A documentarian walks into a bar . . .

Documentarian Joe Angio writes to us about seeing Eleventh Dream Day at Hanukkah 2004. And though by the time that anniversary rolls around, this daybook will be down for the count, the story’s too good not to share.  As it happens we also played with Eleventh Dream Day 14 years ago today at the Bowery Ballroom, and that’s good enough for me.  (I am particularly pleased with this anecdote because of its passing similarity to a joke that I have an inexplicable fondness for, one that is probably being excised from your finer joke books even as we speak.)  Here goes:

Eleventh Dream Day was opening during that year’s Hanukkah residency at Maxwell’s.  This was especially good news because they were my all-time favorite band from Chicago, my hometown.  In the late 80s-early 90s, I would have bet (and, sadly, lost) every last dollar that they would be the band to really put Chicago on the map.  While we had a burgeoning post-punk/indie scene, it was quite local and generally unknown nationally.  It used to insult my sense of civic pride that there were these great music scenes in Boston, Minneapolis—even Athens, GA!—though Chicago was still basically known as the home of Styx.  I just KNEW Eleventh Dream Day would change all that.

Back then, I lived a block from the Rainbo Club, which became my living room for a few years; one of the bartenders was EDD’s Rick Rizzo.  Even though Rainbo couldn’t be more laid-back and welcoming, I was always a bit starstruck in his presence, and my interactions with him never amounted to anything more than your typical bartender-customer relationship.

Cut to: Dec. 11, 2004 at Maxwell’s.  Eleventh Dream Day has finished their set and returned to the back room to watch that night’s comedian (Todd Barry?).  [Nope, Marc Maron.]  I go up to Rick and introduce myself, telling him, “You probably don’t remember me but you served me many drinks at the Rainbo back in the day.”  Rick shakes my hand and starts sizing me up.  I could just see the wheels spinning in his head as he tried to place this long-ago face.  Finally, he nods and says, “Jameson on the rocks, splash of water, right?”  Which, of course, is exactly what I ordered every single time in the Rainbo.  I’m not sure if this reflects more on Rick’s stellar bartending skills or my drinking habits but, either way, I was duly impressed!

Then Yo La Tengo came on and killed, sending me home with ringing ears yet again.

End of story.

Before we go–still loosely on the topic of Hanukkah–we’d like to wish a happy 7th birthday to Ronnie O’Brien of Weehawken.  It’s too much to hope that she’s as well dressed now as she was a baby.



A little traveling music, please

Just three shows on this date, and they’re all keepers.  In 2000, our mini-residency at the Bowery Ballroom, which you’ll remember from such posts as yesterday’s, continues and finds us sharing the stage with the Go-Betweens (sadly, that’s a bit of an exaggeration–in fact, we took turns).  The late, great Grant McLennan hears us rehearsing Jackie DeShannon’s “Should I Cry” at soundcheck and asks me to show him the chords, which is doubly flattering as it assumes I actually know them.  We play “Mushroom Cloud of Hiss” for the only time that year.  2006, we’re at Fri-Son in Fribourg, Switzerland.  Fortified by some of the finest in-house cuisine we’ve ever had the pleasure to be served, our first encore is an unprecedented tour-de-I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One: “Sugarcube,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” and a drumless “Little Honda.”  Finally, five years ago, our one and only visit to Poland, under the auspices of the Ars Cameralis Festival in Katowice.  Since we’re playing the Jazz Club Hipnoza, it seems only sporting to bust out “Nuclear War”; the Electric Eels cover was more a matter of reading the room.  All this and Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, too.


hale-street-link                                                            Go Between Bridge, Brisbane

Weekend at Bowery Ballroom

If at any time in the last 14 years, you’ve listened to my guitar playing and wished it were better, hey, it’s not my fault, it’s Alan’s.  Writing a few months ago from Baltimore (or as they helpfully point out Charm City), he and Stacey recall: Okay, way back in late November of 2000, we saw the band at Bowery Ballroom with Damon and Naomi opening.  I asked you and Georgia why you didn’t play “Red Buckets” more often.  Alan attempted to describe the virtues of Jorma Kaukonen’s guitar video.  He offered to send you a copy, a gesture you good-naturedly accepted.  He later realized this would be pirating and thought better of it.  This was the first show we ever went to together and we’re still at it, married 11 years last November.

Happy 12th anniversary!  Here’s a retroactive memory for the next time you tell that story.  It was the first of a three-night run at the Bowery Ballroom.  I don’t have to remind you that Damon and Naomi sat in with us on a few songs that evening, and maybe you even remember us inviting a member of the audience to play bongos on “You Sexy Thing.”  Did you recognize him?  Though we like to flatter ourselves that we’re cinéastes, I sheepishly confess that between Georgia, James and me, not a one of us figured out our percussionist was screen star Jason Woliner!  We had no choice but to burn our Film Forum cards.  It wasn’t until years later when Jason had moved to the other side of the camera and we were (re-)introduced that he told us of our previous meeting.




History is bunk

As we draw ever closer to December 2 and our 30th birthday, these reminiscences are threatening to create a feedback loop, as I start looking back at a year of looking back.  I am especially gratified that among all of the contributions we have gotten, none have included corrections of previous posts, because this history game can be tricky.  A perusal of HistoryOrb.com lets us know that the great George O’Hanlon was born today . . . in either 1912 or 1917.  Susan Anspach, too, somewhere between 1939 and 1942.  Well, that We Report, You Decide hogwash may fly over at HistoryOrb, but we take our journalistic oath more seriously here at Yo La Tengo hq.  When I tell you that the only time we’ve played outside of Germany on this date was in 1993, at the 930 Club, no need to fact-check.  What better song to open with in D.C. than “Bad Politics”?


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Cookie scene

So we’ve only played twice on this date in the last 17 years, and both times it was at the same club!  To be precise, Zakk in Dusseldorf, 2006 and 2009, the latter with Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby.  Setting the Wayback Machine even earlier, our first visit to the Vera in Groningen was 27 years ago today (we’ve returned seven times).  Brought back for an unwarranted third encore, we finally resort to playing something we’ve never even rehearsed: Roky Erickson’s arrangement of “Heroin,” which remains in the repertoire all these years later.  Our pal, Heather from Texas, was at none of those shows, but she’s been to plenty of others, most recently in Austin and New Orleans earlier this month.  She writes: I have been all over this time line from day one.  I can’t believe I’m submitting this so late, but I have found it nearly impossible to think of one memory to share because there are so many!  So I wrote a bunch of entries and then just never submitted them.  If I want to get in a good date-specific story, I better do it now, with just a few minutes left on the clock!  OK so here is my little YLT story that I hope you think is funny.  It’s a cookie story, a Yo La Tengo cookie story and it’s a birthday party.  It was Nov. 22nd of 2011, my 35th birthday.  (I think if I remember correctly, I share a birthday with the hater of trios?)  My friend threw me a small YLT themed birthday party, there were YLT balloons and my main birthday present was a big box of YLT cookies!  Cookies that had your beautiful images emblazoned on them.  It was similar to my 10th birthday party when it was all Boy George.  Anyway, a few weeks later, in December, we took the cookies that weren’t finished at the party and shared them with another YLT fan, your favorite, Allen Hill of the Allen Oldies Band.  (Oh and don’t worry the cookies were air vacuumed sealed and used before the expiration date.)  Allen had a small event at a local Houston record store where he was spinning his newly released 45 rpm record 45 times in a row.  My friend and I thought it would be fun to go and hand out a few of the cookies to random people that we thought might appreciate a Yo La Tengo treat.  Needless to say, Allen ended up with a set of Ira and Georgia cookies (unfortunately, we had run out of James cookies by then).  So in a way, Ira and Georgia were able to remotely join Allen Hill that day, in the spirit of sugar cookies, for spins 37 through 45 and the pictures attached have caught this fine moment in Yo La Tengo history . . . and you know I have YLT Monomania, so I’m sure none of this is surprising, haha!



Slang city rockers

In 2010, City Slang nabob Christof Ellinghaus invited us to take part in his label’s 20th anniversary celebration.  Specifically, he asked us to play, in its entirety, Fakebook, the first record of ours he released (previous to that he was our German booking agent).  We politely–at least I think it was politely–declined, making the counteroffer to see if Dave Schramm would join us for an acoustic set of songs that came out on City Slang (everything through Electr-o-pura, though looking at the setlist, I see nothing post-Painful).  Dave was amenable, so that’s what we did, four years ago today.  The concert took place in a beautiful old Berlin theater, the downside of which was that anything German of a certain age comes with a Nazi past–it was pointed out to us the box from where Goebbels enjoyed many an opera, perhaps accompanied on occasion by Hitler.  We sat somewhere else for Lambchop’s performance of Is a Woman.