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On Friday, November 16, 2001, I attended my 9th They Might Be Giants concert at Town Hall in New York City. Actually, it wasn't the only signifigant event of the day, as I also had tickets to see Late Night With Conan O'Brien, so I had to get to NYC quite early. I went to the concert with my girlfriend Quinn and my friend Rachael. I met Quinn in Hartford Friday morning after my classes and then we proceeed to take the bus and train (Metronorth Railroads....see later) to NYC. After a picnic lunch in Central Park, Quinn & I went to NBC Studios to see Conan filmed. It was a GREAT experience...but well, this is a TMBG review, not a Conan review, but I must say, Marc Pender is amazing!! He even sang! We also got to record some audience sound effects which they said are going to be used on a show next week. We basically recorded various Jerry Springer-type woooos and cheers. It's also interesting to note that I ran into my friends Doug and Mike from highschool.
After the Conan filming, we headed to Town Hall. We were supossed to meet Rachael in front of the theatre at 7:45, so we had some time to waste, so I chatted with TDK and flarpblarg for a while, and then we decided to wander down to Times Square, where we checked out the brand new Toys R Us. At 7:45 on the spot, Rachael showed up and we could finally go inside. Town Hall was....well, nothing like any place I've ever seen TMBG. Besides the obvious note of the seating, instead of the typical bar and disco balls, there was high ceilings with chandeleers, and many children. So we took our seats, pretty close to my typical spot --- row 5 right in front of John's keyboard.
It wasn't very long before the worst "band" I've ever seen in my entire life took the stage -- The Moldy Peaches. This band is basically a guy in a sailor suit and a guitar, and this woman with a blond afro that must be 50 inches in diameter. Most of their songs were just a series of swears rhymed with baby talk, or songs about "who's got the crack?". Two positive things I can say -- one song had the line "up up down down left right left right B A Start," which surpisengly MANY audience members understood and applauded to, and a song called "An Average Thundercat Ho (note the pun)" which referenced Ducktales. I made the afrowoman start laughing uncontrolably during the song after I yelled out "yeahhh ducktales!!!" and she had a hard time keeping a straight face afterwards, even during the "serious" songs. Anyway, they deservingly got very little applause after their 30 minute set, that is until they were completely off the stage. I then assured Rachael (who was a firsttimer at TMBG) that They are about 25 million times better.
Between sets, the seats began filling up around us. As I understood, a number of people have heard of Moldy Peaches and purposely showed up late. I wish I did. After about a halfhour of listening to showtune music (which didn't make much sense considering the stage was already set up), Space Krickets began, and TMBG came out. There were three music stands set up at the right side of the stage, but it was only John, John, Dan, Dan and Dan. The show began with a drumsolo, which led into....
MASSHOLE!!!! - First time live for me, but I'm very familiar with it from my bootleg collection. This is a kickass instrumental (well, besides "AWWWWWWW SHIIIIITTTT!!") song. I was hoping that the John's would switch instruments, but it didn't happen tonight. At the end, John F took the mic and said "when I say "New York", you say "Rules") and we did that 3 times.
James K Polk - there was no confetti cannon set up, so no confetti tonight. I was wondering how much height it would have been able to get in here. Danny W forgot to bow at the end....Flans introduced the show and commented on how they weren't used to playing in sitdown shows, and was hoping for the best.
Cyclops Rock - John F: just for the record, there is this part in the middle of the song where a jam written by the Dans is played. I am yelling Dan to signal them, NOT Dance!!! John L: oh, I always yelled Damn there. I guess Chucky is here to stay. It just didn't have the charm without the ability to mosh to the song.
Bangs - John L: and now we're gonna hit the back button and go from the second song to the first song on the new album.
Dead - starting to become a regular concert song? It's the 4th time I've seen it live...a lot considering they keep introducing it as a song that they NEVER play live! Some idiot in the third row right in front of us stood up and started dancing during this song (reminds me of that SNL skit about collectively agreeing to stand or sit at a show) and I was just about ready to throw something at her when she finally sat down.
Yeh Yeh - a large percentage of the audience sang the "awogh"'s during the third verse. After the song, John announced that this was the part of the show where a whole bunch of horn players are introduced. Well, in this post dot-com age, the best we can get is three. At this point, The Velcro Horns Deluxe: Jim O'Conner (trumpet), Dan Levine (trombone, euphonium) and Stan Harrison (tenor sax) took the stage.
She's Actual Size - John actually played sax on this one. good boy. Besides the brass accompinment, there wasn't anything too special. the drum solo section was the same. interesting to note that John L spent that whole section standing over by the guitar amps, and everyone else left the stage.
Dr Worm - right before this song, somebody yelled a request for "Tiny Doctor." John F misheard what was said and said "no....She's Actual Size does not yet have a doctorate yet. Just a MBA." John L: "if she was from Germany, where all medical personell are called doctor, we'd refer to it as Dr Actual Size. But here's a song about a real doctor -- Dr Worm." Should I comment that Dr Worm contains the line "I'm not a real doctor?" ... nah. This has been one of my favourite songs, and having a real brass section makes it even greater. The trombone was played for the low note solo, and the bongos were used during the vocal solo.
Dr Ink - John F: "and now the next in the series of Dr songs. This is a song called Dr Ink about drinking". The brass snuck off at the beginning, and wouldn't be back again for a while. Some people got up and started waltzing during the song
Hovering Sombrero- I guess they performed this, since it was on the setlist, and I talked to some other people who were at this concert who remember it, but I can't remember them playing this for the life of me. Must've been really really close to the album version.
Spin the Dial - John F at the beginning: "I can see a whole bunch of guys in the audience leaning over to their girlfriends and saying 'hey I bet this thing's fake' and then their girlfriends whispering 'nah I think it might be real!' and then the guy saying 'no way. I bet they got a DAT plugged in under the stage there. it's totally fake'" ..... it consisted of a Spanish song, which they actually played along to, a couple seconds of britney spears, and some other non-memorable songs. John kept stopping at the news stations to prove it was actually live.
Older - John totally fucked up the guitar solo at the beginning again. During the pause section, John did the "iii. ..... ii-iii .... iiiiiiii .... i-is still marching on." As usual on this tour, it went right into
Twisting - you know it. I was hoping that they would have done the rock version of So Loud with the brass, but when Space Krickets started again, I knew that idea was doomed. I was starting to feel disappointed that this was turning into another typical Mink Tour show...and that the brass was only out for TWO songs so far. Anyway....
Man It's So Loud In Here - just not the same without the disco ball :(
Robot Parade (children's version) - John L looked REALLY stoned during this song for some reason. They did the G-L-O-kenspeil song that all the other concert junkies are really familiar with. I found it extra funny how John started singing about how amazing Jon Carter was that he put a wind filter on the glockenspiel mic so that the wind caused by the mallet wouldn't hinder the sound.
Shoehorn With Teeth - got some HUGE laughs from the kids in the crowd. Went into the keyboard version of Born In A Graveyard right after, and everybody (INCLUDING the brass!!) returned.
I've Got A Fang - JL: this is a song about a very special type of tooth, shaped like this (makes a triangle out of his hands.) This is the first time I've seen Fang live with the horns, and it kicked major ass!!
Istanbul - for the beginning of this song, Dan Levine and Jim O'Conner went up to the center of stage. Dan began with a long mysterious trombone solo, and then Jim with an exotic trumpet solo, and then Stan (still at stage right) had a mysterious sax solo, and the song began as normal. Rachael leaned over to me during the song and said that she forgot that TMBG did this don't know how happy it made me feel to know that I was sitted next to an up-and-coming fan who was appreciating TMBG for something OTHER than Istanbul! JL didn't do any of that crazy singing :( After the song, Robin Goldwasser was introduced. A fan yelled "we love you Robin!" and she responded "aww I love you guys too!". John F gave her his ear monitor and explained "this is the volume switch. you turn it this way to increase the volume".
Dr Evil -- it started, but then John F stopped the song. He had his white guitar on and interupted the song saying "hey guys stop, I'm tuning. some idiot actually tuned my guitar to its correct traditional tuning" and then he just put the red guitar back on and they started again. This is the first time I've seen this song since August 2000, and I admit, I didn't know the lyrics very well so I didn't try to sing along
In The Middle - John F: "we have this new children's album coming out" audience guy: "when's it coming out John???" John: "look. we WANT it to come out. it WILL be out. we just don't know when, but we're trying guys. This next song is a public service announcement from some NYC organization." Stan played clarinet on it, John played vibraphone, and I was apparently the only guy in our section who knew the lyrics, and I actually took abuse for knowing the words to this song but not some other not-to-be-named songs. Robin began doing a twist dance during the middle of it, and then she was gone.
Boss of Me - John: "ok. Now that song was called In The Middle, but we have another song from the show Malcolm In the Middle. We're hoping that people will buy their children the Boss of Me single, thinking it's the In The Middle song. Wouldn't that be funny?" ... Boss of Me is so much greater with brass!!
Birdhouse In Your Soul - god I love this song with the trumpet part. Makes it 500x better, which is great cuz the song already IS great! At this point, a number of the people in the audience just stood up and went into the aisles to pogo-dance. Many of them were doing the silly motions from the music video as well...I thought that *I* was the only one who did that! After the song, John F went running around to every member of the band, whispering something (which I assume was "remember, start the song like the album version")
The Guitar - started like the album version, with the two hits and then the brass fanfare. Danny Weinkauf and Dan Miller took solos, with Miller's being that two hands tapping the frets 1987 Sam Ash craziness. No surf poses at the end :(
She's An Angel - uhhh there was some banter before this song, but I can't remember what they were saying. Jim and Stan left for this song, and Levine played Euphonium. Very cool. After the song, John F began listing all the people he'd like to thank, including some people at Hornblow I've never heard of. He also thanked Town Hall security for "keeping everyone seated in their seats and away from the stage" (everyone that got up during Birdhouse was still crowding the aisles).
Working Undercover For the Man - JF: "we have one more song for you. This is a song about the organization we REALLY work for - the CIA. Lock the doors, you're all under arrest!". First time I've heard this live with brass, makes it a lot better (as usual). After the song, everyone waved goodbye and walked off the stage. Thankfully nobody tried to leave yet. Only took them a minute to get back.
Mink Car - everyone (including the brass) came back for this song. Jim was manning a flugelhorn, so it sounded extremely close to the album version, which was a good thing.
Fingertips - the brass was gone again. John talked about how Fingertips is impossible to play and it's their card trick that they have to show off at every opportunity. Alright, I was THRILLED that they actually added this song to the show, but it's really starting to lose its charm. After Fingertips, John said "see ya LATER" and they left again, but the lights didn't come up so we knew it wasn't over yet. Only John and John came back....and John put the accordion on....could it was....
Lines Upon a Tranquil Brow - John F: "this next song was written by a guy from Bridgeport, CT" Me: "yeah Connecticut!!" John F (while John L points at me and smiles): "alright, well...for the one guy in the audience from Connecticut....Metro-fucking-North man! (and then I missed everything else he said cuz I was too caught up from starstruckedness since Flansburgh was actually talking to me personally) and the song started. I didn't know all the words, but I think I did a pretty convincing job faking it. I got some REALLY REALLY REALLY weird looks from some of the people around me when I sang along on the "break out the cigars" line. This song is so much fun :)
Particle Man - well, they COULD have played No One Know My Plan...or something else from John Henry or any other song with brass, but instead they decided to try something that's never been done before -- Particle man with the brass. John L: " listen carefully. I know I will. Caught in a stream of self-concious". All the brass really did was play the E-F#-G-A-E-F#-G-A etc parts, and Dan L also played the bass notes on the euphonium like on the album version. No weird singing or coversongs or anything tonight. The brass disappapeared for the rest of the night.
New York City - yeah, it was bound to happen. Yep. "This is a song about the city we are all proud to be from" Had that awesome extra jamming instrumental part between the first and second verses which I guess they only do during New York shows. And was over. All of the setlists were just handed out to some of the people in the first row and some guy named Jonathon got Linnell's water bottle and coffee cup, and Quinn (determined to continue her streak of stealing something of John's after every show this tour) begged him to give up one of the items for her, but he wouldn't budge. Rachael caught up with some of her other friends who were at the show, and we bid her a goodnight. A couple minutes later, Danny Weinkauf came out to sign autographs. I had him sign my ticket and thanked him again for helping me out at the DC show. I also asked why there weren't any John Henry albums at any of the shows this tour, and he said "well......I guess nobody's really noticed that they are missing. It's unintentional though." I also asked Danny if he could go grab Hickey's setlist off the side of his bass amp, and being da man, he did.
being broke, and having no further business left there, Quinn & I got out of there and headed to Grand Central Terminal, where we got a Metronorth train back to my home in CT...well, we actually missed our stop and got stranded in Southport, but that's another story.


This was my FIRST SHOW. Wow. In hindsight, it was too long to have waited... but oh well. My girlfriend at the time accompanied me and we had the best date ever while attending this show. It was sort of a weird time, being in NYC after 9-11. That much afterward we were all still sort of wondering what to think. When I saw TMBG's amps with "GO NY" on them, I almost cried (out of happiness) and knew things would be okay. It was just the medicine we needed, to see a high-energy, positive show like that. I loved The Moldy Peaches, and when "Juno" came out I instantly had visions of them opening for this show! The whole show was amazing, and seeing your first TMBG show with a horn section leaves a lasting impression. The final encore of "New York City" was just... amazing as I remember.
After the show was over, it was announced that anyone with a yellow pass could go backstage. It seemed like nobody cared! I however, was going nuts "When did they hand those out!?" We were about to leave when my girlfriend managed to get one from some little kid who had NO idea what he had in his hands! She waited in the lobby while I went backstage. Up a stairwell, curving to the left - the band was eating pizza and I waved and said "Hi, thanks for a great show!" They said "Mmfmppmf!!" and waved back. Outside talking to someone about a scottish woman was Linnell. I waited until he was done talking and then introduced myself as some incomprehensible syllables (as I was completely starstruck at this point), and shook his hand (oops..) - stating that I was a great fan of the band, and especially his diversity with instruments and styles. He thanked me in a sort of confused voice; I think now that I had gotten off on the wrong foot. In retrospect, he seemed a bit like Andy Warhol meeting Valerie Solanas for the first time - someone sort of low-key meeting someone with too much energy. Well, I gathered as much composure as I could and produced a TMBG poster I had, and asked if he might sign it. I think my exact words were "I have.. um.. this poster, would *gulp* um, you mind signing it?" He relaxed a bit and said "Oh, sure.." and put it on the wall, endorsing it "JOHN SID." Wow. First concert, first backstage experience, first celeb meeting, and first autograph, all in one night. I had so wanted to get both signatures, but Flansy was no where to be seen. As I thanked John Linnell and started back down the steps, I noted him making his way down the steps. I panicked - "John! Sorry would you mind signing this for me?" He had a very hurried look - but being the nicest guy possible, he quickly signed JOHN F, with the O being his trademark glasses-face. He ran down the stairs and, if I recall correctly, later went to Joe's Pub.
I made my way outside, floating the entire way. My girlfriend was waiting outside on the sidewalk - and I showed her the fruits of her labor. And for a little while, we frolicked in Times Square.
Later on, the poster was framed and now houses that original backstage pass, and all my ticket stubs from all the TMBG shows I've gone to over the years.