Wednesday, October 4th, 2006
Warning – there will be NO ass-beating plays on words in this review. None.
Declaration one – I love Yo La Tengo. Declaration two – I’ve never really enjoyed a live show of theirs. I’ve seen them twice, and both times they were meandering, self-indulgently jammy and generally not very entertaining. There were moments of greatness both times but on the whole – and it’s a large whole, they play LONG – more disappointing than transcendent. But considering those tours were in support of their two snooziest albums (And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out and Summer Sun), a rock spectacle probably couldn’t be expected. But with their latest record I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass being a terrifically eclectic slab of all that makes Yo La Tengo great, I was actually excited about their show at the Phoenix Monday night. Third time lucky and all that.
I knew nothing about openers why? (proper case and punctuation essential) before actually seeing them take the stage and while for whatever reason I expected the worst – possibly because some reviews of earlier shows from thoroughly non-credible sources weren’t very kind – I was quite pleasantly surprised. The trio created folk-pop that sounded like it was being viewed through a broken kaleidoscope. Their songs were, at the core, quite accessible and pretty but they sounded like they were built with one leg shorter than the other, such that they staggered and lurched most entertainingly, but also completely intentionally. They also drew a pretty sizable number of fans who were probably there just to see them, judging from their enthusiasm. Pretty impressive all around.
I’ve decided that the best way to gauge a Yo La Tengo performance is by how they pull off “Blue Line Swinger”. First time I saw them, they weren’t bad but I recall they dragged out that song for what seemed like hours, most of that spent on the drums/organ intro. It went from hypnotic to tedious to almost excruciating. Second time… well, I don’t really remember if they played that one (thus harpooning my theory) but they did drag out “Nuclear War” for, again, what seemed like hours. I appreciate the fun in saying “it’s a motherf*cker” endlessly, but not so much for the audience. But Monday night? “Blue Line Swinger” was perfection – for that song, and really all the jammy/noisy numbers, everything was stretched out to just the right length, never getting overly self-indulgent or out of control, and balanced perfectly with the compact and upbeat poppy numbers and gently beautiful acoustic/keyboard ballads.
Though the set list didn’t draw exclusively from Beat Your Ass, it did reflect the eclecticism of the latest record (which in turns is an excellent microcosm of the band’s career) as well as its overall greatness. It was quite amazing to watch them shift so seamlessly between roles, instruments and styles and all so effortlessly and naturally – a more versitile and talented band you’re not likely to find anywhere. But best of all, I think, was the fact that the band seemed to be in a jovial mood and quite happy to be there – not something I’d have said about the previous shows. Ira, in particular, was chatty and engaging with the audience and didn’t at all seem like he wanted to beat… ahem.
But I am very pleased to be able to say that after many years of trying, I’ve finally seen a great Yo La Tengo show. Which means I’m one step closer to being able to die. Which probably isn’t something I should be aspiring to. But there you go. Photos from the show aren’t great – the lighting was a bear – but there is a new MP3 available courtesy of Ampcamp. It’s a James-sung tune and one of the highlights of the new album, if not the band’s entire discography. It’s that good. And no, they didn’t play it on Monday. Alas.
Photos: Yo La Tengo, why? @ The Phoenix – October 2, 2006
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Black Flowers”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Beanbag Chair”
MySpace: Yo La Tengo
Doug Martsch of Built To Spill self-deprecates to Northwest Indiana Times. I’ve been told that there’s talk of a Canadian BTS tour in 2007…?
Bradley’s Alamanac has Eric Bachmann’s recent show in Cambridge, MA available to download.
The Bluetones have canceled their Friday night show at Lee’s Palace with no formal explanation yet. The Tripwire has the cryptic, official statement from the band.
Wow. $177.50 USD. That’s amazing, thank you. Taking a cue (again) from rbally, here’s the receipt of the donation to the Pat Spurgeon Kidney Benefit courtesy of Rogue Wave. Thanks to everyone who bid, got the word out and to Chris in Calgary for the winning bid.
Server was down this morning. Sorries.
np – Wrens / The Meadowlands
Tuesday, September 26th, 2006
Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear were originally supposed to be in town at the ElMo this past Saturday night in support of their new record Yellow House, but abruptly cancelled when they got a better offer for how to spend their Fall – opening for TV On The Radio. At first, I thought it seemed a peculiar bill but the more I listen to their respective new albums, the more sense it makes.
While stylistically quite different – Grizzly Bear’s pastoral, ghostly medieval folk songs are light years (and centuries) removed from TVOTR’s urban, post-modern, synthesized soul but they’re both dense, challenging works that for all their experimentalism, still manage to have enough accessibility points so as to not be impenetrable. But that said, I’m surprised at the number of comments on the the Grizzly Bear record that declared instant love for it – I was definitely intruiged by it from the get go, but it’s been the very definition of a slow grower for me. That the record is beautiful is obvious – but it’s an intangible, ethereal sort of beauty. I’m still feeling kept at a bit of a distance, like the attraction is purely aesthetic. The emotional connection isn’t there yet. We need to talk a little, first. Get to know one another. It might take a while yet, but I’m patient. But either way, their show at the Opera House on October 12 should be quite the mind-altering experience.
Brooklynvegan recently conducted an interview with chief Bear Ed Droste while Stereogum got a look into their studio. Droste also does the blog thing from the road. The band has been unusually generous with MP3s from the new record – here’s three tracks from the new record, Salon can hook you up with another and finally, there’s a track from their recent mini-album of early material.
MP3: Grizzly Bear – “On A Neck, On A Spit” (from Yellow House)
MP3: Grizzly Bear – “Lullabye” (from Yellow House)
MP3: Grizzly Bear – “Knife” (from Yellow House)
MP3: Grizzly Bear – “Sure Thing” (from Sorry About The Delay)
MySpace: Grizzly Bear
As for their tourmates, CMJ talks to TVOTR about the importance of their Prospect Park show back in June. AZCentral.com and Jambase also have features on the band, which is kicking ass and taking names over at Metacritic. Like Grizzly Bear, I am still growing into Cookie Mountain, but it’s happening.
The Toronto Star talks to Polaris-winner Owen Pallet, aka Final Fantasy, about spending the next year with that adjective next to his name.
You may already have grabbed it from elsewhere, but there’s a new, sanctioned Okkervil River song up for grabs – “The President’s Dead” led off the Overboard And Down Aussie-only EP, but will be getting a domestic release as the A-side of a limited edition 12″ single (that’s vinyl, folks). The b-side is another track from the EP. And another new song has cropped up on a compilation accompanying the new issue of Yeti. Alls I can say is that if these songs are any indication of where the band’s songwriting is at right now, I am declaring their new album – whenever and whatever it is – tops for 2007.
MP3: Okkervil River – “The President’s Dead”
Since no one I asked knew, I did some sleuthing and found out that why? are opening for Yo La Tengo at the Phoenix next Monday as well as many other dates on the tour. Of course, once I found this out I was emailed the exact same info…
So who saw Lambchop on Sunday? Good? I will have to satisfy myself with reading press clipping sfrom The San Francisco Chronicle, The Globe & Mail and The Philadelphia Inquirer as well as this downloadable radio session with WNYC. Many of these links courtesy of Merge.
Check out the new video from Mates Of State – is there anything about this band that ISN’T stupid cute?
Video: Mates Of State – “Like U Crazy” (MOV)
Billboard reports on the distribution deal that will finally see Nellie McKay’s Pretty Little Head finally get a release on October 31 via her own label, fully 10 months after it was initially supposed to come out.
Some shows – The Dears have booked a 2-night stand at Lee’s Palace on November 16 and 17 (via For The Records) and after touring all of Europe and North America, The Hidden Cameras will return for a hometown gig on December 14 at a venue to be determined. And simply because I can’t resist – Guns’N'Roses have booked a date at the ACC on November 15. Anyone want to start a pool as to how long before they cancel that gig?
np – Sparklehorse / Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain