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Setlist: (incomplete and possibly out of order)
They Might Be Giants
King's Head Inn in Norfolk, VA
January 20, 1987
Fan Recaps and Comments:
In a 2005 interview with Lumino Magazine, John Flansburgh stated that this show was when the band first started playing Istanbul (Not Constantinople):
Flansburgh: We started playing Istanbul in like 1986, [sic] I guess. On our first national tour we were booked in a place called the King’s Head Inn in Norfolk, Virginia. We were given this little memo that said, ‘And by the way, they need two hour-long sets.’ We were coming from New York where we were playing at clubs like The Pyramid Club and 8BC, which were these very downtown, super-druggy, super-gay, super-transvestitey clubs where you would play for 20 minutes. That was it. We would change our show pretty often, but there wasn’t a call for doing what anyone would consider a full-length show, let alone like a mid-Atlantic bar length show.
Inteviewer: Like Bruce Springsteen.
Flansburgh: Yes. Exactly. So we had to learn a lot more songs. We learned Istanbul basically because it was like a two-chord song, and also it has like this yodeling thing in it, which I can do. But it was really just to pad out the show.
John Flansburgh would talk more in-depth about learning the song for the show in a 2013 interview:
We were going on our second tour of the U.S. [sic], and we were playing at a place called the King's Head Inn in Norfolk, Virginia, which is basically a sailor bar. They would have bands come in and play Allman Brothers' covers. It was a time when we took our contractual obligations a lot more seriously than we should have, but I think we were just nervous by temperament and had no idea how seriously the contract would be taken. So it said that we had to play two hours of original material. We were a duo that played really short songs and worked with a drum machine, so everything was prerecorded, and I think if we played every song we knew how to play we only had about 50 minutes of material. Our show was only 40 minutes long at the time, which was perfectly adequate for New York.
So, we're playing in this crazy bar and we've got this contract and we don't know what to do, so we learned the simplest covers we could think of. The truth is, "Istanbul" is two chords, F minor and C. I knew it from my childhood. This was pre-Internet, so when you did a cover of a song it wasn't always easy to find a recording of it. I'm not sure if we even listened to the Four Lads version; we might have just winged it.
John Flansburgh would also mention learning more covers for the show on Tumblr in 2023:
The only time we really had to rush to get more songs into the show was on our very first national tour playing a bar in Norfolk, VA that had a contract for two sets of some length (probably 40 minutes a set or something) and that actually was about four times the material we had actively in the show. We prepped a lot of new material, and shined up some songs we had either thought about or played in rehearsals for fun. Brand New Key, Why Does the Sun Shine, Istanbul were all in there and there might have been a couple more but I just don’t recall.
John Linnell talked about this show in a 1988 interview with John Bruni of the Campus Times.
Well, there was the show in Norfolk Virginia, at the King's Head Inn, and at that show we had, uh, several really messed up members of the audience scream "Pencil dick" at us when we started to play our song, Pencil Rain. And they were so completely out of their minds that after we introduced the song and told them it was from the film "Pencil Dicks," starring the three of them, they became instant fans and danced for the rest of the night and then came out and got our autographs out at the truck later.
According to members of the King's Head Inn Facebook group, the band only played for around 15 people at the show, and the opener was a cover band that played Ted Nugent.