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Was absolutely amazing! They showed up a bit later than expected, but it was damn worth it. Some show highlights: Flansburgh was teasing whether or not to play new songs, and of course they did. Something was going wrong with Linnell's accordion, so they did Turn Around with him on keyboard, which I got on video. The end of Spy had a very funny Improv segment in which Flans would point to either Linnell, Marty, or the audience. Istanbul was pretty crazy at the end, and when you thought it was over, they'd start back up again. Flans totally misled us in that they were gonna play Tubthumping, which caused a bit of booing. "Save your booing for other bands, please! We don't like to be booed." Particle Man had a song in the middle that I'm sure was a cover, but I couldn't recognize it. There was an INCREDIBLE bass solo for The Guitar, Danny was on fire! They talked about their Canada tour as well as their Puerto Rico show. The Last Wave lip sync video was shown at the beginning of the second set, which will never not be hilarious. Man, It's So Loud In Here was the rock version, always nice to see. Fingertips was also welcome, even though it was the last song. Linnell held the last note for I Walk Along Darkened Corridors for a long time, which was funny. So yeah, amazing show, one that will stay in my memories as my first TMBG show.


Another Seattle show at the beautiful and historic Neptune Theatre, one of my favorite venues in town where it's always a treat to see them. After a brief time at home to just catch my breath a little after spending the entire previous week traveling from show to show all the way up the coast, I met up with my usual Seattle show buddies crew of Matt and Ant and we headed over to the venue.

They opened with my beloved "Ana Ng," followed by "Damn Good Times." Afterwards, Flans informed us "Dan had the face-melt mod built into his guitar. He pulls out one of the little tone controls and it melts faces." Then he said that even though they've played here before he's still unclear on whether the proper name of the venue is "Neptune" or "The Neptune." After audience members yelled "The" he said, "The quiet dignity of The Neptune" (I don't know about "quiet" but "dignity" is certainly an apt quality to associate with a beautiful and classy old theatre like this one), and then differentiated it from the "New Wave" version of just "Neptune."

Then there was some discussion about how happy they were to be here at this sold-out show, with Flans saying something about high SAT scores and lit majors (guilty as charged on both counts over here) and John saying they'd sold out completely and lost all their street cred. Flans agreed and said, "Yeh, we're just getting our audition reel in to The Voice."

Then John talked about how they have a new album out and were hoping people weren't coming to the show just thinking "Well, I really like the old stuff, so I only have to put up with the new stuff," which elicited my usual reaction of awareness that he was joking but also real sadness at the idea that there might be at least some truth in that joke and a further awareness of how ridiculous that would be because the album in question is so so SO good, one of my favorites they've ever made. Then Flans said it was ok because the show was "impossibly long," and that this would "give us the elbow room to get in both songs that we feel are important for us to play, and songs that you feel are important for us to play."

Then Flans joked about how we should all be using our phones for both flash photography and any important texts we might get, and that we should offer up fake enthusiasm for the new songs, which John agreed with and said that was what he'd been trying to say earlier. He also informed us that vinyl copies of the new album are available at the t-shirt stand, and if we asked there might even be a "rare, unsigned copy" of it available. Then Flans said, "I do want to point out that a man appears to have brought some sort of gun sight to the show. That's a very elaborate camera you've got there, sir. I hope you're a professional. Please be sure to post those online." (As with any time the subject of photography is raised I really wanted John to jump in and say something since his own interest in it is so fascinating and exciting to me, but sadly he did not.)

They played "I Left My Body," and then Flans was asking, "What's that? What's that, Seattle audience? You wanna hear more new songs? *lots of cheering* We don't wanna slow down the show! Shit!" Then John said (in a mock-resigned voice) "Oh, all right."

They played "Mrs. Bluebeared" and then "Your Racist Friend" (complete with Curt's usual dramatic and ecstatically-greeted entrance) and then "Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal" (complete with Curt's usual completely amazing playing that I always enjoy more than on any of the other songs featuring him).

Then, in what Flans described as "the moment I've all been waiting for," the contra-alto clarinet made its first appearance. "People in the audience who have been doing Google Image searches of 'enormous paperclip' can calm down now. Introducing, coming in stage left, it's the contra-alto clarinet, ladies and gentlemen! It has its own Pinterest page. With thousands of pins. Many of them...are just drywall equipment photographs." Then he was making the joke he often does about how it was "stolen in the middle of the night" from a local high school marching band, and John cut in to say that he actually did purchase it from someone here in Seattle. Flans again: "And by the way, on the case it does appear to have some sort of stenciled...H...something...that's been very crudely removed. 'Property of thieves.'" John said, "I think everything we own says that."

Then Flans said, "Actually, there's a place we can't play in Boise anymore, because they're so mad at us about another thing, but it's too complicated to get into." A setup like that (especially as told by Flans, who can make pretty much anything hilarious) couldn't help eliciting plenty of laughter and (for me anyway) curiosity, so he continued "But because they're never gonna talk to us again, I can tell the story now, briefly." He said the place was "a very legitimate theatre--I forget the name of it, but it's the only very legitimate theatre in Boise." Boise is close enough to Seattle (relatively, about 500 miles or to put it the obvious other way "just a full day's drive away") that apparently there were people in the crowd who knew the place in question and were yelling the name, but Flans informed them it was unnecessary because he'd been lying about not remembering it. John said he felt like they were "entering that late Frank Sinatra period, where you just complain about stuff," and then Flans went ahead and named names: the theatre is called The Egyptian. He explained that equipment like lights and music stands are normally provided by the venue, but at this place "all their music stands just said, like, 'The Something-Something Elementary School.' And I don't think they bought 'em at an auction. Just sayin'." Then he told us to "feel free to not post that on social media" but SORRY Flans it is my contractual obligation to record and post every single detail of these shows. Then he asked how those of us in the balcony "enjoying the luxury of seating" were doing (we always sit in the balcony at Neptune shows because Matt has a bad back and can't really handle standing for a whole show well).

Then they launched into "All Time What" (supreme rockin' fun as always), and then Flans said it was now time to return to the deep cuts, which John said actually means the "crappy old songs." Flans said the next song was from their "worst-selling album" and I was wondering what that might be, but the answer, once it was revealed, seemed rather obvious: Mink Car.

The song in question was "Bangs," which I personally am not superinto, but it is still reasonably fun live, and also I was just happy for Ant because he adores the song for reasons I'm not entirely clear on but it still makes me happy when my friends are seeing songs I know they're really excited about seeing. Then they did "When the Lights Come On" (still the ultimate live new song of the ones they were doing on the tour up to this point--so rocking! And I hardly ever get live Linnell rocking opportunities.)

Afterwards, John said "Let's drag the show down a little, let's slow the show down. Stop all this high-energy stuff. Can't keep up, man." Then Flans told us he'd actually thought the show was going to start at 9 (an hour later than the actual start-time).

JL: Well, that's when the show really starts.

JF: I just got here.

JL: I'm not here yet.

Then Flans went on to tell us that it's "very hard for me to time my activities appropriately," and that his phone rang at 7:58 when he was "in the middle of a beautiful meal with a good friend" (I know he has plenty of friends all over the place but I couldn't help wondering if he was talking about amazing local musician and well-documented Flans pal John Roderick).

I also should note that it was at this point in the show that these really obnoxious guys near us in the balcony started yelling out requests for "Minimum Wage" and other stupid shit and continued to do so frequently for the rest of the show, often at times that made it difficult to hear what The Johns were saying, which is horrible because (as anyone who's been to even a single TMBG show knows) that's one of the most enjoyable parts about seeing them. I was only restrained by going over to tell them to shut the fuck up in the between-sets break by Ant and Matt repeatedly telling me that they were drunk and my attempts to do so would surely not do any good.

Then Flan gave us this big fakeout. He said the next song was from The Else, and then started telling a story about talking with an "interview person" when the album was first released who was telling him what a great opening track the album had, but then he had to explain to him that iTunes had just loaded it in backwards. I missed the The Else tour and have only seen a very small number of songs from it a small number of times in the tours since, but I have seen "The Mesopotamians" approximately 50 million times, enough that I am now really burned out on it live, so to think for a moment that I would instead be getting to see "I'm Impressed" (one of my favorite songs on the album which I most definitely have not seen) and get really excited about that, only to find out it was just another performance of the one I've already seen 50 million times, was extremely disappointing.

Then John made a joke about how he wished they could have the "iTunes loaded it backwards" effect for their entire career. "'You guys are so young and fresh now!'" Then he did a variation of his frequent joke intro for the song:

JL: So here's a song about an ancient near-Eastern rock band. They had a TV show in the '60s, and by that I mean the three-thousand-and-sixties, BC. Some of you are not old enough to remember.

JF: The original '60s.

JL: Yeh. The real '60s.

So then they of course played "The Mesopotamians," and although as I just detailed I'm quite burned out on this song, this particular performance did feature a couple of the things John often does during it that are exceedingly cute, the first being holding up a bit of his own hair on the "says my haircut makes me look like a Mohenjo-daroan" line and the second being hopping.

Flans said because it was now just before the end of the first set it was a spot where they could play the really quiet song, and then they played "This Microphone." Afterwards, he informed us that the song was both on the new album and (shortly) also on Dial-A-Song.

JF: In the next couple of weeks there's gonna be an animated version of it made by this fellow Dave who, if you track the New Yorker covers, he did the one of Donald Trump in the sailboat, with the sail in the shape of the Klan...hat. We collaborated with him on the video. By 'collaborated' I mean 'he made it for us.' 'Collaborated' is a big word. And often misused. It means 'made for us.'"

JL: And by 'collusion' I mean that he made it for us. *some other stuff I couldn't make out under all the cheering and yelling* You tell me.

JF: If by 'criminal activity'--

JL: If it's in your heart and you care about, because you love America--

JF: Because you love America, you're a traitor. To your own country.

JL: Then, yes.

JF: If caring so much about money in itself is a crime, then put on the cuffs! Guilty as charged!

Then there was a loud thumping noise, which John attributed to "electric jolts" of his accordion mic. Flans said that microphones "seem like they can make so much sound, but when they're malfunctioning, they can make such louder sounds." Flans was asking him if the accordion was going to be ok to go and he said he wasn't sure, and Flans said "There appears to be a full box of Cap'n Crunch inside of his accordion." John said they should just go ahead and "it'll be amazing later--but for now, this weird shitty sound!" Flans told him he deserves a new accordion and so does the audience, which I was quite in agreement with because (as I've discussed many a time elsewhere) I would much much rather see him play literally any other accordion he has ever used than that damn depressingly tiny Main Squeeze.

So then came my other big upsetting disappointment of the first set. They started playing "Turn Around," which is one of my top top absolute all-time favorite songs, but then John abruptly stopped after the first verse.

JL: Hold on, hold on. I've got--I have a really cool idea, which is--we're gonna do this song, totally differently. You have enjoyed the accordion--really, that should be enough, right? You've seen it, you've heard it. So now, check this out.

JF: John is taking the accordion off...

JL: And heading over to the sophisticated horizontal accordion. See how that sounds.

He I guess thought this was quite funny, and judging by their reaction so apparently did a lot of the crowd (notably Ant, sitting right next to me), but I MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT. I mean ok ok I guess it was a little funny just as a way to describe the keyboard, but I was too busy being furious about not getting to see him play accordion on one of my most beloved accordion songs to care. (To clarify, even though I'd much rather see him play any other accordion than this one, I would also much rather see him play even this accordion than keyboard.) This is not the first time I've seen him switch over one of my top favorite accordion songs to keyboard, he's done it for "The Statue Got Me High" at a handful of shows I've been to, but it was the first time I'd seen him start to play a song on accordion but then switch over just a bit into it, and the pain of not getting a thing you really love is always made sharper by thinking first that you're going to. (Also for what it's worth the accordion sounded fine to me, after that initial loud thump before he actually started playing.)

They closed the first set with "Spy" (John was again employing that sample of a woman singing "Now the night has gone" that I saw him use a fair amount in the song on this tour but still am not sure of the source of) and then "Birdhouse in Your Soul."

After the between-sets break and the showing of the "Last Wave" demo vid, they returned for the Quiet Storm mini-set, starting with the cool contra-alto clarinet version of "Older." Then Flans explained that we were now in the Quiet Storm portion of the show, "where it is always quiet, and often stormy."

Then came "I Like Fun," which Flans informed us afterwards is the "titular track" on the new album and that he was only using that phrase "to make use of this adult crowd."

Then: "We do know that people enjoy the old songs, so we're gonna play a song from 1840 right now. You may recall the title of this song from the moment when you woke up in 9th grade history class. It's called 'Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.' It's an election song that was extremely persuasive. It was often sung right before the bar fight." After the song was over he told us, "Of course, that's an original composition." Whatever had been wrong with the accordion was apparently fixed now, or at least fixed enough to be considered playable, because John was once again playing it for this song and continued to do so when he normally would thereafter.

Then there was the transition they frequently did of telling us we would now be moving all the way to THE FUTURE of 1844, where we would find fantastical futuristic things like "driverless beards" (JF) and "electric buggy whips" (JL). Afterwards, John admitted that he'd mispronounced "Oregon" in the original recording of the song (a part of the song that got a big cheer from this crowd since Washington was also included in the territory, though it seemed like maybe he didn't know that because he just referred to it as "the state south of here"), "and I heard you guys singing along and I was like 'Oh well they're gonna get it right,' and I guess that, I guess--no? Don't make assumptions. I apologize. To everyone who's not here."

Then Flans said Marty was "leaving his electronic drums behind and embracing the acoustic sounds of the school alarm bell," and also Curt was switching over to the euphonium. "Of course, euphonium is not the instrument's real name" (a dumb joke I've seen both Johns repeat various times that still never fails to amuse me). Then they did "Shoehorn with Teeth," which is so fun live and I really haven't seen enough since way back in the day when I was first going to shows and it featured Dan Hickey on the glockenspiel, so that was fun.


JF: What's next? What are we playing next?

JL: We have a song from our John Henry album.

JF: You're gonna have to give me more information than that, John.

JL: The roar of disapproval from the crowd.

JF: Is it the one that starts with G minor?

JL: It does start with G minor. Not to, y'know, give away--Spoiler alert! Don't spoil the song's G minor!

JF: For the seven people in the audience with perfect pitch. Still no refunds.

So then was my song, my dearly beloved and intensely self-identified "A Self Called Nowhere," as deeply emotional and special an experience for me to see live as it ever was. I remain eternally grateful that I got to see this song live as much as I did on this tour, especially considering that before the tour happened I was resigned to the fact that I very likely would never see it at all.

Next they did the wonderful accordion arrangement of "How Can I Sing Like a Girl?," and then the full band returned for "Istanbul" complete with Curt's cool trumpet + valve trombone intro. Afterwards, Flans said having Curt playing with them every day is a constant reminder of "what it would've been like if we'd've just practiced more."

Then he went into an explanation of the AV Club covers project they've participated in, which he described as "like Hunger Games, but with music." He talked about how they'd first done "Tubthumping" and how difficult it was to make it into a good cover version, and then a couple of years later "we had what we call the 'oblitunity' to follow up that act, and were given the equally complicated task of covering a song by Destiny's Child," who he pointed out are much more popular than TMBG is and so it was "really a challenge" to mange to do this and not be hated by the mass of Destiny's Child fans. But then after the unexpected success of the song, "there was a brief period of time where we thought about changing the name of the band to Destiny's Child's Child, and touring casinos with a one-song repertoire."

So then they did "Bills, Bills, Bills," followed by "Particle Man" (with John's pre-song "command" for us to continue clapping on the backbeat "no matter how much we beg" and "Elusive Butterfly" in the middle), and then the ever-rockin', ever-amazing "The Guitar."

Afterwards, Flans was shouting out how amazing Danny was on that song, and how he hadn't been sure "how that was ever gonna end. It was like, this or dawn." John added that Danny had in fact badly injured his finger earlier in the week "so really, it's kind of ridiculous."

JF: It's been replaced with another person's finger. At extraordinary expense. And sacrifice. Of another person's finger.

JL: The whole other person had to be sacrificed.

Then John said he wanted to figure out a way to "dovetail the cloning conversation we were having" (one of those casual mentions he sometimes does of what sound to me like really interesting conversations they're having on the bus or backstage or wherever that always make me so curious about what the conversations actually sound like) into this finger talk.

JF: It's impossible to say.

JL: It's impossible to say. It's too early to say.

JF: Too early to say. Facts aren't in. Facts aren't in about cloning being fucked up. For the sake of a finger.

JL: I don't know. Y'know. Nobody knows.

JF: Tremendous expense.

JL: Ethical quandary.

Then they played "Wicked Little Critta" and then "New York City" (which Flans introduced by telling us it was by our fellow Pacific Northwesterners on the other side of the border, Cub from Vancouver). Afterwards, Flans told us about their scheduled upcoming appearance on the Joco cruise and their first-ever tour of Canada, to which we were "perilously close" and so should "pass the word along" to Canadians because they were beginning to worry that the whole thing was "a huge mistake. I mean, first of all, we posted on some social media somewhere that we were doing an eight-city tour of Canada, and a Canadian responded by saying, 'We have eight cities?' We're not making Canadian jokes, ladies and gentlemen. The Canadians are making Canadian jokes." Then he was joking about how there's "very little Canadian content up here on stage," and "It's true, we have actually played in places that were strip clubs during the day and rock venues at night, so we've had the essence of the Canadian rock experience. But now we're going full immersion."

They closed out the second set with a trio of always superfun live songs: "Number Three," "Twisting," and "Doctor Worm," with some band and crew intros stuck in before the last.

When they came back for the first encore, John was profusely thanking us for being so great, and then said, "We do love this town," and that he was really sincere. Then he asked Flans, "What was it Joe Franklin said?" Flans replied, "It's all about sincerity, and if you can fake that you can do anything." Then he started explaining who exactly Joe Franklin was, and said that he was the host of "the longest-running and incredibly dull television show" in New York, and that it was filmed on a split soundstage with the other half used for Romper Room, "so everything that you saw while you were on the show was just a gigantic Romper Room set." Then John checked to confirm if we actually knew what Romper Room was.

The first encore was the amazing double-shot I saw them do at several other shows around this time, "Dead" and then "Don't Let's Start," both of which are so so so high on my all-time fav songs list that I really couldn't ask for anything better.

When they returned for the second encore, John said, "So yeh, Mink Car. You love it, you hate it, you can't live with it..." Then they played "Man, It's So Loud in Here" (which is forever tied up with my extremely intense memories of that tour, my very early days in fandom), and closed things out with "Fingertips," including a very long, lingering final note.

So, a really swell show--fantastic setlist, beautiful venue, experienced with a couple of my best fandom buddies. The yelling drunk guys and brief accordion abandonment were upsetting, but whatever, still had a great time. And finally: John was wearing a long-sleeved black shirt with the sleeves pushed up.