Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Feature For 2011: TMBG Shirt of the Week

I have a lot of t-shirts. It's pretty much the only kind of shirt that I wear outside the house, and it's one of my favorite ways to support my interests, be it a band, television show, film or something else in pop culture. Not only am I (potentially) contributing, financially speaking, to these endeavors, I'm making the people around me (more) aware of these things that I enjoy. At the very least I'm making them think, "Geez, how many shirts that say 'They Might Be Giants' does this guy have??" Well, let's find out. I bring you..
In case you can't tell, I own enough TMBG shirts to take this blog well into 2012.

The idea is to have a detailed catalog and history of TMBG shirts, something which I've long felt should be available. There are so many of them and some that plenty of fans have never seen. TMBG shirts are always interesting and fun to look at, often even for people that aren't familiar with the band or their music. I can include details and history that some readers never noticed or were not aware of, and even comments by artists who are interested in participating. The opportunity to advertise for the band when a shirt is still available for sale is a happy bonus.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pre-Halloween Shows

Paul and I saw two great TMBG shows the day before Halloween, and we dressed up as Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo from one of our favorite films, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The shows were at the Quick Center for the Arts in Fairfield, CT and were joined by Curt Ramm and Stan Harrison, but Dan Miller was absent from the late show. During the early show, the Johns commented on the crushing weight of their latest Grammy Award (above). Nobody in the band dressed up, except for Marty Beller who went as a Drum Cymbal. There were also a few other costumed audience members, including a Freddy Krueger.

A Song For You:

 Per request, here's a "cover" of a classic tune that John Linnell busts out with while John Flansburgh conducts the standard improvised cacophony of musical noise that occupies the final section of "Spy". This happened at a show in Bielefeld, Germany on 4/22/92.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My TMBG Tattoos

For many years I'd wanted a They Might Be Giants tattoo, something original. I came across photos of some tats sported by a "Weird" Al Yankovic fanatic named Dave Rossi who had the entire band sign his ankles, and then added color portraits. I thought it was a neat, original idea for a TMBG tattoo, especially considering that Flansburgh's autograph includes a stunning self-portrait but I didn't want to go through with it if I couldn't get my ankle signed directly.
I initially asked John Flansburgh during a short unplanned, unmoderated text chat that happened in 2000 after a planned, moderated voice chat hosted by Here's an excerpt:

tdk says: John Flansburgh, I got to see TMBG in concert for the 50th time last month at MIT. You guys are better and better every time I see you! I have a personal request to make, I hope it doesn't sound too crazy to you: Would you autograph my left ankle, so I can have it inked in as a tattoo? I'm completely serious about this.
John Flansburgh - They Might Be Giants says: I suppose, although it does sound crazy
foodmage says: Now THAT is hardcore.
John Flansburgh - They Might Be Giants says: I'm not really into body modification
John Flansburgh - They Might Be Giants says: I can't even figure out how to shave


So, he (grudgingly) agreed but I didn't get to ask him to do it in person until over a year later, at the infamous Mink Car in-store and I'm sure that he had forgotten about the exchange by then. He turned me down, and I was disappointed but not surprised. Hours later, the Trade Center came down and my autograph problem seemed a bit inconsequential.
After about four years, I decided to go ahead and get the Flansy tattoo using the autograph he signed for me on paper mere seconds after declining to sign my ankle. I had it done as a birthday present to myself, and have since gone back for a new tattoo annually during my birth month. (July)
Needless to say, I didn't bother asking Mr. Linnell, and ended up using an autograph he gave me at an in-store signing. In '07 and '08 I got my logos, and have since had an opportunity to flash my ankles at the Johns, who seemed impressed.

Last year I got my first non-TMBG tattoo. It's the Robot Chicken from my favorite television show of the same name. It went over well at the Robot Chicken Skate Party. This year I added Drinky Crow opposite the Chicken, which works out well since Crow is an Adult Swim character as well as a long-time TMBG icon. 
In 2011, I intend to fill the two remaining ankle spaces (fronts) with the cartoon Johns from Here Comes Science in a grand double-finale'. It will resolve perfectly with each John gesturing towards his respective autograph. I have pasted these guys into the above college as a kind of simulation to give you an idea of what it will look like.

UPDATE: July 6, 2011
The time has come. As promised, my 2011 TMBG Tattoo Twofer!
Ladies and people, here is my offering for TMBG’s Can’t Keep Johnny Down Video Contest. No cats, as per request. It’s a time lapse of my annual trip to the tattoo parlor. This year, it’s the cartoony Johns by David Cowles from Here Comes Science (above) as They appear on the album's official sticker sheet. Chooch at Bayside Ink Tattoo in Beachwood, NJ did the honors on July 6, 2011. You don't see it in the video, but I wore my tie-dye HFStival shirt (#28) while being jabbed repeatedly. Actual time under the needle: 25 minutes. No blood, I promise.

UPDATE: March 3, 2012
Here's the plan for my 2012 TMBG Tattoo, which is four months away. I'm getting their newest logo above tattoo #1 of John Flansburgh's autograph. This really may be the final leg area available that could be considered "ankle space".

MP3 of the Week:
I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die

John and John attempt to convince the audience to sing along on the chorus, again and again and again. They even provide cue cards! Performed at Tipitina's in New Orleans, LA on 6/20/88.
Buy Join Us Now!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Three Down, One Missed and Five to Go

We saw a nice family show at Town Hall, then headed downtown for the customary pastrami sandwich at my favorite NYC eatery, Katz's delicatessen. We spent longer there then anticipated, and rather then hurry back uptown we decided to skip the second show, which we suspected would have an identical setlist.

Anyway, Here are some more photos that I took in Providence:

 Above, John Flansburgh checks to see if the show is running long.
Below, he counts off something or other while Dan Miller feigns interest.
 Above, John Linnell prepares to execute an "I Dream of Jeannie" maneuver.
Below, he gets underneath things.
 Above, Danny Weinkauf has a seat while The Avatars of They do their thing.
Below, John Flansburgh does likewise while banging on the drum for Whistling in the Dark.
 Above, Danny looks on in amazement as both Johns simultaneously go narcoleptic on our asses.
Below, Marty averts his eyes from the devastating confetti storm.
 Above, Linnell steps away from his apparently broken mic and gazes amusedly at Flansburgh as he is forced to tackle the opening verse of Alphabet of Nations single-mouthedly.
Below, Linnell then attempts to steal Flansburgh's mic, who slaps his hand away in feigned annoyance.
 Above, John's mic is reactivated and he decides to swallow it whole in order to avoid further difficulties.
Below, Dan "Solder" Miller backs that shit up!

Originally recorded by Willie Nelson & Julio Iglesias, this song was covered at Tramps in New York City on New Years Eve 1998. (My 31st TMBG show) The ceiling was too low for normal utilization of The Stick, so Lie Still Little Bottle was not performed. Instead, John Flansburgh sings into The Stick's attached distorted microphone while John Linnell pipes his own voice through the vocoder. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Two Down, Seven To Go

Two fantastic rock shows! Here are a few details, if you want the real story then check out this other Blog. It's awesomer.
I took a whole mess of photos in Providence.
Here, John Flansburgh attempts to steal my soul. Instead, I capture his with this photo!
Marty Beller's drum kit was totally pimped out with colorful blinking lights, custom built by Iggy!

Special guests for both shows were the Tricerichops Horns, namely Dan "The Machine" Levine and Stan "Sax on the Beach" Harrison (above, from left) and the amazing Curt Ramm, below. We heard two brand new songs (Duende and Canajoharie) and two family songs that had never been performed (Nonagon and How Many Planets?).

The Giants stayed at our hotel in Providence. We were finishing up at the breakfast buffet when John Linnell and Danny Weinkauf walked in. We said hey and left them to it. At the Mohegan Sun show, Flansburgh recited the "H-E-A-R-T attack to you, girl" Fingertips bit while gazing deeply into my eyes.

On to New York City!

MP3 For You:
 A fast, jazzy version that opened the show on 3/24/95 at the Horizontal Boogie Bar in Rochester, NY.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nine TMBG Shows In Six Days

 I strive to see TMBG a minimum of ten times each year. However, here we are in September and I have only attended one show so far in 2010.

In a span of five weeks I will be making up for that with nine shows, including three double-headers, four rock shows and five family shows, all apparently without an opening act. With the exception of the first two, all of these shows are in seated theaters with assigned seating. Unfortunately, I only managed to get front row seats for the final two shows in Fairfield, CT.

First up is a three day trip to Lupo's in Providence, RI followed by the fifth annual audience appreciation free show at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT (fake ticket created for completion's sake) and a couple of family shows at Town Hall in New York City. So, it looks like next week's entry will be from the road. I'm excited to hear new songs!

 I'm also seeing The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway on Halloween (dream come true), and in November I've got Corn Mo in Asbury Park, Roger Waters and Tim & Eric in Philadelphia and Tim & Eric again in New York City. It's going to be a busy couple of months!

 Free For Download:
The radio dial is spun at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City on 4/20/00. TMBG samples some Brittany Spears and Billy Joel before settling on The Trammps' "Disco Inferno". Featuring Dan Hickey on drums.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

MC Skat Kat

Perhaps you remember MC Skat Kat, the animated rapping feline. He appeared in Paula Abdul's song/video for "Opposites Attract" in 1989 and released his own album a couple of years later before fading into obscurity. The single from that album was called "Skat Strut" and Virgin Records issued some promo cds of it. 

Here's where it gets weirdly relevant. On some of these discs were pressed not the 1991 MC Skat Kat single, but the 1986 debut album from They Might Be Giants, in its entirety. What The Flans?? I'm imagining early nineties radio DJs popping in this CD, expecting to hear some hip new rap music but instead "Everything Right Is Wrong Again" comes blasting out. To this day I cannot conceive of a scenario that would lead to this pressing error. TMBG weren't even on the same label!
I brought this disc to a bookstore signing, and both Johns were mystified and amused, having never seen it before. After explaining the deal to Linnell, he decided to sign "Paula Abdul". Priceless.

Have an MP3:
"Hair Dresser Show"
John Flansburgh spaces out during a performance of "Maybe I Know" on 10/21/99 at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, and after the song is completed he provides an explanation. A story is told of a trip to Norfolk, VA in the Earlier Years, during which a toll booth operator asks the Johns if They're "going to a hair dresser show?". Unfortunately, the story about the Pencil Rain guy is too embarrassing to relate.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mink Car

Here's my signed, sealed Mink Car CD from eMusic's "TMBG Unlimited" service in 2001. Some people received unique autographs, mostly from John Linnell after he started to get bored of signing his standard moniker. Two people were even blessed with two-year-old Henry Linnell's "autograph", which was really just a scribble. I've always been very happy that I got one of the weird ones. Mine reads "Dieter Linnell":

Of course, I bought another copy. Here's my insert signed at the Mink Car instore. It was a little bit awkward for me when Flansburgh signed this because he was asking for each person's name and then writing it in big block letters. When it came to me, he instead wrote his own name. The impression I had at the time was that was that he recognized me from the 60+ TMBG shows I had attended at that point, but still did not know my real name, and was possibly embarrassed to point this out.
(click to enlarge)

As you may know, John Flansburgh had the cover modeled after himself. He lay down on the floor to demonstrate what the guy on the cover should look like. Then a photo was taken and turned upside down. Really, John? Shorts?

This week's live MP3 is:
Performed at the Mercury Lounge in New York City on 11/6/97. TMBG used to use this fun instrumental to start the show, and usually introduce the band. Near the end you can hear me ask a friend if they smell pot. After the song ends, John Flansburgh comments on the pot smell, as well. This is presumably the moment that he refers back to at a show a couple of years later while telling the story about their recurring pot-smell nightmare.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Drawing

In 2001 my aunt, Abby Levine made this drawing for me. She based it on the black and white sticker with John & John and two old-skool telephones. She created the surrounding imagery after listening to Lincoln and Flood. Flansburgh's autograph on there is what would eventually become my first tattoo. Click here if you would like a better look at the detail.

The second MP3 that I would like to offer you is:
Performed at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City on 10/23/99. It is, of course the slow version which features Dan Miller on the keyboard. I don't think I'm alone in preferring this version to the sped up one on Mink Car. I think that the original tempo lends a certain disposition to the song, like the narrator is plodding along, wanting to be extra careful that everything comes out right.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Welcome to my They Might Be Giants Fan Blog. I'm not entirely sure what this blog is going to be yet, other then an outlet for giving away free TMBG stuff. I might tell a story or two, or maybe even run a TMBG contest with a physical prize that I will snail-mail to the winner. Any interest? Please comment.

My first offering is from my defunct MP3 archive, and I'm taking requests.

TMBG perform Spin-the-Dial at Bogart's in Cincinnati, OH on 5/17/96. They happen upon Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London", and after checking the rest of the dial They decide to give it a shot. However, it seems that the lyrics are not exactly known as John Flansburgh launches into an improvised version about "Friday the 13th"??