In Buenos Aires, they do the tango. In Philly (well, and in Hoboken, NJ), they do the Yo La Tengo. I’ve now seen both. Do yourself a favor: go to BA.
Ouch! No rock band wants to be compared to the tango and found wanting. Alas, when the band basically invites that comparison with their name, it’s too bad, so sad. I checked out Yo La Tengo at Union Transfer on Saturday, and came back with very mixed emotions.
Some positive observations: this band is skilled and goes about their business like old world craftsmen. They play two hours. The songs are taken from their entire catalog, and with some great covers thrown in. There isn’t much wasted time between songs. The band is really well-rehearsed and tight. Each musician is multi-faceted and play all kinds of different instruments.
The negatives: they played two sets, the first of which was slow and trippy and laden in feedback and reverb, like a bad Phish song, but it was many songs. The best songs they played were covers. Feedback and reverb is basically used as an opener for every song. On a Saturday night with a sold out venue, people want to party – opening with an hour long funeral dirge and ending with two very slow songs is a downer.
There you have it. The show had its moments, including this very interesting cover of the Cure’s Friday, I’m In Love, which included a guest appearance by Kurt Vile. Check it out - another BRP exclusive video:
And this lengthy version of Five Cornered Drone (Crispy Duck) was also worth watching.
But man, this was a standing show, and if you aren’t moving and grooving, the bones begin to hurt. I was never so happy as to get into my car at the end of a show just to sit down.
If you aren’t familiar with Yo La Tengo, here is the quick bio: the band was formed in Hoboken in 1984, and since 1992, the lineup has been consistent. Each band member is very skilled, and plays multiple instruments, but the primaries are Ira Kaplan on guitars, keys, and vocals); Georgia Hubley on drums, keys and vocals (she has a really beautiful voice), and James McNew on bass, keys and vocals. They have a ton of equipment on stage and use it all. They are probably best described as indie rock, but noise pop fits them, too. They have a lot of albums out – I think about 15, which is daunting for the new fan, but a couple of them have great names, like Fakebook and I Am Not Afraid of You and Will Beat Your Ass. I can testify that their recorded output is all over the place, but they can rock and they can ballad. They are good enough that I dropped some bucks and took some time to see them.
Here’s the setlist from our friends over at setlist.com:
I think the photos are pretty good, but you can tell that I was off to one side of the stage. I was close because you demand good pictures and videos. Still, they aren’t my best work. I’ll try better next time.
And next time is very soon. I have two shows this weekend, both of which should rip, and I’ll write them up in due time. I’m also working on some other things that I hope you’ll find interesting. I hope you are doing ok in your world, working hard and being productive and not slacking off. But make sure you still have fun! Later on Rockeros!
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.