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They Might Be Giants
Dr. B's in New York, NY
February 13, 1983
This is the first show the band performed under the name They Might Be Giants, and John & John's second show together. It is described in the liner notes of Then: The Earlier Years:
About six months [after playing Central Park in summer 1982 as "El Grupo de Rock 'n' Roll"] we performed our second show under the name "They Might Be Giants" at a showcase club in Soho called Dr. B's. Linnell played a Farfisa organ, and Flansburgh played the electric guitar, and our show also included a home-made taped rhythm track. In spite of a heavy snowstorm, 23 supportive friends came out, and the show was a big success.
The heavy snowstorm that occurred during the show was called the "Megapolitan Blizzard," and was written about in publications including the New York Times on February 13, 1983 in an article entitled "20-Inch Snowfall Paralyzes Much of Mid-Atlantic Area."
In an apparent string of coincidences, the number 23 kept popping up in relation to the show. Here's what has been said about the show:
- The show was attended by 23 people.
- They played 23 songs, although only 22 were planned.
- John Flansburgh and John Linnell each earned $23.
- John Linnell was 23 years old at the time.
- The show occurred on the 23rd of the month (though this appears to have not been the case).
John Linnell retold this story as recently as a 2012 interview, saying:
That was probably our first show as They Might Be Giants. It was the 23rd day of the month, we were quite possibly 23 years old, we played 23 songs in the set, and they took two dollars at the door, from the 23 people who showed up, and each of us were paid 23 dollars! We’ve told that story a few times over the years and there have been some embellishments; we added some stuff to make it more insane, but most of that is true.
John Flansburgh said on Twitter in 2012:
Crazy snow storm. And we were paid via coupon (like a showcase deal) so the audience [count] was kind of burned into [our] memories.
It was commonly agreed that the show occurred on the 23rd of the month (though both January 23 and February 23 were quoted by the band), but a promotional flyer created by the Johns in 1983 suggested a different date. The flyer, seen momentarily in the 2003 documentary Gigantic (A Tale Of Two Johns), contained a list of TMBG's then-recent shows and included February 13 at Dr. B's as the band's first show of 1983, which also lined up with the timeline of the blizzard.
In February 2023, the month of the show's 40th anniversary, John Flansburgh responded to fan comments about the date on Facebook, agreeing that the flyer and his memory of the blizzard both pointed to the date of the show actually being February 13, and as such, he instructed fans to "correct the official TMBW records!"
John Flansburgh described the show in a 1996 interview with Pitchfork:
A couple of years after we moved [to New York], a friend of ours got us a gig at this crappy showcase club called Dr. B's which was in Soho. He booked it a couple of months in advance so we had a lot of time to get the show together. We wrote a lot of material for it and really rehearsed like tons before this show. We were so over-caffeinated at that point. I imagine that we seemed like just the most hyperactive people. It's kind of taken us a while to calm down and gain some composure, but that first show was pretty interesting.
At that first show, we were doing a lot of stuff that I thought was kind of creepy and I thought that people would react to the material in a creepy way. And I remember being very surprised at how light everyone took everything. We weren't presenting ourselves as sort of heavy, goth people, but we were fairly influenced by The Residents and Pere Ubu and a lot of post-punk art rock bands that had kind of a legit thing about them, even though they were kind of weird. We were a little bit taken aback at how... jolly the perception in the crowd was to our like, fucked-up kind of, "My arm... I can't feel my arm!" kind of songs. The songs were far weirder than the songs we do now. There was probably a lot less to smile about than there is now. I wouldn't have been surprised if people thought we were really self-involved and maybe even self-indulgent, but I wasn't expecting people to think that it was just so much... "fun."
John Linnell also discussed the show on the Bullseye podcast with Jesse Thorn in 2021:
The thing with Dr. B's was we just sent out invitations and people who we knew came to see us and nobody else who was there who happened to be in there was particularly interested in what we were doing. And you know, it just felt a little bit weird and alien. And we were not very confident in what we were doing.