September 25, 2008
While I had to miss Friday’s performances at Pygmalion Fest (including Black Mountain and Titus Andronicus), I came prepared to hit Day 4 of the fest with full force, starting with Yo La Tengo‘s festival headlining show at Krannert Muesem. Most of my history with Yo La Tengo revolves around two albums, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out and I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. I’ve recently gotten into their newest album as well, I Am Not Afraid of You And Am Going To Beat Your Ass. I didn’t really know what to expect out of the show, but Yo La Tengo ended up playing a wide variety of whispery folk, bouncy pop, and sprawling guitar rock with a few very random covers thrown in (I learned later that this is a pretty typical YLT show).
The show opened with one of my favorite Yo La Tengo songs, the nostalgia-tinged, absolutely gorgeous love song, “Our Way To The Fall” and I was overjoyed when it was followed up by the warm organ tones of another YLT fave (and Girl Talk sample material), “Autumn Sweater”. Following was the garage rock head-boppin’ classic, “Tom Courtenay, which got a big reaction from the crowd.
It was obvious from the beginning, that the sound in the concert hall was very conducive to the variety of styles that the band plays. Nothing compared sonic-wise though, to when the band pulled out the epic “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind” leading to a massive guitar wank-fest from Ira, while Georgia and James maintained the steady beat. Much of the second half of the set was dedicated to songs of the band’s newest record, out of those “Beanbag Chair” and “Mr. Tough” being the funnest to hear.
The main set closed on the song “The Story of Yo La Tango” and featured an extended session of Ira beating his guitar into submission by swinging over his head, strangling it, forcing into the ground, etc. It’s all very fun to watch, but I couldn’t help but think how awkward and flailing he looked tossing his guitar around, in comparison to someone like Wilco’s Nels Cline, another aging axe-wielder, who plays with furious intensity while still retaining precision and control over his instrument. Either way, it’s amazing to watch.
For the set’s encore, the band turned into Yo La Tengo the cover band, first playing “Speedy Motorcycle”, a Daniel Johnston cover, which was requested by email (if I knew you could do that, I totally would sent in ”You Can Have It All”). I was completely surprised when I heard the song was a cover because the band really put their unique style on it, making it easily one of the best songs played that night.
Next up was a fun one. The band covered what they called a “Traditional Illinois Song” and what turned out to be Cheap Trick‘s “Come On, Come On”. Finally, they closed on a politicial note covering Sun Ra‘s “Nuclear War”. A song that features such sunny, upbeat lyrics like “hydrogen bombs / atomic bombs / neutron bombs / kiss your ass / goodbye goodbye.” Alright, so I guess it’s not the most joyous song to end on, but it was pretty cool to see Ira leading the crowd out of the arena with maracas in hand, while chanting “goodbye”.
See more pictures that I took of Ira, James, and Georgia by clicking below.
Head over to Pictures For Kids Who Can’t Read Good to see the rest of my Yo La Tengo pics.