I don’t have a solid origin story for my TMBG fandom.
I remember seeing “Don’t Let’s Start” on MTV (probably on 120 Minutes?) and liking it, then mis-naming it as “Dont’ Let’s Talk About It” to someone and feeling stupid later.
I remember a conversation with a guy I recognized from just being around the dorm my sophomore year – he used to wear big wide ’70s ties – and we were chatting in a communal lounge area. Maybe They Might Be Giants were on the TV or something? Anyway, they came up and somehow that led to him giving me a photocopied sheet with several dozen images of the band in their cartoon forms from the “Hotel Detective” video.
And then at some point that year I was introduced to Flood and just fell in love with it. I played them regularly on WBGU, and bought Apollo 18 as soon as it came out. Loved that one, too.
When I lived in Orlando, they came to town and I thought about going, but didn’t.
When I moved back to Ohio, they came to Cleveland and I thought about going, but didn’t.
They actually played a concert at Gen Con one year, but I didn’t want to give up my gaming time.
So when they announced a 30th anniversary of Flood tour and pledged to play the entire thing, I bought tickets the hour they went on sale and was lucky enough to nab a pair. (TMBG has a fondness for the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, and I don’t know when the last time was they played anyplace larger here – the Beachland is marvelous, but it’s standing-room only General Admission and it’s a 500-person venue, so tickets went fast. They added a second night and that one sold out in a blink, too.) Anyway, that was in 2019, and the thrice-postponed show was just this month, and it was a ton of fun.
Jenn & I went up early so we could eat dinner at the attached Beachland Tavern, and we headed into the larger venue itself just about a half-hour before showtime, and still found ourselves up close to the stage.
No opening act, free “T-H-E-Y” paper crowns, and two sets of just about an hour each, with a couple encore tunes to close out the night. John & John & the band sure seemed like they were having fun, and it was contagious. (Which reminds me: They’re requesting – but not requiring – audiences to be masked during their shows this tour, and they’re making sure to repeatedly thank everyone who does so. I’d guess that maybe 2/3 of the Beachland audience was masked, and most of the unmasked members were further back from the stage. I don’t recall seeing too many naked faces in front of us. In a place like the Beachland, I really wish everyone had complied, though.)
As advertised, the entirety of “Flood” was scattered throughout the setlist, with a couple asterisks: A pre-recorded version of “They Might Be Giants” served as the night’s introduction just before the actual band took the stage; same with “Hearing Aid” for the second set. And they performed “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love” backwards at the end of the first set while recording it on video, which was then reversed and played back in the second set.
There were several songs I wasn’t familiar with, but the non-Flood numbers I recognized included “Ana Ng” – which Jenn and I both absolutely love – “The Guitar,” and “Hey Mr. DJ I Thought You Said We Had A Deal.”
So much fun, so much excellent energy and smiles and bouncing and singing along. Just a great night in Cleveland.