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- She Thinks She's Edith Head
- Man, It's So Loud In Here
- Your Racist Friend
- Whistling In The Dark
- Doctor Worm
- Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head
- Trouble Awful Devil Evil
- The End Of The Tour
- I Left My Body
- We Live In A Dump
- Turn Around
- Science Is Real
- Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
- "Nude Clown" Intro
- Ana Ng
- Let Me Tell You About My Operation
- Shoehorn With Teeth
- You're On Fire
- Memo To Human Resources
- The Famous Polka
- Particle Man
- Mink Car
- Underwater Woman
- Music Jail, Pt. 1 & 2
- Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal
- Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes
- Number Three
- She's An Angel
- Damn Good Times
They Might Be Giants
Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY
December 30, 2017 at 9:00 PM
Fan Recaps and Comments:
So first here are a couple of general observations about the show. One of them is good and a one of them is bad.
First the good: Seeing Curt Ramm play with them was SO SO SO AWESOME. I'd only been to one horns show before, years ago so my memory is dim, so it was really astounding how much he was adding to the show. The crowd loved him. He added so much to the songs he played on. I was expecting him to just play trumpet cos they kept describing him as a trumpet player when they talked about the tour online, but he played trombone and euphonium too. But yes it was mostly trumpet.
The thing I don't like is that they still have that dumb video screen on the back of the stage. They've had some really awesome show backdrops (William Allen White heads etc), so I miss that, and I find the screen distracting. Fortunately they weren't using it for the whole show this time.
Since I'm doing the general show comments at the beginning here I guess I should answer the all-important question of what John's appearance was like. Hair wasn't good but wasn't terrible either, which tragically seems to be the best I can hope for a lot of the time lately. No Chucks which made me sad, but I've actually decided it makes sense for him to not wear them in winter. I was wearing my own on this trip and my feet ended up freezing cos the material is so thin, and then when there was a really bad blizzard a few days after the shows they weren't just cold they were also wet, which was probably dangerous when it was as cold as it's been here. I ended up investing in some real winter boots so that won't happen. So if I'm not even wearing Chucks myself right now I suppose I won't expect him to either. For the first set he was wearing a black pullover jacket and for the second set he was wearing that stripey blue pocket t-shirt that's one of his Shirts of the Moment (probably no one but me is gonna know what I'm talking about cos no one but me has his entire wardrobe memorized, but trust me, he's really into this shirt right now, he's been wearing it all the time for the last few years).
When they came out John was doing this thing where he was pointing at us. Then he asked Flans if he's ever done that, and he demonstrated again, making a silly face this time. He said he's seen politicians do it, and then said he felt a thrill as he did it and was thinking "I'm so full of shit right now" (it's always exciting to hear him swear for some reason). Flans compared him to Joe Biden, whom he called "the next Democrat to lose," which elicited a very upset noise from the crowd.
JL: Too soon.
JF: Not soon enough. Welcome to 2017, the shittiest year ever! *cheers* Imagine our surprise when we were told by our management that it would end.
JL: They also said the same thing about 2016. That didn't work out.
So then they played the first song, which was "Dead." I saw that song a ton back in the day, but not much lately. It's one of my absolute favourite songs, so I'm always thrilled to see it. However, I agree with Ant's assessment that show opener is a weird slot for it--we both think it works better as a closer.
This was one of the four non-Mink Car songs that they were playing in the set during the Mink Car tour that they played. They did a Mink Car show in October and then the one the night after this show was too, and Flans said that they're going to be incorporating some of those songs back into the set since they went to the trouble to re-learn them. So I don't know if they were doing these other songs they did on that tour to go along with that or if it was just a coincidence.
When Dan went over to get an acoustic guitar for "Answer" Flans introduced him as "TV's Dan Miller," and then after the song was over he said that "you would think he was from a Nashville area code with that sound."
After the Nashville thing, Flans said that tomorrow they'll be playing songs from "the neglected Mink Car." When people cheered he said, "Imagine how we feel" and then something about how they don't even remember the album. Then he said that the next song was "a sneak preview, in the form of a paid rehearsal."
The song was "She Thinks She's Edith Head." I can't remember if I've seen it before, but if I have it hasn't been since 2001 or 2002. I'm not too wild about it on the album, so I was surprised by how much I dug it live.
Next they played a song I am wild about live: "Man, It's So Loud in Here"! Seeing it was an emotional moment in the show for me. I have a very vivid memory of watching them do it on Conan just a few days before my first show, and also seeing them play it over and over on that tour is one of my most vivid memories of that tour. They would turn all the lights off and there was a disco ball and it was awesome. They didn't do that this time, sadly, but it was still very cool.
After that Flans was showing John something with I don't think it was the setlist but it was something on his keyboard stand having to do with the next song. Whatever it was, I sure do wish he'd needed to wear his spex to read it!
Flans said that they wanted to remind people to do just flash photography. I knew he was joking, but I was actually thinking that using a flash would've seriously been the only way to get halfway decent pictures because of the way they made everyone stupidly backlit at this show (which really upset me--I was having an impossible time getting good pictures even with my nice camera).
The next song was "Your Racist Friend." I don't like this song very much, I find it too heavy-handed, but there is one part I like which is the awesome trumpet party-break in the bridge. So they were able to have Curt do that and it was fantastic--it was one of the times he most shone during the show.
After the song Flans said that Curt was going to be going with them for the whole tour and eventually they would just be "Curt Ramm's They Might Be Giants," then "Curt Ramm on Ice." John offered "The Curt Ramm Experience." They started to play the next song, but then stopped to offer a few more, but I wasn't taking notes fast enough to get those ones down.
The next song was "Whistling in the Dark," which was the first accordion song. I'd been hoping SO SO SO MUCH that John was gonna play that big sexy new accordion he had at the Slate podcast-recording show they did a couple of weeks before this rather than the Main Squeeze--it was one of the things I was most looking forward to about these shows. When I staked out my spot I was looking all over the stage to try to see which accordion was out, but I couldn't find one anywhere (it turned out to be way over on the side of the stage so that's why I couldn't see it). So when he put an accordion on and it was the Main Squeeze I was like "God John, why you gotta do this to me?" I was like crying. Any accordion is better than no accordion, of course--I still get really excited seeing him play the Main Squeeze. But it remains my least-favourite of all his accordions because of how tiny it is, and the idea of seeing him look all STRONG playing a really big one had been tremendously exciting to me.
So anyway, yes, that first accordion song was "Whistling in the Dark." Flans had previously said that they were bringing it back to the set, so it wasn't a surprise. It's not one of my absolute favourite Flood songs but it's pretty fun, and, yes, accordion! (Yes yes, I can complain about him playing a particular accordion and then turn right around and say I was excited to see him play it--any accordion is better than no accordion like I said.) Accordion songs are always good no matter what they are. Would've been even better with Flans's marching band bass drum though, sucks that he lost it in the equipment truck fire.
Up next was "Doctor Worm." I've seen this song a million times, but I've always really enjoyed it anyway cos it's such a fun song. But this time at first I wasn't, and I thought I'd gotten burned out on seeing it live. But then at the end of the first verse I started enjoying it, which was good--I don't want to be burned out on seeing it so I can't enjoy it, because it was one of the first songs I really loved.
After that Dan went over to the keyboard, and Flans said he was going to be playing the keyboard part, which is "normally played by four people." Then he started on this whole weird thing about The Rockford Files, including pretending to be his answering machine message. Then: "We're going to go super-crazy uncle in a couple of years. All we'll make are old-time radio references."
The next song was "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head." I've seen this song a few times, but not enough! I said "Doctor Worm" was one of the earliest songs I loved, but my love for "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head" goes back even earlier, to when I was rockin' out to my dad's cassette of Pink when I was like five. Flans was being really silly--during the bridge, instead of the real lyrics, it was "Do the dumb things I gotta do/Call Jim Rockford."
John introduced the next song by saying it was "inspired by The Birthday Party, even though it sounds nothing like The Birthday Party." This is apparently a band, but I've never heard of them, and Flans hasn't either--he was all confused, asking if it was Madonna's first band. John said it was "The Nick Cave Experience" and then "We'll talk about it in the car." Flans asked what Madonna's first band was if not that and someone, I think it was Danny, said it was The Breakfast Club. "The Breakfast Club? That was a movie. That was the story of a girl who was sad until her friends taught her how to put on make-up." John said that was also what happened to Nick Cave, "and then he was even sadder."
The song was "Trouble Awful Devil Evil." This is one of only just a handful of Phone Power songs I've seen live. I normally like more upbeat songs live, but quieter/slower ones can be good from time to time too, and I think this is one of the ones that is.
John was dancing around for a minute between that song and the next one and it was SUPERCUTE, the cutest thing he did in the whole show.
The next song was "Twisting," which is SO SO SO GOOD live. It's another one of those songs they would always play on the Mink Car tour. I love absolute "Flans rocking your face off" songs like that live.
Flans said the next song was inspired by The Fall, which I'm guessing is another band I've never heard of, but then he said he meant a fall he had down some stairs. John went over to pick up the paper-clip contra-alto clarinet, which I'd seen them bring out on stage when they were setting up before the show. I was excited, cos I thought it looked really cool in the pictures I'd seen of it previously and was hoping to see it live. Flans said that John is always changing the clarinet he's playing "in a never-ending quest for the perfect sound." Then he asked why it's bent so many times, and that it must have been "out of control when it was being built" (Ant told me previously that the real reason is that if they weren't bent like that they'd end up being so big that they'd get unwieldy).
When I saw them bring it out I thought he was gonna be using it for the premiere of some new song from I Like Fun that we hadn't previously heard, which made me excited, but then what he actually played was "Cloisonne´," which is supposed to be with just the bass. However, I later learned from Ant (who wasn't at the show but saw it on the livestream they did) that he was playing a different part than the album version--I hadn't realized that. I'm not sure why he decided to do this--just to mix it up, I guess. I was disappointed about not getting to hear a new song, but it's definitely a cool-looking instrument, so I liked seeing him play it (what I could see of him--he was wandering all over the place like he always does when he's playing a woodwind or accordion without singing, I don't know why he does that).
Next the played "The End of the Tour." This is another amazing song I've only seen a few times. But it was another odd set placement--I think it works best as a closer.
Then Flans said that he needed to make some stage announcements, and told us that I Like Fun is coming out next month. But he gave the wrong date, rather than the actual release date he gave the date the tour starts, which is a couple of days earlier. But he caught himself and said he needed to make some corrections, and then gave the right date.
Then he said that they've been learning so many new songs that it's hard to find one that's worth presenting.
JF: But it's great. It keeps us tired.
JL: People say, "How do you do it? How do you look so dragged out all the time?"
JF: "Don't you have any transferable skills? "You back it right up."
The song they did was "I Left My Body," which I knew they were going to play. I honestly wasn't sure how it would work live even though it's such a good song, but it was actually really great. And I was proud of myself for having the lyrics down well enough to sing along--I always get worried that I won't be able to when they're playing a song live for the first time. And not gonna lie, it makes me feel pretty awesome to be able to do it when lots of people there have never even heard the song before.
Flans introduced "We Live in a Dump" by saying it had been co-written with Chris Anderson. He said he was on stage doing his own show right now, and John said they should simulcast it.
Then something weird happened. Danny went over to Flans and said "Remind me to tell you something about this song tomorrow"--why would you do that actually on stage? Flans asked, "Don't fuck it up?" Then John said, "We're here now, Danny." So Danny told Flans whatever it was, I couldn't hear it, but then Flans said it was some part of the song that had been missing and people should come back tomorrow if they wanted to hear it played correctly (they didn't actually play it the next day).
Then Flans said they were going "back to the hits," and John said "Back on your heads. You all know that joke"--uhhh no, John, I don't, sorry. Then he said that on the next song it sounds like Curt Ramm is playing more than one instrument and it's spooky.
The song was "Turn Around," which was a definite show highlight for me. I've only seen it just a couple of times and I really really really love it, it was my first favourite song when I started buying my own copies of their albums in high school. I even wrote a poem about it for my junior year creative writing class. (I wish I still had that poem, I don't know what happened to the notebook it was in--all I can remember about it now is that I talked about how great it was that he used the word "obsequious," which it is.) So yeh it was really exciting to see it, and did I mention how much I love seeing him play any accordion song?
Next they played "Science is Real," which was the one song I couldn't sing along with because I don't listen to the kids' music enough to have the lyrics memorized. If they were gonna play a song from that album I would've preferred "Meet the Elements," but I understand why they would've picked this one when it's so depressingly relevant right now. Afterwards Flans said, "The most controversial song in our catalog. And, judging by the Youtube comments we get, we're getting close to total cultural implosion."
Then Flans said that they were going to be back in two hours. John: "When we come back we'll look like we were run over by a car, and you'll be like, 'What happened?'"
They closed out the first set with "Istanbul," GOD I'm sick of that song live. I don't like it that much to begin with, and I've had to see it at every single show I've been to. Even Curt couldn't save it for me.
They opened the second set with "Ana Ng." I always get really emotional during the last verse of that song, because I have the line "and the truth is, we don't know anything" tattooed so actually being there singing it together with him is an intense experience for me.
Next they played "Fingertips." John was hopping at the beginning, which is always so cute, and there was also some quality spazzing during "I don't understand you," which is also always so cute. During "I'm having a heart attack" Flans was doing the whole "Girl, you know it's true" bit, which no matter how many times I see it always amuses a lot, but this time he ended up doing it in such a way that he was doing it during the parts where John is supposed to be singing, so John couldn't even sing the second half. It made me feel like Flans (and maybe John too?) is just running on autopilot during shows. Also during "I walk along darkened corridors" John was holding the last "I" forever, I don't know how he could hold it so long, I was singing along of course and I couldn't keep holding it without taking a breath. So I was really impressed that he managed it.
Next they did "Let Me Tell You About My Operation," which currently holds the title of my favourite Flansong. And it's so good live. So I'm really glad they've kept it in the set. As usual, I became a Flansgirl for the length of the song, I always do on songs where he sings but doesn't play anything, just cos he looks SO COOL struttin' around the stage being such a showman. He is seriously the king of stage presence, I swear to god. This time he looked at his watch during one of the "It's just a quick procedure" parts, and said "Paging Dr. Beller on the drums" before Marty's solo, which I guess he must always do because he did it the next night too, but it had been so long since I'd seen the song that I'd forgotten.
Next they did "Shoehorn with Teeth." That song is so fun live, but I got spoiled by the awesomeness of the glockenspiel version on the Mink Car tour, so when I see it now I can't help being sad that it's not that version anymore when it was so good. But it's still fun.
Next they did "You're on Fire." Nanobots stuff seems to have fallen out of the set for the most part--the last time I saw them before this was two shows in San Francisco the summer before last, and between the two shows it was the only album they didn't play a single song from, which made me sad. So I'm glad to see them showing it some love again, especially with one of the best songs from the album.
After the song Flans said, "That was a crazy vocal arrangement. That was a mistake." Then there was a whole discussion of why the livestream they were supposed to be doing of the show on Facebook wasn't working. Flans said they thought it might be that everyone was coming into the venue with their own phones, which have Facebook on them, but that they hadn't wanted to tell people not to tell people what to do by telling them not to use their phones because they're "like Ted Nugent." Then he said that the other possibility was that they weren't doing pro Facebook live, which he said made him feel like he was missing net neutrality already and was "internet prisoner of war."
Before "Subliminal" John asked Flans how the song went and I was thinking "Shouldn't you have figured this out before the damn show?" Flans told him it was an A chord for the whole song. People cheered for some reason, and John said they must be A chord fans.
JF: Joe Biden!
JL: He's like, "Finally!"
So the they played the song. It's such a good song and I think I've only seen it once. Ant thought it was superweird for it to be in the middle of the set, he thinks it only works as an opener, but I thought it was fine. Flans did the fake backwards singing at the end, but John didn't for some reason.
After "The Famous Polka," which is always fun, and "Particle Man," which I'm sick of but at least it's accordion, they started talking about the New Year's Eve show. They said they were going to actually rehearse "Auld Lang Syne," and John said that their watches would be off by like a minute and a half and ruin the countdown. Then Flans went off on this classic funny Flans thing about how you have to remove your card from the chip reader immediately when it beeps at you, which doesn't sound like it would be funny at all, but he was able to make it funny because he's Flans.
Then they played "Mink Car," which was another emotional part of the show for me because it was the first song I ever saw live so it stirred up a lot of Feelings.
Flans said he wanted to dedicate the next part of the show to someone who was smoking pot. I didn't smell it, which was a relief because I hate it when people smoke pot at shows (I'm not anti-pot but I can't stand the smell, and I think it's very uncool when people do it at shows where people like me who don't like the smell can't get away from it).
John said that the next song had a video that was so good that it tricked people into liking them, and I was expecting it to be something from Direct from Brooklyn and was excited. Then Flans said, "We should do a show where we just play along with our videos...on ice!" But rather than something from Direct from Brooklyn like I was hoping for, the song was actually "Underwater Woman," and I was like, "Oh right, all those other videos that they're not even in." I've watched hardly any of them cos I just can't bring myself to care about stuff they're not in, so I can't speak to whether it's actually that cool of a video or not. Anyway, the song is pretty good but there are John songs from that album that are so much better, so I'm not sure why they were keeping this song in the set rather than something like "Erase" or "Unpronounceable."
After that they played "Music Jail, Pt. 1 & 2," which actually is one of the best songs on the album, so that one I'm happy to still have in the set.
Flans said the next song was from an EP they came out with in 1987. "It wasn't enough to have come out with an entire album in 1986. People were clamoring for three more songs. And we gave it most of what we had." (He was wrong about this--the EP it was supposed to be on never even came out and wasn't supposed to come out until 1989.) Then he said Curt would be playing on the song and "to paraphrase the Partridge Family, it really came together when Curt played along."
The song was "Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal," and oh my god, it brought the house down. I've never seen the crowd get so into a song that wasn't either one of the hits or something from Flood, and with good reason--it was AMAZING with trumpet. One of the definite highlights of the show.
John was playing a bunch of random notes on his keyboard after that, and Flans tried to do it on his guitar, but then he said he guessed guitar players can't really do it. John said it works on any instrument.
Flans said the next song was from the first album, which made me excited cos it's tied for my favourite. John said, "It was written before we were born, by us." Then Flans said, "It's a song we know really well." So I was expecting it to be "Don't Let's Start," cos I figured there are no Pink songs they've played more than that, but it was actually "Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes." "Don't Let's Start" is a better song, but I also really love this one, and I've only seen it a couple of times, so that was really exciting for me. It's superfun live too.
After the song was over John was making these silly noises cos he's a DORK.
JF: Tell the story about meeting Ryan Adams.
JL: Meg Ryan? I didn't hear what you said.
JF: Ryan Adams.
JL: We met Ryan Adams and--I'm making this up, because it didn't actually happen--this third arm reached out of his chest! And he was like, "Hey, check out my third arm!" And we were like, "Holy smokes!"
JF: Then he said, "You can tell people, but no one will ever believe you."
JL: "Run to your mommy."
JF: We played at Gencon, which we have played at twice but only remember once, and I met the guy who's Ryan Adams on Twitter. Not the famous Ryan Adams.
JL: You tell the story. You're the one it happened to.
JF: It wasn't one arm. It was two.
So that was a bit of weird, funny banter, and I was impressed cos it was mostly John--Flans is usually the king of funny banter, much as I love John I will readily admit that Flans is way better at funny banter than he is. But John can be really funny sometimes too.
Next they played "Number Three." I've seen that song quite a few times in the last few years, but it's always really fun. Really I think it should always be the third song in the set though.
Then John sang a little improv song where the whole song was just him playing something on his accordion and singing "Ryan Adams' arm," cos he's silly.
Then they played "She's an Angel," which is another one of those songs they always played on the Mink Car tour but I haven't seen much lately. So that was really exciting for me, cos I love that song so so so much.
The last song of the main set was "Damn Good Times," which is a "To be filed under 'Songs I've seen a million times but never get sick of cos they're SO MUCH FUN'" song.
When they came back for the first encore Flans said that if he could chest-bump us all he would "but my chest-bumping days are just a few months behind me."
Then Flans said that with the upcoming tour they were trying to break "the Chicago jinx," which he explained as being every time they play in Chicago immediately afterwards people ask them when they're going to do a show there.
JL: Maybe it's a diss. "When are you going to play in Chicago?"
JF: "Do a real show."
They talked more about the tour after that. Flans was mostly talking about cities where they've sold out.
JL: We're playing in Antwerp, where I've never been.
JF: The spelling alone--
JL: Is that the real name of a city?
JF: No! It's a Lego model your child can't build!
Then Flans said that they were playing in Amsterdam, where their version of Rolling Stone hated them for 20 years so they never went back, "but now they're out of business and we aren't."
Then they played "When Will You Die," which is really fun live so I'm happy it's still in the set. Particularly fun to sing along with too!
Then they played "New York City." I've seen that song so many times, but seeing it actually in New York City is really a special experience. And with all the Mink Car stuff I was thinking about how they'd always play it on that tour, so soon after 9/11, and Fans would just introduce it saying "This is a song about where we're from," and it was such an emotional experience for the whole crowd.
So then they came back for the second encore, and Flans started telling this story about how they'd played in Leeds twice previously, and at the first show when they came in to the venue there was a dirty diaper in the doorway--John joked that that's just normal for them. Then Flans said that after that they were sleeping on the bus in the parking lot and someone siphoned all the gas out of the tank, which was pretty gutsy to do while they were on the bus. John: "He earned that." Then there was some kind of weird unexplained light on John's chest. He said someone had a "laser sight" on him. Flans: "Are you about to get assassinated?" Then Flans went back to talking about Leeds--he said that after that first show with all the craziness they later played another show at a different club and that one was fine.
So then they played "Birdhouse in Your Soul." I have seen this song at every single show I've ever been to, but I absolutely never get sick of it and I know I never will. It's just SO SO SO FUN live, and the amount of energy in the room is so over-the-top. This time I was thinking that there was absolutely nowhere in the world I would rather be than in this room with all these happy people, listening to this perfect perfect song.
The show closed with what was absolutely the highlight of the entire show for me It was "No One Knows My Plan," which first of all is one of my absolute favourite songs, but what really made seeing it so amazing wasn't just the song itself but the other thing that happened during the song: the conga line! I've only seen them play it once before, at one of the first shows I went to way back in 2001, and I didn't conga then because I didn't want to lose my spot, and I've regretted it ever since. So when they started playing "Everybody Conga" I was like "HELL YES I AM FINALLY GOING TO GET TO CONGA."
So I did and it was SO MUCH FUN, every bit as fun as I'd always imagined it would be. I was so excited to finally be getting to do it after waiting sixteen years. I didn't get to do it for the whole song because some of the people in front of me jumped out and I couldn't see how to get back in again, but for a lot of it I did!
I do think closing the show with it was the right move, because then you wouldn't have to worry about losing your spot for more than just that one song, plus it was a really fun way to end the night!
So yeh, the whole show was a great time all around! As always.