On July 4th I went biking in a big loop. I first headed south through the town of South Hadley, then west through Holyoke. I passed through Anniversary Hill Park, where I had biked a few years ago, only this time I did not come out the way I had entered the park, I passed the tower and walked my bike through the woods on a dirt path, emerging on a side street further west. I then continued on to Easthampton.
Easthampton was once again this year doing a Bearfest, with bear statues decorated by different artists displayed in front of businesses and in some parks. Here’s a sampling of the bears I saw:
This one by the municipal building did not use the standard statue:
This one’s a bit creepy (mainly because of the size of the bees):
A few were interesting alternatives to painting the statue, like the Steel Clad Bear:
and the Luminous Bear:
that one came with a warning:
This one seems to be partly carved out of a stone block:
That one was located in front of the old town hall building, which now houses a few arts organizations (and which I think is neat looking):
This one (called The Bear Truth) was the most overtly political message, and the saddest bear I saw:
I left downtown and headed for the Acadia Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the line between Easthampton and Northampton. I had thought that one could bike through the refuge, but that’s not the case. They do have a bunch of walking trails, though, so I spent some time walking them. Soon after I entered the woods, I encountered this elevated viewing platform up in the trees:
The partly enclosed platform stands on top of a few wooden pilings, and is mostly stabilized by several guy wires. Despite being stabilized, it (and the metal spiral staircase that leads up to it) sways back and forth a bit. The motion was a little disconcerting.
Nevertheless, it does offer a nice view of the Mill River and related wetlands:
Unfortunately, I didn’t see much wildlife while I was hiking around. I saw the occasional chipmunk, and encountered quite a number of mosquitoes. Some of the paths were almost overgrown, as well, so my legs got a bit scratched up. I left the place a little over an hour after I’d gotten there and rode on toward Noho.
On the way, I passed along the northern edge of the Connecticut River oxbow, and went over the mouth of the Mill River on this little bridge:
Here is the oxbow itself, with Mt. Nonotuck in the background (to the south):
From there I headed up into Northampton, and then home via the usual trails.
The conference I was attending had useful presentations and discussions during the days, but on the Tuesday evening, there was to be something called the “Client Event”. There had been no information published in advance about what went on there, and when I asked some people about it, I found that the content of this event is normally kept secret each year at the conference. What I was told was about some of the past ones, many of which had been concerts with surprise performers. The conference materials did indicate that it would be a concert, and that there would be 2 headlining acts, plus a house band.
News did leak out about the bands, though. Just a few hours before the concert event, I was talking to a trainer (who shall remain nameless), who told me that supposedly the acts would be Styx and Sammy Haggar. I was excited to see the former (not so much for the latter).
I got to the concert during the house band’s first set. This was a group called Liquid Blue (note: a video will start to play automatically when you load their website) who do covers of all sorts. They were pretty decent, though not super interesting. I eventually made my way near the stage, hoping to be close by in case Styx were the next act. Here’s a pic of LB just as they had finished a song:
When they finished their set, the video screens, had the Styx logo appear on them, and the crowd moved over to the larger stage near this small one. I ended up in the front, but over on one side, as the band came out.
Here’s the crowd, just as excited as me, I think:
Eventually, I discovered that the current incarnation of the band only contains 2 of the members I know from the ’80s. Here they are – Tommy Shaw (left) and James Young (right):
Flailing away on the drums is Todd Sucherman:
This is current bassist Ricky Phillips:
Better picture of Tommy:
On the left below is the keyboardist, Lawrence Gowan:
He sang lead on several of the songs, with others led by Shaw.
James Young closer up:
Lawrence at the keyboard (which he was able to spin completely around on its stand):
For a few songs, the band brought out its original bass player, Chuck Panozzo, who doesn’t perform with the band too much because of his health:
I had a lot of fun seeing them, as I’ve liked their music since I was a kid, but never saw them in concert before. Songs they played included:
- Come Sail Away
- The Grand Illusion
- Paradise Theater
- Miss America
- Too Much Time on My Hands
- Foolin’ Yourself
- Blue Collar Man
After Styx left, Liquid Blue came back for another set, and I made my way to the seating area farther from the stage, as my feet were still hurting from walking the Strip the night before. During this LB set, there were various odd (and kind of lame) computer animations playing on the video screens in the arena:
I stayed in my seat when Sammy Haggar came on stage, as I’ve never been a really big fan of his. Mostly the only music I know by him is from his years with Van Halen. He did do a few VH songs, unsurprising since his stage band included Michael Anthony, the bassist from VH.
One interesting thing about the stage setup was a platform on which several fans from the crowd got to stand during the performance:
You can see them in the center of the stage. The musicians are in the spotlights below that. Since I was so far from the stage, I mainly watched the screens, which usually were showing Sammy.
I stayed until the end, only somewhat appreciating the Haggar set. He finished up just after midnight, and I headed back to my room to get some sleep before the last (half) day of the conference.
Earlier this year, I signed up for a new offer from They Might Be Giants called the Instant Fan Club. One of the benefits of the membership fee was 2 free tickets to any show on the band’s then upcoming tour. Once the tour dates for 2011 were announced, I saw that the band would be performing not too far from where I live – they had a concert scheduled in September in Great Barrington, Mass.
In June I wrote to the fanclub address to request tix to that show (for me and my TMBG-liking partner), and asked where in the theater the seats would be. The response I got said my tickets would be waiting for me at will call, but they couldn’t give me exact locations – though they try to reserve a block of seats in the center of the main floor.
Eventually, the day of the show arrived. Great Barrington is a little over an hour’s drive away, so it’s fortunate that the show was on a Friday night, and I didn’t have to work the next day. We headed out just after dinner, and found the venue (the Mahaiwe theater) about 15 minutes or so before showtime. We found parking and started walking over there.
We had to cross the main downtown street on the way, and I noticed this set of instructions at each end of the crosswalk:
I don’t think I’ve seen this in other towns, and certainly never thought of waving to drivers as being an official thing. I guess it is now.
We got to the theater and went to the will call table. They did not have tickets in my name, and when I mentioned the fan club they said I needed to get in the line for the regular ticket booth to pick those up. So, we waited in line for 5 more minutes or so (there weren’t that many people in line, but each one seemed to be taking a while). I asked the guy in front of us if he was getting fan club tickets, and he said no, that he was just buying a ticket for the first time that night. Eventually we got to the window, and I mentioned the fan club and my name. The ticket seller consulted a list, then printed out 2 tickets.
While we waited in line, we heard the opening act (Jonathan Coulton) start playing, and it looked like the ushers were not going to allow audience members to enter the theater during the first song. That is a policy I’ve never seen at a rock concert, and I didn’t know what to think. Eventually, though, the staff seemed to relent, so by the time I got our tickets, the doors were staying open.
Before going in, we stopped at the merchandise table, because my club membership also entitled me to a free goodie bag. Once I secured the bag, we headed to the first usher – who immediately questioned what I had in the bag (even though the merch table was in full view of her – about 10 feet away). Once we assured her that we weren’t bringing food in, we were pointed to our seats by a set of ushers. Those seats turned out to be in the balcony, several rows back, and way over on the right side. They were not good seats in the least. What’s more, the guy who we had talked to in line, who was just buying his ticket then, was in the row in front of us. It seemed clear that the fan club had merely provided a list to the venue of people who would get free tickets, but there was no reserved block of seats involved. Once we showed up, they gave us the next available seats in the place.
The ushers were actively policing people with cameras, so I could not take flash pictures. The unfortunate thing with my camera is that if I turn off the flash, and don’t have a lot of light, I get blurry pictures. So this is the best picture of Coulton (and his 2 backup musicians) I managed to get:
Coulton’s set was okay. I have heard and enjoyed a few of his songs before, but I’m not a fan, and he seems kind of lackluster live. It’s possible that I would have enjoyed his set more if I hadn’t been annoyed about the crappy seats, but I’m guessing I wouldn’t have found it much more enjoyable.
The Coulton set was fairly short – about 7 or 8 songs, I think. After a not-too-long intermission, TMBG took the stage. It was just the 5 regular band members that evening – John Flansburgh, John Linnell, Dan Miller, Danny Weinkaupf, and Marty Beller. No horn players were there, as had been the case the last few times I’d seen them. Still, TMBG always manages to be fun, and even being far away didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.
Here is the best image I was able to capture of the band:
They had projections going on behind them during most of the show.
Here is the setlist (songs from the new album “Join Us” are marked with an asterisk):
- Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head
- When Will You Die*
- Your Racist Friend
During Cloisonné, Flans accidentally backed into Linnell in his fervor.
- The Mesopotamians
- Ana Ng
- We Live in a Dump
- Whistling in the Dark
The next 2 songs were performed by the Avatars of They (i.e. the hand puppets, held up to a small camcorder and projected)
- Spoiler Alert*
- Shoehorn with Teeth
- Never Knew Love*
- Old Pine Box*
- Birdhouse in Your Soul
- Withered Hope
Flans then divided the crowd into left and right halves for an Apes vs. People shouting contest. The band played music and alternately had the sides of the audience chanting “Apes! Apes! Apes!” or “People! People! People!” as appropriate (we were on the People side, but the Apes were judged to have won by the band).
- Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love
- Alphabet of Nations
- You Probably Get that a Lot*
- Careful What You Pack
- Clap Your Hands
- Judy Is Your Vietnam*
- Can’t Keep Johnny Down*
They went off the stage at this point, then came back for an encore:
- Don’t Let’s Start
- Particle Man
- Damn Good Times
Another exit, and then a second encore:
- Lie Still, Little Bottle
- Istanbul Not Constantinople
This was the first time in many years that I’d heard them play Lie Still… In the past, Flans had played a midi-enabled stick that he banged on the stage as percussion, while Linnell played a baritone sax. In this case, Flans had a little synth/effects box of some kind, as Linnell played a bass clarinet (which was also L’s instrument in Cloisonné). Another notable thing about the show is the large number of songs from the album Flood that were played. 7 of them, compared with 9 from Join Us. I suppose that they’re used to playing Flood songs since they’ve done a number of Flood shows in recent years, playing that whole album in order. Nevertheless, it’s a shame to have no songs from several of their albums (this concert, for instance, had no songs from Apollo 18, John Henry, or Factory Showroom).
By the time we left, I did think it had been a fun evening, but I still was somewhat miffed about the seating. I e-mailed the fan club to ask about it, and if this is what was planned to happen, or if the band hadn’t had control over it, or what. I didn’t receive an answer.
As for the contents of the goodie bag, I got an Instant Fan Club t-shirt, a button to pin on, 2 window decals, and a piece of paper that was stamped and then signed by all of the band members. Pretty neat stuff:
Since that concert, TMBG has announced tour dates for the early part of 2012. It turns out that they’ll be playing in Northampton in March, so I expect that I’ll buy a ticket for that, and enjoy better placement in the crowd.
This morning I heard a report on our local public radio station, WFCR, about a music group called The Books. I’d never heard of them before, but they sound pretty cool. It’s a duo who use various found audio sources and mix it with original guitar and cello compositions. The few tracks they played in the report were neat, such as a piece that uses audio from several different self-help tapes, or a tape of an argument between some kids paired with very strident music. I’d link to the radio story, but it doesn’t seem to be online as yet. If it gets posted over the weekend, I’ll update here with the link.
It’s definitely a group I’ll be looking more into.
A few weeks ago I biked up to Greenfield, MA to check out the Brick and Mortar Video Art Festival. It was a one-day presentation of many video installations at 5 different buildings in town, all 5 of which were in at least partial need of renovation. I had not heard of the festival before, but this seems to have been its second year.
It started in the mid-afternoon and ran through late evening. I headed out close to 1:00 and got to Greenfield around 2:45, passing through Sunderland and Deerfield on the way. In Deerfield, I passed right by the Mt. Sugarloaf reservation, and took some pics of the side of the peaks (with some Fall colors):
Once I arrived, I looked for some lunch before going to any of the exhibit spaces. I ended up eating at the cafe in Greenfield’s Market, which is the natural food co-op there.
From there, the first building I went to was the Pushkin gallery, which is in an old bank building:
There were videos showing in a few spots in the building, including in the old vault:
The second building I went to was also an old bank:
Inside its cavernous space was the largest video projection of the whole show:
That image was at least one story tall.
It was an interesting way to see videos, in spaces that were partially restored, or full of bare studs, or just dilapidated. Some were projected on walls, some showed on small lcd monitors, and a few were on good old honking CRT monitors on A/V carts. The quality varied, and I think I found about half of the videos interesting in some way. They were all fairly short, so if I missed the beginning, I could just wait until it repeated. One that I found fairly captivating was also one of the simplest – it was just a real-time, extreme closeup, single take of a snail crossing a space of 6 inches or so. Of course, it helps that I like snails.
Once I’d seen everything, it was starting to get dark, so I set out for home. I had lights with me, so I was prepared for the darkness. Unfortunately, I had somehow thought I’d be leaving sooner, so I hadn’t dressed as warmly as I should have – just 2 not-very-thick layers on top, only 1 layer on my legs (with shorts underneath), no hat under my helmet, and no gloves. It got quite cold as I rode back (down to the upper 40′s, if not lower). I took a slightly different route back, crossing the Connecticut River and heading South through the towns of Montague, Leverett, and Amherst. It took about 2 hours in that direction, but though it was cold, I still mostly enjoyed the stillness of the night, and the excellent view of the stars.
It’s good I wasn’t out much longer, though. By the time I arrived home, it was cold enough that my hands were getting numb. The total distance I covered was more than in the organized ride I did the previous weekend – about 47 miles.
I got a chance this summer to do something I had been wanting to do for 2 decades – go see DEVO perform in concert. They’ve always been one of my favorite bands, and I heard early in the year that they’d be releasing a new album and touring, so I was on the lookout. They didn’t end up playing any dates in New England, but they did come to the Albany area, which is only 2 hours drive from where I live, so I jumped at the chance to pay an inflated ticket price (plus nearly another 25% in fees to TicketBastard).
Fortunately, the show was on a Saturday night, so I drove out there in the afternoon and got some dinner before heading to the venue. They played at a large club called Northern Lights, in the suburb of Clifton Park. The place is in a strip mall – here are some pictures of it that I took after the show:
I had arrived there at 6:30 (while it was still light out), and got in line outside, as the doors wouldn’t open until 7:00. While waiting, I had to get a picture of this guy who was just a bit behind me in line:
He had an energy dome logo on the hat, as well as heavy, “Oh No, It’s DEVO” eyebrows on his glasses. Fun!
I got inside pretty quickly, and immediately made my way to the stage. This was a rare opportunity, and I wanted to be right up close. Fortunately, I was early enough to get a spot right in front of the stage, or as close as possible anyway, as there was a barrier between the stage and audience, creating a narrow area for photo and video people to do their thing during the concert.
I had thought that the band was going to take the stage at 8:00, but it turned out that they weren’t going on until 9:00, so I had 2 hours to stand and wait (spoiler: it was worth it). I talked a bit to some other fans nearby me, and got a pictures of things like this equipment case:
Also, the stage was located in a back corner of the club’s one huge room. Just over to the right of the stage was the back door of the building, which was being used as a stage door, with the band getting ready in their tour bus outside:
At one point, a car pulled up next to the bus out there, and out of the car emerged the brothers Mothersbaugh. Mark headed into the bus, but Bob1 initially walked into the building, and he was immediately greeted by a fan yelling, “BOB!” with a bunch of cheering from the rest of us. He laughed and went back outside (unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to snap a picture at that moment).
One interesting feature of the stage was the background screen. They had a video screen actually made up of a bunch of large LEDs. They were difficult to photograph when off, but here’s a close-up of a small portion of the screen:
They did take the stage at 9:00 sharp, with intro music and video playing:
The band were initially wearing their new light gray outfits with masks. I had seen pictures of the outfits before coming to the show, but I didn’t know that the suits were highly reflective, so when you take a flash picture of the band, they glow:
Here’s a picture without the flash:
I captured a picture of the setlist before the show, though my view of the first few songs was blocked:
Once they played the first 3 songs, they caught up to where I could see the list. Here’s all of the songs they did, in order (the first, third, and fifth are from the new album, Something for Everybody):
- Don’t Shoot, I’m a Man
- What We Do Is What We Do
- Goin’ Under
- That’s Good
- Girl U Want
- Whip It
- Planet Earth
- Secret Agent Man
- Uncontrollable Urge
- Jocko Homo
- Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA
- Gates of Steel
- Freedom of Choice
- Beautiful World
The setlist shows a few dividing lines. The first two denote costume changes, and the third marks the planned encore.
Some pictures from the first group of songs:
Mark and Bob2 during “Peek-a-boo”:
After “Peek-a-b00″ they took off the masks.
The first costume change involved taking off the jackets and adding blue energy domes:
They played like that for 3 songs from the album Freedom of Choice. Note, the shirts have blue energy dome logos on the sleeves.
Their second costume change involved putting on yellow radiation suits (and they all grabbed guitars) for a set of songs from their first two albums:
During “Uncontrollable Urge,” Mark demonstrated his urge by ripping his suit, as well as those of his bandmates:
A few pieces of suit got thrown out into the audience, one of which was grabbed by the guy next to me. He tore off a part of that and gave it to me, so I have a small bit of Bob1′s yellow suit.
Dancing in unison at the end of that song:
For the song”Mongoloid”, Mark would crouch at the edge of the stage with a pair of pompoms, and would jump up and shake them. Here he is crouching just a few feet in front of me:
and here he’s at the other end of the stage:
Back at the keyboard, shortly before they removed the suits entirely:
They ripped the suits off and threw them into the crowd. None of them came near me, though I was happy to have the piece I’d already received, even if it doesn’t say ‘DEVO’ on it. This left the band wearing just the black t-shirts and black shorts (and kneepads).
Mark then jumped down into the space in front of the stage, to get a bit intimate with the audience:
Sadly, he didn’t get close to my position.
I don’t recall why Bob1 was covering his ears here:
Shots from “Freedom of Choice” during the encore:
Jerry with his bass:
Mark had a few towels stuffed in the back of his shorts. During the song, he would take each one out, wipe his sweat with it, then rub it on his armpits, butt, and crotch (outside his clothes) before throwing it to the audience.
Yes, at age 60 he’s still an edgy weirdo.
Their final song was “Beautiful World” – one of my favorites of theirs.
The song featured a special appearance by Booji Boy on lead vocals! (for those not in the know, that’s pronounced ‘boogie’.)
In the middle of the song, during a long instrumental part, Booji told a story about getting to go the the Neverland Ranch to hang out with Michael Jackson. I kept expecting the story to take a creepy turn, but that didn’t happen.
All too soon, the show was over.
The above shot shows “DEVO” in silver letters on Booji’s back.
And that was that. They were only on stage for an hour-and-a-quarter, but I do feel like I got my money’s and time’s worth.
I went to NYC for the MoCCA Art Fest again this year. The convention has generally been held in June in the past, but this year they had it in April for some reason. I did it as day trip again, just going down for the Saturday, traveling part way by car and then taking the train into Grand Central. This time, though, I visited the actual museum as well as the convention, because I was interested in seeing their large exhibit NeoIntegrity (there were several artists’ work in the show that I wanted to check out, including Bill Griffith, from whose site I first heard of the exhibit).
I first headed to the East Village, not far from the museum, to see if I could grab lunch at teany, a vegetarian restaurant co-founded by Moby. teany had been closed since last June because of a fire, but had been making noises about reopening since February. I took a chance and stopped by, but alas, it was still not open (it has reopened since I was in NYC).
I ended up getting a falafel sandwich from a street vendor on my way over to the museum. I took in the exhibit, which was fun to look at – most of it was original art from published works, and there were a ton of artists involved. However, in general, the stuff by artists I’m familiar with was stuff I’d seen before. The vast majority of the artists were new to me, though, and there was a lot of funny and interesting work to look at and read.
I left there and headed up to the con at the 69th Regiment National Guard Armory in midtown. There was a line to get in, which I waited in for a bit before I realized that I could just walk right in, given that I had bought a ticket online (I got to go to a separate table where they looked up my registration and sent me on in – I should have remembered that from last year).
Once inside, I headed down to the panel room, as a panel I wanted to see was starting in 10 minutes. It’s a good thing I didn’t wait, because there was already a long line to get into the panel room! The panel was supposed to start at 2:00, but the con staff ended up starting to let the line in at almost 2:15. The room filled up quickly, and I thought I might not get to to see it, but I ended up standing in the doorway.
The panel was on the topic of alternate treatments of superheroes in comics, and featured artists who had done superhero work but more often (or primarily) did more alternative comics. The specific people on the panel were the reason for the large crowd: Paul Pope, Frank Miller, Kyle Baker, Jaime Hernandez, and Dean Haspiel. I snapped a few cell phone pics from my doorway perch – here’s the least bad-looking one:
The guy on the far left was the moderator. The artists proceed left to right after that in the order I named them.
After that, I had a couple of hours to wander the convention floor:
There was a brief signing by Hernandez I was able to hit, and I managed to visit Ted Rall during the hour he was at his publisher’s booth. I discovered that Rall is a Mac user!
Other creators I visited and/or bought merchandise from (but did not take pictures of) included Pat Lewis, Raina Telgemeier, Bill Roundy, Monica Gallagher, and R. Sikoryak.
One of the things Mr. Sikoryak is known for is doing slideshow presentations of his comics. The last panel of the day, which I attended, was him and a few other artists showing slideshows of their work, with parts performed by professional voice actors. It was a blast, and there were even a few slideshows at the end with images in 3-D. They passed out glasses to the audience for those:
Yes, it’s blurry – it was another cell phone picture and the room was dark.
The end of that panel marked the end of the con. I made my way back toward downtown, looking for a place for dinner. On the way, I happened by Gramercy Park:
where I noticed this sign:
Asking people in Manhattan not to honk? I wonder if this law actually works…
On my walk I also saw this rather curvy building on 3rd Ave.:
I ended up eating at a little Afghan restaurant called Khyber Pass on St. Mark’s Place. After that, I headed back toward Grand Central Station, but had some extra time, so I wandered over to Times Square. Who should I meet there, but Hello Kitty!
She was doing what she does best – waving Hello.
Despite all the light and billboards and entertainmentplexes (or perhaps because of them), there isn’t really anything I find interesting in Times Square. One neat thing I saw as I headed for the train station again was a Scottish band playing on the sidewalk:
I didn’t stick around long enough to find out who they were or anything, though. Just part of the New York color. With that, I left the big apple.
Once again I attended a concert by They Might Be Giants. Like the previous 2 I went to, this one took place in the Calvin Theater in Northampton. Unlike any other TMBG show I’ve been to, this one was on New Year’s Eve.
I took pictures using both my regular camera and my iPhone, so the quality varies. Some of the images have been enhanced because they were too dark (at some point I will play with the iris settings on the camera so that it doesn’t darken down stuff when the flash is on and the subject is far from the camera).
Here’s the stage setup:
They had plastic pigeons all over the place. Here you can see a couple on the main drum kit:
I was pretty close to the stage, having a depth of 2 people in front of me at first, more like 1 as the night went on.
There was a brief opening set by Peter Stampfel, who is formerly of the group The Holy Modal Rounders, and his daughter Zoe. I was not familiar with Stampfel or the Rounders before this. It was sort of folksy, bluegrassy, irreverent, and odd all at once. Fun stuff, though Peter seemed to forget some lyrics a couple of times, and he didn’t seem to have a lot of physical stamina for performing. The only pictures I managed to get of them are overexposed:
That set only lasted 30 minutes, and then approximately 45 minutes passed before TMBG took the stage. They had horn players with them once again, in addition to the 5-member group they’ve been for years now.
The stage layout was different than they’ve ever done before, as there were 2 drum sets, one on each side. John Linnell’s keyboard was at the front of the stage, but was directly in the center, rather than its usual location off to one side (generally he’s been stage left). Here’s Linnell at the keys:
I took notes on the setlist on my phone, so I can reproduce all the songs in order here:
- Dr. Worm
- Withered Hope (always excellent with horns)
- Birdhouse in Your Soul
- The Guitar
- Dig My Grave
- Meet the Elements
- Take out the Trash
At this point in the show, Marty moved to the electronic drums, and John Flansburgh talked about how Marty had programmed them with special sounds. Marty demonstrated the odd sound samples that corresponded to the different pads, and then they played
- Why Does the Sun Shine? (the Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)
Marty on the little electronic set:
Marty changed the sound of the electronic drums to more normal sounds for
After that, the special guest of the show arrived: The Deranged Millionaire. This character, played by John Hodgman, first appeared on the band’s DVD Venue Songs, in which he was the driving force behind the band creating special songs for each venue they played in on their 2004 tour (apparently he had bought Brooklyn, and was going to kick them out if they didn’t do the songs). During this concert segment, they played several of those venue songs, with Hodgman talking about each venue and its city, and maybe explaining the song. He appeared on a projection screen:
but was doing his thing on stage in front of a little video camera (which was mounted on a lone bass drum):
He clearly didn’t have all his lines memorized, as he kept looking at what I assume was his iPhone:
The venue songs that were played:
- Los Angeles
- Asbury Park
These songs were done with Marty on the usual drums, and without the horns. After these, they played:
- Museum of Idiots
- Clap Your Hands
- Whistling in the Dark
- Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
- New York City
- The Mesopotamians
- They Might Be Giants
Here are some shots of the horn players (I don’t remember exactly when in the concert they occurred):
The band exited the stage, and then came back for the first planned encore. In this, John and John got in front of the video camera with some knit sock puppets:
Here they are on screen in a couple of blurry shots:
Dan Miller, the guitarist, went to the keyboard at this point, and Marty got out a board with 3 “ring for service” type bells on it.
And with this setup, they played:
- Shoehorn with Teeth
- In the Middle, in the Middle, in the Middle
and then they took up their normal instruments for
They left the stage again, and came back for one more encore, which contained 2 songs:
- Alphabet of Nations
- Mr. Me
In this show, they had their normal confetti cannon, which was fired off near the beginning of the evening. However, they also had a different cannon, which kept firing confetti into the air continuously for a minute or more, fired during the second encore. I turned around and got a picture of the stuff floating above the audience:
And that was pretty much the night. It was a good long set – the total time TMBG spent on stage was about 1 hour, 45 minutes. We got out of the place a little after 11:00, and I headed for home, ringing in 2010 in my own living room.
A couple of weeks ago, we went to see a special screening of the film Sleep Dealer.Â It’s a political science-fiction film, dealing with a (very?) near-future time when the U.S.-Mexico border is completely closed physically, but workers in Mexico are able to connect their minds to a network and control robots to do work in the States.
The director, Alex Rivera, is a graduate of Hampshire College (which we live just up the road from).Â He was on hand to introduce the film and answer questions after the screening.Â He mentioned being influenced by quite a bit of current events (including immigration, remote military technology, control of natural resources, all sorts of aspects of the Internet) in creating the story and coming up with the concepts in the movie.Â Certainly, like most good sf, the film not only indicates a direction society might take, but offers commentary on where we are now.
The ideas in the film, technological and sociological, are very interesting, as are many of the visuals.Â While it contains many elements that have been seen in other sf film and literature, what Rivera has put together feels fresh, and comes from a unique point of view.Â I would advise any sci-fi fan to check it out, especially if you like politically-oriented work.Â If I had to name a downside to the film, I thought that, while it was had intriguing ideas, and an engaging plot, it didn’t have a lot of emotional impact.Â There were instances in the film that should have been emotionally powerful, even cathartic, where I didn’t have a strong reaction at all.Â I think this can be chalked up to a couple of things: first, that Rivera admitted that it was a struggle to come up with a plot, when he mainly wanted to play with ideas, and second, that he has made a number of short works before, but this was the first time he really worked with actors.Â The acting was good, but more experience in writing and directing might have given the movie more feeling.
Nevertheless, it was very worth seeing, and I highly recommend it.Â For those living in Western Mass., the film is playing this week at the Amherst Cinema.Â Enjoy.
This is the last catch-up post – again posting about something that happened in October.Â I went to see They Might Be Giants at the Calvin Theater in Northampton, just as I’d done the previous October.Â Seating was different this time – the last time I’d been there, there were additional chairs setup in front of the fixed seating, and all tickets were assigned seats.Â This time, the area in front of the stage was open, and tickets for that section were general admission, which was what I bought.
Unlike many previous times I saw Them, there was no opening band.Â Then again, you could say They opened for Themselves. They played 2 sets, the first of which was composed of all the songs from the album Flood, played in order.
I arrived soon after the doors opened, and was surprised to be able to get a spot right up by the stage.Â It was over to one side, but right in front of John Linnell’s keyboard!Â I took a few pictures of the stage before they came out, some of which didn’t work so well without a flash.
The sign hanging in front of the backdrop:
I think it’s self-explanatory what this is:
And of course, Mr. Linnell’s most famous instrument (and his coffee cup):
The Flood set was great, as They played some songs I’d never heard in concert (and that They rarely play live).Â They had horn players with the band, who joined in on appropriate songs, such as Your Racist Friend (on which I think Flans screwed up the lyrics by repeating part of a verse).
Flans broke out a marching bass drum for Whistling in the Dark:
That’s the best photo I have of it.Â I tried often not to use my flash, partly because there was a ‘no cameras’ sign in the lobby, and I didn’t want to draw the attention of the theater staff.Â Eventually, I got tired of blurry photos and turned the flash back on.
At one point (I don’t remember which song), Flans passed his guitar into the audience so people could play it.
During the intermission I got a picture of the non-Flood backdrop:
and the setlist for the second half:
to spell out the listed songs:
The first thing written under the name of the venue looks like “rompy”.Â I believe this just refers to Their intro music as They came out on stage.Â They then played:
- Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal
- Alphabet of Nations
- The Mesopotamians
- Memo to Human Resources
- Experimental Film/New York City/Why Does the Sun Shine?
- The Sun Is a Miasma of Incandescent PlasmaÂ (from an upcoming album of science songs)
- Don’t Let’s Start
- Spider/Damn Good Times
- Here Come the Horns (written to introduce the horn players in concert)
- Withered Hope
- Dr. Worm/Clap Your Hands/The Guitar
- Mr. Me
They went right from Dinnerbell to Here Come the Horns.Â The setlist has written “I Hit My Head”, which would refer to a Mono Puff song, but They didn’t play it or anything like it.
They did 2 encores:
The first was Older/James K. Polk, during which Flans thanked the crew, and the second was just the song Fingertips.Â Normally, the confetti cannon is used during James K. Polk, but Linnell decided (couldn’t tell if it was planned in advance or not) to shoot it off earlier.Â If memory serves, it was during Clap Your Hands or The Guitar.
Here’s a few random shots of Linnell:
After the concert was over, the drummer, Marty Beller, came out on stage to say Hi to fans:
And so ended my 10th time seeing TMBG in concert.
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