Flood, TMBG's breakthrough album and the one that casual fans of the band are most likely to know, is not my favorite of their albums -- that honor is held by Apollo 18, and I would probably rank Lincoln, The Else, and possibly John Henry above it as well, in terms of "if I were to choose a TMBG album to listen to in its entirety, which am I most likely to pick?" But Flood will always hold a special place in my heart, because it's the album through which I discovered this, my all-time favorite band. It was the second commercially recorded tape I ever bought for myself, and probably the first I ever wore out from continuous play. It was also the first concert I ever saw, a free show in Union Square in the summer of 1990, back when it was just John and John and a drum machine and a collection of random instruments. And I will always remember what it felt like to be crowded on the pavement with a thousand of my fellow fans, enraptured in fangirl glee, listening to these two guys play live versions of songs that I'd listened to over and over, the same songs but new and different, like Whistling in the Dark performed on only a marching band bass drum and an accordion. And hearing Shoehorn With Teeth for the first time, and driving down to the city with my co-worker Beth and wandering around the mall and being free in downtown San Francisco -- no parents, no aunts, no school trip minders -- for possibly the first time ever.
And it was this that I was thinking about on Sunday night, standing on the floor of the Fillmore just over 21 years later, listening to the entire album played in reverse order (with a half set beforehand and a short interlude of newer works between the two sides of the album). They've changed up many of the arrangements, partly because they play with a full band now (and the band is awesome -- their guitarist, Dan Miller, is incredibly talented, and his acoustic guitar version of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" is a thing of beauty) and I'm sure partly so they don't get completely bored of them. But they remain the songs we know and love, and the nostalgia provoked by dancing and singing along (because of course I know every word by heart) was intense.
Twenty years. Can it really have been so long ago?
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