M is for Music.
They Might Be Giants once had a T-shirt that said Music Self Played is Happiness Self Made. I can sing, in time, in tune - a good enough choir voice, it mixes well. I dance pretty well, as long as I don't have to obey choreography. But I have never gotten more than a simple melody out of an instrument. Violin, flute, penny whistle, organ keyboard, ukulele, all tried, none accomplished. D is the musician in this home. I love hearing him play. So does Moby.
They Might Be Giants are always worth the effort, although I tend to forget until the moment they start playing. They came to town last Friday, at a club with a dance floor and balcony around. Earnest folk singing duo for an opening band, sadly dull. But TMBG, after all these years being the tallest midgets... excuse me - the biggest independent band, still tear it up with gusto. I like to think they make a good living. Their music is still fresh and raw and full of humor and energy. To the point that I still have to listen to the new stuff for a while to decide I like it, and after a little longer, it's another favorite.
Just listening to their recordings, it's a bit hard to tell that They are a great dance band, rock 'n roll, joyously odd. Memorizing the lyrics appeals strongly to those of us who always go to hear them, making their shows a bit of a sing-a-long. The two Johns have such an easy camaraderie after these couple of decades touring and recording together. Great melodies, still experimental, musically interesting, not just loud. But loud too. With a confetti cannon.
They are geeks who've found a way to keep themselves in gear. High quality sound system, lighting, video screens, especially for a venue that is just a club. They sing about elements and obscure painters and presidents, Mesopotamians, - and the lyrics matter. They put on a puppet show. Avatars of They sock puppets, to a camera, projected large. Educated silliness.
They played all the songs off Flood, their only BIG album, from 25 years ago, each with a fresh approach. Frequently announcing "Escape from Flood!" and playing another song they liked. Real advantage to having just a handful of "hits" and an enormous repertoire. Or a complete inability to Stop Writing Songs. (One tour, they wrote Venue Songs, one per stop.)
Their audience has both aged with them, and picked up stragglers from every year along the way. They do children's shows, since they do excellent kid's albums that do not nauseate adults. Apparently, Utah is They Might Be Giants country, no doubt in part because there is little offensive in their shows, allowing a way in for many. The shows here have always been more intense than the one we saw in Boston. But we stay involved because of the quality, our appreciation brings them back. D and I will always find the time to see They when they come to town.
And they keep current. When they found out that the old song about the sun that they've covered is not up to date with scientific thought, they wrote an addendum. The Sun (Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas), followed by The Sun is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma. These are cool, smart guys.
They shot off the confetti cannon a second time, making it all the way up to the balcony where we watched. I saved some, they assured us it was biodegradable, if poisonous. (A worry, since some got in their coffee cups.) Threw it in the air for Moby. He seemed to like it. Probably not, actually, poisonous.