They Might Be Giants draws both young and old

Online Athens, October 23, 2013
by Mark Ellers

This week’s adventure in Athens music was an educational one. I saw eccentric rockers They Might Be Giants, a band difficult to categorize in a box, at the Georgia Theatre last Thursday. Their history is long, and their body of work is enormous. Since releasing their 1985 demo tape, they’ve put out 16 studio albums that run the gamut stylistically from indie rock to children’s music (though parents are known to enjoy those tunes).

TMBG’s set featured most of the notable favorites expected by fans while still devoting plenty of time to their latest 25-track album “Nanobots.” Like the 2011 release “Join Us,” many of their new songs didn’t feel all that new. I won’t say they’ve become formulaic — that’s too negative a word — but TMBG is comfortable with their sound, and so are their fans, who showed up en masse. Both parties hold certain expectations of each other.

I hadn’t seen a crowd like TMBG’s at the Georgia Theatre in a while. It was a mix of college-aged music-nerds and adults who have likely been fans from the start, several of whom brought along their teenagers. Considering TMBG’s past work for children, it made sense that the show was open to teens (if accompanied by an adult). Frontmen John Flansburgh and John Linnell gave the impression that they’re not yet ready to give up the road life. Now both in their 50s, Flansburgh and Linnell put in the effort of a couple of 20-somethings. The Athens-tailored stage banter was some of the funniest I’ve heard. They even pulled out the infamous “Avatars of They” — two smart-mouthed sock puppets controlled by Flansburgh and Linnell.

But when they pulled out the classics the crowd really went wild. Songs like “Dr. Worm,” “James K. Polk,” “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” and, of course, “Birdhouse In Your Soul” had everyone singing along.

There’s no question that TMBG still has the creative drive and fan base they need to continue creating new music and to continue touring it to new and old fans alike.