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- Dinner Bell
- Damn Good Times
- Ana Ng
- All Time What
- The Statue Got Me High
- My Evil Twin
- Dig My Grave
- Mrs. Bluebeard
- Hypnotist Of Ladies
- She's Actual Size
- Man, It's So Loud In Here
- Your Racist Friend
- Particle Man
- Doctor Worm
- Quiet Storm
- I Palindrome I
- New York City
- Which Describes How You're Feeling
- Narrow Your Eyes
- Turn Around
- See The Constellation
- The Mesopotamians
- I Left My Body
They Might Be Giants
Stubb's in Austin, TX
February 1, 2018 at 9:00 PM
Fan Recaps and Comments:
My mother put Flood in my Christmas stocking in 1991. What? Who might be a giant?? Since then these guys have been a huge part of the soundtrack of my life. Their shows are always a pleasure, and this was no exception. They played nearly all of Apollo 18 (minus Hall of Heads and If I Wasn't Shy). And sprinkled in so many fan faves along with a few of their more esoteric album tracks that never fail to be buckets of fun. The small quasi-acoustic set they're calling "The Quiet Storm" is just the two Johns and Marty, with stage lighting that looks like a campfire sing-along. This made up the first 6 songs of the second set, ending with a version of Istanbul that was just off the chain! Marty left the stage and the Johns started folksy and heartwarming, transitioning into a trippy dialog with mics on reverb, and were then joined by the rest of the band for a hard-driving rock outro. It was truly something to behold. We walked out humming about blue canaries and bees in my bonnet, and it was easy to wish they had played dozens more of my personal favorites, but that's pure selfishness on my part. Thanks so much, guys, for all your years of swimming upstream.
This was an Apollo 18 show. That isn't why I went, I was planning to go to this show before they announced that was what it was going to be, but when they did announce it I was like "FUCK YEH" cos that's such a classic album and a lot of the songs on it I've only seen at the previous Apollo 18 show I went to. So that definitely made me way more excited to be going!
I was expecting them to play the album either in sequence or in reverse sequence (which was how they did it at the previous Apollo 18 show I went to), so I was really surprised when they opened with "Dinner Bell." So it was one of those shows where they mix the songs from the album they're featuring in with the other songs. I've been to a few shows like that--I much prefer it when they play the whole thing at once. When the show was over I saw why they'd done that--they skipped two songs, "Hall of Heads" and "If I Wasn't Shy." I knew they skipped some songs at the previous Apollo 18 show they did before the one I went to, but then they played them at the one I was at, so they're capable of playing them. So yeh I don't know why they didn't this time--it was disappointing.
After "Damn Good Times" (always so superfun) they played "Ana Ng," which is always a really intense song for me to see because I have the line "and the truth is, we don't know anything" as a tattoo.
After that there was some great banter. Flans said that it's great that pot is legal in Austin, so I guess there must've been people smoking (I'm glad I couldn't smell it, cos I can't stand it when people smoke pot at shows). Then he said that Robin smokes cigarettes and that people who smoke cigarettes have been "banished outside to the former cool kids corner," but people who smoke pot will just do it anywhere cos they're breaking the law anyway. Then John said that they're using smoke machines some in the show, and maybe they should put vape capsules in them. Flans said those things "might be more poisonous than we think," and John said "We won't know until we try." Then Flans said they should have something like a confetti cannon shooting edibles at the audience.
JF: We're going to be playing all the songs from Apollo 18 that we know how to play! There are no refunds. We have a new album out. You're wondering "What is an album?" Well, it's like a calendar with a disc inside.
Then they played "All Time What." This was my first time seeing all the I Like Fun songs they played except "I Left My Body," and I was really excited to see the cos I completely adore the album. This song was fun live, and I do love seeing John play the contra-alto clarinet.
Next came the first time The Johns mentioned how it was OMG soooooooooooo cold (Stubb's is an outdoor venue)--Flans said they were freezing, and they'd made the mistake of thinking it would be warm touring the South in the winter. And I was like "Dude, y'all are from New York. This should be nothing for you." It was probably like 55. I was a little chilly in my hoodie, but definitely not as miserable as they were making it sound like it was. Granted, they weren't really adequately dressed (Flans was just wearing that The Shining cardigan he's so fond of lately, and John called what he was wearing a sweater but it looked like just a longsleeved shirt to me), but that's their own damn fault.
Next they played "The Statue Got Me High," and the thing I'd been worried about after seeing him do it on New Year's Eve happened--John played it on keyboard cos he suuuuuuuuuuucks. Now, at the New Year's Eve show it absolutely enraged me to see him do that, but this time I was more chill about it--I was like "Ok, he's gonna be dumb and do it on keyboard for some damn reason, and yes it would be way better on accordion, but I'm gonna force myself to enjoy it on keyboard." So I did my best, and I did manage to enjoy it, mostly.
Next they played "My Evil Twin," which was fun, then "Dig My Grave," which rocked my fucking face off. There were strobes during the latter, and afterwards Flans said that he forgot to mention that there were strobes in the show. John: "I forgot everything after there were strobes."
Then Flans told a classic hilarious Flans story. He said that to "keep from being weird" they'll do a "1,000-yard stare" over the crowd (which John definitely does not do--he does that thing where he just stares at people for long periods of time which just unnerves everybody). So then Flans said that the previous night they'd played in Baton Rouge, which he'd discovered to his disappointment is not pronounced Baton Rouge, and in the bar at the back of the venue there was a guy playing a really violent shooter game, the kind that includes warnings that it includes decapitation. But then someone who worked for the venue told him he had to stop, and the game was stuck on a guy in a gas mask and a grey shirt moving in a silly way, he demonstrated, he was holding his arms to his sides and up a little and slowly halfway-turning from side to side. Then he said that he knows video game designers are all smart and rich, but is that really the best they can come up with for the pose when a guy is standing around? "It looks like The Thunderbirds in 1965."
Then he said again that they have a new album out, and that they're really proud of it, but that they've been surprised by the good reviews it's been getting. "Dare I say, we are chuffed."
Then John said that he was impressed by Flans's eyesight for him to be able to see the gas mask guy, and I was like "Yes John, people who wear their glasses all the time can see well. MAYBE YOU SHOULD TRY IT." (Yes, I know that he's farsighted, but still.) Flans said it's because he had his eyes replaced by robot eyes, and that "a hush fell over the crowd" as people wondered if he was serious.
Then Flans said that they're playing two sets, so it won't all be just talking. Then he said that the third set would be all blues, and John said it would be "talking blues." Then he attempted to improvise a blues song, and him improvising is always my faaaaaaaaav. The lyrics were "I was lookin' in the mirror the other day/And nothing interesting happened."
Then they finally got back to playing, with a new song premiere--exciting!!! It was "Mrs. Bluebeard"--they'd soundchecked it a few times, but hadn't actually performed it yet. John does notttttt know the lyrics yet--he kept fucking them up. He probably thought no one knew he was fucking them up cos the album just came out, but I was like "John, I have been listening to nothing but this album for the past three weeks, THAT IS NOT HOW IT GOES." I was also like "WELL GEE John, if only you had a cheat sheet with the lyrics on your keyboard that you would need to wear your spex to read! That's the only reason I want you to wear them, of course--just so you don't embarrass yourself. The fact that it's sexy as fuck has nothing to do with it."
Anyway, in spite of his screwups it was still cool to see. I love being at new song premieres, it's very exciting for me, and I only have a few times. It's one of my favorites on the album, but I didn't think it would work well live (just cos something is a good song doesn't mean it's a good live song), so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was wrong and it was actually quite good.
Next they played "Hypnotist of Ladies," which is the one song on the album I don't really like, so that wasn't too exciting for me.
Flans introduced the band after that. He said that screams and applause are Marty's oxygen, and that the rest of the band just shows up and thinks they'll play songs, "but for Marty, it's emotional."
Next they played "She's Actual Size," and then "Man, It's So Loud in Here." Then the smoke machines came on, and John said "There's that chemical I was thinking of." Flans: "Is something on fire? Besides this band!" Then he said that it was good there were no kids in the audience cos only swear words could describe how good the band is, but then he didn't actually swear.
Next they played "Mammal," which was definitely a majorly exciting one.
Next they played "Your Racist Friend." Curt wasn't with them because of some family health emergency, so he couldn't do the awesome trumpet party break part, which is the only thing I like about that song. Also the same thing happened that happens every damn time where Flans fucks up the lyrics but John is singing the backing vocal correctly and then he just looks lost cos he doesn't know what he should be singing when Flans is fucking up the lead vocal.
Next they did "Particle Man," with John throwing in that bit of "Chandelier" during the bridge (I still have never actually heard that song, maybe I should look it up).
After that Flans said that they were about to do the break between sets in just a minute. He said that if you want them to come back sooner then you should remember that for TMBG it is "always National Overtip Your Bartender Day." Then one of them (I was not scribbling down notes fast enough to catch which) said they were going to go back to the bus, and John said they'd be taking hot showers. Then Flans said that they'd come back and play the exact same set, but this time they'd give it 100%. John disagreed and said they'd play different songs but do the same raps (he must've meant banter, but that was a silly word to use for it). Then he said that they'd also have different sweaters.
Then they did "Doctor Worm," which is one of those "I've seen this song a million times but it's always so fun" songs.
So then there was the break between sets, and then they came back for the Quiet Storm section I'd been so curious about. I was curious about it cos it sounded like an interesting setup, and I was also really looking forward to it cos I knew that was when they've been playing "A Self Called Nowhere."
First they played "Older." I've seen that song a million times, but never with this arrangement--John was playing clarinet on it (except for the parts when he had to sing, obviously). It was really interesting. I did think it was funny though, cos John said at the New Year's Eve show that the day before he'd learned that he needs to not do songs where he has to sing right after a song wher ehe plays it--I guess playing it must be hard on his throat somehow. So I'm not sure why he's doing both right in the same song.
Next they played "I Like Fun," so there was more clarinet coolness there. I really do like that thing more than the bass--I mean the bass is all right, but this one is definitely cooler.
After that Flans said "All my valuable cheat sheets are being blown away by the wind." Then he said that this was the Quiet Storm section of the show, which he explained as being "when we learn the effects of cold temperatures on our acoustic instruments." John: "It's the science portion of the show."
Flans introduced "Tippecanone and Tyler Too" as being an election song that is "super-hostile" and "brimming with ill-will towards the opposition."
So then they played that, which was the only song I couldn't sing along with--I like the song fine, I just haven't listened to it enough to have the lyrics memorized, even though there aren't that many of them. I resolved to listen to it more to be set for this tour.
John said that that song was from 1840, but now they were going deep into the future--to 1844! So then of course they played "James K. Polk." I've seen that song so many times, but I really loved seeing it on accordion. Oh yes, while I may be outraged by seeing him play accordion songs on keyboard, I am positively thrilled by the reverse. I want all the accordion all the time. If it were up to me he would play accordion for the entire show like he did in the duo days.
After that song was over John looked down at his feet and said "Yes, my shoes are tied!" That amused me, because before my first show I informed him that they weren't, that was the second thing I ever said to him (he ignored me). Then Flans asked if the accordion mic was on. John said he had no idea and asked the crowd if we could hear the accordion, and everyone affirmed that yes we could.
Then Flans said that during this portion of the show there are "storm sounds making everyone nervous" and that usually their shows are indoors so it's obvious that it's fake, unlike this one.
Then Flans said that John was going to play a synth on the next song, and asked John to give us a sneak preview. So he played it for a minute, and everyone cheered, and John said "You guys are so easy to please!" Then he said that really it had taken weeks of work to perfect that sound, and that he had really sweated over it. "Never let them see you sweat." Flans: "I don't think there's any danger of that in this weather. 'Where are my mittens? I need to play a rock show!'"
So then they played "Space Suit." That's one of their best instrumentals, and I"d only seen it before at the other Apollo 18 show I went to, so that was really cool.
Then Marty left the stage and it was just The Johns, which was really exciting to me cos I am all about them being duo (no offense to Marty or the rest of the band).
Flans said we must be warmer in the crowd, and asked if there was pressure on us to huddle together for warmth. Then he said it reminded him of the 6 train, which if there's really something special about the 6 train that's different than other trains it was a reference that was entirely lost on me as a non-New Yorker.
Next they played "Istanbul." It was the silly duo version that they were doing a couple of tours ago, but they made it even sillier this time. Besides the part they were doing before with Flans saying "Take me back, please take me back" in a falsetto voice and John saying "Noooooo" in a deep one, there were several minutes of both of them just making silly noises. I am beyond sick of this song normally, buit I'll admit that this version is amusing.
Then at the end whole band came back onto stage, and they all did the crazy jam session, which would have been cool normally (sick of the song as I am, I do like that part) but this time I couldn't think it was cool cos I was just like "No no no!!! You didn't play 'A Self Called Nowhere'!!!" That was the thing about the tour I've been most looking forward to, and I knew if the band was coming back on stage they weren't gonna play it later cos that meant the Quiet Storm part was over and that's when they've been doing it. I was so upset, but I tried to console myself with the idea that they would hopefully be playing it at the other two shows on this trip. I figured they probably just swapped it out for "Space Suit," since they were doing the Apollo 18 thing.
Flans said that the band was back and he was happy cos he was "sick of that folk shit."
JF: We don't know why we do that part of the show.
JL: We lost a bet.
JF: We lost a bet with Live Nation.
Flans said that the next song was "heartwarming," and I took him seriously and was thinking that they definitely don't have too many songs that can be described that way, but then when they started playing the song I realized he was being sarcastic, cos it was "I Palindrome I," so that was amusing. That one was cool to see--it's one of my favorites on the album, and I think my other Apollo 18 show was the only time I've seen it before.
Next they played "New York City." Then Flans was bitching again about how it was OMG SO COLD. He said that when they were first in a band you could count on "the heavy-metal light show heating things up," but now the stage lights are all LED so they don't produce heat, and that he was feeling nostalgic for hair metal. Then John said "Our instruments also used to produce that warm analog sound, not the cold digital that they do now." Then Flans was talking about how in some town in upstate New York (presumably where he has his summer place in the Catskills) they replaced the streetlights with LEDs, but because they weren't producing heat they'd get covered with snow in the winter, and how fun it is to try to drive in a blizzard with no red lights. John pointed out that you can't stop anyway so it doesn't matter.
John introduced "Which Describes How You're Feeling" by saying that they were going to "muddle" their way through it. I thought it sounded great though--that song is really fun live cos it's so upbeat, and it was another one that I'd only previously seen at the other Apollo 18 show I've been to.
After "Narrow Your Eyes" John put his accordion on.
JL: If we ever have a Cormac McCarthy The Road existence...at least we'll still have the accordion. Unless people want to eat it. If you haven't read The Road, the accordion roasting on the spit is the most disturbing part.
JF: "Mmm, delicious white keys!"
Normally I always like to read books I've heard John talk about (I have a whole section on my site for that for both of them), but I definitely do not want to read that particular book! I'm way too squeamish for that shit.
So then they played "Turn Around." That was my favorite TMBG song when I was in high school and I've only seen it a few times, so it was really exciting for me to see it again! It's also the only Apollo 18 accordion song that I really really love that he actually played on the damn thing at this show, so at least I got one.
After "See the Constellation" John asked Marty if his kids ever think he's mad at them when he's playing, "because sometimes when I get too close to the drums I'm like 'Whoa. I don't know what I did, but I'm sorry.'" Flans said that there's "a fun range of emotions" coming from the drums. Then he said that there's a profile of Marty in the new issue of Modern Drummer.
After that they played "The Mesopotamians." There was some quality John spazzing. He also pulled up some of his hair after "says my haircut makes me look like a Mohenjo-doran," which was cute.
I hadn't heard Flans say this before they played the song, but apparently he introduced it as being from The Spine, because after it was over he said "When I introduced that song as being on The Spine, of course I knew it was from The Else--I was just trying to give the Wikipedia people something to do." I think probably he was actually talking about TMBW rather than Wikipedia cos that was what would actually make sense, so that was very amusing to me because as someone who posts these overly-detailed show reviews on the wiki yes, Flans, I will totally call you out on this shit.
After that Flans was plugging Dial-A-Song. He said right now they have a video up for "The Greatest" and everyone is commenting saying it's fucked up. John: "And those are the five-year-olds." Then Flans was plugging I Like Fun--he said people ask "How do you do it?", and that they think it has something to do with selling albums. Then he said that that ended the pledge drive portion of the show.
Then Flans said that they only had two songs left. "One is brand-new and will leave you in the dust. The other is shockingly familiar. Which will the next one be?"
The next one turned out to be the brand-new one--it was "I Left My Body." After it was over Flans said that meant the last one must be the shockingly familiar one, and that it was also very complicated, so they'd be staring at their hands.
So I of course expected it to be "Fingertips," and I was right. I've seen that song a bunch of times, but it's always fun. John was hopping during "Come on and wreck my car," which is always so cute. He used the Kaoss Pad on "I don't understand you," which I don't think I've ever seen him do before. Also Flans didn't do "Girl, you know it's true" during "I'm having a heart attack," so that threw me off just cos I'm used to him always doing it.
When they came back for the first encore there was more bitching about how cold it was, this time from John. "I'm sure you all are experiencing this--my eyeballs are frozen in their sockets, so I have to turn my whole head to look at anyone. I'm like a freakin' owl. I shit you not." It was seriously ridiculous how they kept complaining about it when if they'd just worn real jackets they would've been a little chilly but no worse than that, like I was in my hoodie. I mean seriously guys, it was like 55 and YOU ARE FROM NEW YORK. When I was there a month ago it was like nine fucking degrees and there was over a foot of snow. This should have been nothing for them.
The first song of the first encore was absolutely the highlight of the show for me: "When the Lights Come On." GOD what a kickass live song. I already knew it was one of the I Like Fun songs they've been playing and I was expecting it to be awesome, and I was so correct. I love really rockin' songs live, which is why a lot of my favorite live songs are actually Flansongs even though normally I like John's songs more, so it was nice to be getting my face rocked off by one of John's songs for a change. After "Let's Get This Over With," which to my colossal disappointment they hadn't started playing, this was the new song I most wanted to see, and it was so so so good.
After that they were thanking us all for coming, and John said they wanted to thank the people in the back. Flans: "We come in peace!"
Next they played "Spider." I was so thrown off by them not playing all of Apollo 18 in either normal order or reverse order that I was having a hard time keeping up with what they still hadn't played yet, so then I was like "Oh right, they haven't played this song yet, have they?" This is a silly and fun song on the album, and so it is, as you might expect, a silly and fun song live.
Next up was "The Guitar," which is one of my favorite songs to see live--I've seen it a million times, but it's JUST SO FUN. John was being adorable during this song--he was hopping a ton (I've seen him do it at the beginning before many times, and he did it then, but he did it like three more times after that too) and he also waved during the "The lion waves goodbye" part. Also notable (though not cute) is the fact that he wandered to the back of the stage for awhile, as he is so fond of doing when he's not playing (I wish he wouldn't do that, cos I want to always be able to see him well), and he almost collided right into Danny walking back to his keyboard.
They opened the second encore with "Wicked Little Critta." I've never been too crazy about this song, but after seeing it live several times now I'm liking it more--it's surprisingly fun live.
They closed the show with "Birdhouse in Your Soul," which is really a perfect closing song, cos it's always a song that makes everyone insanely happy so it's great for them to leave everyone feeling that happy.
It was a really good show--I loved seeing all the Apollo 18 stuff, a lot of which I'd only seen that one single other time, and it's such a classic album. So yeh it was wonderful to see those songs again. I wish they hadn't skipped the two songs they skipped, but at least we got almost the whole album.
The final very important "But what was John wearing?" note: This black and white stripey long-sleeved shirt he's been really into lately, black jeans (I was excited about this, I thik they look better on him than blue and he hasn't worn them as much lately), but sadly no Chucks.