Yesterday I went to Albany, NY for the annual Tulip Festival. It wasn’t anything intrinsic to this festival that drew me (though I do like tulips), but rather the fact that there were a couple of stages of entertainment, and the headlining act was They Might Be Giants.

Those who know me know that I’m a big fan of the band. In the 15 years I’ve been a fan, this is the 7th concert of theirs I’ve been to (if you count appearances in music stores then the count is actually 9).

I actually arrived in the mid-afternoon and caught the band that was on before them: OK Go. I saw OK Go once before, opening for TMBG, in fact, back before they had any singles on the radio. OK Go were not, at first, as amusing as I remembered them from before. Their songs were enjoyable, and I had to like that they did a cover of Don’t Bring Me Down, by ELO. They finished with a great “encore.” While their equipment was being struck, the lead singer talked about the ancient history of MTV, when music videos were played. The band then proceded to do a “video” on stage for their new single. The song was played from a CD and they lip-synched and danced, with silly choreography, slow-motion martial arts moves, and the like.

Most of that set there was a guy standing just in front of me, smoking and drinking what must have been at least his 4th and 5th beers. I say this because he didn’t seem to be able to keep from stumbling into me, even before the music had started. He also at one point turned to me and declared “That’s rockin’, man!” and wanted me to give him a high five/hand clasp or something. In other words, he was just generally being Annoying Drunk Boy. A bit later, I noticed that ADB had a caterpillar walking on his shirt. I decided not to warn him, and watched amusedly while it crawled onto his neck. It took him a while to notice it there, and when he did, he knocked it down the back of his shirt while trying to get it off. At that point, I just felt sorry for the caterpillar. Not sure what happened to it after that.

Once the OK Go set finished, some of the crowd cleared away, and I was able to get a spot right behind the front row of people (and away from ADB and his friends). It was a nice, close spot from which to see John and John* (not to mention Dan, Danny, and Marty**) as they took the stage. I memorized the setlist as they played, assigning one word to each song, so that I could write it down later as I didn’t have pen or paper with me.

The setlist was as follows, with my mnemonic word in bold for each one:

  • Damn Good Times
  • Birdhouse in Your Soul
  • Why Does the Sun Shine?
  • Why Did You Grow a Beard?
  • Boss of Me
  • Careful What You Pack
  • Number 3
  • Fingertips
  • Albany
  • Los Angeles
  • Experimental Film
  • Older
  • Cyclops Rock
  • We’re the Replacements
  • We Live in a Dump
  • James K. Polk
  • Drink
  • [Song introducing band members]
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
  • Alphabet of Nations
  • Dr. Worm
  • New York City

Those last 3 songs were the planned encore. John Flansburgh prefaced Number 3 by saying that he had once considered taking out references to the president in the song, as it was written in the Reagan era and he figured we would only have better presidents after that. He has changed his mind in the current presidency.

Speaking of that, apparently the heat and light of the sun are caused by the nuclear reactions between a failed foreign policy, a failed domestic policy, and a failed presidency.

Other highlights: the confetti cannon that they have used in the past for the song James K. Polk is now a double cannon, and it was used in 2 songs other than that one (plus it was accidentally set off backstage early on). For the song Drink, Flans had the audience members pretend we were doing an intervention. So, every time Flans said the word “drink,” we were to yell “No, wait!” Finally, in the song New York City, he sang about being 3 hours from NYC (the normal lyric being 3 days).

After their set, I bought a pre-signed copy of their Venue Songs dvd, had some overpriced festival food, and headed for home. The weather had been nice and sunny most of the time in Albany, but I entered low clouds when I crossed the Berkshires, and then found out that it had been rainy all day in Belchertown and surrounding environs. Perhaps, as the Mayor of Albany said on stage, he really does have powerful connections…

*Flansburgh and Linnell

**Miller, Weinkaupf, and Beller