Sunday, June 2, 2013

Concert Review: They Might Be Giants

Never having been to Turner Hall Ballroom and not being the biggest fan of They Might Be Giants, I thought going in that it would, at the very least, be an interesting experience. In this regard I was not wrong.

The people at the show, stereotypically speaking, were exactly what one would expect. Many fedoras were spotted. Some guys rocked a classic look, while others – dude with the silver sparkly fedora and red-star-shaped Elton John sunglasses, I'm looking at you – tried way to hard to be noticed. Thick black-rimmed glasses were also out in full force, myself included. Don't be fooled, though, as the crowd was as diverse as it was interesting. Schlubby middle aged dudes (including one with an exquisite skullet), mousy, plain women, teenagers and their parents, and relatively normal-looking couples were all well-represented.

But enough about the people.

“Joyous” is probably too strong of a word to describe the atmosphere of the sold-out Turner Hall, but the vibes in the room were definitely happy. Even though I didn't always know what was going on, I often found myself with a smile on my face, particularly during the between-song banter of primary Giants John Flansburgh and John Linnell.

The music of They Might Be Giants falls under the banner of “alternative,” comprising of pop, rock, jazz, surf punk?...yeah, I'll call it surf punk, and a bunch of other sounds. Various songs of the night found John Linnell busting out a bass clarinet and an accordion.

Of course, none of this matters if the songs aren't any good. Though perhaps not memorable for a newbie, I found them catchy and enjoyable enough. Certainly the fanboys – and yes, I mean fanBOYS – ate the show up, exuberantly dancing and pogoing to every song.

The set highlight for me was their well-known cover of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” It opened with a classical acoustic guitar solo and ended with an extended jam by the whole band. Also striking to me was that TMBG's aesthetic – lyrically and musically – seemed to be kindred spirits with “Weird Al” Yankovic. Perhaps not as demented as Yankovic's best work – at least as presented here – TMBG still shares his quirky, goofy, nerdy sense of humor. This helped me appreciate their music that much more.

The best response of the night was saved for their one and only genuine hit song, “Birdhouse In Your Soul.” It was certainly the song I was waiting for, but I thought the preceding 70 minutes were worth the wait and the ensuing 20 minutes were just as good. I was genuinely surprised that I enjoyed the show as much for a band I wasn't entirely familiar with.


Openers Moon Hooch deserve their own paragraph. As might be expected opening for TMBG, they had their own sound, consisting of two saxophonists and a drummer. Though I found it kind of tiring after 10 minutes or so, it was still hard to deny the toe-tapping nature of their music, especially when they went to a quiet-loud dynamic which made me want to rock out. Either way, the crowd gave them quite the ovation when the set was over and the band seemed honestly taken aback by the reception. It was one of those moments when you realize why you love watching live music.

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