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“More Notes, Less Feeling”

Thus spake John “Flans” Flansburgh at one point during the They Might Be Giants show at Penn's Landing this past weekend. Funny to me, because the opposite advice is what makes for musical success (Kenny G being the exception that proves the rule). There was no shortage of feeling during this show. I even caught John Linnell, the less demonstrative of the two Johns, jumping in place at one point. Heck, I even clapped my hands once or twice; I was “getting into it.” What I like best, though, is not their rock-and-roll energy or the exquisitely-crafted song structures or the engaging, poppy melodies, it's those funny lyrics. Flans' patter was pretty entertaining as well. In introducing one song, he told the audience, “In this song, 'The Man' is a code word for... The Man.”

I was hoping that because of the beautiful weather and WXPN's All About the Music festival across the river in Camden, attendance might be light. I was wrong. Well, the Great Plaza wasn't packed, but it was full to capacity. We arrived around 6:00 right after Adrian Belew, so all the seats were long gone. We wanted to see, though, and were able to find a view of the stage by wedging in right next to the sound booth. In that position I should have been hearing the same mix as the engineers, but the balance was a little light on vocals. That was a shame, because I don't know all their songs by heart, and as I mentioned, I love their lyrics.

Unlike the last time we saw them, this was an adult show, although they did perform one number from Here Come the ABCs, “Alphabet of Nations.”

Afterward we met up briefly with Scott. He had two cameras with him and blogged the show as it happened. I had no camera. Me. Mr. Camera Geek Photographer Guy. I had read on the Penn's Landing web site that among the banned items were professional cameras and backpacks, so I left all my gear at home. Of course, there were backpacks, professional cameras, and other forbidden items in abundance.

After bidding adieu to Scott and his friends, we tried to score a foam finger. Flans said there were zillions (at one point in the show, he doubled the legal foam-finger allotment from one finger “per face” to one finger “per hand”), but we couldn't find any. We did get a pre-autographed copy of The Spine, their latest release, however. While the Johns were probably on their way back to Brooklyn already, we did observe longtime bass player Danny Weinkauf and relative-newcomer Marty Beller at the edge of the stage signing foam hands for the rabid fans. This made the lack of fingers a doubly bitter disappointment.

Dinner was taken nearby at the Continental, a place I knew only by reputation. Highly recommended, although it was so crowded and noisy we could hardly talk. Or maybe it was all that loud music still ringing in my ears.

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