Yo La Tengo

I went with Ben to see Yo La Tengo at The Vogue Theatre. The Clean, a kiwi band, opened for them.

The Clean were pretty good, a sort of ageing surf-rock outfit it seemed. Easy to listen and space out to, while they weren’t inspiring, they were certainly a skilled set of musicians, and an appropriate opening act. They’d come back later to help fill out YLT, and do a crack-up job there, which was good.

Yo La Tengo are truly artisans. What marble must be to a sculptor, sound is to them. Ultra-indie in stylings, with their mixture of rawk, noise, and melody that would pre-clude massive mainstream success (never knowing what the next song will soundlike is never good for consistent radio-play). Even when the lead guy (Ira, I think?) was swinging his guitar around like a punk-rocker on the last show of a tour, it seemed so precise, so planned. But not in a technically proficient way, but more like a ‘if I tap once right here, the block will crumbe away, leaving my masterpeice, already formed, behind’ kind of way.

Which is not to say that they were perfect. Indeed, judging by the shrugged shoulders and sheepish smiles, they made at least a half-dozen mistakes during the night. And the show, despite their clear expertise, was a little mixed. The rock’n’roll numbers and the more melodic peices worked fairly well. The more experimental-sounding ones, the lyrics were often totally overrun by the bleeps and woops and whatnot, to the detriment. And within this subset of experimental songs, some, the ones which revolved around playing with variations on a theme (such as ‘Georgia vs. Yo La Tengo’), were much more successful than the ones where there was perhaps progression, but it was lost on me. Maybe I’m just not into it enough, but some of it reminded me of the worst of John Zorn-style noise.

YLT played a lengthy encore set (or rather, 3 encore sets), during which time they chatted amiably with us, and took requests, which really made the whole thing feel that much more intimate. They appear to have a fairly hardcore fan-base, as most successfuly indie-acts do, asking at one point how many there were also going to be in Victoria tonight to see them, and upon hearind that the person who’d made the request would be, told him they play his song tomorrow night there. And somehow, I believed them.

This is one of those shows that normally, I might not have gone to, but having been, am so pleased that I did. It was quite an interesting mix of styles to listen to and watch.