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Fan Recaps and Comments:


After years of becoming an increasingly-obsessed TMBG fan, I FINALLY made it to my first live show at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland. Despite Flans making some jokes about the small, sparsely appointed venue ("The Beachland Ballroom, with all the charm of your junior high school multipurpose room."), Linnell said, "We were just talking about this backstage. Whenever we come to the Beachland Ballroom, we always have a great show." And having seen them tear it up, I have to agree.
The opener was Moon Hooch, a very weird but highly enjoyable and high-energy band made up of only two saxophonists and a drummer. They apparently had multiple songs, but it all just kind of ran together into one big 30-45 minute crazy, spacy jam. After the music they had some quick banter, thank-you-for-coming, buy-our-t-shirts type stuff, during which there was a weird moment where one of the saxophonists said "I've never met any Leslies, are there any Leslies in the crowd?" But due to his dialect, the sound system, or both, a good chunk of the crowd thought he said "lesbies," as in short for "lesbians," and there were multiple confused "WHAT?!"s from the audience before everyone figured out what he was saying. As far as anyone could tell, there was no one in the crowd named Leslie, and Moon Hooch's Leslieless streak goes unbroken.
After the breakdown of Moon Hooch's (admittedly spare) equipment and the setup of TMBG's - keyboard extremely front and center - the band came on and launched right into "You're on Fire," followed immediately by "James K. Polk." After that, Linnell and Flans started talking to the crowd. During this banter, Flans warned that we were about to witness a "dynamic" show, meaning they would have "some songs we are prepared for and some we barely know how to play." Despite this warning, the song selection was great. Most of my favorites from Nanobots (the reason for the tour) plus something from pretty much every album, going as far back as "Puppet Head" and "Famous Polka." I remember reading a show account from the Join Us tour where they responded to someone drunkenly yelling "Puppet Head" repeatedly with, "We barely remember how to play that song, so it's not gonna happen," so it was a welcome surprise for me when they launched into it.
"Dynamic" as the setlist might have been, I only noticed a couple hiccups: a false start on Circular Karate Chop from Flans ("Ready when you are, Marty."), and a brief moment of launching into the wrong line of lyrics by Linnell. I can't remember which song it was, but I'm pretty sure it was a mistake I've also made multiple times while belting out sing-along versions alone in my car.
There were bits and jokes and hijinks aplenty. Here are some of the highlights I remember:
  • Avatars of They - in the corner of the stage, directly into a camera which was projected behind the band, bantering and singing "He's Loco."
  • Some sort of thing that was basically an extended Marty Beller drum solo, with some occasional guitar and bass backup from the Dans, and stylophone solos by Flans and Linnell. An overhead cam behind Marty showed us his drumming prowess in closeup, and he ended his crazy fast solo by pointing his drumstick right into the camera and staring at the camera with an "I'm a badass" face. He held the position (and stare) for a good 90 seconds, despite repeated pleas from the rest of the band to stop freaking them out.
  • Some banter (and terrible jokes) between Linnell and "Robot Flans," who was talking into a mic with the sound already robotted-up in preparation for his vocals in "Nanobots." L: "Robot Flans, I want to ask you a question." F: "How long will it be until we rehearse this bit?...Till then it's just going to be entirely improvved." After a bad joke - L: "You couldn't pay for these jokes. You WOULDN'T pay for these jokes."
  • "Drink!" with audience participation. F: "Drink!" Audience: "Drink drink!"
Overall, for my money, it was an amazing show. The setlist was incredible (for my tastes). The band was energetic, playful and relaxed, and any momentary annoyance they had toward some technical aspect was an in-joke with the audience, not anything uncomfortable or mean. The intimate venue meant a great energy and give-and-take between the crowd and band - despite the occasional annoynce of drunk (or just overenthusiastic?) douchebags yelling out requests. The GA standing-only crowd pushed in pretty close and tight, which made it hard to stand comfortably in one spot or move around a whole lot, but it didn't matter that much. The sound was good, lighting was decent, although there were occasional problems with inadequate lighting on anyone who moved to the very front of the stage.
I had a great time at my first-ever live TMBG show, I got my face rocked off, and I hope I can catch them at least a couple more times, in Cleveland or elsewhere, before they finally decide they've had enough of all this "rock and roll" business.