They Might Be Giants at the Pageant, 9/24/11: Recap and Setlist

Riverfront Times, September 24, 2011

The large (not-quite-but-almost sold out) crowd at the Pageant last night was a perfect cross section of TMBG's fanbase: moms! twenty-somethings! hip toddlers! They were all in attendance, and they were all, of course, incessantly bouncing and singing along. Some of them were probably thinking, "Man, it's so loud in here!" And it was! Because TMBG puts the rock in nerd rock.

In fact, it may be the hippest unhip band ever to grace our earballs. Who else can write songs about science, geography and the ABCs and then make them fucking rock (sans irony)? Even John Flansburgh's drug references were somehow family-friendly and, dare I say, borderline educational. (He mentioned a hankering for some hazelnut-or-perhaps-almond-flavored LSD.) It's almost enough to make you want children, just so you can raise them on such nourishing jams. Almost.

The double-encore set included several tracks from Flood, the audience-participatory "Battle for the Planet of the Apes" and a dance contest where LPs were given out as prizes. And that's not to mention the comedic interludes: "We use a bass clarinet in this song. We've been going from city to city, stealing bass clarinets from schools, because we believe kids should have brand new bass clarinets." Flansburgh frequently referred to whatever the fuck he was drinking as "Show Business Tea." Oh! And there was a brief puppet show, advertising "Epic Fail Bologna Sandwiches!"

Maybe you're too cool to see a band that performs tracks like "Alphabet of Nations" and shreds on the accordion. Maybe you think it's cheesy to play kid-friendly, educational songs. But these mad scientists have been around for nearly 30 years, and it's because they've concocted a way to stay relevant and expand their fanbase by branching out into kids' music. Since it's always tolerable and usually awesome kids' music, it doesn't alienate its other fans. And really, TMBG's nerd jams were never really not kids' music, anyway -- you just grew up.