Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Saturday, October 02, 2004



After fifteen years of listening to their music, last night I finally went to a They Might Be Giants concert. It took me fifteen years for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I'm just not a huge concert person. Being jammed nose-to-armpit with a bunch of dancing drunkards is not my ideal situ-hap. Neither am I particularly fond of hearing loss. This could have something to do with the fact that my very first concert was the AC/DC "Lose Your Television" tour, which included indoor cannon fire. Maybe I still equate concert venues with heavy artillery.

Mostly, though, I haven't seen They Might Be Giants because of timing issues. Several times, they were coming to town when I was heading out of town. Or they were coming to town when I was heading to bankruptcy. There's also the fact that I stopped buying their albums for a long while when they added a full band on John Henry. It just didn't seem right to me, like they were outsourcing their jobs under NAFTA or something.

I started listening to them again when they came out with Mink Car in 2001 and I found that they still sounded like themselves. I discovered that I still really like them. This puts me in a relatively small group. I've read a number of articles about them which mention that, although John and John get older, their fans stay pretty much the same age. It's like the Musical Picture of Dorian Grey. Or it's completely not like that. Anyway, their fans tend to be high school and college kids who enjoy bouncy pop music and incredibly clever lyrics. These college kids generally move on to other forms of music and leave the Giants behind like an old teddy bear. If you're still in your thirties and listening to them, there's a reason.

The reason is that you're a geek. They Might Be Giants (and I'll go ahead and use the nerdly abbreviation TMBG from here on out for the sake of brevity) are a geek-rock band. I say this as someone who loves them. They are geeks who make music for geeks. Think of it this way: They're very intelligent. They don't really fit into any of the normal categories. You wouldn't equate them with sex. If they were a high school student, you can be certain their yearbook would list A/V club in their activities.

I have their albums. I listen to them and enjoy them. I can sing Lincoln from start to finish acapella during long car drives. But I sure as hell wouldn't play them at a party. Any more than I'd initiate Justice League discussion groups. Not because I'm ashamed of the fact that I enjoy them. But I definitely don't feel the need to foist them on others who may not have an appreciation for that sort of thing. I think, generally, when you put music on at a party, you put it on because you think it's cool and think other people will feel likewise and be moved to dance or drink or convey sexual favors upon you. Playing TMBG at a party--and I'm not including in this category Star Trek fan club meetings, where I'm sure they put Apollo 13 and Miscellaneous T in the player and hit shuffle--is akin to serving tuna s'mores. It's just not gonna set the right tone.

Having firmly established that my full awareness that my enjoyment of The Johns tattoos a pocket protector on my chest, allow me to say that it was great to be in a huge room stuffed with people who also love them. It's truly an awe-inspiring sight to see eight hundred people start pogoing spastically at the first bars of "Birdhouse inYour Soul". This is the only dance move that most of us have, but that doesn't lessen the awe.

We were about ten feet from the stage, which meant we had to suffer constant interruption from chowderheads pushing their way to the front, attempting the physics-defying feet of standing where there is absolutely no space for a body. We also saw what might be termed a fight. At a geek-rock concert, this was about the last thing I expected. In fact, I think I made a remark to Megan about the unlikelihood of violence before the show. Apparently, a woman who had previously elbowed and douschebagged her way in front of me was accosted by a drunken guy. Megan paid more attention to this than I did and assured me that the guy was making all sorts of rude gestures and that sort of thing. Whatever he did, he received a knee to the balls for it, which seemed extreme to me, especially given the shrewish nature of the knee's owner, but I defer to my wife's judgment.

The nice thing is that the young geeks around us were so happy and friendly that we were able to smile at each other and laugh despite obnoxious behavior and knees to the groin. And when I say the geeks were young, I mean young. A quick survey of the endearingly pathetic attempts at facial hair around us lead me to believe that there were few people in the venue born before the Reagan administration. These kids were too small to see over the bars of their cribs when "Don't Let's Start" was in heavy rotation on MTV.

What I'm trying to say here is that, not only am I a fucking geek, I'm fucking old. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to fix myself a tall Metamucil and read some Superman.