The last time that I decided to attend a concert by myself at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR was back in 1999, when I saw an epic Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Flogging Molly show. I finally came to the conclusion that I really needed another show at the Ballroom while flying solo. November 10, 2011 was as good as time as any for that to happen and what better way to enjoy myself, than to attend a show put on by They Might Be Giants??? The venue is by far the best mid-sized venue in Portland and the fanciness of the décor is always a pleasure for me to gander at. Once I arrived at the venue, I saw the line starting at the door pre-show on Burnside street. I walked down to the corner to get in line and to my surprise, the crowd of TMBG fans wrapped around the block and actually ended on Burnside. I have never seen a line that stretched 3 blocks before at a mid-size venue show. The event was sold out, so I expected a line, but nothing like what I saw that night.
By the time I got inside the Ballroom, the venue was packed. The security was the most relaxed that I have ever seen for a show in downtown Portland. Cameras were also allowed, so I was able to get quite a bit of video footage of the show as well. Once inside the venue, I tried to find a decent spot to get video. That balcony (1%’ers), was packed and there were no good spots to hunker down to get good video footage, so I made my way down to the floor. The Ballroom floor was divided like I have never seen it before. They increased the size of the bar drastically and significantly reduced the floor area for underage people. The bar area was packed, so I made my way to a spot in the underage section, thinking that younger people would be shorter. I was wrong, I am guessing that the average height for people at the show was about 6’3”, because I am 6’0” tall and I felt like a dwarf, which is obvious from my videos.
Jonathan Coulton opened that night. He actually put on a great show, though his set was very short, approximately 30 to 40 minutes in length. It was apparent that he had a decent handful of fans there, hence the huge line pre-doors and also because I heard a number of people singing his songs. It is not very often that I enjoy the opening band, but I would have to say that this guy was a great opener for TMBG. John Flansburgh even came out to the stage and sing a song with Coulton. Overall the crowd was still a bit mellow, probably saving thier energy for TMBG, but you could tell that excitement filled the air, like the ash after Mount St. Helen’s eruption in 1980.
When They Might Be Giants hit the stage, the crowd erupted into cheers. John Linnell gave some love to Powell’s Bookstore and the people in the audience went ape shit. Linnell made a good point, that only in Portland would people be overly aggressive in their excitement, when it comes to someone talking about books. Yes it is true, people were raging in cheers over the topic of books. It was a lot like when you put a group of rednecks in a field full of animals and tell them to go hunting. The difference is that people in Portland devour knowledge through the words they read and the rednecks don’t get any smarter devouring the meat that they acquire from killing Bambi’s mother.
They Might Be Giants, played a number of their big hitters, as well as some of their new songs. The energy level from the audience was through the roof. I personally was pumped to hear Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and Particle Man, since I have been dying to hear these songs live, ever since I first heard them on Tiny Toons, when I was little kid. They also played one of my faves, Birdhouse in Your Soul, which I have been a fan of for a long time as well. Seriously though, what TMBG fan is not in love with the songs from their album Flood?!?!? When the Ballroom got a special visit from the Avatars of They, I about pissed myself from internal laughing, since I was taping during that time. The Avatars were hilarious and they blessed us with one of their songs that TMBG stole from them and recorded without permission, Spoiler Alert.
At about mid-show, John Flansburgh gave a sales pitch to the crowd about the giant 6’ tall posters that were for sale. These limited edition, hand done, silk screen posters on mid grade art paper, were of a picture of their latest album, Join Us. Flansburgh delivered a convincing sales pitch and notified the crowd that the posters are actually cheaper than a Dave Matthews Band concert shirt, which probably sealed the deal for many fans. During one part the show, TMBG divided the people on the floor into 2 groups. The underage section were called the “People” and the bar crowd were dubbed the “Apes”. The remainder of the crowd in the balcony were labeled the 1%’ers and were asked to just watch the People vs. the Apes and not actually partake in the battle. When the band members on stage right started playing, the People would raise their fists into the air and chant “People, People, People…” and when the guys on stage left started to play, the Apes would do the same, but chant “Apes, Apes, Apes…”. The battle was intense and in the end, Flansburgh announced that it was a tie… If you ask me though, I would tell you that the People rocked those Apes faces.
Overall this was definitely a special show that I will be sure to keep in my stash of good memories. Being on the Ballroom’s floor is truly like dancing on air. I know this is true, since I have danced on air while under the influence of LSD before. The music was great and the show led to many good laughs. I will be sure to hit any They Might Be Giants shows that are in a 500 mile radius around Eugene, Oregon. The band sent us away with a triple encore! The last song of the night was their new single, When Will You Die?. Not sure if there was any better way to spend my night in Portland. This night was epic in almost every aspect. The only thing that could of made my night a bit better is if the venue wasn’t so packed and that if the tall people stood in back, but I am not complaining.