They Kind of ARE Giants

For me, the first indication of what the evening was going to be like came whilst arriving at the back of the line with TMBG ticket in hand. As I neared the doors, taped to the wall was a sign on paper that could have popped out of any printer you or I bought proclaiming, approximately “This show 14+, by request of THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS.” Which goes to show what kind of guys TMBG are. These are the guys who managed to put out children’s albums and not lose their fan base because their regular albums sound a bit like children’s albums – if the child in question is the baby from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. That the heavily adult audience gave an extended “yeah!” when the band launched into “The Alphabet of Nations” only goes to show that fans found the children’s albums another acceptable entry in the TMBG discography. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Rock critic Lester Bangs (y’all might know him best as that guy Phillip Seymor Hoffman played in Almost Famous) wrote “the chemistry between an audience and an act is always a more delicate thing than some people realize,” which is true as far as my experience has told me. Call the T.I. Music Fest a couple of weeks ago Exhibit 1, in which during a rollicking Spoon set the audience only managed a few head nods going “a-yup.” Who knows when it’s going to go right? It’s all dynamics, dynamics, dynamics and last Friday night TMBG was spot-on with the anticipation high as soon as you got past the double doors. I’d heard that TMBG shows were something to be experienced. Apparently everyone else had, too. And then it happened.

“Good afternoon, Sacramento! How the dickens are ya?” yelled John Flansburgh into the mike. Well, heck, John! We’re alright! Thanks fer askin’!

And they launched right into it, hop skipping through fan favorites like “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and “Dr. Worm” before taking a pause to bring out their phone that talks to the dead in which they contacted Albert Sac, founder of Sacramento who discovered a more efficient way to pick Mentos off of the mentos tree, thus giving our metropolis its name. It says a lot about a band that they were able to make that funny, but this is the band that dropped from New York as more of a stage show than a band and they know how to interact with an audience. E.g. before launching into “Drink”, Flansburgh coordinated us to yell “No Wait!” when the song’s title was mentioned. Which we did, making the song go “Let’s drink! (No Wait!) Drink! (No Wait!)…” Unless you didn’t pick up on what they were doing and sang straight through the chorus like an idiot, so in case any of you were wondering what I looked like, just remember that guy.

When they ran offstage before the encore, the audience was left chanting for “Istanbul”, except for my brother, who felt the need to be more obscure and chanted for “James K. Polk.” Eventually TMBG ran back on and introduced their horn section before they played…“Istanbul!” including extended solos from the trumpet, sax and trombone (oh! The trombone!). “Thank you!” they said for the last time before we were ushered into the night. Thank you, John and John. You guys had me when you said “dickens.”

3 thoughts on “They Kind of ARE Giants”

  1. When we saw them in Spokane, “James K. Polk” was one of the first tunes dues to its line about “the Oregon Territory,” which received a big cheer.

    They pronounced it correctly, too, unlike the way they sing it on the album.

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  2. Oh, and if you want to really blow some people’s minds, start referring to them as “But They’re Actually Windmills.”

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