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Fan Recaps and Comments:


This show was at the very beautiful and classy and clearly historic State Theatre. I got to briefly meet my fandom friend Heather before the show started, but sadly because it was a seated show and we hadn't gotten seats together we only had just a few minutes to chat and exchange hugs and gifts before having to split up.

So yes it was a seated venue, but then Flans does the thing he so often does at seated venues immediately after they came out, with ordering everyone to get up out of their seats and come towards the stage.

I always like it when they open with a really rockin' song that really gets everyone going right off the bat, and the one they did this time, "Damn Good Times," is definitely up there as one of the most excellent choices for accomplishing that.

Then they played "I Left My Body" and then "Your Racist Friend." Flans is so bad about perpetually fucking up the latter in various ways--I don't understand how it's so hard for him considering how often they play it. This time he sang the last verse first, which was particularly baffling because it so clearly doesn't even make sense in the context of the narrative of the song. After that, John wasn't even bothering to sing his backing vocals because it was all clearly such a mess (I've frequently seen him sing them correctly when Flans is not on the lead, which just makes it all even sadder).

After "Particle Man" and "The Famous Polka" (how exciting for me to get to see some accordion so early in the set, although I'd happily never see the first of those two songs again just because I've seen it about a gajillion times and didn't like it too much to begin with), Flans explained that the show was going to be two sets. He said they'd lock the doors so no one could leave, and they'd just be playing fusion jazz "until the last person falls asleep."

Then John went off on some silly bit (which he was clearly proud of, because he repeated it at at least one of the other shows I went to on this trip) about how AC/DC had replaced their lead singer with a crow, the entire basis of the joke being that the vocal on their songs sounds similar to the sounds a crow makes. He did a silly impression, and then there was some talk about how smart crows are and experiments that have been done with them, and then the fact that this whole discussion was the perfect segue into their next song, which was of course "Birdhouse in Your Soul."

And after that they went straight into "The Guitar," which is one of those things Flans sometimes does where he puts a couple of songs that are really high-energy and cause me and everyone else to do plenty of boppin' around in the setlist back-to-back, and it's always a great feeling to keep riding the wave of all that rockin' energy, but sometimes it almost feels like too much, sometimes it almost overwhelms me...but never quite, which keeps it wonderful.

During this particular performance Flans did the "And you don't stop" thing not once but twice, which I don't think I've ever seen him do before but I always really love it so sure, I'll take extra. Also, during the intro jam to the Future of Sound part, when everyone was starting to clap, John made both his hands into fists and was doing his own sort of "clapping" by smacking them together, which was silly. "Which fist will win?" He also played the keyboard with his forehead for a bit, which was even sillier, and then later he was hopping, which yes I've seen him do frequently during this song so it wasn't a surprise, but that doesn't make it any less (as always) totally adorable.

After that there was some on-stage discussion of what was next on the setlist, and when it was determined to be something from Mink Car, Flans said it was a "huge mistake" that would "kill the momentum" (see my previous comments about the building energy between the prior two songs).

Then Flans started talking about how much they love Ithaca, and then went off on this whole thing about the antique store next door to the venue (which I didn't see until I was leaving after the show, because I'd approached from the other direction, which was...a sex shop, which most definitely did not get any on-stage shoutouts), which he'd apparently visited before the show. He said he'd bought a bottle of what was, according to the label, a "lead and opium wash," which he thought sounded very refreshing, and that there was still a bit of something left in the bottle and he was curious what it was.

Then he was talking about some movie he couldn't remember the name of, but it had something to do with twin scientists and starred Jeremy Irons, and in the movie a character says that what he's doing is "pure research," which became a running joke between him and Robin as a way of explaining weird behavior. John said his equivalent line that he uses to justify it when he's "having a temper tantrum" is that he's "researching a role."

Then there was some talk bout how it was necessary to "slow down the show" and how "overcaffeinated" they were (what, as opposed to every single other show they've ever played?), and then they played "Bangs," which, although yes certainly not as energetic as the two songs that preceded it, is still bright and upbeat enough to be fun live. Afterwards, there were more references to the "pure research"/"researching a role" stuff in relation to some screwups during that song ("researching a role as the guy who didn't come in on time").

Then they played "Authenticity Trip," and I was glad to have that little more low-key breather of "Bangs" and some banter before going into it cos MAN does that song rock live. I really really love it.

Then Flans did the spiel I'd seen him do at other shows about how they know none of us know or care about the new material, but when they play some of it we should pretend we do. This tie it consisted of him saying that they needed to draw on the "strong theatrical background of everyone in the audience" and that we needed to act like "show-business phonies" who care about songs that are "unfamiliar even to people who brought friends." I know he's just kidding around around, but it still makes me sad how he kept doing this, especially when I love love LOVE the new album in question (which really wasn't even all that new at this point, as it had been out for over ten months already).

And I especially didn't want him to act like we needed to feign excitement about the particular new song he was introducing, "Let's Get This Over With," which as I've already detailed in the previous show review immediately became my Song of the Year for 2018 right from the moment I'd heard it and then I spent most of the year desperately waiting to see it live for the first time. That first time ended up being a week and a half prior to this, in Vancouver, so this performance did not quite have that extreme extra excitement that all songs I dearly love have when I get to see them for the very first time, but it was still really REALLY great, definitely one of the highlights of the show, especially with that accordion in the live arrangement which is I think about the only change they could've made to it that would've improved it so I'm thrilled that they did.

After that was "Doctor Worm," lots of fun as always, and then some talk about how the next song was going to be one they hadn't yet played on this tour and that they'd be "staring at their hands" as they played for that reason.

Then Flans started talking again about the antique store next door, and how he'd also acquired a piece of taxidermy, which immediately piqued my interest because taxidermy falls under the very broad category of "Strange/Morbid/Tragic Things I Find Fascinating." He said what he got was a sort of "faux tiger," a thing made to look like a tiger on a much smaller scale. He said he had no idea what the thing was in actuality. Then he was joking about how he was going to have to explain it to Robin and how he might do that.

Then they played "Museum of Idiots," which (as should be obvious from the fact that I picked it for my site URL) is a song I have a deep emotional connection to, and it wasn't one I was expecting because, yes, they hadn't played it yet on this tour.

After that John got out his contra-alto clarinet, an instrument Flans described as "an endangered species in the rock lexicon," which led to more discussion about taxidermy and its ability to shrink things down. They played "All Time What" and then there was more contra-alto talk--Flans said it had been stolen from Ithaca College.

They closed the first set with two extremely fun live songs, "When Will You Die" (sweet of John to cram Curt onto the end of the band member callout line, even if it does sound rushed that way) and "Spy," which included John using that sample of a woman singing "Now the night has gone" that I saw a number of times on the spring leg of the tour but still am not sure of the source of, and also goofing around some more with the "AC/DC's new singer is a crow" bit from earlier.

When they came back for the second set and started Quiet Storm, Flans was talking about the significance of the close proximity of Halloween and Election Day, and then he introduced "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" by saying it was about "something you might remember from AP History class."

After that they did the familiar transition to "James K. Polk," and then "I Like Fun" (which Flans introduced as being "about drugs"), and then "Applause Applause Applause."

After that there was more calling back to earlier banter, with John asking himself "What would my character do?" and more talk about "pure research." At the time John even joking about himself being an actor was odd to me because it feels like an activity he's incredibly ill-equipped for (the "accordion-playing mute" he played in that 24 Hour Plays thing notwithstanding), but some time later I remembered this one interview where he said that he doesn't feel shy or get nervous about being on stage when they do a show because he doesn't think of it as being himself, he thinks of it as playing a character, which I thought was very interesting and have since thought about quite a bit.

Then they played "How Can I Sing Like a Girl?" (GOD I love the accordion duo version of that song), and then "Istanbul," and then something unexpected that I didn't see them do at any other shows on this tour, the bit where Flans goes to the back of the stage and pretends to be someone else making a phone call to John. I've always loved this bit--it gives Flans a chance to show off his amazing and hilarious improv skills and John his ability to show off his straight man skills (a job that is more difficult to pull off well than it seems, I think, and so often not given enough credit). And I hadn't seen it in awhile so I was delighted to have a chance to again.

Flans's character this time was supposed to be TMBG's new manager, who could see that "your career needs guidance." JL: "That I know." Then he introduced himself as "Richard Face," which John pointed out that a lot of people were laughing at and JF/RF said "It's what you call 'a thinker,'" and John confirmed that he liked it. (I'm rather embarrassed to admit that it wasn't until much later into the night's second set that I suddenly got what the joke was myself.) He said it was "the name my mother gave me..." and John asked "Is your mother's first name 'Jerk'?" (It was not.) Several more minutes of goofing around followed, including something about a Chevy Bolt that was apparently "a callback to a conversation from backstage," which as always just made me even more terribly curious about all the details of what exactly they do talk about backstage/on the bus/wherever.

After "The Mesopotamians" (introduced as being the theme song for a TV Show that aired at 8:30/7:30 Central, which I appreciated as someone who grew up as a Central Time kid always having TV shows air an hour early for reasons I honestly still don't really understand), they played "Why Does the Sun Shine?", introduced by Flans with "We have a new album! And this is the single!" which is so obviously untrue that it's amusing.

For the section in the middle with the spoken facts about the sun, John was doing the same really silly, slow, deep, confused voice I'd previously seen him do in Vancouver a couple of weeks prior. When I saw him that time I thought it was something he made up on the spot because of his (admitted) jet-lagged loopiness, and I'm not sure whether that is in fact true and he got such a good response to it that he decided to keep doing it after that or what. Anyway, this time he explained that on the sun "aluminum, copper, metal, and gas is a gas," and that if the sun were hollow "a million earths could fit inside, but, yet, in spite of that, the sun is only a middle-sized, hollowed-out star." There was something about "I want to apologize for the way I behaved, it's not me, I don't recognize myself," and then that "scientists have found the sun is an atom-smashing, crushing, machine, but I don't know if that's true," and then there was more pausing, which he had already been doing so much of as part of the bit that the rest of the band seemed unsure whether he was actually done or not until he finally told them, "You can continue playing the song," which they did.

After all that silliness, they did a triple-whammy of three top-tier Pink songs all in a row, which was one of those times when I almost get overwhelmed by trying to handle so much awesomeness at once. It was "She's an Angel" into "Number Three" into "Don't Let's Start"--damn! On the last, he was really emphasizing each word in the final "in--this--world."

Then came "Whistling in the Dark" followed by "Let Me Tell You About My Operation," which remains one of my absolute favorite songs to see live. For some of it Flans switched the POV from first-person to third by changing the pronouns--I'm not sure if this was a conscious choice to change the perspective of the song or just a case of him fucking up and forgetting how the words actually go, but either way it was interesting.

After that there was some talk about how much they love Ithaca for reasons beyond just the taxidermy, and then Flans was talking about "Science is Real" and "unreasonable personal political trips," and how people hate it when bands "get political instead of just going along with the dystopian hellscape" (he really loves that phrase, but it is a quite evocative one, it's true). All of this segued very nicely into the next song (and final song of the main set), which was "The Communists Have the Music."

The first song of the first encore was "Twisting," which is guaranteed to be an absolutely fantastic time no matter where it's placed in the set but I particularly love as an encore song because I like it when there's a lot of high-impact rockin' songs towards the very end of the show and I can just keep coasting on all that energy once the show is over.

Then came band intros, including Flans instructing us to "loosen your ties and open your eyes" for Curt, informing us that Danny is from Long Island, "where the weak are killed and eaten," and revealing that Marty is "the star of Marty Beller's They Might Be Giants" and "knows how to have fun and how to hold a grudge against every drum."

Next was "The End of the Tour," which is at the absolute opposite end of the energy spectrum from "Twisting" but strangely another one I think works particularly well in the encore. It's such a deeply emotional song, but towards the end of the show it's in a way that feels cathartic rather than depressing--or at least, I think so.

At the beginning of the second encore there was some talk about how they'd be doing a show in NYC in a few days, and they'd be playing some different songs, but not too many, and they would not be talking about taxidermy and would "keep the political shit tucked in." Then there was more praise for Ithaca and the current venue in particular--"the State is great!"

Then they played "New York City," and closed the show with "Hey, Mr. DJ, I thought You Said We Had a Deal," which was definitely the song I enjoyed Curt's presence on the most so I thought was an A+++++ choice for closer, even if Flans yet again couldn't remember what the song was actually from and introduced it as "a b-side from our first single."

The Final All-Important JL Wardrobe Report: he was wearing a long-sleeved dark-blue sweatshirt, which is not too exciting in itself, but at some point in the course of the show he pushed the sleeves of it up, and that was definitely exciting because just in general I think it's much hotter to see his arms exposed that way than when he's wearing a t-shirt, for reasons I cannot really explain.