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They Might Be Giants
Borders in Boston, MA
November 11, 2002 at 4:30 PM

Fan Recaps and Comments:

Review by Richard E Green:

On Monday, November 11, 2002, I attended my 19th TMBG concert...which in turn was my 6th instore, and my 11th free concert, at the School Street Borders in Boston MA. This was an instore performance supporting the release of their 2 disc greatest hits cd, "Dial A Song". This will also be the first TMBG concert I've ever gone to alone, which was almost enough of a letdown to make me reconsider going at all.
It's about 50 miles from my college to the outskirts of Boston...I decided to leave really early since I really didn't have anything to do that afternoon anyway, and incase I had problems finding the store. It was my first time driving on I-495 (the MA one, not the LIE) so that was fun too, and the route I took to Boston took me through Lincoln, which was utterly deserted. I ended up getting to the Borders around 2PM ... 2 and a half hours before the show was to start. It wasn't until after I climbed the three flights of stairs (the giant escalator was busted) that I found out that the stage was in the travel section on the ground floor, not the music section upstairs. When I got there, there were already about 20 high-school age kids there, so I lost my opportunity at a front row spot. I reserved a section in the 3rd row center...
It was only about 10 minutes before Linnell and a couple of Borders employees carrying equipment came walking in. The employees dumped all the cases on the stage and left John to do most of the stage set up by himself. I noticed that one of the cases had a Korg Kaoss Pad in it, which I have never seen him use before in concert, but he never unpacked it. Somebody called him on his cell phone (his ringtone was La Bamba) and I heard him complaining that Flans was late again. As he was setting up, the employees were attempting to put up an airport-style fence between a pit 5 feet from the stage and the front row, but John demanded that they put it away...that they weren't that kind of act. When John was just about finished getting everything set and in place (except for the PA system, which he had no clue how to set up), John Flansburgh came walking in, wearing a Columbine trenchcoat and a scarf, and asked "where's the bathroom?" ... he came back in a minute and finished getting the PA's and his guitar stuff set up. I noticed that Flansburgh had a brand new olive-green electric guitar. This would be the first instore I've been to where he's played electric. He had that pink and black guitar cable with him. He mentioned to an employee that he bought that cable for $ was so ugly that Sam Ash was just about willing to give away. He and Linnell also got into a discussion about how Linnell was using the word "hip" 5 years before anybody else in the planet.
When everything was set up, they did a short sound check. Linnell never took his accordion out, so just did vocals and played with the Boss 303 effects pad. He got a drum beat going and Flans started singing Will Smith's "Welcome To Miami" and then when he got his guitar on, he played the guitar riff to Nirvana's Lithium, while Linnell did his infamous Kurt Cobain impression. They were having problems with static on the mics, and spent a couple minutes messing around with it. This was also my first time hearing Linnell using the vocoder (yelling yeah!!). When everything was working, they got outta there. Before he left, Linnell asked an employee "I would also like to know where the bathroom is." I went to grab a copy of Harry Potter Year 2 to read during the 1h30m wait until the show, when I wasn't being entertained by the kids outside the store trying to get the windows open to listen. A bunch of people started showing up...and practicially everyone there was either younger than me, or with children. I felt so old. The saddest moment of the day was when I overheard two people discussing how band members should never wear the shirt from their own band, and I commented that Flansburgh did it all the time, and she asked "who's Flansburgh?"
Around 4:15 PM, a couple of people showed up and sat in the reserved seats on the side of the stage. After a bit of deduction, I concluded that these people were Flansburgh's mother and father, Linnell's mother (who resembled him so closely that it was extremely scary), Linnell's brother (who didn't quite resemble him so closely, but I could tell they were related), and John's son Henry. John & John came out right on schedule. John was wearing his black-rimmed glasses.
Flansburgh dedicated the show to all the veterans in the audience, and Linnell dedicated the show to all of the Armistises (I probably spelled that wrong). John said that the first song was dedicated to all of the veternarians in the audience, as it was a song about a Worm Doctor (I didn't figure out that joke until just now). Those who know me know how much I dig the "unplugged" version of Dr Worm, and this was wasn't quite unplugged since it had electric guitar, but without the brass it still makes it a very different song.
The next song was my favourite from No, Bed Bed Bed. Before the song Flans asked whether it sounded either shrill or insect hospital...and he told a story of how National Geographic uncovered the P.A. that they are using from their crypt, and that it now more mold than plastic, which was just to waste time while he re-tuned. Bed Bed Bed was dedicated to the 8 foot tall kids (as pointing to a child on her father's shoulders). The song featured a new horse sound (insert inside joke here).
They segued from Bed straight into Ensor. They sang the guitar solo in high pitched voices. Flansburgh began telling a story of all the memories he had of Meet James Ensor - Charlie Watts telling them that the song sucks, the time he was singing it at a fair and a bug flew into his mouth...and now they were gonna do a song which had no memories yet, as they've yet to play it correctly yet. They were going to pierce us with our sound — "piercing - it's not just for human flesh anymore".
As they were going to start Au Contraire, John accidentially hit a doorbell sound on the effects pad, to which he responded with surprise "yes?...come in!" ... and then he hit a different button to get a drum machine going. Ok, Au Contraire is the best TMBG song ever!!! I absolutely LOVED it! (this was my first time seeing it live.) And this also seemed to be the busiest hand work I've seen Linnell do for accordion — it was full of 7 and 9 chords. The end of the song featured a sound trigger of voices saying "right on!"
Flansburgh mentioned the Cambridge instore they did last June, where they sang Cyclops Rock in the vocal style of Peter Noon, and that they were gonna start the Charles River Peter Noon tradition, and do the next song in his style. He was briefly interuppted as he saw a kid sitting on top of one of the bookshelves taking pictures, and announced in a serious voice "please no bookshelf diving! "...I heard that there were some massive stage diving injuries at the Limp Bizkit instore held here a couple weeks ago" Linnell added. They warned us that they haven't practiced this song don't get too freaked out. They did the slow version of Sun, ENTIRELY in British accents. It was the most amazing thing I've ever heard...look for a mp3 of this on Quinn's site some time soon. Flansburgh and Linnell alternated verses so that each of them sang about 50% of the song. When Flans was singing the refrain, Linnell was doing polka-style "hey!'s" ... the nuclear — and that's nuCLEAR reaction — is caused by "Davy Jone, Davy Jones, Davy Jones...and Mr Davy Jones." This song got a huge applause from the band and they seemed happy...hopefully the tradition will continue beyond Boston.
At this point Linnell took his glasses off. The next song was Robot Parade...which is REALLY starting to get old and boring, but the kids seemed to dig it. After the song they gave the instructions for how they are going to do the signing...they were gonna set up the airport-style fence and check ID's, and everyone was to follow the walls of the store, just like when when they were crawling toddlers in Lincoln, MA 1962...and then they announced that they had one more song, to which an audience member shouted "bullshit!" and Flans said "that's right, this is a FREE show...we always try to give 60% to 63% at free shows" ... they announced the Irving Plaza shows between Christmas and New Years, with the slideshow family band opening which is really great.
The last song was "No!" ... which put me into an utter shock, as this would be the first concert I've EVER been to where neither Istanbul or Older were performed...anyway, I'm sure the song was great, but I was too distracted to notice. After the song, the raffle was held. Everyone who went to the concert got a ticket entered into a jar, and Linnell pulled the winning ticket. He announced that the winner would get something autographed...and then seriously announced that the winner would get a 6 foot tall poster of Flansburgh's finger (the poster was a giant DAS cover which was sitting in the store window before the show to promote it). He pulled the winning ticket, who turned out to be the person right in front of him, to which Flansburgh yelled "it's fixed!!!" ... and then it was over. Right as they were getting off stage, I saw the setlist right before someone grabbed it, and NYC was listed after No, but it wasn't performed...but otherwise it was accurate (Sun had Peter Noone written next to it).
I made a mistake of going the wrong way, so that I wasn't actually in line, and by the time I found the end of the line, it was stretched halfway across the store. I ended up having to wait about 40 minutes to get to the front of it. I met Dave, AKA alpaca2500, in the line. When I finally got to the front of it, I found out that there were actually two separate stations for each John. Linnell's was first. I brought my copy of No, my Malcolm Season 1 DVD, my 2001 tour shirt, and a card from music bingo which had "They Might Be Giants - Particle Man" on it. I said hi to John (I forgot to shake both of their don't ask for any hand details), and he said "hey there" like he kinda remembered who I was but wasn't sure, and I told him that I heard some of his music from his old band and I was really digging it, to which he said "yeah...well the thing about that is that I barely had anything to do with that band, and that's more of Andrews' (John Andrews, another band member from the if he already knew that I knew who he was) thing now" ... I didn't notice at the time, but John actually kept the bingo card instead of signing it. I guess it was an honor to him. When I got up to Flan's station, he asked who to make the stuff out to, and I told him Rich. When he got to the Malcolm DVD, he seemed utterly confused, as if he's never seen it before. He showed it to Linnell and asked "what's the deal with this?" and Linnell said "it's called a DVD." and Flans asked "are we getting paid for this?" and Linnell responded "nope, we got screwed again" and when Flans signed it, he put an X over Malcolm's face. I guess Flan's bad attitude about MITM that we saw last May is still continuing. Right before I left I asked him what they were planning on doing for the Irving Plaza shows. He said in a sarcastic voice "one cd of Dial A Song a night...actually we've found that theme shows tend to confuse the audience so we're not doing them anymore." The line was too busy for me to get any photos with either of I cleared out.
Ok, this was a really fun show. I felt like I was the veteran in the audience...and probably knew more about the band than anybody else there. Just seeing the unplugged version of Dr Worm made the trip worth it, but Au Contraire and the British Sun made this a show I will never forget, and definately somewhere in my top 10. It would have been nice if I had someone to go to it with though.