Hey! Welcome to Weird Al Week! For a few more weekdays, Milwaukee Record will be filling your feed with fresh, funny, and slightly fanatical Al-related materiel. It all leads up to the two Weird Al shows at Pabst Theater April 9 and 10, as well as a performance from longtime Al band members Steve Jay and Jim West at Shank Hall April 11. Fun!
Cal Roach: I’ve been doing my best to avoid seeing any setlists on this tour, but it’s probably for the best that I abandoned hope early for that “Gotta Boogie” bust-out, and I recall reading months ago that “Hardware Store” was out of contention. Other than that, I’m hoping most of the originals are fair game. I’d have no problem whatsoever with a strict no-song-parodies rule…but if I could pick just one, it would have to be “Chicken Pot Pie.” Surely by now, Paul McCartney has realized that none of Al’s songs actually encourage the consumption of animal flesh. Well, except maybe “Eat It.” But I digress.
Have I mentioned how much I love “One More Minute?” I denounce my fandom if he doesn’t play this at least once. It used to be a live staple but it’s been on the shelf since 2005. I badly need to sing “‘Cause I’m stranded all alone in the gas station of love / And I have to use the self-service pump” loudly with a roomful of people, because when I try it out of the blue at trendy whiskey bars nobody else seems to know the words. Really, anything from Dare To Be Stupid would be welcome; I don’t dare get my hopes up for “Slime Creatures From Outer Space,” but “This Is The Life” should be a no-brainer. Speaking of sing-alongs, “Good Enough For Now” would be amazing. I don’t understand how a person can listen to that song and not laugh.
Near the top of my wishlist: “Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White.” Probably Al’s greatest rocker, and a ridiculous time-capsule moment for anyone who was paying attention to pop culture in 1988. How he managed to complete that song without including a single sexual innuendo is beyond me. “Why don’t you let me buy a vowel from you?” doesn’t count, does it?
One thing I’ve always loved about Al: He knows how to end an album. An epic like “Albuquerque” (or, God forbid, “Trapped In The Drive Thru”) would be pretty tubular, although “Genius In France” strikes me as a bit too convoluted to pull off. Obviously, “Twine Ball” or bust. And heck, the last three songs on the first album, any or all; “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead” in particular has been a personal anthem of mine at various points in my life, and how could anyone not like “Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung?” Oh, come on, lighten up!
I should include some newer stuff, right? “Sports Song” seems unlikely. “Weasel Stomping Day” would be cool. I wouldn’t mind “Wanna B Ur Lovr,” especially if the person next to me sings the “Do you mind if I chew on your butt?” line at the top of their lungs. I’m not saying I’ll be cringing during the more recent material, but it’s the oldies that I’ll be singing along to, mainly. So what I’m saying is I’m hoping for as much accordion and armpit flatulence as possible.
Rob Wieland: I’ve seen “Weird Al” Yankovic a few times in my life. Twice at Summerfest, once at the Waukesha County Fair. Each of these has a fun little anecdote tied to the experience. My favorite story is when he played Summerfest the night of a scary-as-hell lightning storm. The headliners shows, including the Marcus Amphitheater, had all been delayed in the hopes that the storm would blow over. Playing electrically amplified musical instruments seems like a terrible idea when lightning bolts are being flung around like an issue of X-Men. After a half hour, the Summerfest Guy Who Usually Does The Closing Announcement came over the PA:
“Ladies and gentlemen, due to extreme weather conditions, all the 10 p.m. headliner shows including Red Hot Chili Peppers have been cancelled…”
…the entire festival park let out a mix of groans, sighs, and boos…
…”except for ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic!”
The stage he was playing at was under the Hoan bridge, so it seemed safe from the storm. Our chunk of the park erupted in the second loudest crowd pop I have ever head in my life live. The first loudest? The moment after Weird Al hit the stage, leaned into his microphone and said, “YOU PEOPLE ARE NUTS!”
I am usually not one of Those Concert People. You know the ones, who trade bootlegs of shows from Peoria and nervously look at setlists hoping that whatever combination of artist whim and personal luck will mean the show they’re attending will have all killer (“The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota”!) and no filler (“I’ll Sue Ya”).
This tour has turned me into one of these poor, unfortunate souls.
It looks like that both style parodies and original songs are on the menu. I didn’t even know there was a difference between these things, but welcome to a deeper level of fandom, I guess. The odds seem good that he’ll play “UHF” on one, if not both nights, and judging by the sing-alongs at The Vanguard on Wednesday night, “Dare To Be Stupid” and “This Is The Life” will hopefully be on the menu. Why am I fretting over this stuff?
I think it’s because this feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. By all accounts, this tour is doing well, but the next time Al comes through Milwaukee it’s likely he’ll go back to his usual manic show full of parodies. That’s fine—”Yoda” is a brilliant song and a killer set closer—but this tour offers the best chance by volume of hearing a deep cut live. I want to hear songs like “Velvet Elvis” or “One More Minute” or “Craigslist,” and I find myself hoping these songs don’t appear at any shows before Milwaukee. I can’t imagine how fans of multiple artists like this live. It makes me sad.
Shit, now I hope he does “Generic Blues,” too.
Matt Wild: Glancing at various setlists on this tour (I haven’t had your will to avoid them, Cal), I’ve been reminded of an old axiom about Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, MAD Magazine, and other geeky bits of pop culture that have been around for decades: the best years of those bits of pop culture are when you happened to be 13-15 years old. That certainly holds true for Al. So yeah, I’m hoping to hear a lot of the “oldies” that have already been mentioned: “One More Minute,” “Good Enough For Now,” “The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota.” Those songs, along with others like “Midnight Star” and “Melanie” are all in my 13-15-year-old wheelhouse.
But damn, flipping through later albums (and what a joy it has been revisiting all of these albums), I find I love stuff like “Why Does This Always Happen to Me?” “Don’t Download This Song,” “Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me,” “Mission Statement,” and “Skipper Dan.” About that last one: Is there a better/funnier/more bittersweet song about unrealized dreams and diminishing returns than “Skipper Dan”? Eighteen-year-old me who fancied himself the next David Lynch says no.
But let’s not end this on a melancholy jungle-cruise-ride note. I guess the thing I’m most looking forward to hearing this week isn’t even a song—it’s the sound of weird Weird Al fans singing along to their favorite songs. I got a taste of that at our UHF screening last week—as well as at the Vanguard after-party—and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears. There we were, a bunch of grown men and women, singing along to a bunch of silly songs, staying true to our 13-15-year-old selves and grinning like idiots. I like that. It’s that simple. Thank you, Weird Al, for making that happen.
Also: Please, please, please play “You Don’t Love Me Anymore.” I did it for a city-wide lip-sync contest a million years ago and totally won $100. Good times.