Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Coulton

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I don’t go to concerts.  I am not a concert goer.  I like music, but I hate crowds, noise, and staying up late at night, which, in general, means that concerts are not that appealing.

I do sometimes go to the symphony, where I get my own chair and get home at a decent hour, and no one is drunk.

But when I heard that They Might Be Giants was coming to Cincinnati, I decided to put aside my usual objections for a chance to see my longtime favorite band live.  Then when I found out that Jonathan Coulton was opening for them, I knew I’d made the right decision in buying the ticket.

Then when the concert sold out, I felt quietly smug toward the people who were complaining on Facebook that they’d wanted to go, though this desire hadn’t yet taken the form of actually buying a ticket.  You snooze, you lose, suckers.

I went and got in line two hours before the concert began, which put me not first, but close enough to the doors that I could have thrown a ball and hit them, if I were a better pitcher.  Once the doors actually opened, I was glad I’d come early: I’ve never been to Southgate House before, and I didn’t realize that most of the concert-goers wouldn’t get chairs.

The room was an old ballroom in a 19th century house, with stage and a dance/listening floor, then a gallery above with tables and chairs.  And bars on both levels.  Since I was early, I snapped up a chair with a comfortable view of the stage, and then invited a few random strangers to share it with me.  That meant that, besides having a good view of the musicians, I also had an interesting view of most of the audience.

First was Coulton, as implied by the term ‘opening.’  He was simply fabulous.  His earliest music is just him and his guitar, and he started the concert that way, too.  I love the simplicity of one musician with one instrument.  He opened with “Skullcrusher Mountain,” and went on to play a few things from his new album and a few of his “hits.”  He has never actually charted- why would he, when he’s a self-published musician who’s mostly famous on the internet? – but I think we can all still call “Code Monkey” a “hit.”  He was done after 30 minutes, much too short.  I would gladly have come to hear him in concert alone, after all.  But it’s okay.

Then the delay while the stage was rearranged, giving me time to hit the bathroom and get a beer.  Moerlein OTR, the pride of Cincinnati.

We’re also proud of our chili, our baseball team, our big ugly river, and our arts.

Surprisingly good artistic options in just about every way, considering that we aren’t a large city.  First-rate symphony and opera, exceptional contemporary art center, a few interesting companies doing modern and sometimes quite daring theatre.  You should visit.  Book a nice expensive hotel room downtown; eat at a Jeff Ruby restaurant.

And then They Might Be Giants took the stage.  Everything was loud music and flashing lights, like a real rock concert but everyone in the room a huge nerd.  They were fabulous, they really were.  I found myself inexplicably happy, watching the faces and bodies of the two Johns that go with the music I’ve been listening for so long that it’s part of my brain in a fairly fundamental way.  I hadn’t realized how many different instruments Flansburgh plays; he was on keyboard, accordion, and bass clarinet and sounded great on all of them.  Linnell did most of the talking.  Flansburgh was better looking.  There was a funny moment at which they made a mistake and sang competing verses of “Meet James Ensor,” but Linnell played it off with self-deprecating grace and then they started over and sang it well.

They brought a video screen, which I didn’t love because it made it harder to see their faces, and they did some silliness with hand-puppets that I could have lived without, but their list of songs was well chosen, and the audience was bouncing up and down appreciatively, singing along sometimes but not too much, and waving spoons in the air.

I didn’t understand the group of people with the spoons.  But they seemed to be having a good time, and that’s what’s important.

They stopped too early, but that was all right, because we had the fun of calling them back for two encores.  I was so delighted when they played “Birdhouse in My Soul,” a song they have to be well and truly sick of playing by now, but which is still awesome after all this time.  Thanks, Johns.

I had a wonderful time.

I also called in “sick,” since I don’t really feel like trying to teach on quite as little sleep as I ended up getting last night.  I don’t feel any guilt about that.  They can learn about adjectives from the book, from a sub, and I can come in tomorrow when I’ve had a reasonable amount of sleep.  I’m not doing them any favors by coming in impaired, and this was a special case- it isn’t as if I make a habit of it.  In fact, I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever gone to a rock concert before at all, that wasn’t at a street festival in the afternoon.  Not since I graduated from college, and those were all “Christian rock,” which sucks.  Except for Steve Taylor.  I still think he was a good writer and performer who was wasted on fundamentalism.  In my fantasy, he becomes an atheist and then starts a glorious new career.

I brought home a sack of essays, so I can do some useful work that doesn’t involve being as fully alert as teaching requires.  I figure I’ll go back to bed for a while, then get up, have breakfast, and alternate between grading essays and quiet pleasures like reading, taking a walk, and watching a little television.  With any luck, my students tomorrow will get, not just a teacher on the top of her game, but returned essays a bit earlier than usual, too.

I will probably listen to They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Coulton on my iPod while I grade essays.  Wouldn’t you?


Written by Contented Reader

September 21, 2011 at 7:01 am

Posted in Reviews


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