We could send letters

One month to go till our 30th anniversary, and the evidence shows my energy for this daily report is flagging.  This morning I pounded a six-pack of Jolt Cola and discovered that last week I managed to overlook two memories emailed to us, so let’s play catch up.

Amy and Karl currently of Portland, OR wrote: My husband and I danced to “Our Way to Fall” as our first dance on October 27, 2001.  We were married in Wilmington, DE, although we lived in Hoboken at the time.  A year or two later, we saw you at Maxwell’s and I told you about it, Ira. You said it was the first time you’d ever heard of your songs as a first dance song.  We love it still, and dance to it every year.

Another day, another wedding, and (oy) another screwup by me.  Our pal Jim from Chicago wrote: My wife Manning and I danced our first wedding dance to the YLT version of ‘You Can Have it All’ — October 28, 2000.

I’m right on time with these two, the first from Leisha in Kansas City.  My (now) husband and I went on our first real date to see YLT at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS.  This would have been on the Electr-o-Pura tour, so around April 1996?  We worked together in Kansas City and skipped out early so we could see their pre-show in-store appearance at Love Garden Records. It was awesome.  Our favorite memory is when Georgia came out from behind the drums to play guitar.  I don’t remember the song but we were close enough to hear an annoyed Ira whisper to Georgia, “It’s G-C-A.”  To this day, whenever one of us messes something up, the other will whisper “It’s G-C–A.”  Thank you for 30 years of beautiful music.  We’ve been huge fans from the start.  Cheers!  Boy, would I like to claim this never happened, but I’m afraid the best I can do is provide the actual date (November 2, 1995) and emphasize just how close Leisha must have been to me and how quietly I had to be whispering, because she misheard.  The song was undoubtedly “Speeding Motorcycle” and Georgia’s part goes G-E-C.  Play along at home!

Let’s not close the mailbag just yet.  Myleen and John write from San Francisco.  (Two memories of November 2, one from each city from this year’s World Series!)  We have a friend in common, Dan Lee in San FranciscoRecently as a wedding present, he gave us an LP of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out signed by you and Georgia and James! (thank you very much!)  We were so touched – he probably told you the story, but yes, one of your songs is “our song.”  A lot of your music was constantly playing when John and I first met and fell in love – in those first quiet moments at home, first party moments, first road trips – we’d have a Yo La Tengo record playing . . . John and I first met 13 years ago. We have nothing but sentimental, happy memories associated with YLT.  So when Dan gave us the album we were really touched (I cried. I’m a wuss).  It was that thoughtful and meaningful to us.  John and I got married last year on Saturday, November 2, 2013.  Our first dance was “Our Way To Fall” and we made sure to play the very record that you all autographed.  Thanks so much again for sharing your music with us for all these years.

We’ve played a dozen times on this date, sharing bills with Chris Knox and Refrigerator in 1993 (and getting hissed at for taking Sam Kinison’s name in vain), Uncle Tupelo in 1987, Nick Tosches in 1996, and Los Lobos in 1990.  Georgia and I performed “Pale Blue Eyes” with Hot Chip last year in Paris.  But I’m afraid we’re out of time for today.  See you tomorrow.




Discovering Japan

To the best of my knowledge, this is how we ended up in Japan on this day 25 years ago.  There was talk of a Japanese edition of CMJ, and therefore it made sense for certain people to be exposed to some College Music.  Those people could have traveled to the U.S. for a first-hand experience, but instead it was decided that a representative act would make the trip east.  I don’t know how we became a finalist (I can’t honestly say I “know” any of this), but one day some focus group was asked to choose between our band, 24-7 Spyz, 13 Engines, and the Subdudes, and we won.  Georgia and I, along with Robert Vickers, our bassist at the time, were flown to Tokyo along with Coyote’s Steve Fallon and our pal, Phil Morrison.  I’m not going to even try to do justice to this trip.  I will say that our four concerts were very strange, and that none of them was as successful as the night Georgia, Phil and I sang at a local karaoke bar.  It was shocking that westerners were there–the songbook was overwhelmingly Japanese.  We sat and drank for a while, and then Phil and I decided to perform a duet.  Without thinking about the cultural implications of our selection, we picked “Surfin’ USA,” and only the eggs we were laying elsewhere permits me the immodesty to report we slayed ’em.  With our next number, “Ghostbusters,” we learned the karaoke lesson that knowing the chorus to a song is not the same as knowing the song.  Still, the other denizens of the bar responded enthusiastically to our stage craft, singing along when we pointed the microphone their way.  Georgia and Phil were up next, for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”  When Georgia pretty much laughed through the whole song, Phil finally went off book and pleaded with her, “Sing!”  She pulled it together for her closer, a duet with me on “Be My Baby.”  When one of the other patrons asked Phil, “May I sing with me?” we found ourselves with a future album title and some friends to tour Tokyo with on our last day in town.


                               Screen shot 2014-11-01 at 12.09.41 AM Screen shot 2014-11-01 at 12.09.17 AM     

I want candy

Before we start trick or treating, we traveled to Iceland for the first time last year, playing our first date since the death of Lou Reed, and opened the show with “I’m Set Free.”  Another Velvet Underground song closed our set in Minneapolis 27 years ago today.  We were the odd band out on a cover band bill at the 7th Street Entry and not particularly thrilled about it, so we decided to share the love with 45 minutes or so of feedback as a lead-in to “Sunday Morning.”  We’re much more in the Halloween spirit in Albuquerque 1995, so much so that we decide to masquerade as someone else.  Admittedly it’s a spontaneous, last-second decision that comes about at the end of the night when one of our touring party backs the van into a parked car and is witnessed doing so by a policeman.  Somehow said driver gets away with providing a fake name, convincing the officer that he or she (it wasn’t she) has no ID.  As believable as the story no doubt was, one can’t help but think that the success of the ruse depended on the Albuquerque police having better things to do on Halloween than talk insurance with us.  Especially since we don’t recall causing any actual damage, but if we dented your car, we apologize profusely.  And that’s not even my favorite memory of the day.   I can’t come up with the year, but Georgia and I were flying to the west coast with an acoustic guitar as part of our carry-on baggage.  The airline told us we had to check it, which wouldn’t have pleased me under any circumstances, but was especially worrisome given the decidedly non-baggage-handler-friendly case I had.  I argued with the all the gusto I could summon, an argument I of course lost.  No shame in that, but it’s a little embarrassing to be bested by a ticket agent dressed for Halloween as a bunny rabbit.  (The guitar made it through unscathed.)



Westbeth, what can I do

A four-day run at NYC’s Westbeth Theater begins 17 years ago today.  We are honored to share the stage with an all-too-rare appearance by the guitar duo of Jody Harris and the late Robert Quine.  For our part, things really get going on night 2.  We take the stage with sheets over our heads and sing the Shaggs‘ “It’s Halloween” a cappella, at the conclusion of which the three of us enter from the wings, revealing that it wasn’t really us under the sheets (though I don’t think anyone was fooled).  Wake Ooloo and The Scene Is Now play too, so Glenn Mercer joins us on a half dozen songs, including the Dream Syndicate‘s seasonal selection.  Peter Stampfel and Will Rigby‘s Unmentionables usher in November, and Peter, Will, and Dave Schramm all help us out during our Fakebook-heavy set.  The last show is a hardcore matinee with Magnetic Fields.  Stephin Merritt’s version of “Attack on Love” was such a success at its out-of-town tryout the previous June in Minneapolis that we bring him back for an encore on the big city stage.  Brian Sides is retiring from life on the road with Yo La Tengo at the end of this show, so we invite him to play guitar on the last two songs, “Cast a Shadow” and Blondie’s “Dreaming.”




In Tucson 19 years ago today, we encore with the Meat Puppets’ “Big House,” as heard at our debut show at Maxwell’s on 12/2/84 and not since.  Making our way north by northwest, to coin a phrase, in 2007 we Freewheel at the Aladdin Theater in Portland.  M. Ward plays a surprise opening set, and then joins us for an extended encore that concludes with “Satisfied Mind,” sung in tribute to the recently departed Porter Wagoner.



Kick out the jams

Twenty-seven years and three days ago, we devise a plan for the next time we feel taken for granted, not imagining just how soon that would be.  And then we arrive at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, where we are to open for Volcano Suns for the second consecutive night, to discover that–as was always threatened on Mission: Impossible–the club has disavowed any knowledge of us.  I’m not sure they ever concede having booked us (we definitely don’t appear on any posters or in any listings), but eventually it’s understood that we will perform (and maybe get paid).  Our response is to take the medley of “A House Is Not a Motel” and “The Evil That Men Do” that frequently comprised the last 10 or so minutes of our set and extend it and then extend it some more.  It’s practically all we do (save for segueing into “Lewis” for the final three minutes).  All the shitty feelings we’d had all day–driving for hours to beg some person to honor their deal and maybe sell you a half-price beer–disappeared.  We felt in control, and even got brought back for an encore.  Some time later Peter Buck showed up and told us that when he called the club to ask who was playing, there was no mention of us.  To be fair, based on subsequent visits to Ann Arbor, when Joe Puleo was known to answer the house phone after umpteen rings (“Pig.”), it’s possible that it was Jeff Weigand who kept our appearance under wraps.



Volcano Suns                                                                                                              The Three Suns