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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September: One More for the Road

Last weekend I drove up to Lancaster, PA to see They Might Be Giants. I've enjoyed TMBG quite a bit; not as hardcore as my brother or some friends who seem to know the track list of every album and the lyrics to all the songs, but enough to want to cough up thirty bucks to seem them in concert. And see them I did, in an ultimately annoyingly small venue that attracted a wide range of listeners, from kids coming with their parents (and maybe even grandparents) to drunk obnoxious idiots who did their most violent thrashing and moshing in the quiet moments between the opening act and that headliner. It takes a special kind of idiot to mosh without music, but in their special mission, they achieved great success.

The opening act was Les Chauds Lapins (forgive the link to MySpace), a niche opener if I ever heard one. A duet, a guy and a girl, both playing banjos (and, eventually, an antique-looking acoustic guitar), performing almost exclusively French pop songs from the 20s, 30s, and 40s. I thoroughly enjoyed their show, the music was great, the French was lovely, and I found their vocalist incredibly cute, especially when she sang raunchy French lyrics. Reactions ranged from distracted apathy to simmering rage. I'm sure there were some who enjoyed them as much as I did.

At last, two hours after the show was supposed to begin, TMBG took the stage, promising to play one song from each of their albums. Since one of their first songs was from the one album of theirs that I actually know well, I almost immediately struck out for sing-a-longs. Peppered amid obscure fan favorites were a smattering of songs I recognized, but the good thing about TMBG is that every song was good, every song they played would be something I'd listen to on the album a bunch of times, and the concert only made me want to listen to their music more. They came back for not one, but two encores, and closed with the ever-popular Birdhouse in Your Soul and a long schizophrenic "song" that is really dozens of song-ideas mashed together. So, like quirky French opener and obnoxious musicless moshers, another resounding success for the evening.

Only downer was dinner at Fudruckers. I'll never make that mistake again. Another long-cherished childhood memory shattered.

So that was Friday night. Saturday night, something special happened: a performer actually came to Delaware. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, one of my favorite comedians came and played the Grand Opera House here in lil' ol' Wilmington, DE.

His name is Patton Oswalt, and he is one of the funniest men alive.

What I like about Oswalt ("Patton" to his friends) is that he seems to never repeat material. I've followed his comedy only through his standup (oh yeah, and Ratatouille), from the Comedians of Comedy and his albums, and now live, and he never seems to regurgitate jokes. So many comedians play from a tight script, and while Patton obviously has "bits" (forgive the show-biz talk, I mean jokes), he always seems to pack them in fresh, natural dialogue that doesn't feel rehearsed, like some wellspring of new material.

I showed up to the opera house alone, determined to make the Patton's visit to Delaware worth it, and I laughed my ass off. His opener was a guy from Philly (whose name I have forgotten) who was quite funny in a morbidly sad, passionately angry Bill Hicks kinda way. Once Patton took stage, the comedy came on like a caffeine buzz, just this inner energy that grew and grew, and I was that jackass who clapped when a bit finished and most people were too aghast to clap, who clapped when he tore Palin a new asshole and refused to care about the sparse applause. (Strange that so many in the crowd were as old as my parents ... did they know who was playing, or did they just have season tickets to the Opera House?) Patton was sick as a dog and damn near choked on (I can only assume) phlegm during an impromptu Tom Waits impression. His number one fear was, you guessed it, dying in Delaware.

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