Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making a Birdhouse in my Soul

Allow me a trip down memory lane. As someone who grew up on classical music (more or less), one of the first rock bands I was introduced to in high school was They Might Be Giants. The quirky, sometimes nonsensical lyrics and unexpected instrumentation captured my imagination, and TMBG, along with the Beatles and R.E.M., opened me up to new genres of music.

So, when I found out TMBG were playing a special show featuring the album Flood on Tuesday night, I convinced Michael to come along and relive the experience live. Probably their most popular album (the Johns joked on stage that it recently went platinum... making it the slowest album to ever achieve platinum status), it's hard to believe that it was released in 1990. Twenty years ago! Man, that makes me feel old - although I can at least say I wasn't yet in high school at the time. After opening with a few of their newer "science" songs, John and John kicked into Flood: "It's a brand new record for nineteen-ninety..." followed closely by the entire audience singing along to "Birdhouse in Your Soul".

I remember the first TMBG concert I went to. It was back in college, and Amy G (Amy S at the time) and I took the bus up from PLU to the Moore Theater in Seattle, fully aware that by the time the concert ended there would be no more buses running to get us back to Tacoma. We toyed with the idea of staying at the airport, but luck was with us , and I spotted someone I knew, a fellow PLU student, in the audience. Would she be able to give us a ride? No, but she knew someone else who could. After the show, we piled into our benefactor's car, and everything went smoothly until we got to the edge of campus and the little car sputtered and died. Talk about timing!

As TMBG worked their way through their songs on Tuesday, I smiled, thinking back on those times. Not about to let them go, the audience called the band back onstage for an encore after the last strains of "Road Movie to Berlin" died away. And then a second encore after that. For their final song, TMBG pulled out another oldie, the infamous "Fingertips".

Ah, "Fingertips". This brings me back to high school again, when spending spring break of my sophomore year on the ferry heading up to Alaska. Three of the girls in our group became obsessed with the schizophrenic song, which is nothing more than a p[atchwork of unrelated song bits and pieces strung together in a way that is oddly effective. On the ferry, they would play "Fingertips" over and over, rewinding the tape (yes, we still had tapes back then) after each rendition to hear it again, never listing to any of the other songs on Apollo 18. The rest of us were mighty sick of that song by the time the trip was through.

But now, I can love it again. And sing along with every single word. Heading back out into the rainy night, I still felt the warmth of the atmosphere from the show. They Might Be Giants hasn't lost their touch.

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