- Not to be confused with the Chapman Stick
The Stick is a tall, thick, cylindrical wooden pole with an omni-directional microphone duct-taped just above the bottom. It is "played" by hitting the bottom against any hard surface, creating a sound similar to a bass drum hit. A small amount of reverb effect is added to further approximate a drum sound. The Stick has been an element of They Might Be Giants's live show since the late 1980s, when it was used to create the deep bass drum sound in live renditions of "Lie Still, Little Bottle". Often, for live performances, the song's arrangement is simply The Stick, John Flansburgh's vocals, and John Linnell on saxophone, accordion or another keyboard instrument. Though it was often played by John Flansburgh, between the 80s and 90s, The Stick was sometimes used for an "audience participation" portion of TMBG's live show. The Johns would call up a member of the audience to "play" the Stick for the song. In more recent appearances, John Flansburgh has resumed playing the Stick.
The Stick has ranged in size. For example, the current Stick is considerably taller than older Sticks. While its physical manifestation has changed over time, its fundamental presence in the mythos of the band has endured. However, The Stick is not known to have been used in any studio recordings.
The Stick is referenced in Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns), where early fans relate how The Stick was a crucial part of the band’s shows at around 1987. It continues to make occasional live appearances to this day, and is often carried in the tour equipment truck even on tours when it does not make any on-stage appearances.
During the sound check for a 2018 Boston show, John Flansburgh had an idea that the twelve foot PVC pipe used to roll up the band's stage carpet could fill in for The Stick and Lie Still, Little Bottle was added to the set list. The lengthy pole was used but found to be too heavy and unwieldy for a repeat performance.