomly into the crowd--"you're the guy who hit me in the eye!"
After the show I got to wish Flans a happy birthday and shook his hand. Even though it was short, it was one of the most memorable shows on the tour for me and an unexpected pleasure to get to go.