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Fan Recaps and Comments:
Titled "For People Who Have to Get Up Early in the Morning", this was one of two shows at the Bottom Line hosted by K-Rock disc jockey Vin Scelsa, who was also involved in the second annual Vin Scelsa Easter Acoustic Extravaganza. Admission was $11.
Preview of the show from the New Yorker, Apr. 20, 1987:
The duo called THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS is a rock-vaudeville team. JOHN LINNELL, the handsome, wavy-haired one, sings, plays accordion, banjo, and bass saxophone, and is a straight man for JOHN FLANSBURGH, the short haired, fashionably nerdy-looking one (black-rimmed, Elvis Costello-style glasses; white socks; stout black shoes), who sings and plays guitar while jumping and pitching himself around the stage like a really wound-up rock star. In their shows, which sometimes feature large props, the Giants use a tape machine as a rhythm section. The songs that Linnell and Flansburgh write — "I Will Date the Girl from Venus for Science," "Youth Culture Killed My Dog," "Hide Away Folk Family" (a number in which audience members are invited to "scream as if you were in hell" for sixteen bars) — have simple, catchy tunes and dense, pun-filled lyrics that are often clever and sometimes funny. They Might Be Giants perform here on Sunday, April 26, at seven-thirty and ten-thirty, along with Uncle Bonsai and Rage to Live.
Preview of the show from the Record, Apr. 24, 1987:
Neither an accident nor a robbery could prevent John Flansburgh and John Linnell, who make up the pop duo They Might Be Giants, from getting their music heard. Instead of on-stage microphones, the pair used the telephone.
"We had tossed the idea of Dial-A-Song around for a while," said Linnell. "But when I had an accident [a broken wrist] that prevented me from playing the accordion and John had all his musical equipment stolen, we quickly put it into operation."
Forced to forgo the club scene, the two used a telephone-answering machine to spread their musical messages. Dial-A-Song — a toll-call to (718) 387-6962 — features a different toe-tapping tune from the pair every day. Since the line was put into operation about three years ago, Linnell says, they get an average of 50 calls daily and approximately 30 minutes of messages after the beep. Not bad for a relatively unknown New York-based duo whose music brings new meaning to the word weird.
Linnell and Flansburgh favor a song formate of two minutes or less, mixing equal parts pop, rock, and country, with dashes of polka, salsa, and TV-cartoon theme music tossed in for good measure. But it's not the unusual musical mix that sets them apart; it's their wacky lyrics. In "Youth Culture Killed My Dog," Flansburgh, who strums an electric guitar (the neck of which advertises the phone number for Dial-A-Song), sings:
Bacharach and David used to write his favorite songs. Never would he worry, he'd just run and fetch the ball. But the hiphop and the white funk just blew away my puppy's mind.
While it would be easy to dismiss They Might Be Giants as just another novelty act in the same vein as Weird Al Yankovic, a closer listen to the pair's extremely hummable tunes reveals a bit of subtle satire. In the 19 songs on their debut album — "They Might Be Giants," released by the Hoboken-based Bar/None Records — they use their wry humor to attack such subjects as rock-music fads ("Rhythm Section Want Ad") and death ("Hope That I Get Old Before I Die").
"We like to refer to what we do as sophisticated, head-bopping music," said a chuckling Flansburgh, during a telephone conversation from Minneapolis. Linnell was quick to add that their music has enormous appeal. "Our demographics are certainly wider than Ratt's [a heavy-metal band], and our parents have given us the thumbs up."
Currently, Flansburgh and Linnell are taking a break from their jobs as free-lance graphic designers to do a month-long tour ("We're playing everything from big, clean disco clubs to small rat holes," said Flansburgh). The tour will bring They Might Be Giants to the Bottom Line in Manhattan Sunday night.
Flansburgh, 26, and Linnell, 27, met as youngsters when both were attending the same grammar school in a Boston suburb. Their interest in music began during their high-school years, but it was only after both moved to New York that they began to pursue it as a career. They chose the name They Might Be Giants, said the curly haired Linnell, not because of the 1971 movie of the same name but because "we thought it was the best name we could choose."
"The only other name we thought was better — the Beatles — had already been taken," he added. Word of their unique live performances — during which they play and sing along to a prerecorded rhythm track — began to spread, and soon they attracted a loyal following.
"We started doing shows in performance art spaces," said Flansburgh, the bespectacled crew-cut member of the duo. "It was slow going, at first, because we would do a completely different show, with all different songs, every time we performed. Now what we're doing is more like a normal rock show."
Maybe it's normal to him. But when's the last time you saw rock performers hold up cue cards to lead a sing-along, or fence with loaves of French Bread?
They Might Be GIants will be at the Bottom Line, 15 W. Fourth St., Manhattan, Sunday night for two shows at 7:30 and 10:30. Opening acts are Uncle Bonsai and Rage to Live. Tickets, priced at $11, are available at the Bottom Line box office.
Preview of the show from the New York Times, Apr. 25, 1987:
The disk jockey Vin Scelsa will be the host for a triple bill of eccentric folk-pop, called For People Who Have to Get Up Early in the Morning, tomorrow at the Bottom Line, 15 West Fourth Street (228-7880). Featured will be They Might Be Giants, Uncle Bonsai and Rage to Live. They Might Be Giants cram puns and paradoxes into manic songs; Uncle Bonsai, two women and a male countertenor with a guitar, itemizes the vagaries of romance and junk culture. Rage to Live is led by Glenn Morrow, formerly of the Individuals. Shows at 7:30 and 10:30 P.M.; tickets are $11.