Published on April 16th, 2013 | by Jessica Mickey


The Versatile They Might Be Giants Deliver at the Music Farm

They Might be Giants
Music Farm, April 11

When it comes to my generation’s bands, They Might Be Giants is hands-down the one I’ve listened to the longest and most consistently throughout my 34 years of life. This was all much to the dismay of a roommate in college that hated the fact that they were my go-to dishwashing soundtrack, friends that claimed to have “outgrown” them in high school, and boyfriends who had to relinquish control of the car stereo during long road trips. I can see why some people can’t quite stomach them; they’re quirky, with occasionally odd rhythms, absurd lyrics, and two nasally singers both named John who sound eerily similar to each other. It’s an acquired taste for those that like their music unpredictable with a sense of humor — something I find lacking with most new groups nowadays.


They Might Be Giants at the Music Farm, April 2013 (photo by Jessica Mickey)

But even beyond their style, there’s something I find incredibly comforting about They Might Be Giants, like Roseanne reruns and a well-worn hoodie. I wondered, this being my fifth time seeing them, if my love for TMBG was merely nostalgia, associated with the green Doc Martens and clove cigarettes of my youth, or if there was something deeper than sentimentality from a girl who wishes she could still fit into her old leather jacket.

In the comfortably full venue last Thursday night, multi-instrumentalists John Flansburgh and John Linnell, supported by Dan Miller on guitar, Danny Weinkauf on bass, and Marty Beller on drums, kicked off their multimedia set with the beginning track on their new album Nanobots, “You’re on Fire,” before launching into the classic “Don’t Let’s Start.” Longtime fans, from brace-faced teenagers to alterna-nerd forty-somethings, crowded toward the front, bobbing to the kitschy grooves.

Flansburgh and Linnell — who simply do not age — are opposites of sorts; though Linnell is generally front-and-center on keys, singing lead on most of their songs, it’s Flansbergh that is more talkative and engaging with the audience, even having a fellow left-handed fan strum the strings on his guitar from his position at the front of the stage and encouraging audience participation on “Drink!” and “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.”

The men showed their musical versatility, switching from guitars to keys to accordions to theremin-like electronics to horns to puppets. Yes, sock puppets, as the Avatars of They, a la Liam Lynch Sifl and Olly style, for one of our favorites, “He’s Loco,” featuring such lyrics as “I write fan fiction for Two And A Half Men/He’s loco/I’m passionate.”


They Might Be Giants at the Music Farm, April 2013 (photo by Jessica Mickey)

Though they mostly highlighted songs of their new album, they brought out the stops with fan favorites such as “Put Your Hand Inside the Puppethead” and “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” After the third encore, which solely comprised of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” some of the crowd lamented that songs such as “Ana Ng” and “Particle Man” were left off the roster. But when you have a catalogue spanning 30-plus years, you can’t exactly squeeze in all the hits.

So, is it nostalgia that drew me in for a fifth time? Maybe. I danced and drank, sang along, and high-fived giddy fans around me. But I defy anyone to go to a TMBG show not enjoy the positive energy, theatrics, and sheer joy permeating the space. For a single glorious hour, I felt like I was once again rocking my Docs and wondering when I could go out back and sneak a clove. Thanks again, Johns. See you at number six.


They Might Be Giants at the Music Farm, April 2013 (photo by Ballard Lesemann)


They Might Be Giants at the Music Farm, April 2013 (photo by Ballard Lesemann)


They Might Be Giants at the Music Farm, April 2013 (photo by Ballard Lesemann)


They Might Be Giants at the Music Farm, April 2013 (photo by Jessica Mickey)




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About the Author

Jessica Mickey

has considered Charleston home since she first moved here in 2001. She regularly performs improv at Theatre 99 and dabbles in stand-up comedy in various venues around the Lowcountry. Jessica has also cohosted morning radio shows on 96Wave and 98X, as well as wrote the weekly column "The Chase is On" for the Charleston City Paper. She can barely play the ukulele Ballard bought her for Christmas last year, but after a couple of drinks, she can sing the shit out of some karaoke.

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