From This Might Be A Wiki

They Might Be Giants
— with Jonathan Coulton opening —
Royce Hall in Los Angeles, CA
January 28, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Fan Recaps and Comments:

Mark "The Loveman" Pender appeared as a special guest, playing trumpet on several songs.

The Vanishing Dot:

Seeing as how Lincoln is not only my favorite TMBG album but also one of my five all-time favorite albums, I had been hoping for a Lincoln show for a very long time and envisioned this as being the mother of all TMBG shows. I'm not sure it was *quite* there, but it was damn close. The inclusion of 14 songs from Lincoln really made this a special event for me. Even though this was my 16th TMBG show since 1994, there were several songs that I had never heard them perform before. (This was only the fourth time "Stand on Your Own Head" had ever been played live!)
"Lie Still, Little Bottle" was a real highlight, with Linnell on bari sax and Flans playing what looked like a digital stylophone. "Cowtown" was also a real crowd pleaser, after which Flans remarked, "that was good! I think maybe we should play that again." "Where Your Eyes Don't Go" was fantastic, with Flans really nailing the guitar part at the end. "Ana Ng" (which I hadn't heard them play in years) was naturally a highlight. As seen on Conan, there is a new experimental introduction, which slips back into a lean, angular arrangement in the second verse that really hearkens back to the early days. I prefer this to the somewhat lazy way they have performed the song from the mid-'90s onward.
What really stood out for me during the Lincoln tracks was the--as usual--great drumming and percussion from Marty Beller. I really love the sounds he uses, like the "clip-clapping" drum pads on "Piece of Dirt."
Robin Goldwasser joined the band for a nice performance of "Dr. Evil." She had performed "In the Middle" at the Anaheim show in November, but I was much happier to hear this.
But the real treat of the evening was Mark "The Loveman" Pender playing guest trumpet on several tracks. I have always loved TMBG with horns, and even though the only addition here was trumpet, Mark is such a fabulous player that it added to the songs immensely. This version of "Istanbul" may have been the best I have ever seen, with Mark kicking it off with some really great, jazzy lines with a mute and going crazy at the much so that Flans kept remarking how the band didn't want to stop. They gave the song three rave-up endings, each one faster than the previous one. "Doctor Worm" was also incredible, with Mark totally nailing the high note at the end.
The venue was a very nice, formal theater with seats (and a massive pipe organ), but I knew we weren't going to remain seated for long. For "Clap Your Hands," Flans invited the entire audience to stand and move toward the stage (just as he did for the Flood show I saw two years ago). For the most part, we remained standing for the rest of the show.
The only possible complaint I could have would be that I was expecting a few more rarities thrown in, seeing as how it was billed as a "30th anniversary show." And while I would have *loved* to hear all of Lincoln, somehow I knew that wasn't going to happen, so I wasn't let down by the exclusion of four songs. (While I love a song like "You'll Miss Me," I realize that it's not exactly a fan favorite.)
On a side note, I spotted TMBG's manager, Jamie Lincoln Kitman, as well as Bill Krauss, the producer of TMBG's first two albums, in the audience.


This seemed to be a show beset by technical problems. Various mics may not have been working, the monitors were definitely not working, spotlight operators had to be tricked into covering Pender on trumpet by a John walking behind him (and they completely missed Marty on Shoehorn with Teeth!), and there were a lot of angry glances at people in the wings. And at the same time, the band - Linnell in particular, seemed to be having a lot of fun.
The Avatars performed, courtesy of a drug called Pandor. The green avatar is capable of an incredibly sad frown. During Snowball: NO, he is not still on that old time is money kick. No! NO! NOOOOO! No.
Presumably because of mic problems, Flans called a setlist audible, pushing the Clap Your Hands -> Mesopotamians chunk earlier than it was meant to be, and inviting the seated audience to get up, move forward, and dance around. I spotted one fella zip to the front center to take an hour of video on his phone, which Flans attempted to take away from him (playfully) at the very end of the show.
Mixing up the setlist left everyone a little off kilter about what to play when. Accordion now? Dan Miller at all? Bass clarinet? TWO bass clarinet songs in a row? "That's so rare! We're entering the era of bass clarinet! Which will be ending right after this song....but starting again tomorrow, in Tempe!"
The Johns commented on how well the Mesopotamians went, and how there was definitely no reason for a band meeting after the show. Between this and playing the opening of Istanbul in a round due to not being able to hear one another, various band members trying out their headsets to see if anything was working yet, tech issues hung around all night, but for all my mentioning it and how it made the show different, it really didn't make the show worse for me. The band played on, rarely if ever actually mentioned the trouble, and were funny and great. I even got to see a live Ana Ng, which isn't that uncommon but I've coincidentally missed at the last 4 or 5 shows I've seen. I had a great time and really appreciated how not-at-the-Anaheim-HOB everything was.
By the by, anyone know what's up with the new bit at the end of When Will You Die? At first I thought it was some new backwards singing, now it sounds a little like 'You're Out!' to me.


Pretty rockin' show. I was kind of hoping for a little more out of a 30th anniversary show, especially since the L.A./OC area got skipped on the last tour pass, but I guess I should have expected they were going to go easy on the sentimentality after Flans' comments at the Amoeba in-store last year.
The Johns seemed to be having a genuinely good time, which was evident from the grinning and the constant exchanges during the show. Green Avatar doing the extra angry version of Paul on Snowball in Hell was probably my favorite bit, but the extended faux-chiding of the audience at large for enjoying the title of "When Will You Die?" too much was also a nice moment.
I was disappointed at some of the omissions from Lincoln. I'm not sure if this was because of the setlist audible alluded to earlier up, but I really wanted to hear "The World's Address" and "I've Got a Match" live.
I had a semi-celeb sighting at the show. I was up near the front on the right side (also known as the victorious "People" side.) and I was apparently rocking out near Michele DeCesare of Sopranos fame. (A friend told me this. It may be completely wrong, in which case, no semi-celeb sighting.)


General note: JOHN LINNELL IS SUCH A FUCKING BUM. One reason I was excited about it being a Lincoln show, besides the fact that, you know, IT'S LINCOLN AND SO THE SONGS ARE FUCKING BRILLIANT, was the fact that it's such an accordion-heavy album. So I was like, "YES, this is going to be the most accordion-errific show ever." But, then they opened with "Mr. Me" and...he did it on his fucking keyboard. Then "Purple Toupee" too, and "Where Your Eyes Don't Go" which was the part of the show I was most looking forward to besides Crane, but ended up being a lot less exciting because of that. But he did Snowball and "Piece of Dirt" on accordion so I was like "Do you have some policy of using it only for Flansongs?" but then he did use it for "Stand on Your Own Head" and "Kiss Me Son of God" and also, for some reason, "Cowtown," so that was something. Don't get me wrong, it was still INSANELY fucking THRILLING to see all these songs. It just would have been even better on the proper (and sexier) instrument.

Flans introduced "Santa's Beard" by saying, "This song has a Christmas theme, which makes it all the more...relevant to this show."

Before "When Will You Die" Flans explained that there were a couple of reasons they weren't doing only Lincoln songs--"not just its 32-minute runtime, which leaves audiences both disappointed and openly hostile." He went on to explain that it was also because they have two new albums out. He said that one of the songs has a new video that just came out but "already it's become an airborne virus--we've never created something contagious before. People are very drawn to the open hostility of the song's title."

JL: They like it before they hear it.
JF: We were a little taken aback by how much people like it.
JL: We were a little disappointed.

After "Celebration" Flans was like, "People always ask us where we get our ideas. That song was a good idea, but I got the bridge from 'Emotional Rescue' by the Rolling Stones. Which was probably a bad idea. I don't think even the Rolling Stones like 'Emotional Rescue.' "

Before "Snowball in Hell":

JF: What's this song about, John?
JL: I don't know. You wrote this song.
JF: Oh, I can't even read my own handwriting on the setlist.

When they got to the bridge they were just playing and I thought they were just going to do it instrumental, but then I saw that The Johns were walking to the back of the stage and realized they were going to have the Avatars do it, which was great. The Blue Avatar was Joe and the Green Avatar was Paul. When it got up to the "Not back on it, Joe, still on it," John decided to be really silly--"No! No--no! I am not back on that time is money kick--no!" (Blue Avatar: "Are you sure?") "No! I am still! on! it!" After, Flans said the Avatars were just back from their anger management classes. John: "Which they paid a lot of money for. In puppet dollars."

Then John just said, "All right, are we ready for this?" AND THEY BROKE INTO MOTHERFUCKING CRANE. I was one of the obnoxious people squealing really loudly during the intro, which I generally try not to do, but I could not restrain myself--it was Crane, it was one of their absolute all-time top most brilliant songs and one I thought I would never ever get to see live, so I was JUST A LITTLE EXCITED. Seeing it alone was worth the price of flying down from Seattle.

The performance of it was absolutely amazing. John was quite smiley during it--I noticed him being particularly so on one of the times of "to see a world apart from pain." It was so strange, seeing him look so happy singing one of the most heartbreaking songs of all time.

After that they did "Purple Toupee" which, again, would have been way better on accordion but was still awesome. Then there was the official adorable John Linnell dancing moment of the show--he sang "The Lincoln album! With its many songs!" and danced a little as he did so. SO DAMN ADORABLE. Then he was like, "Oh the memories. Where are they."

After Birdhouse:

JF: We're going back.
JL: Back to an earlier time?
JF: We're messing with the fabric of time. We're going back ten minutes.
JL: *takes sip from water bottle* Why is this fuller than it was?

When John put on his accordion at one point people were cheering and "woo"-ing a lot. "Yes. 'Woo' indeed," he said.

Flans said it was a special day for Marty because he was "celebrating 1,000 subscribers to his Twitter--well, I guess you don't call them subscribers. Oh, Marty has the pay Twitter. What do you call them--zombie drones, 1,000 zombie drones."

Then they did "Lie Still, Little Bottle"--John used his bass clarinet, which was less cool than bari sax, but definitely better than keyboard. Flans played that thing he's been using that looks like a big stylophone--can't remember what it actually is. After:

JF: Bass clarinet! It's rare to hear the words bass clarinet at a rock show, let alone hear one. But we are entering the era of the bass clarinet.
JL: Unfortunately, it's an era that ends after this next song...but starts again tomorrow night in Tempe, Arizona!

Before they started "Cloisonne" Flans (who was sitting on the drum riser) was asking Marty, "Don't you think it's a bad idea for me to count off this song? You think it's a good idea? Well, what about the times when I count it off too fast?...You change the tempo immediately? I'm glad we had this conversation, I thought I was fucking up the show."

Then it was the Avatars. After "Paranoid," the Blue Avatar said that they had a new "corporate underwriter" that they wanted to thank--"We're working for a big pharma concern, which we can't name...but we want to thank them." He said they had a new drug called Pandor, "it's for performers--you take it just helps," and he said something about how the audience looked like they had to put off their SATs because of their modeling careers, but once they did them,, "boom, 1600." Also THERE WAS SOME SLASHINESS--the Green Avatar was all "I have to say, you're looking great tonight, Blue Avatar," and, later, the Blue Avatar (all mock-stoned on Pandor) was all "I LOVE YOU, GREEN AVATAR!" Obviously, Johns slashiness would be more exciting than Avatars slashiness, but still, EXCITING.

Then they had a jingle for the Pandor stuff--"Pandor, it's more than a drug/Pandor, but still it's a drug" and then some alternating synonym things like "I like your shirt/You've got nice clothes." It was pretty great.

While introducing "Marty Beller Mask," John said, "We have a new album that is even newer than the new album, the previous one. It's called Album Raises New and Troubling Questions...the album is named after itself. This song is a true story."

Then Robin came out. She said, "Happy new year! Chinese new year I mean, of course. I made a few new year's resolutions. One is to get a anything. I'm starting Rosetta Stone 2 French. And I also made a be just a little more evil."

Then they did "Kiss Me, Son of God" which was an absolute highlight of the show, in no small part because it was duo with just accordion. Afterwards, Flans said, "I've never felt more like Art Garfunkel than I do right now."

Then the band came back on stage. Flans asked Miller if he was "smoking those jazz cigarettes again" and John was like "Hey, fellas! Why don't you join us for this next one?"

Then it was "Cowtown." I was looking forward to seeing John play regular clarinet (I've only seen the bass) but if he wasn't going to do that I will definitely take the accordion, and the song sounded cool on it (but what doesn't sound cool on accordion?)

The beginning of the first encore was "How Can I Sing Like a Girl?", the duo accordion version that they've been doing. Even though I'd seen it already at all three of the shows in November I was excited to see it again--it's such a cool arrangement, and I love duo things like nothing else. Also, I paid attention this time and John was actually using the button side! So I guess he does actually know how to work them, he just doesn't usually bother.

Then Pender (who had been out for a few things earlier) came back on stage, and Flans talked him up a lot--he said he was "here to receive all your love" (Pender started to take off his jacket) and "the future is unwritten, but if the past is any indication...what Mark Pender's about to do involves the roof." He did "Doctor Worm" with them, which is so much fun live anyway but even more fun with a horn player.

For the last encore they just did "Istanbul." Pender did the intro, which was a nice change of pace from Miller's acoustic guitar thing--while that's the one part of that song that's ever actually cool, I've only seen it like 50 million times.

The version of it that they did was very, very extended--they were doing the usual ending jam thing for awhile, and then Flans said none of them wanted to stop playing, and named all the band members and said how each of them didn't want to stop, and then said "The audience doesn't want us to stop!" and I was like "Oh Flans, you have no idea how much certain members of the audience don't want you to stop." Then they played for some more, then he said again how nobody wanted to stop, and they played some more. I'm not sure exactly how long it went on for, but I think it was probably the longest version of it I've ever seen. But of course, it had to stop eventually, concluding one of the absolute best shows I've ever been to.