Welcome to the corner of Delancey and Bowery in New York City, home of the Bowery Ballroom. From 1997-2002, the rock band They Might Be Giants have made this their "home" venue. In fact, the Village Voice voted the Bowery Ballroom as "Most comfortable place to see a show" in New York in their Best of NYC 2001 issue. I created this page to give you in-depth reports of those shows at the venue, as well as upcoming news about the band and other items relative to the TMBG community.
SHOWS I HAVE ATTENDED
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SHOWS I HAVE ATTENDED
I did attend three TMBG shows in 2004, back-to-back-to-back shows in Asbury Park, Brooklyn, and Long Island. All shows were fun, but I can't help but feel like they were pretty much the same minus The Spine songs and End of the Tour. And their recent shows in Irving Plaza (Which I didn't go to for other reasons) were also pretty much the same. In other words, they are becoming stale as a live act. But they are going to be taking a long break for most of 2005, so hopefully they'll completely retool their live show and start varying the setlist completely every night. All they have to do is PRACTICE. They go into these shows without much rehearsal except on the new songs, but if they just took the time and made each show unique, you'd see people follow them around more.
So, with a long break in 2005, expect a long break here. See you in quite possibly 2006!
I'd like to direct everyone to two great sites for the most up-to-date TMBG information, since it's certainly NOT going to come from here. Go to TMBGNET or TMBG Wiki. Both sites have been approved by Flansburgh.
Also, I archived these previous special reports for you to remember your memories of concert's past...
Oh. My. God. One of the best shows ever. Here is the run-down:
The show starts with Joe Franklin, talk show host on WWOR, talking about how much he admires these guys. Then they came out.
They started with John Lee Supertaster, right into James K. Polk. After this, the parade of guest stars began.
Particle Man: Begin with Frank Black of the Pixies singing a fun version of Particle Man.
Dr. Evil: Then go to Robin Goldwassar delivering her own Dr. Evil.
Dinner Bell Julia Greenburg joins her for a very good version of Dinner Bell, first time I've heard the song live!
Meet James Ensor: Then Laura Cantrell comes out and sings James Ensor. Different key, as Dan Miller and Flans both used capos (Capo 5 for those of you playing at home). Flansburgh mentions it is the first time he had EVER played with a capo, and didn't even know how to put it on correctly!
The Guitar: After this, Robin joins Laura on stage for what is perhaps the best version of the Guitar ever, with Robin and Laura singing the female backing vocals.
Boat Of Car: Syd Straw comes out and sings Boat of car, a VERY rarely performed song.
Birdhouse In Your Soul: She remains out on stage to sing Birdhouse with the Johns, no doubt a dream of hers. Mark Penders of the Max Weinberg 7 makes a guest appearance playing the trumpet solo of Birdhouse.
After this, Robert Krulwich of Nightline comes out with a proclaimation from the city of Brooklyn proclaiming today as They Might Be Giants day. He had an official proclamtion in his hand and read the entire proclamation to the audience. John & John were COMPLETELY beside themselves. Oh how special it was!
Mink Car: After performing Older, they bring out David Driver of People are
Wrong! fame. He performs a WONDERFUL version of Mink Car, channeling
Your Mom's Alright:After this, we get Mike Doughty, and he performed this song which he recorded the lead vocal for, as well as the "Something Grabbed A Hold Of My Hand" section of Fingertips.
Bed Bed Bed (Book version): Bring out Kimya Dawson of the ex-Moldy Peaches. She performed the NEW version of Bed Bed Bed, to be released by Simon & Schuster as part of a children's book. She was VERY nervous on stage, but sang the song well.
TMBG finishes up their main set with NYC and Clap Your Hands. Encores were Istanbul with Mark Penders once again tearing it up, followed by the Monkees Theme (No joke), and TMBG's version of A Day In The Life, Road Movie To Berlin.
The only thing that would have made the show better was to have ALL the special guests out on stage for one final number. Perhaps New York City or Birdhouse. It would have been a moment that would have brought down the house. But still, one of the best shows ever, easily. Thank you John & John and all involved for a truly special night.
The set list:
Early Show: Gigantor (Walk-out music) / Finished with Lies / James K. Polk / (She Thinks She's) Edith Head / Spiraling Shape / Your Racist Friend / It's So Loud In Here / Ana Ng / Shoehorn With Teeth / Cyclops Rock / Birdhouse In Your Soul / Spy / Exquisite Dead Guy / Mammal / Pet Name / They Got Lost / She's Actual Size / Particle Man / Famous Polka / Thunderbird / Dr. Evil / Theme From Rocky (Dr. Evil Outro) / Older / New York City / The Guitar / Why Does The Sun Shine? / Dr. Worm / Maybe I Know / Istanbul (Not Constantinople
Late Show: Sorry I Fucked Up The Show / How Can I Sing Like A Girl? / I Palindrome I / Your Racist Friend / Til My Head Falls Off / Don't Let's Start / It's So Loud In Here / Lie Still, Little Bottle / Dr. Evil / (She Thinks She's) Edith Head / Istanbul (Not Constantinople) / Spy / Exquisite Dead Guy / She's An Angel / Turn Around / Dr. Worm / Whistlin' In The Dark / Meet James Ensor / Why Does The Sun Shine? / James K. Polk / Older / Twistin' / Dig My Grave / Birdhouse In Your Soul / The Guitar / Maybe I Know
Thunderbird had Linnell singing without an instrument to play, and he felt uncomfortable "fronting" the group.
Dr. Evil had Flansburgh's wife, Robin come out and sing. Everyone swooned over the 1st line of the brand new song, which also had Dan Miller on keyboard.
What also made the night special was it was the first I met a lot of TMBG chatters in person, with people flying in from all over the country.
The late show was even better, because as soon as TMBG saw the same people back in the front row from the early show, they had no choice but to change the set list on the spot and include some numbers they didn't do in the early show. This show started at about 11:30 PM.
I didn't get any pictures of the show, but I only brought 1 roll of film with 27 pictures, so I needed to save up. This was the "tour" show, in which they would play their standard set. No real surprises tonight, except the Johns having the nerve to curse everyone out! (Actually, they were just demostrating how people curse in New Orleans, where they played a show at Tipitina's, home of the famous 6/20/88 bootleg show). The Loser's Lounge, the famous act who do a tribute to a different artist every month opened the show. Tonight, it was an ABBA show, featuring Robin "Goldie" Goldwassar singing "Thank You For The Music".
TMBG put on their standard show, nothing to write home if this was your 8th time seeing them. But it was all good, and the best part about it was that it was an intimate show. It was a Wednesday night, and not too many people made it out there for it. So I could move around freely, dance a lot, and drink a lot!
Of the songs they did played that I haven't heard live very often were Letterbox and Narrow Your Eyes (Only time I've heard it live).
2nd set: Cricket intro / Toddler Highway / Don't Let's Start / We're The Replacements / Mr. Klaw / Particle Man / The Famous Polka / Pencil Rain / Birdhouse In Your Soul / Twisting / Older / On the Drag / Finished With Lies / Masshole (Band intros) / Dr. Worm / James K. Polk / New York City
Thursday was probably the best TMBG show I have ever attended. The special night began with the Candy Butchers. Shana, the girl who writes wonderful concert reports, was standing next to me for the show. She was wearing a suit as was lead singer Mike Viola. For the last song, Viola yelled, "You! You're wearing a suit! Come on up here!!!" And she did.
For the last drum fill, Shana was allowed behind the drum risor to do her best Dan Hickey impersonation.
They also performed Istanbul, and explaining why they didn't to cover that song originally done my the Four Lads. They explained that after performing many 20-minute shows in New York City, they finally played a club in Virginia, where they were asked to play for two hours. They didn't have two hours worth of material, so they had to do what they could quickly, so they came up with playing Istanbul, a two chord song. Ironically, what started as a filler song became their most famous song. I have seen this happen too often with bands, when the song they really DIDN'T think would be a big hit becomes their big hit.
There was a screw-up with Maybe I Know as Flans and Linnell got the verses switched. They solved the problem by doing a shortened version of the song, called, "Deep Down Inside She Loves Me."
John Flansburgh plays harmonica for 32 Footsteps.
"When they stop the drum machine..." John Linnell activates the drum machine for the next song....
She's An Angel.
This was the horn show. One of my favorite local bands You Were Spiraling opened up for them. They left the stage to the tune of "One More Song!" from the crowd after performing a rousing rendition of A-Ha's "Take On Me".
It was great to hear Purple Toupee for the first time live. The night had a "Live in NYC" flavor, as in the famous Live Disc. The horn arrangements were exactly the same, especially with Chess Piece Face. Also it made it right hear songs like Racist Friend, the Guitar, No One Knows My Plan and Dr. Worm they way they are MEANT to be heard.
And speaking of No One Knows My Plan, no room to conga! I was front row center and decided that this would be my one night to buck the trend of never leaving the front and congaing. No one joined me. And there was no room to move. It is true, this cool New York s**t CAN go so far.
I had a personal moment tonight. Flansburgh wanted to play Radio TMBG a different way that night. He scoffed at my notion of ska.
Dan Levine doubles on euphonium for Particle Man. He also brought it out for She's An Angel and the low D on Dr. Worm. Dan Levine is one hell of a player, better than me at soloing. On Istanbul he was hitting some soft high notes that you really need to squeeze out of it.
The confetti from another angle. This was the high-quality confetti that hung around for a long time.
This was the "NOW" show. All new stuff except for the last 7 or so songs. Ironically, the largest crowd showed up to hear mostly stuff they don't know. The crowd only got going during Cyclops Rock, which has become the fan favorite of the new stuff. TMBG was very rusty tonight with the new stuff, which was to be expected as they've hadn't played most of the stuff before. Of the new stuff, there was the slow version of They Got Lost, a faster version of Certain People I Could Name, and Rat Patrol featuring Linnell's vocal stylings at the end.
John Linnell brings out the clarinet for his solo in Reprehensible. He looks up just like I do during horn solos. The crowd went nuts for this solo, even though he squeaked. He rarely takes out a clarinet for live shows, let alone the bari sax. After the new stuff was finished, they played all of their "must plays" for the last seven songs. With a long wave, they were gone, and said goodbye to a wonderful week.
John Linnell's set:West Virginia / South Carolina / Alaska / New Hampshire / Arkansas / Michigan / Oregon / Louisiana / Nebraska / Montana / The Songs of the 50 States
Wake Up Call / Finished With Lies / Robot Parade / Subliminal / Cowtown / (She Thinks She's) Edith Head / We're the Replacements / She's An Angel / Working Undercover for the Man / Letterbox / Older / It's So Loud In Here / Boss of Me / Pet Name / James K. Polk / Spin the Dial / Cyclops Rock / Purple Toupee / She's Actual Size / Dr. Worm / Birdhouse In Your Soul / S-E-X-X-Y / Masshole / Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes / Hideaway Folk Family / Why Does the Sun Shine? / New York City / Istanbul
Ah, the first show of the new millenium for me. This was a special treat for me as this was my first Linnell show. He had a special treat for the audience performing the B-side to Montana, Louisiana.
Later, came the Conformists, and according to sources, the lead guitarist was on TMBG staff, which is how they got the gig. They only performed a quick 30 minute set, which consisted of British rock 'n' roll.
Then TMBG came on, first as a duo. They performed Finished With Lies and the new children's album song, Robot Parade. Then came the band of Dans, in which they dusted off a song called Subliminal.
After Subliminal, everyone up front held up signs asking to fix Dial-A-Song. Flans insisted it was working, the fans thought otherwise. Later on Flans would get into an argument with one of them about it again. As of now, it is still not working. It finally began to work on 4/18/00.
Other surprises were some updates on songs, such as Cowtown with horns, Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes, and Hideaway Folk Family. The horns also made an appearance on It's So Loud In Here and Working Undercover For The Man. Boss Of Me made an appearance, as well as the old Spin The Dial skit, in which the Johns improvised on "Jump! For My Love!", "Carry On My Wayward Son", and an old ballad that Flans knew and loved.
Night two of four, show three of five for me (Saw them in DC on the previous Saturday). The Rustic Overtones opened for them, a funk band, which Flans is a fan of.
Yes they did repeat songs tonight, but big deal, it was still all good. Robot Parade made a return appearance, as did another song that will be on the children's record, 4 of 2. If you want to see the clock the song speaks of, it's on 5th Ave. and 22nd St., but it has been fixed since the song was written. Flans mentioned the children's album will be entitled, "NO!"
The show started with a B-side, It's Not My Birthday. Other gems included Thunderbird, and James Ensor.
Spin The Dial was tried twice. The first time it was Britney Spears "You Drive Me Crazy", then Billy Joel "She's Got A Way". They finally settled on "Disco Inferno". Flans was singing the words, but they couldn't make the transition to the chorus line. It was attempted a 2nd time, but all Flans got was talk, so he gave up.
Their 1st encore started with Lie Still, Little Bottle. Flans asked everyone to clap, and the clapping got faster. I tried to keep them slow, but Flans just gave me a look that said, "No, don't try it, it won't work." Then some guy yelled that I was a white boy with no rhythm, so I just looked at him. Bet he's never picked up an instrument in his whole life.
One notable ommision, NO ISTANBUL! 1st and only time that has ever occurred for me personally. Leave out Birdhouse and then I'll know I've gone to one too many shows!
Completely unexpected tonight. This was the alphabetical show. They decided to write out the entire set list in alphabetical order, minus the last two songs. Here is what the set list looked like on paper:
4 of 2
Boss (This was a new full version that should appear on the Malcolm soundtrack. Flansburgh mentioned that they wrote the first 33 seconds of the song a couple of years ago, they wrote the other 2 minutes of the song yesterday.)
Crane (First time I've ever heard this live!)
Finished (Full band version, Linnell on keyboard)
Hypnotist (First time hearing this live!)
Masshole (The band introduction song)
Spin (It just didn't happen tonight, Flans was dissapointed)
Xquisite Dead Guy
Zirdhouse In Your Soul
Well, at least the last two weren't worded like that, but it works.
Very interesting show, Flans was also promoting the new MP3 album EP, Working Undercover For The Man.
Regular set:Robot Parade / Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes / Why Does the Sun Shine? / Four Of Two / Boss of Me / Birdhouse In Your Soul / Spy / Hypnotist of Ladies / James K. Polk / Mammal / Cyclops Rock / The Guitar / New York City / Particle Man / Cowtown
This show ranks up there as one of the best of the best. They began by playing a 45 minute set of old favorites, but jacked up on the brass! A 7-piece horn section put together, music arranged and conducted by Velcro Horn Dan Levine, with Linnell coming in on bari sax making 8. New reworked version of Older, She's Actual Size, How Can I Sing Like A Girl, and Meet James Ensor, juiced up versions of S-E-X-X-Y, Dr. Worm, Chess Piece Face, and and Turn Around, and possibly the best version of Istanbul I have ever heard. I can't wait for the boot of this one. Had the whole show been a big band show, I would make it my most fun show ever, not to mention the fact that I was drinking gin and tonics like it was water!
The 2nd show was a standard set, although they played Mammal (Haven't heard it since 6/20/99), and Estrogen finally slipped away from Why Does The Sun Shine. All in all a wonderful show, on many accounts. At the end of the show, Iggy, the sound guy, let us in on some upcoming TMBG gigs. But the best was seeing many TMBG chatters make the trip, from Ohio, Kentucky, Chicago, and Montana!! This was certainly a gathering of Giants fans nationwide. Below is a picture of all of us. We all had a great time.
A late arriving crowd tonight for this show; the place didn't really fill out until after opening band OK Go left the stage.
OK Go was a little different from what I expected. They were supposed to be a power-pop quartet from Chicago. Instead, they had a little more. Besides the drummer, the other three players were changing instruments a lot, usually between guitar and keyboard. Their music sometimes strayed from basic 4/4 time, which is a trait I like. Also, they used some different sounds courtesy of their keyboard. Probably their most haunting song was the 2nd one in the set, "This Is Not The Sound Of The Train". The title was pretty much all the words in the song, much like the Beatles "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?". The exception was that this song sounded a lot more like Talking Heads. I had a chance to talk with the bass player after the show; we had a good conversation about bands being full-time and part-time. He said they're not quite full-time yet, but it would be nice. I enjoyed them as a group.
Michael Maxwell didn't stand out of a crowd for me. Nothing really special at all, nothing to note. Although, he was very professional and not a bad musician at all, he just didn't make any waves with me.
As you can see from the set list, this show was NOT a Dial-A-Song show as originally advertised. Oh well. They changed it to something they could put in a bunch of songs they DO know how to play, mixing it up between really OLD songs and really NEW songs. Here are the highlights:
Main Course: Monster / She's Actual Size / Birdhouse In Your Soul / Museum Of Idiots / Boss Of Me / Older / In The Middle / Dr. Evil / Dr. Worm / I've Got A Fang / Turn Around / S-E-X-X-Y / Chess Piece Face / Spy / No One Knows My Plan / Monster (Reprise) / Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
Well, this was the money gig of the set. The one that sold out, Flood show not withstanding. As you can see, the 5-piece played a quick set to warm up the crowd, then the big band came out for an hour long set that brought down the house.
Jim O'Conner and Dan Levine were part of the horn section, and it's creators. Also in the section was lead trumpet Marc Penders of the Max Weinberg 7. This guy simply has chops of steel and plays high and loud! The makeup of the band was two trumpets, two trombone/tubas, and three woodwinds who double on all different kinds of reeds.
Here are the important song notes:
Top 5 show definitely. The Johns were having fun, as were the fans.
Songs played: Cowtown / Purple Toupee / Istanbul (Not Constantinople) / Particle Man / Mammal / Hypnotist Of Ladies / Fingertips / James K. Polk / Meet James Ensor / New York City / (She Thinks She’s) Edith Head / No! / Robot Parade / Bed / Sleepwalkers / I Am Not Your Broom / 4 of 2 / Drink / I’ve Got A Fang / Older / Masshole / Why Does The Sun Shine? / It’s Not My Birthday / Mr. Tambourine Man
The holiday show. Flansburgh said that it was supposed to be an all ages show, but it got all f’ed up! Therefore, this turned out to be more of a traditional show, with nearly every song that they know how to play from No! thrown in.
First, a word about Muckafergason. GO SEE THIS BAND. They won over the crowd not because they were over the top, but because they were down to earth. Their songs were VERY witty, and played on people's funny bones with songs about the Atari 2600, a street next to the Bowery Ballroom, and being punk rawk. They even did a rap bit about lunch which was very funny. Reminded me a lot of Moxy Früvous, particularly with the rap bit and the fact they switch instruments between each song. They have banter between each other and the audience, mostly dead-pan. One band member said, "Happy, happy." The audience replied, "Joy, joy." This led to a little call and response between band and audience. Just an entertaining group that you can laugh with, not at.
My good friend Amanda made cookies for the Bowery staff, the TMBG crew, and TMBG band. Everyone was flabbergasted by the offer, particularly the Bowery staff! Her cookies were great, thanks a lot to you Amanda for going out of your way for a special show.
Ah, my 25th show. What a way to celebrate then with this top 5 show! The opener was John Linnell’s drummer for the State Songs tour, Mark Donato. Also joining him on bass was fellow Statesmen bassist Mark Lerner. The interesting element was the addition of a mandolin player, as well as a couple of tunes with Robin Goldwasser on backing vocals.
Then of course, we hit the Flood album, in its entirety. I’ve seen an album show before, but not TMBG. That was Dream Theater, in which they did their entire new album, 77 minutes of it. That will be out on DVD soon, check it out as they are also one of my favorite bands.
Anyway, here is the lowdown on the show:
As you can see, this was an extended set, easily one of the longest TMBG shows I’ve seen, almost capping out at 2 hours. It was wonderful every step of the way, once again a top 5 show.
The schedule called for a slide show to begin at 9:00. This did not happen, and ended up getting inserted in the middle of the show, I'll tell you when later. At about 9:30, the McSweeney's music was played over the PA system, and TMBG hit the stage, a full 5-piece band unlike what I reported earlier.
The first speaker was Arthur Branford, who performed "Rosalyn's Dog" from the CD and book. He read the piece while playing an acoustic guitar, just like on the CD. His sister accompanied him for key points in the story. It was also enhanced by a slide show of illustrations of the story.
John Flansburgh sets up the overhead projecter for the next speaker.
John and Dave then introduced Mark O'Donnell, who wrote the screenplay for the McSweeney's journal called "Hard Truths". After he read his screenplay, TMBG performed the song they wrote for that screenplay, "Truth In Your Words". After that was finished, John and Dave mentioned that the next scheduled speaker Samantha Hunt, could not make it to the event, but they did say TMBG would still play the song that goes along with her piece for the McSweeney's journal. Samantha's piece was called "Bathymetry", so TMBG performed the song "Bathymetry For Two", better known as "Down To The Bottom Of The Sea".
The last speaker of the night was the irrepresible Neil Pollack. I will speak of his performance because he does not appear in the McSweeney's journal. He has a book published through McSweeney's however, and from what he spoke of that night, is filled with tons of pop culture references. Coming out in an Eddie George Tennessee Titans jersey, he screamed at the audience, whooped them into a frenzy, and simply took off. He did a few of his "poems", about a tree growing in Brooklyn, about feeling his love, and one about what he feels the need to do with your novel. Once again, listen to the boot and you'll understand how obnoxious and loud this guy was, in a good way. His performance actually jacked up the audience so much that when TMBG took the stage, the place was in a frenzy.
So, as Neil left the stage, John and Dave asked all the McSweeney's authors to come out and take a final bow. Doughty performed "Busting Up A Starbucks" and "Janine", complete with a raucous sing-a-long.
After he left the stage, the showed the slide show they were supposed to show at 9:00. This was the series of photographs done by a man (His name escapes me as I don't have my book with me right now) of his travels across the country in his mini-van. At any given point, he would stop, put a huge sign in front of his car, and take a picture. These pictures litter the McSweeney's book, and TMBG wrote a short song for each picture. As they showed each photograph on the screen, they played the appropriate TMBG song over the PA.
Finally, a few minutes after the slide show was over, TMBG took the stage about about an hour set of mostly current show staples. Here is the set list: Robot Parade (Adult Version) / James K. Polk / Cyclops Rock / She's Actual Size / Your Mom's Alright (w/ M. Doughty on vocals) / Fingertips / I've Got A Fang / Drink / Shoehorn With Teeth / Particle Man / She's An Angel / Older / (She Thinks She's) Edith Head / Spider / The Guitar / Women & Men / Dr. Worm / New York City
Songs that did not make the cut: Birdhouse In Your Soul / Boss Of Me
Robot Parade (Adult Version):The heavy metal version that whips the crowd up REAL QUICK. During a Dan Miller solo, Miller was leaning against Flansburgh going nuts. (Shown below)
We can't afford a teleprompter!
Particle Man: Breakdown: Linnell performs it in 6/8 and in a minor key.
"Let's drink, drink, this town is so great..."
Shoehorn With Teeth: First time I've heard this in a while.
The glockenspiel casts a shadow on Mr. Hickey.
The reason that Birdhouse and Boss of Me got cut was this was supposed to be the encore. However, the show already ran late (New York City ended at 12:15), and they couldn't stay in the hall that much later due to the venue regulations. TMBG had their tour bus and trailer waiting for them to bolt for Harrisburg, and I had to bolt for my train.
I'll be updating this review more as I review my own tapes of the show. I had an awesome time at this show, and they probably won't be playing in NYC again until the new album comes out, so until then...