An Evening with They Might Be Giants

Five nights ago, I had the pleasure of seeing They Might Be Giants in concert.
[translate: HOLY BALLS!!! I saw TMBG on Saturday! *head explodes*]

I couldn’t ask for better circumstances: last night of the tour in their home city; at Terminal 5, a great concert hall only four blocks away from my apartment. TMBG is one of my favorite bands ever. Their music is indescribable, which is part of what makes them so great.

The show was just unbelievable. How unbelievable? Have you ever imagined going to a concert and the band plays every one of your favorite song? This is what I’m talking about here! They opened with “Birdhouse in Your Soul!” “Birdhouse in Your Soul” for Christ’s sake! And as soon as I saw they had a trumpeter (the wonderful Mark Pender) with them onstage, I was expecting “Dr. Worm,” my all-time TMBG tune. They were great enough to save it for later. After they played the Doctor Evil theme (sung by Robin Goldwasser, John Flansburgh‘s wife), John Linnell mentioned, “You know, there’s actually a third kind of doctor.” The look of joyful anticipation I felt on my face was rare. It was like a tightly wrapped bicycle in front of the tree on Christmas Eve— I knew what it was; I knew it was coming, but I still had to wait. What a payoff! And I knew that’s what it was like for the rest of the crowd. Whenever the guitars started strumming the first few chords of “Don’t Let’s Start” or “Ana Ng,” TMBG threw a grenade made of lightning and magic into a willing sea of 3000.

At times, the concert was even a part-time comedy show. The Johns Linnell and Flansburgh brought out the Avatars of They, the sock puppety ids that sing a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and promote a new gratuitous-praise-inducing medication called “Pandor.” Flansy (It’s okay. He gave us all nicknames.) took a stadium-grade flashlight and split the crowd in half: one side (People) led by Dan Miller, Danny Weinkauf, and Marty Beller; the other (Apes) led by the Johns and Mark Pender. In a show of fun, temporary intolerance, both sides engaged in a jam/shout-off. People won — not to toot our collective horns. PEOPLE! PEOPLE! PEOPLE! PEOPLE!

I’m not really much of a concert-goer. The only live show I’ve ever seen was the U2 concert in Miami. And while I love U2, this show was truly something special. I got to see one of my favorite bands up close on the floor of an intimate venue, not at the back of a football stadium. I was singing ridiculous and brilliant songs at the top of my lungs among other dorks who did the same, to a band whom I’ve been familiar with since I was a kid. I remember seeing the “Dr. Worm” video, thinking, “This is kind of weird, but I really like it!” Even at that age, I knew TMBG’s sound was different from the pop-schlock of the day. And it wasn’t until high school when I dove head first into their catalogue, ready to drown in songs about deceased people, nightlights, hotel detectives, and bastards who want to hit me.

As special as it was for me, I felt it was special for the men of They Might Be Giants as well. This show was a bit of a homecoming, as well as a cathartic end to a tour. When they started playing “New York City,” an extraordinary energy just filled the room— a special song for a special city. It was incredible watching them pour everything into this show. They played two frickin’ encores for cryin’ out loud! Flansy even pulled strings off his guitar during their very last outro. That night’ll be hard to top for anyone who was at Terminal 5.

Thank you John, John, Dan, Danny, Marty, and Mark. You’ll always love New York, and we’ll always love you back.

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