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Fan Recaps and Comments:


This show took place at another nice classy theater, one I haven't been to before. It was also a seated one, which I know a lot of people don't like (a group that includes my friend Stephanie, who I was attending the show with, and Flans, judging by how often he orders everyone at such shows to stand up), but I don't mind and in some ways actually prefer--while I do my own version of boppin' around at shows, it's never anything so intensely physical that I can't manage it sitting down, and also as a short person it's nice to not have to worry about being able to see.

They opened with "Damn Good Times." This was an opener I'd seen quite a few times at this point on the tour, but I think it makes a good one--while I adore those really high-energy rockers anywhere in the set, I think they work particularly well as openers (to really jumpstart the show with a song that's the musical equivalent of a strong shot of espresso) and closers (so everyone can end what was surely a fantastic experience on an appropriately high note).

Next came "I Left My Body," "Your Racist Friend," "Particle Man," and "The Famous Polka," after which there was some talk about the "elegant but decaying" venue and the crowd, who were all "sitting down and sober," which Flans found to be "confusing AF." This was followed by some joking about what "AF" means--John said it was "and friends," which I found particularly amusing in light of the Dallas show I'd attended earlier in the year, when he legit didn't know what it meant when he saw it written on the setlist and Flans had to explain it to him.

Next they played "Birdhouse in Your Soul" and "The Guitar," during which Flans introduced the Future of Sound portion as being "future AF." Also during it John played the keyboard with his face (his forehead specifically) because he's THE SILLIEST. Other very cute things he did during other parts of the song included hopping and waving during the "the lion waves goodbye" part, both of which I've seen him do during the song before (especially the hopping, he does that often), but that doesn't make me any less excited about how cute it is every single time. After the song, there was some talk about how great it had been and that the show had now peaked only mid-way through the first set.

Then John got out the contra-alto clarinet, and after it was identified as such there was some comment about foley effects, which Flans used as a springboard to talk about their time working for Malcolm in the Middle, and how they would put a lot of work into their assigned musical cues, but from the sound of it did not have a very good experience with the sound editor. (This was interesting to me because I don't think I've really heard them say anything too negative about the Malcolm gig, other than that it was a ton of work and sometimes left them with not as much time as they'd like to spend on their own stuff.)

The appearance of the contra-alto in the main set always heralded an appearance of "All Time What" on this tour, so naturally they played that next. Afterwards, Flans plugged the I Like Fun vinyl, again pointing out the resemblance between a record sleeve and a calendar.

Afterwards they played "Let's Get This Over With," which remained absolutely stellar live, and then "Doctor Worm." Then there was some talk about how in Baltimore people were doing the "hoo hoo" + fist pump thing, like people would in the audience at the Arsenio Hall Show, and how weird it was cos that was all supposed to have been over like 20 years ago.

Then came one of the major show surprises: "Museum of Idiots," which is always an intensely emotional song for me to see live, and then another very exciting surprise, "Authenticity Trip," a song that recently seized the crown to become My Current Favorite Flansong, based in large part on witnessing several years of always completely awesome live performances of it, so that was a real treat.

Then John said they were about to "take a break and think about what we've done," and then they were trying to determine whether the next song appeared on Glean or Phone Power, but ended up settling on "Who cares?" The actual correct answer was Phone Power, as the song was "Trouble Awful Devil Evil." Then they closed the first set with the always-great "Spy."

The second set opened with the familiar Quiet Storm duo of "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" and "James K. Polk," with the also-familiar transition between them of John describing the crazy time jump we would now be making from 1840 to the distant future of 1844, where we would be experiencing "future shock" brought on by such wild futuristic things as "electric beards, mechanical buggy whips, and bass scrolls." (I had no idea what that last one meant and had to look it up--per Wikipedia, "A scroll is the decoratively carved beginning of the neck of certain stringed instruments, mainly members of the violin family.")


JF: And nothing rewards the...quasi-folk satisfaction of an acoustic set like electronic drums. But there's actually a couple things about this very special set right here at the Columbus Theatre that make it different. Usually we have--we bring in these LED lights to sort of reproduce the effect of limelight, which is a very traditional theatrical effect. But because this theatre is largely in its original form...I'm just staring down like twelve lightbulbs. And, uh, it's very exciting to have the real thing. *crowd cheers and applause* Right below them there's about, like, fourteen red and blue bulbs that I guess they bring out for the, uh--for the kids' shows.

Then he introduced the next song, "I Like Fun," as featuring "the contra-alto clarinet and of course the trumpet stylings of Mr. Curt Ramm--of Rhode Island--Rhode Island is for Curt."

So they played that and then "Applause Applause Applause," which he introduced as being from way back in September, the peaceful and calm times before the current dystopian hellscape (when of course by 2018 we were two solid years in to dystopian hellscape at this point!).

They wrapped up the Quiet Storm portion with the always-welcome "Meet James Ensor," and then the rest of the band reappeared for the not-really-welcome-but-always-expected "Istanbul."

This was followed up with "Why Does the Sun Shine?". John was once again handling the spoken bits in the middle, and once again doing the weird affected (and very funny) voice/bit I first saw him do in Vancouver a few weeks earlier. This time he explained that the sun is an "atom-smashing, atom-humiliating machine," and that the heat and light of the sun are caused by the nuclear reaction between "Blackstone Blvd., Foxpoint, Raymond Patriarca, and this finger!" (all of which I assume to be local Providence references that I'll admit I didn't fully understand, but he probably got pretty familiar with the city when he was kicking around there in his days with the Mundanes).

Next they played "Music Jail" and "Experimental Film"--one of my top Flans favorites of latter-day output and one of my top songs ever which I've barely seen at all, respectively, so I enjoyed both very much.


JL: This is the part of the show where we slow everything down, and-- SOMEONE IN CROWD: OH NO!

JL: Yeh, I know. Why? So, John Flansburgh!

JF: Yes, John!

JL: How was your day today?

JF: My day was pretty uneventful. I had a submarine sandwich. That was exciting. Authentic, y'know, New England-style submarine--

JL: What's weird is you can't really get that in New York. It's uncanny.

JF: It's one of the things that sucks about New York. But y'know--New Haven's got the pizza thing beat, they've got the subs here...There's so many different reasons to be morbidly obese in New England.

JL: Compelling.

JF: So many motivating factors. *pause* I like it. *pause, lowers voice* I'm totally out of control. No, I pretty much--I had sort of a nothing day. I was kind of--I, y'know, drank too much last night. Playing the show in New York and--my wife is an enabler. That's my way of holding her responsible for my actions. You guys can use that.

JL: So, um, here's another song...

Said song was, very excitingly, "Mammal," followed up by "She's Actual Size." This was in turn followed by "Whistling in the Dark," with some talk in between about how it's a song that features the whole band playing and there's some question of which of them will end first. Then Flans encouraged us all to "flood the aisles" for the appropriately rockin' main set closer, "The Communists Have the Music."

They returned for the first encore with the even-more-rockin' "Twisting." Then came the band intros, in which we learned that Danny is "a blessing and a treasure" and Marty "gives so much and only asks for your screams." The first encore ended with "Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal," which caused me to really really rock out like it always does, especially when Curt is there.

Normally I like to do my best to avoid setlist spoilers (I don't do too much looking at posted setlists for shows shortly before ones I'm attending myself, and I never look at the on-stage setlists even if I'm close enough to see them) because it's a singularly thrilling experience to hear a favorite song I wasn't expecting. But my friend/show-attendee-buddy Stephanie and I had engaged in some speculation pre-show via a photo on Flans's Instagram, which declared the final song of the show to be something listed as just "SLEEP." I speculated that it was perhaps "Sleeping in the Flowers," a big favorite of mine from John Henry that I've never gotten to see live (a category that is way too big for an album that's tied for my favorite, but that's a whole other rant).

Well, it was not what I was hoping for, but I wasn't too disappointed because what it turned out to be was also awesome, and somehow a possibility that hadn't occurred to either of us to suggest (which meant it had that delightful element of surprise I'm always seeking): "Sleepwalkers"! It wasn't the first time I'd seen it, but the times I had were far enough back (15 years) in the dim mists of memory that it might as well have been, and (according to the wiki's setlists) this was the first they'd played it in eight years. I've always found it to be a deceptively (I say "deceptively" only because I've found few people who agree with me on this) creepy, even terrifying song, which made it feel extremely appropriate for this show a mere three days before Halloween, and in the hushed and darkened theatre it was a goosebumps-raising experience for sure, and an eerie and excellent way to end the show!

Final notes: Afterwards, I convinced Marty that Stephanie was the worthiest recipient of his signed drum head for the show (after slightly reluctantly admitting to him that I did already get one from him on the tour's spring leg), so that was cool since she hadn't gotten one from him at all before. John was wearing that black fleecey pullover thing he's fond of, not terribly exciting in itself but he did have the sleeves pushed up and seeing his arms that way, that part is always extremely exciting to me (more so than just seeing them when he's wearing a t-shirt for reasons I can't even fully explain). Of course, while I do still care, all of this has become way, way reduced in importance since "all spex all the time" became the norm!