"If the French did Indie Rock, this is what it would sound
I hate Sonic Youth.
Somewhere, as I write this, a member of the Indie Rock Mafia
is taking aim at my head with a potato gun. I know it's sacrilegious;
I know it kills what little cred I may have. I don't care. I've
never understood feedback and screeching. It all seems like
such a pointless waste of energy, full of sound and fury and
signifying...the fact that someone's got their amp turned up
And, outside of the obvious New York thing, what does this
have to do with Yo La Tengo?
If you have to ask, you weren't at the show on Saturday, September
But let's step back for a minute, and start from the beginning:
I've never been a big fan of Yo La Tengo. But they have a great
live reputation, and the one time I've seen them tends to bear
it out. I mean, they're not the greatest band I've ever seen,
but they were good enough to make me go "hey! I wouldn't mind
seeing these guys again." So when I heard they were coming to
town again, and Versus were opening, I was rather excited.
You see, Versus are one of my favorite live bands.
And I was going to this show with several of my close friends.
And Yo La Tengo are a great live band.
And you can see where I'm setting myself up for disappointment.
Anyway, as one might expect, Versus played exceedingly well.
Although they have a new album out, they really didn't focus
on these unknown songs. Instead they ranged through their catalog,
picking out some of the highlights of the past years. And they
attacked the songs with energy, but it was a focused energy
- inwardly directed towards the music, and not just flailing
about to be evocative.
Needless to say, I was impressed and happy by this performance.
As the intermission continues, the venue crowds up and packs
in, so that we're all a bunch of sardines crushed together in
a stuffy, sweaty mass. And everyone seems to hold their collected
breath as Yo La Tengo takes the stage. And then launch into
an assault of sound and screaming and feedback. This isn't your
mother's mellower, more passive Yo La Tengo. This is the band
that reminds me of Sonic Youth. And I hate Sonic Youth.
Rationally, I can tell you that they played an excellent set
- upbeat and energetic. Like Versus they ranged across their
catalog and hit several rare numbers ("I've never heard them
play that live," one of my friends would comment). And, to give
the audience credit, they too were upbeat but also focused -
listening intently to music, and remaining quiet during the
few mellow moments. And I think most people were pleased...even
if at times the screeching overwhelmed the PA and flooded the
But me? I just wanted to return to the happy Indie Pop of Versus,
and leave the feedback behind.