They Might Be Giants 6/6/13, Kansas City MO

Dates: June 6, 2013

Location: Crossroads KC at Grinder’s, Kansas City MO

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BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

 It takes a special kind of band to make a huge hit of a song about a bird shaped night light.  They Might Be Giants are indeed that kind of special.  Over three decades, They Might Be Giants (taking their name from a 1971 George C. Scott film, it is also a Don Quixote reference) have built a career around songs about history, mythology, science, going on road trips and all the quirky things that happen in our lives.  Their skewed, happy and often child-like approach to being has scored them fans both far and near, ages 5 to 105.

 Since first hearing Flood during my first year of high school, I have wanted to see who I consider to be the kings of geek rock.  For some reason or another, I have missed all my chances until now.  Tonight was the night that I finally would get to see Giants live.  That is if the philistine working the door will let me in.  I will save you the sordid details of the bloody battle; apparently, my camera was classified a pro model (it is not even close) and thus, there are no photos of this visually driven show to accompany this review.  Thanks so much, power trippin’ guy in a ball cap.

 Once the camera was stowed and I was deemed worthy of entry, I bought a beverage and sat to observe the crowd.  Guys and dolls my age blended well with kids in t-shirts with the predominate themes of The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons aka Sheldon Cooper, physics problems or Bill Nye the Science Guy.  Weird Al lookalikes, punk rockers, burnouts, hippies and, what must have been a group of schoolteachers all talked to one another, smiling.  Moral here: They Might Be Giants are for everyone.

 Following an interesting opening set by instrumental saxophone/drums band Moon Hooch (think Morphine minus Mark Sandman’s growling vocals), TMBG took the stage and immediately blew into “When Will You Die?” from 2011’s Join Us.  Instantly, the nearly sold-out crowd was locked in, hanging on every word, phrase or accordion jam.  

Whether the Jims (Jim Flansburgh and Jim Linnell) were singing of “New York City,” calling a woman you are falling for Mom (“Call You Mom”), invertebrates with doctorates that can rock the drums (“Dr. Worm”); drinking (“Drink!) Ancient cities in Turkey (the Four Lads cover “Istanbul (Not Constantinople), Polkas, bands from imaginary TV shows like “The Mesopotamians” or scientific innovators dying alone among their ideas (“Tesla”), the band was great. No boredom, no pauses, no flaws or “man, I wish they played …..” They were great, no question about it. 

 They Might Be Giants are easily one of the weirdest, tightest, most fun group of musicians I have ever seen take the stage.  Guitarist Dan Murphy rocked, bassist Danny Weinkauf held it all together and drummer Marty Beller was one of the best I’d seen behind the set in a long time. Clearly, this band has been put together to rock, not just play for little kids in jumpers.  Everything fit together perfectly, seamlessly.

 That’s where I believe some get lost on TMBG; the belief that the band just make funny songs for little kids or nerds that live in their Mom’s basement; that is where they get it wrong, dead wrong.  TMBG are not a joke band.  They are serious musicians that just so happen to bring hand puppets out for a song or two for effect.

 I left the show feeling strange.  No, I did not partake of the magic herb or have too many drinks.  I felt strange because, unlike bands that are more aggressive I typically see, They Might Be Giants made me happy.  I felt warm and fuzzy inside and the world was a joyful place for those two hours.  It felt good, I felt good.  On this night, The Clash can just forget it.  Tonight, They Might Be Giants are the only band that matters.

 Setlist:

 When Will You Die?

New York City

Don’t Let’s Start

Call You Mom

S-E-X-X-Y

Nanobots

Cloisonne

Stand On Your Own Head

Doctor Worm

The Famous Polka

Drink!

Insect Hospital

He’s Loco

Istanbol (Not Constantinople)

Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head

The Mesopotamians

Minimum Wage

Circular Karate Chop

Icky

Tesla

Birdhouse in your Soul

Damn Good Times

ENCORE:

You’re on Fire

The Guitar

Fingertips

End of the Tour

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