Last night during The Both’s performance at the Mohawk in Austin, Aimee Mann revealed a fact about Ted Leo that I was unaware of. “Ted is a Hobbit nerd,” she announced during one of their many moments of mid-set banter. This proclamation caught my attention because I happen to also be an avid fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work (I’ve been known to show up randomly at friends’ houses dressed as Gandalf, although I’ve never left any marks on their doors). While Mann threw out this detail about Leo as a little jab, he wore the “Hobbit nerd” label with pride the remainder of the show, revealing more and more of his nerdom with each passing song. Here are some facts I learned about Leo and his vast knowledge of Middle Earth:
1. His favorite of Tolkien’s works happen to be The Silmarillion and The Book of Lost Tales because he is interested in the mythology of Middle Earth.
2. The entire “Hobbit nerd” discussion actually started because Aimee was introducing the song “Hummingbird” which she explained was partially based on Leo’s love of Middle Earth. I still think she should have entitled the song “Thrush” or “Raven” or even “Roäc.” It’s a wonderful song, nonetheless.
3. When someone drunkenly yelled, “Hobbits smoke weed!” Leo quickly replied that the best pipe weed in Middle Earth is grown by Old Toby in Longbottom.
4. In the days of dial-up internet Ted Leo led chapter discussions on a Middle Earth message board. I like to believe his username was “Tyranny_Of_Durins_Day.”
5. Leo followed one of their songs by reciting the entire first paragraph of The Hobbit.
6. When asked sarcastically by Mann where Hobbits come from, Leo explained in a scholarly fashion that they migrated from the west and arrived to the Shire in the Third Age.
7. This prompted her to ask if there is a Hobbit language. Again, Leo was quick to answer that their language is based on Olde English (Tolkien’s specialty).
8. He dedicated one of their songs to Bullroarer Took, who he explained once knocked Golfumbel’s head off and it rolled into a hole, creating the game of golf. I was hoping for a Belladonna shout out that never came (Bilbo came from her loins, damn it!).
9. When Mann questioned how a punk could also be a “Hobbit nerd,” Leo explained that Crusties, a sub-group of the punk rock movement, were huge Tolkien fans (this statement cannot be verified).
10. Leo said that after the show he’d be having a drink with Tom Bombadil at the Prancing Pony. Unfortunately, I wandered Sixth Street for the next three hours but was unable to locate the legendary watering hole. Damn you Tom Bombadil and your mystical ways!