Standing On The Shoulders Of They Might Be Giants
One minute, they’re one hundred feet high and made of light. Then, just as quickly, there they were, standing just a few feet away: life-sized, all flesh, blood, and spectacles. They Might Be Giants. Right there in the East Village, just four subway stops (two local, two express) from my Hell’s Kitchen apartment. Reason number four hundred and seventy-two why I Love New York. And reason number one why I Love They Might Be Giants.
The event, of course, was the opening weekend of AJ Schnack’s documentary ‘Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns’ — a TMBG film with a Pixies’ title (love that).
Forget ‘Star Wars’ or ‘The Matrix’: bomb the queue in front of Cinema Village on East 12th and University last night, and the IQ if the East Village would drop by 25%. ‘Star Trek’ conventions would go empty. NPR would go off the air for lack of funds. Which is what’s so great about the band: you can dance to ’em, and they’re wicked smart.
The Johns (Flansburgh and Linnell) were on hand for Q&A after the two hour love letter to one of alternative rocks’ move loveable and normal duos. Normal, that is, in context with the cultural glitterati I know and love: Mike McKeon and Harry Shearer, Frank Black, Syd Straw, Sarah Vowell, Ira Glass, McSweeney’s Dave Eggers. If ever a film was of my people, this was it. (Throw in Michael Chabon, Nick Hornsby, Michael Stipe, Spike Jonze, David O. Russell, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn and Wes Anderson and I’m a pig in shit.)
And what a hoot! It was a reminder of just how foundational the band has been for DIY/CMJ rock, and for me personally: ‘Ana Ng,’ like ‘So. Central Rain,’ changed the way I heard music (both were introduced to me by my older brother, who joined me tonight at the screening). Over the years I have definately covered my fair shake of TMBG tunes: ‘Don’t Let’s Start’ was the first song Smokey Junglefrog (my college band) ever performed live. ‘Kiss Me, Son of God’ was one of our strangest. In 1994, Flansburgh was one of my first big interviews for The Saratogian (see “They Migh Be Giants: Dr. Seuss Meets Dr. Stephen J. Hawkins”). He was a peach. He was a sweety. He was game.
In tonights Q&A, both were game. On downloading music: “I don’t think a college kid wants to pay $.99 for anything” (Flansburgh). On whether or not they’d make music if they had no audience, “Yes, it would just be … quieter” (Linnell). On whether touring is more difficult as a parent, “Can I give you a one word answer for that? That word is ‘Uh'” (Linnell).
And so, tonight, I found myself moved. Inspired. Standing on the shoulders of giants — it left me warm.