That first vision of the band, though, with leaders John Lindell and John Flansburgh sporting towering hats in the “Don’t Let’s Start” video, was an appropriate introduction to a musical project that knows no boundaries, musically or lyrically. In the years since that debut, They Might Be Giants have become leaders of a hipster children’s-music movement, earned praise as NPR regulars and continued to put out solid-if-quirky albums full of fanciful ideas.
Their latest is Join Us, and it’s a fine addition to what is an excellent catalog of nerd-rock. Friday, the band’s tour in support of the effort stopped at The Depot, and once again they were greeted as conquering heroes by a Utah audience.
That’s pretty typical; They Might Be Giants are one of those peculiarly popular acts here in Zion. It might be because they’re considered “safe” when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll bands. It might be because their children’s albums have found an audience with those children’s parents. It might be because old “alternative” stations like KJQ played them to death during the formative years of many a Utah music geek.
Whatever the reason, the excited crowd always helps make a They Might Be Giants show memorable, and that was the case at The Depot (a 21-and-older bar space, it should be noted) Friday night. Songs from Join Us easily intermingled with old favorites like “Birdhouse in Your Soul,” “Clap Your Hands” and “Dead.” “Ana Ng” was particularly strong Friday, accompanied by a wide screen filled with squiggly animation at the back of the stage.
Throughout the show, "the two Johns” were their usual charming selves, cracking wise and leading a rock-solid band through song after song that capture all of American pop history in their grooves. These guys are historians as much as musicians, and their ability to meld various styles of American music into funny, catchy, original tunes makes their live arsenal all the more impressive.
You can make fun of They Might Be Giants for being “nerds.” You might find their music gimmicky. But you can’t deny the skills, and the fun their audiences have at their shows. There’s a reason I keep going to see them whenever I get the chance.