Geeks Make Good in Port Washington

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There was not an empty seat at the They Might be Giants (TMBG) concert on Saturday at Landmark on Main Street–at least not until the second set, when all of the seats were empty as the entire audience was on its feet, with many dancing in front of the stage. Despite having performed a sold-out family show earlier in the day, the band was bursting with energy, and that energy seemed to spread throughout the audience too.

 

Combine Sesame Street, Devo, Alton Brown, Mythbusters, Schoolhouse Rock, Pee Wee Herman, The Beastie Boys, and a demented klezmer band, and you’ll get something approximating TMBG. Simultaneously entertaining and educational, their extremely diverse mix of musical styles runs the gamut from swing to alt-rock, and everything in between. The band was formed nearly 30 years ago by high school friends John Linnell (vocals, keyboards, accordion) and John Flansburgh (vocals, guitar). They have performed as a duo, and with other musicians. This show also featured Dan Miller (guitar), Marty Beller (drums), Danny Weinkauf (bass) and Stan Harrison (sax/clarinet).

It was apparent upon setting foot into the Jeanne Rimsky Theater that this would be no ordinary show. There was more equipment, lights, and décor on the stage than I had ever seen before, including LED lighting decorating the drums. The audience was younger–with the average age being about 30. The crowd went crazy when TMBG took to the stage, and most knew the words to every song.

The first part of the show demonstrated the band’s intelligent songwriting, clever performing, and multi-instrumental talent. They opened with “She’s an Angel” followed by the alt-country sounding “Cowtown” and the Elvis Costello-ish “Memo to Human Resources.” The “two Johns”–Flansburgh and Linnell–took turns on vocals, and both were excellent leads as well as able to carry strong harmonies. A highlight was “Meet the Elements” where they sang about the periodic table.

Somewhere in the middle of the show, the band left the stage and a screen lowered, and the audience was treated to a show of two eccentric sock-puppets manned by Flansburgh and Linnell. This odd break was followed by a loud command to “get out of your seats and down to the stage” as a cannon fired confetti up in the air and into the crowd.

At this point, I lost my pen.

Now, it’s very embarrassing for a writer to admit to losing her pen in the midst of reviewing a concert, but trust me, in the excitement you would have lost your pen too.

The audience, as one, rose from their seats and rushed toward the stage, many vacating the balcony and back rows and converging at the front and around the sides of the stage. The band exploded into its second set and the front of the theater resembled a mosh pit from the 1980s. The audience never sat down for the rest of the show. The second half of the concert included such gems as “The Guitar,” “Dr. Worm,” “Ana Ng,” and “Damn Good Times.”

In the middle-aged performers on the stage you could clearly see the young bright geeks they had been in the 1980s when they first started playing together. When they left the stage after a rousing version of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” the audience erupted into cheers and applause and would not stop until the band returned for five encores, including “Drink!” “Alphabet of Nations,” “Stalk of Wheat,” “Where Your Eyes Don’t Go” and “Why Does the Sun Shine.” When TMBG finally vacated the stage, they left behind 425 exhausted fans, an inch-thick carpet of confetti, and the memory of probably the most exciting show that has ever taken place on the Landmark stage. I didn’t envy the cleaning crew, however.

This was the opening show of Landmark on Main Street’s 2010-2011 lineup and if it was any indication of what is to come, this is going to be an outstanding season.

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