By popular request, I'm posting a run-down of the TMBG / McSweenys show I went to last week. This is an e-mail that I wrote to my man jmv over the weekend. As you'll see I'm not nearly as stand-offish and sarcastic in personal correspondence as I am in blog form.
so anyway, the show. i went with my friend jed, and neither of us knew what to expect. it was billed as "a night of music an literature." and the "vs." sign really threw me off. what was funny is that there was a definite dichotomy in the audience: the music geeks there to see TMBG, and the book geeks there to see mcsweeny's. lots of tension. a lot of people actually left at intermission once the readings were over.
the show started out with "older" and "the ballad of timothy mcsweeny,"
which i hadn't heard before. there was a foreboding podium on stage left.
after the two songs dave eggers came out, and he an john flansburgh gave a
hilarious explanation about how the mcsweenys / tmbg collaboration came
about. then dave introduced this social commentator person named sarah
vowell, who gave a talk about her morbid fascination with the darker parts
of american history, particularly the salem witch trials (did you know that
the founder of salem was john flansburgh's 12th great grandfather?). the
band was on stage the whole time, and they played a song called "gallows
hill and andersonville" which was based on her monologue when she was done.
dave eggers did a 30-minute monologue called "mrs. gunderson" that changed my life. that man is the messiah of humor. it had everything: pure slapstick, situational absurdism, high- and low-burlesque... and fit together seamlessly. it was like a gabriel garcia marquez novel, only it makes your face hurt because you're laughing so hard. and at the same time it was a really honest and insightful look at the mindset of a 13-year-old boy discovering sexuality and his place in the world. just... so... GOOD! he was signing books after the show and i wished i had brought my copy of staggering genius.
and then there was an intermission, and the second half of the show was a rock-solid straight-up TMBG concert. notably absent from the playlist was anything from lincoln or the pink album, but their live performances of the newer stuff -- off NO! and mink car -- were truly inspired. they also played james k. polk and dr. worm, which was neat. no destination moon or snowball in hell, alas. come to think of it they may not have played anything off john henry, either.
have you ever seen them do their radio improv thing? it was the first time i had seen it, but jed (who's seen them five times) says they've been doing it for a while. what they do is bring a radio on stage, find whatever songs are playing, and improv along with them. at one point flansburgh was singing italian opera.
so anyway, it was a very nice evening, the perfect pick-me-up before the
drudgery of finals.