You should listen to They Might Be Giants. Do their two Grammys entice you? Maybe you’ve even heard some of their music: They’ve composed the theme from “Malcolm in the Middle,” and “The Daily Show,” “Hot Dog” from “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” and that one song you heard in History class “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”. Maybe I could persuade you by saying they’re an alternative band from around here in Brooklyn or that they’ve been actively making and releasing music since 1986 and have 20 albums to their name. I think the best way to convince you to listen to They Might Be Giants is to tell you about the community they foster — a community I had no better example of being inducted into than when I had the pleasure of attending one of their concerts the weekend of October 5th.
I felt the first glimmering of the community on the line while waiting to get in. A girl behind me recognized my school sweatshirt and struck up a conversation about a friend of a friend who went there. I later learned her name is Paige, she loves knitting and this is her eighth TMBG concert in five years. I felt like I made a new friend. Everyone around me on line was buzzing with anticipation and excitement. I got to pet a dog wearing a t-shirt. I was having so much fun on that line that I hardly noticed when it finally started moving.
I walked up to will-call and for some reason, the ticket wasn’t there. I started to stress out; how was I gonna get in? Behind me, however, I heard a voice: “Hi, I can’t help but overhear. I’m the band’s manager. Don’t worry, I’ll tell them to let you in.” And just like that, I was inside. Never had I been more grateful or felt more a part of a community. The list can go on of all the interesting and friendly people I met that night: a girl with neon green hair proudly showing off the pumpkins she carved the night before, a vampire fully in her character and costume, a couple dancing like no one was watching. All around me I was surrounded by people; all of us happy to be there. Even as the show started, it never felt like we were going to a performance by the illustrious artists we came to see, but more of a jam session between friends. It was peppered with special treats for long time fans like a Run-DMC music video dubbed over with their own single “Last Wave,” a segment called FUTURESOUND which was basically frontman and keyboard player John Linnell messing around on his synthesizer to a light show, even breaking out into a verse of Sia’s Chandelier inside the bridge of fan-favorite song “Particle Man,” and of course, banter with the audience. We joked about taxidermy, Canadians and reached the conclusion that all audiobooks should be narrated by Gilbert Gottfried.
TMBG is unique in the way they set themselves apart from other bands; they do things differently, not because they have to, but just because they can. How else can you explain a band that features guitar, bass, drums, saxophone, trumpet, contra-alto clarinet, synthesizer and an accordion lovingly named “Main Squeeze” among many many others? Even the format of a concert itself is up for grabs. The night was called “An Evening With They Might Be Giants” because it was exactly that. There was no opener, just one long set with a 10-minute intermission. Their stage presence was awe-inspiring. From the second the frontmen, John Flansburgh and John Linnell took the stage, every eye was on them and the venue erupted into applause but the audience was no less enthusiastic for the backing band including Danny Weinkauf, Marty Beller, and Dan Miller. Commanding attention from the moment they walked on stage, they drew selections from their catalog of hundreds of songs, and still everyone in the audience knew every word.
They Might Be Giants occupies a very specific spot in the hearts of many, and fosters a fanbase that’s compact and strong. While they may not be the most popular out there, everyone who knows them are extremely tight-knit and dedicated to their music and that night, I felt so many examples of how that community embraced and welcomed a new member. A friend asked me once, “What’s the best concert you’ve been to?” I’ve never been able to give a good answer until today. Now, whenever someone asks me, I can answer with a confident “They Might Be Giants.”