What is remarkable about They Might Be Giants’ (TMBG) tour stop in Austin last Thursday is the band has such a devoted fanbase. Advance press efforts and sponsored social posts aren’t necessary for the group to sell tickets and draw attention to their show. In fact, the date flew largely under-the-radar for casual music fans. Those that headed for Stubb’s BBQ for the show were rewarded with a two-set, barn-burner helmed by the affable Jon Flansburgh (guitar/vocals) and his partner-in-crime, John Linnell (keys/vocals). The band featured songs from their Apollo 18 record. No opener or pretense, just a fun, super-tight, enjoyable evening of music.
There was a line around the corner of Red River and Ninth Street over 40 minutes before set time giving an indication of the enthusiasm TMGB’s fans bring to their performances. A matching line inside snaked from the merchandise table into the crowded venue as last-minute preparations were made on stage.
Flansbaugh reminded the Stubb’s crowd they’d be playing tunes from their fourth studio album, “We are performing all the songs from Apollo 18 (crowd cheers)… that we know (laughter)… There will be NO refunds!” The singer smiled as the band launched into “Dinner Bell” from the 1992 recording. Audience members smiled back beatifically, singing along.
Flansbaugh later riffed on marijuana legalization joking that band might swap out the traditional smoke in the fog machines for something more potent. As he rambled, it became apparent his banter had headed off-script as Linnell and the rest of the members of TMBG looked on.
Shortly after that interlude, the Brooklyn-based New Englanders played fan-favorite “The Statue Got Me High.” Interestingly, there wasn’t a lot of blatant pot smoking going on. If TMBG devotees were hitting the pipe while the crackpot duo worked through a set that consistently reminded us of their success at writing children’s albums, they were doing it on the down-low.
They Might Be Giants’ irreverent brand of music has netted the group four certified-gold selling kids’ records and a single Platinum adult album, Flood. You may recognize their single, “Boss of Me” as the theme-song of hit television show, “Malcolm in the Middle.”
A song featured on cartoon show, “Tiny Toons,” entitled “Particle Man” appeared late in the first set. TMBG played the song two years ago at the same venue when the featured album was hit, Flood. The song mashed up with Sia track, “Chandelier” before the set ended with “Doctor Worm.”
The band returned to the stage about 25 minutes after their break, performing acoustic duo tunes, including “I Like Fun” and “Space Man” before wrapping up their mini-acoustic set with “Istanbul (NotConstantinople)” which began as a duo then morphed into the full band arrangement as the other members rejoined the show. It’s one of TMBG’s more endearing numbers and that’s saying a lot considering a number of their songs embody a similar tone.
They Might Be Giants concluded another successful Austin visit with a a five-song, two encore finish. “Wicked Little Critta” and “Birdhouse in My Soul” ended the performance.