Thursday, June 11, 2009

Surrealistic Pillows (Watching They Might Be Giants Watch Themselves)

Doc will solo!

So I'm sitting with John and John from They Might Be Giants. They're watching themselves on TV and sitting on my crappy $20 couch near the one window with an ocean view. (My ex-girlfriend recently claimed the couch had fleas, but I'm pretty sure you only got fleas with the $10 couches).

I'd been a They Might Be Giants fan going back to Don't Let's Start and thought their smart-ass geek-rock (with accordian) was often perfect. Plus, they name-checked the dBs and the Young Fresh Fellows on their new album (and had written a song about James K. Polk), so their bona fides were well established in my book.

The Johns had been plugging that TV appearance for weeks ("and Doc will solo!" they'd proclaim). This was before they had a real band -- it was just John singing and playing guitar and John singing and playing accordian live to prerecorded backing tracks (bass, drums, etc.). And every night my ex-girlfriend's uber-cool brother would control those backing tracks; "it's like remixing an album live every night," he said.

Now, I'm sure it was much cheaper not to bring a band on the road (plus, it was weird and quirky, just like They Might Be Giants). But obviously they wanted a real band and the freedom that would bring to change tempos and not limit their performances to preset times and rhythms.

That afternoon, they were in Burbank in front of hundreds of cheering fans and gushing guest-host Jay Leno. (I was at my crappy day job being cheered by no one.) But by 11:30 at night, they were in my small apartment on the beach on my crappy $20 couch (with or without the fleas) watching themselves on TV. I glanced at it, but mostly I watched them watch themselves. It was surreal -- and they gripped our couch pillows (which may have cost more than the couch, come to think of it) in horror. I think they'd been on TV before, but nothing on the scale of The Tonight Show.

After, they had absurd crticisms about their perceived physical flaws ("my forehead is enormous!") which no one else noticed.

Watching that performance now, it's clear they kicked ass that night (as they did most nights). And, as promised, Doc did solo. (Link for Gmail subscribers.)

But I wondered if, in their minds that night on the couch, what they saw looked more like this. (And which of the Johns was the fez-wearing shark?)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TMBG fall into the rarified group of people for me, in the same way that Holden Caulfield wanted to be able to call up Ring Lardner and "shoot the bull," because they were pals. You just know the Johns would be *fun* friends to have.