M started listening to them in the late 80s, charmed by their new sound and sharp lyrics. I'd like to say that I joined the 90s as a savvy music-lover myself, but I'd be lying big-time: as a newly minted fifth grader, Air Supply and Dr. Hook were spinning in my CD player. Fast forward almost two decades and I marry M, a veritable musicologist whose knowledge of chord progressions, drummers, bass lines, and album covers makes my head spin. On one of our sun-filled road trips he introduced me to the song Cowtown, an evolutionary science lesson packaged as peppy fun alternative rock. I fell hard.
So it was with great excitement that we saw They Might Be Giants at the Fillmore on Saturday night, me for the first time, M for the first time in almost 20 years!
The Fillmore, for me, has long been defined by patchouli-scented long-skirt-spinning jam bands (Dark Star, JGB, String Cheese, Greyboy Allstars) or down-home folksy swaying to the likes of Willie Nelson, Gillian Welch, and Ani Difranco. Never have I seen a show there with so much laughter and so few graying ponytails.
John cracked us up with his spiel about why people should buy their new 6-foot tall poster (This neon pink color will fade to a lovely patina, he quipped) because people don't buy records anymore. At one point, he divided the audience down the middle with a strobe light and held a chanting contest. They also had a puppet show and nick-named random audience members things like "Byzantium."
And then, of course, their delightful music, which entices all sorts of giggle and wiggle, but which also makes reference to the poetry of Wallace Stevens. Unlike, say, Dark Star, which always digresses into a tedious 45 minute rendition of Drums in Space, their show was refreshingly unpredictable and alive. They played some old favorites like Particle Man and Birdhouse in Your Soul, did a set of about 17 REALLY short songs, sang their awesome alphabet song, talked about the Occupy Wall Street movement, and played lots of new stuff, too.
Their first encore song, How Can I Sing Like a Girl?, off their latest album, embodies the kind of cultural observation and intimate honesty that make them so brilliant:
How can I sing like a girl
And not be stigmatized
By the rest of the world?