Walking out of the Belly Up Tavern last Tuesday with my fedora brim filled with confetti, my spirit soared from one of the most over-the-top, ultra-amazing shows that I have seen at that venue ever. Yes, I saw Death Cab for Cutie months ago hit me in the heart with an arrow of emotionally beautiful songs. I have seen Johnette Napolitano streaming tears down the faces of the crowd from her powerful voice. I have also seen Bob Schnieder on several occasions get the crowd in such a ferver that girls and guys are nearly crawling up on stage to get at him. All of these incredible shows I’ve seen at the Belly Up Tavern over the years still can not compare to the energy and playful production that They Might Be Giants brought to their stage last week in the last show on their 8 Bit Tour.
The moment Roger and I walked into the venue, we were blown away by the amount of equipment on and around the stage. TMBG brought in their own lighting, video and sound (minus the main speakers). The AV boards took up the most of the seating on stage left (the right hand side of the stage as you are looking at it). No front seats available there.
We stood with our Red Stripes in hand, in awe of the equipment, when the opening act started. Guggenheim Grotto caught our ears with a whimsical melody played on a ukeleli. I heart ukes and this tune made me want more. Sadly they switched to an acoustic electric for the rest of the set, only bringing the uke back for the closer. Even they realize that their uke songs are their best songs by far. The duo, Mike Lynch and Kevin May harmonize like blood brothers, singing songs of fancy based on literary characters and real life. It is easy to see how these two acts came together on this tour.
When They Might Be Giants took the stage, the lights went crazy in a ballyhoo and the crowd went nuts. My stomach all flittery as I realized that I finally was going to see TMBG play. Yeah, I know, I must have seen them before but somehow it never happened until now (and same for Roger).
They began by playing “Meet the Elements” off the Here Comes Science album, their newest album geared towards teaching kids about the wonders of science. Right away I felt cozy and warm with goodness. Their songs brought back a time of playing tag, digging in the sandbox to finally reach China and talking in secret languages our parents wouldn’t understand.
At one point in the show, The Avitars of They, sock puppets in the likeness of John Linnell and John Flansburgh, took over the performance though live video projected on a screen in the back of the stage. Hilarity ensued with a mini comedy performance, playfully bashing They Might Be Giants by They themselves. The Avitars of They performed two songs, then returned to the regularly scheduled performance.
Disco lights spun around the room, entrancing many as they sung “What is a Shooting Star?” Probably one of my favorite songs of the night from Here Comes Science ending with confetti cannons shooting multi-colored confetti over the front half of the room. And we were no where near the encore.
The night would not be complete without hearing songs from their second album, Flood, the album that brought TMBG radio play and the “fame” that came with it (aka bringing home the paycheck). We were privvy to “Particle Man”, “Birdhouse in your Soul”, “Istanbul (not Constantinople)”, “They Might Be Giants”, and my personal favorite, “Whistling in the Dark”.
The night of music came to a close after two short encores and another cannon blast of confetti over the entire room. I can only imagine what the Belly Up staff thought of the drifts of small pieces of crepe paper. The room was cleared by 11pm. Early night for most rock shows. But for They Might Be Giants, early nights are the standard. About fifty percent of their scheduled shows are geared towards a younger audience, a much younger audience of preschoolers with their hip parents. I totally would have brought Thomas to one of these shows, but the last one scheduled on this tour was in LA. Next time, oh definitely next time.