February 18, 2007

If you’re scoring at home, it was Halloween the last time we provided any sort of news update, an update that illustrated the corollary of No News Is Good News, as the news we announced was, we’ll agree, relatively bad: that we were not performing Hanukkah shows in 2006. However as the Sam the Sham fans among you know quite well (cf “Oh That’s Good, No That’s Bad”), what may appear on the surface to be bad news can in fact be anything but. We won’t pretend there was not a twinge or two when the Grinchberg stole Hanukkah, but as our very fun, very exhausting European tour of November/December drew to a close, we were nothing but relieved that we didn’t have eight shows to play and eighty covers to learn.

Sticking with our theme we have nothing but good news to report in this “update,” in that we have no news to report. Instead, let’s clear up a misperception. Normally, we love a good misperception, but in this instance, a lady’s honor is at stake. Chris from Portland was digging a little disc 2 of Genius + Love = Yo La Tengo recently when a question occurred to him:

Okay, to be upfront — this question is going to seem very rude. I guess it IS rude. I do not intend it to be rude. My question is about Georgia Hubley, and the “track” known as “Gooseneck Problem,” which is described as “Georgia vents some frustration,” and which sounds like:

GGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRONNNNNNNNNNFFFFFFFFFFFFF!!!!!

My question is, and I wish no ill will or controversy or diminuition of the ladylike presence of Dame Hubley, but my question is — is that a gigantic, thunderous, earth-shaking fart?

….cuz that’s what it sounds like….. and it AIN’T drums, keyboards, or guitar.

As I said, it’s SOP at YLT HQ to “let the music do the talking,” to ask the listener to, as George Harrison sang so perspicaciously on Rubber Soul “think for yourself.” But, Chris, please, get your mind out of the gutter! You are correct that neither drum, keyboard, nor guitar is featured on “Gooseneck Problem”; would that you had simply taken us literally. It is in fact the sound of Georgia adjusting a gooseneck microphone stand.

Who doesn’t enjoy the Youtube? Lately we’ve been grooving to Roy Head, Dave “Tiny Hands” Gordon (which had been removed the last time we checked), and Reg Kehoe & His Marimba Queens, but the cake has clearly been taken by GBP’s incredible version of “Stockholm Syndrome.”

For those who prefer their Yo La Tengo interpretations unvisualized, we’ve been meaning to post these tracks that Ned Strickland sent us a very, very long time ago. We post no mp3 before its time, which reminds us, we LOVE that Orson Welles clip we first saw on Bedazzled, so here is his (Ned’s, not Orson’s) beautiful I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, pt. 1 (sounds to us like “Spec Bebop”), I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, pt. 2 (sounds like “Autumn Sweater”), and Our Way to Fall (your guess is as good as ours).

That’s about it. Sayonara, mate, we’re off to Japan, Australia and Singapore. Unless you’re reading this in Japan, Australia or Singapore, in which case it’s G’day, miuchi, here we come.

October 31, 2006

Hey everybody,

In answer to the most FA’d Q of the last few months, we have reluctantly decided not to play the eight nights of Hanukkah this year at Maxwell’s.  We have concluded that our touring schedule is such we just wouldn’t be able to put together a lineup as Hanukkahriffic as years past.  Was the refusal of the cast of “The Times They Are A-Changin'” to take part the last straw?  Really, is there anything to gain in assessing blame?

But yes, it was.

– Georgia, Ira and James

Yo La Tengo 2005 Hanukkah Diary

Night 1, 12/25/05

21 years of being compared to the Velvet Underground became worth it when Eugene Mirman opened his set by admitting that, though not a musician, he too was influenced by the Velvet Undergound.  In his case, they inspired him to become a comedian. And it turns out, he doesn’t even know “Take No Prisoners.”  The Mad Scene were great—listening to the twin guitar attack of Hamish Kilgour and Georgia Hubley brought me back to the old days in Dunedin that I never knew.

We took the stage in our holiday finery—James dressed as a rabbi, me as Santa Claus, and Georgia as, what else, Robin, the Boy Wonder.  If we weren’t related to the photographers who failed to get more than one in-focus photo of our costumes, there’d be one hell of a can of whupass being opened.  We opened with a couple of seasonal numbers, Madonna’s “Holiday” and Gary U.S. Bonds’s “Seven Day Weekend,” adapted for the occasion to “Eight Day Weekend.”  Hamish played a few songs with us, and he and Lisa Siegel sang a lovely version of “Je T’Aime,” but really when it comes down to it, the whole night is about my mom.  She tore the roof off the sucker by singing “My Little Corner of the World” with us, and naturally we have no photo.

See you tomorrow.—Ira

Night 2, 12/26/05

PG Six unveiled his big band, in what I like to think of as the classic Richard and Linda Thompson “Shoot Out the Lights” configuration: Pat Gubler and Debby Schwartz singing, PG and Bob Bannister on guitar, Steve Connolly on bass and Robert Dennis on drums.  (If you missed Robert last night, never fear, he’ll be back on New Year’s Eve with The Scene Is Now.)  Just when I thought I couldn’t enjoy their set any more, they closed with a cover of Television’s “The Dream’s Dream.”

Todd Barry’s got so many great new jokes that when he pulled out his classic about the smiley-face tattoo, it was like seeing Zeppelin go into “Whole Lotta Love,” only better, because I don’t really like Led Zeppelin.  He made fun of our charity, the city of Portland, and the entire front row.  Funny stuff.

I meant to mention this yesterday, but this year we’re selling mixed cd’s with all the money going to the night’s charity, one per night.  James arranged the whole thing.  We’ve each done one, and there are five guest mixes.  So far we’ve had Georgia’s and one by Jonathan Lethem.

We repeated “Little Eyes” from night one, but otherwise it was different, unless you count “Big Day Coming,” which got the acoustic treatment the first night and its classic (my new year’s resolution is to use the word classic as often as possible) loud arrangement last night, as the photos below demonstrate.  Pat and Bob joined us for the set-closing cover of Fairport Convention’s “Flowers of the Forest,” and then Georgia moved to the bongos so Todd Barry could demonstrate his finesse with the left-handed drum kit on “Jeepster.”  We finished with a two-song tribute to D. Boon: Richard Hell’s “Time” (sung by Pat) and BOC’s “Burnin’ for You” (sung by James, with me and Bob providing the harmony lead guitar).

See you tonight, and don’t forget to check out http://www.toddbarry.com.  Guess which sentence Todd Barry asked me to include. —Ira

Night 3, 12/27/05

Every time we put on these Hanukkah shows, we make a lot of calls and write a lot of emails, and try not to take the rejections personally (oh sure, Roger Waters has time to sit courtside at a Knicks game and jaw with Al Trautwig, but try and get him to come to Maxwell’s and sing “Porpoise Song” and suddenly he’s Mr. Busy).  A lineup like last night’s makes all the no’s worth it.  Tortoise came in from Chicago for an unpaid one-off, and we still can’t quite believe it.  Luckily we’ve got photgraphic evidence.

Next up was Demetri Martin, who brought along his Findings, poster-sized charts propped on an easel, and actually got the overstuffed back room, each and every person, to follow along, including me, and I couldn’t see a thing.  We not only laughed, but we learned a little bit too, like how to spell the plural of dildo.

We took the stage as a sextet, with Doug, Jeff and John McEntire from Tortoise, opening with “Bad Politics” (that’s what’s going on in this photo—Jeff’s hidden behind Doug, and Georgia’s jamming on the guitar just to the right of where the photo ends).  We did a few more songs together, then they started drifting off—I think the no-smoking request we’ve made for these shows did them in.  John Herndon came on and did a few songs too.  As Demetri pointed out during his set, you either thank someone once or you thank them a million, nothing in between.  Thanks a million to Tortoise.

And then Lenny Kaye joined us for the encore, on his 59th birthday no less, for a salute to his incredible Nuggets compilation, a record that almost singlehandedly created the genre of garage rock.  So many classics (that new year’s resolution’s working out great for me) and so many written by Jews.  We did “Night Time” and “No Time Like the Right Time” and hell yeah “Moulty,” how did we forget “Let’s Talk About Girls”?  For good measure, we did “Pushin’ Too Hard” (Lenny’s not positive, but pretty sure that Saxon was shortened from Saxonberg) and “Shock Me,” the b-side to the, yes, classic Link Cromwell 45 “Crazy Like a Fox.”  Lenny even referenced “Burnin’ for You,” unaware that James had sung it the night before.  A great night.

See you tonight.  And actually we never approached Roger Waters—who knew he had time to sit courtside at a Knicks game and jaw with Al Trautwig?—Ira

Night 4, 12/28/05

The poet Sting had a word for it: synchronicity.  First, Lenny Kaye mentions “Burnin’ for You,” and then last night the Sun Ra Arkestra blew our minds by referencing Georgia’s night 1 Robin costume with an insanely great “I’m Gonna Unmask the Batman,” complete with Michael Ray threatening to unmask George Bush and Dick Cheney.  What a set: “Neptune,” “Body and Soul,” “We’ll Wait for You,” and what was the name of that incredible opening number?

As Small Change’s mixed cd played over the p.a. the crew struck the Arkestra’s chairs and music stands in no time, setting the stage for Jon Benjamin and Jon Glaser aka the Brothers Italiano.  If you were there, you know the song you left Maxwell’s singing was “Whatsamatta With the Meatball.”  We lived and died a little each time Jon Glaser’s fake moustache lost traction with his real beard.

We opened with “Beach Party Tonight,” accompanied by the Arkestra’s Fred Adams and Michael Ray on trumpet and Dave Davis and Tyrone Hill on trombone.  They played most of the set with us, including a rare performance of “Out the Window.”  As “Little Honda” hit its peak, tenor saxophonist Ya Ya joined in the cacophony, and hung around for the set-closing “Nuclear War.”

For the encore we brought up our pal Stephen Hunking to play one of our favorites from the superior Hypnolovewheel songbook: his “I Dream of Jeannie,” which kicked off both Hypnolovewheel’s album Space Mountain and the reunion show they played with us at Hanukkah 2001.  Stephen’s designed every one of the shirts we’ve sold at our Hanukkah shows.

With all the excitement, we barely had time to acknowledge the achievements of the Jewish songwriter. Handsome T. Lance to the rescue.  He looked like a million and sang the Dictators’ “(I Live for) Cars and Girls” with all the gusto that his legion of fans have come to expect, all that and a chorus of “Whatsamatta With the Matzo Ball” to boot.

And as I type, Jad Fair’s plane is just about to land.  See you tonight.—Ira

Night 5, 12/29/05

Half Japanese—Half Japanese!!—took the stage, 5/6 of their, you know it, classic Loud lineup intact: Jad Fair, David Fair, John Dreyfuss, Ricky Dreyfuss, and Mark Jickling.  Mark’s son Ian on bass.  “Mary Jickling looks like Mona Lisa …” ohmigod it’s “My Concentration, Oh No.”  Seeing Jad & David up there again together, egging each other on in ever-increasing mayhem, I just don’t have the words.  Somewhere along the line, Ian split.  About midway through, Jad brought up Don Fleming for a completely mental “I’ll Change My Style.”  After Don sang “Vietnam,” we came on for the last eight songs, culminating—too soon in every way except for my aching saxophone-playing muscles—in “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and “I Walk Through Walls.”

Louis C.K. really got into the holiday spirit, telling one uplfting hilarious story after another about hating his kids, cutting off motorists in L.A. just for the fun of it, and texting Todd Barry to tell him he hopes his plane crashes.  He seemed to have some problem with talkers up front, but in back we were hanging on his every profane word.

After the last two nights of musical chairs, tonight we were back in trio mode.  We did two songs from May I Sing With Me for perhaps the first time this decade, and Jad sang two selections from our Strange But True collaboration (lyrics by David).  Closed with Roky Erickson’s version of “Heroin.”

For the encore, we somehow cajoled David Johansen into coming out to Hoboken and singing a few songs with us.  I’ve just scanned that sentence for typos, but nope that’s what happened.  We started with Bacharach/David’s “After the Fox,” originally performed by Peter Sellers and the Hollies, and continued with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich’s “Out in the Streets.”  We added our buddy Bruce Bennett on guitar for the Fugs’ “Doin’ All Right” (the only song we could think of to keep Louis C.K.’s set company), and then “Chinese Rocks.”  I’ve just got to take a moment and publicly thank David Johansen for agreeing to do that song, that blew us away.  We closed with “Who Are the Mystery Girls.”  It was a blast.  In the back room after the show, Gary Panter’s cd mix faded out, and us stragglers sang one more chorus of “Whatsamatta With the Meatball” and then went home.

We’re all getting a bit tired, but we’re going to collectively channel our inner Jerry Lewis and rock on. See you tonight.—Ira

Night 6, 12/30/05

I’m pretty sure none of the members of Volcano Suns are Jewish, so in a certain sense you have to admire their attempt at suffusing themselves in the holiday traditions.  But on the other hand, there’s a crucial difference between lighting a menorah and setting one of our amplifiers on fire.  Let’s let a smile be our fire extinguisher, for there was a lot to smile about.  The Volcano Suns got back together for the first time in seven years, and played outside of Boston for the first time in, oops forgot to find out.  Peter warned us he had ruined his voice the night before at their Boston show (if not during rehearsals), but this hardly unbiased observer thought he sounded great.  Get out your magnifying glass and check out the set list—they did all your old favorites (except “Sea Cruise” and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” and “I Walk Around” and . . .)

We love to laugh, but sometimes comedians, even some of our favorites, can be so mean.  But as Raisin demonstrated, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Whether singing about his fondness for AC/DC and Black Sabbath, or his heartbreak in a candle-lovers chat room, his message was always optimism (my word) or rum titty pum (his). Raisin—who bears an almost uncanny resemblance to Late Night With Conan O’Brien writer/performer Brian McCann—is welcome on our stage anytime, but I can’t think of a more appropriate time than the holiday season.  Thank you, sir.

We were honored to have soundtrack (notably Heaven’s Gate) composer/former Alpha Band member/Rolling Thunder Revue participant/it’s a very long resume David Mansfield sitting in with us on violin.  We’d never met before he got to Maxwell’s in the afternoon, but to hear his beautiful contributions to our songs, you could have convinced me we were old friends.  We concentrated on the quiet songs, including T-Bone Burnett’s “I’m Coming Home,” a record David played on, and Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine.” Thanks to whoever yelled out “For Shame of Doing Wrong.”  For the encore, we asked Peter Prescott to shred the last remnants of his vocal cords on the Dream Syndicate’s “Definitely Clean,” and he generously agreed.

Don’t want to get all Dick Clark on you, but Happy New Year all the same.—Ira

Night 7, 12/31/05

One of our enduring memories of 2005 is sure to be taking part in The Scene Is Now‘s first-ever tour, so what better way to usher out the year than with a set from our longtime favorites.  They had lots of surprises, not all of them happy ones—Chris Nelson was battling major throat problems (which I thought lent extra poignance to their as-yet unrecorded gem “The Cold”).  Lianne Smith and Rick Brown joined in on tour highlights “Moonlight Broil” and “Hey, Skinny” respectively, and Amy Rigby sang along on “If Justice Hides,” one of my personal favorites unheard on stage for way too long.  And did they really cover Will Rigby’s “Dave”? You bet they did.

Fred Armisen was up next, demonstrating conclusively that there’s nothing a crowd likes better than audience participation, and that includes following instructions.  Federico Fabrizi had an easier time directing the citizens of Sevalio in After the Fox.  He closed with a moving tribute to Kraftwerk.

At the stroke of midnight, there was a surprise two-song set from Prince and the Revolution: “1999” (always timely) and “When U Were Mine.”

Members of The Scene Is Now joined in throughout our set, notably Greg and Phil adding just the right Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson touches to our cover of Dylan’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and Steve’s trumpeteering on “Center of Gravity.”  Fred came back to sit in on percussion for the second half of the set.  Rick and Sue did their seasonal favorite “Xmas Trip.”  We did two songs from May I Sing With Me for perhaps the first time since Thursday.  (See if you can spot the continuity error in the photos.)

The Scene Is Now (minus Steve) opened the encore with a terrifying “Let’s Compromise,” recorded by us way back on New Wave Hot Dogs, but written by Information (Chris and Phil’s pre-The Scene Is Now group, which also included Rick, who joined in the carnage as well).  Who could follow that except Wreckless Eric?  He and Amy Rigby helped us salute the Jewish songwriter, with Paul Simon’s “Red Rubber Ball” and a reprise of night one’s “Je T’Aime.”  We closed with our cover of The Scene Is Now’s “Yellow Sarong.”

Like Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it’s getting very near the end.  See you tonight.—Ira

Night 8, 1/1/06

Did you know Lois was suffering from stage fright?  Me neither.  Fortified by copious amounts of Red Bull and Bosco, she turned in a stunning performance, as crushworthy as ever.  I especially swooned when she read my mind and sang “The 2nd Most Beautfiul Girl in the World,” from her very first 7″ (by the group Courtney Love).

The Maxwell’s stage—carpeted and filled with drums and amplifiers—might strike you as an unlikely place for a rollerblading exhibition, but you couldn’t be wronger.  The Fruit Boots, Patrick Borelli and Matt Hall, knocked us out with their trick packs and their insightful tribute to New Jersey.

What’s a celebration of Jewish songwriters without Billy Joel?  It’s an ugly job, but somebody’s got to do it.  Riding to the rescue all the way from “Germany” came A Matter of Trust: Todd Barry on drums, Jon Glaser on bass, Tom Shilue on backup vocals, James on guitar, and Jon Benjamin on lead vocals.

We reprised the opening night one-two punch of “Holiday” and “Eight Day Weekend” to kick things off, located a few more songs from our songbook as-yet unplayed, and finished up with “Eight Days a Week.”  For the encore, we brought back A Matter of Trust for a superstar jam complete with Todd Barry drum solo.  The three of us played our final trio number of the holiday, “Rocks Off,” then invited Lois to sing a few songs.  Accompanied by Bruce Bennett on guitar, we started with the Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil weeper “Don’t Make My Baby Blue.”  Exit Bruce, enter WFMU‘s Gaylord Fields and it was time for one more go-round with “Je T’Aime.”  And what a go-round: Gaylord’s candy Gauloises and Lois’s French-English dictionary were truly les props juste.  Lois finished the eight-day week with a beautiful version of “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” complete with a stellar whistling solo courtesy of stellar soundman Mark “Tom” Luecke.  Happy Hanukkah.—Ira

So many thank yous . . .

In this public forum, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank our stage crew, first and foremost Mark Luecke, for eight days and nights of hard work, but also Gil Divine, Jay Miller and Greg Peterson.  Stephen Hunking designed our t-shirts and sweatshirt, and Tannis Root contributed their time to print them.  Karl Heitmueller designed the great New Year’s Eve poster and printed up some extras for us to sell.  Thanks to Jonathan Lethem, Gary Panter, El-P, Small Change, RJD2 and Cornelius for the mixed cd’s.  Volunteering their time to man the merchandise table were Marilyn Kaplan, Emily Hubley, Leila Rosenthal, David Doernberg, Damon Chesse, Tony Gasparro, Laraine Pinnone, Amy Posner, Kelly Reichardt, Neil Kaplan and Andy Schwartz.  Photographs on this page were taken by Max Rosenthal, Leila Rosenthal, Stephen Hunking, Amy Posner, Emily Hubley and Lisa Ackerman.  We were costumed by Amy Posner and Sarah Egan.  Thanks to Todd Abramson and everyone at Maxwell’s.  We had a blast, and we’re really glad it’s over.

September 25, 2005

I Heard Them Call My Name

or

Thank You for Talkin’ to Me, America

Saturday night I was watching the Mets-Nationals on tv.  Didn’t I have anything better to do with my time, say, the new David Cronenberg movie?  A fair question, but one that will have to wait for another time.  I was watching the game, that’s that.

At this point, I must warn the squeamish that I am about to commit a felony, and reproduce some of the accounts of that game, despite the fact that I have not obtained the express written consent of Major League Baseball.  Please direct all legal enquiries to our attorneys Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunga and McCormick (http://www.hungadungahungadungahungadungaandmccormick.net).

Bottom of the third, Mets already leading 5-0.  Leading off for the Nationals, light-hitting (.212, 1 HR, 19 RBI) catcher Gary Bennett.  After fouling off one of Tom Glavine’s 3-2 pitches, Bennett lifts a fly ball to short right field.  Right fielder Marlon Anderson, second baseman Miguel Cairo, and first baseman Doug “Mankiewicz” Mientkiewicz all converge.  Cairo makes the catch.  Keith Hernandez, providing color commentary, likes what he sees.

Hernandez: This is the pop-up you work on in spring training.  The
sheriff here is the outfielder, and Marlon defers here to Cairo.  It’s
so important on those plays to use your voice, and scream “I got it, I
got it” and “You take it, you take it,” whatever.

Play-by-play announcer Ted Robinson adds: “Or as it would be in today’s
game “yo la tengo.”  Yo La Tengo of course a long-time New Jersey band,
a great success, and huge Met fans.  Haven’t seen Ira—Ira’s the lead
singer—usually a regular.  Haven’t had a chance to see Ira this year.”

Hernandez: (silence)

Tell me that would have happened at A History of Violence!

Ordinarily that’s a weekend’s worth of excitement for me, but as it happens that was merely an amuse bouche.  Got up early on Sunday and headed for New York to see the great Allen Toussaint take an elegant stroll through one of the more remarkable careers in rock ‘n’ roll, in a benefit for the Musicares Hurricane Relief Fund.  Opening with an instrumental version of his classic “Southern Nights,” playing hits and non-hits alike, with commentary both moving and surprising (did he really just mention Devo and Heavy Metal?).  I’ll admit, when Elvis Costello was introduced, I didn’t see how he could do anything but break the mood, but I couldn’t have been wronger.  His “Freedom for the Stallion” and encore of “Yes We Can Can” were stirring in a way that completely blindsided me.

(Elvis also appeared at the Vision Festival’s New Orleans benefit the previous Tuesday that we participated in, though on that night he was overshadowed by performances by Bill Dixon, a quintet featuring Kidd Jordan and Kali Fasteau, and an almost indescribably inspiring non-performance by Muhal Richard Abrams.

And free associating backwards, at the risk of losing all connection to my purported topic, I have to mention the dB’s, who we saw at Maxwell’s on Monday.  There’s not another band who meant as much to us: both Gene and Chris played with us and produced us, Will’s played with us many times and generously allowed us to empty our bank account to release his classic lp Sidekick Phenomenon, and Peter’s the guy who asked me and Georgia to play out for the very first time, at a party at the New York Rocker office.  I’ve never heard “Heading for the Texas Border” or “Johnny Carson” since without recollecting it, and an accompanying shudder of terror.  Well, the dB’s were playing together locally for the first time in, I don’t know, 20 years?  more?  and it was just great.  More than great to see them, to hear them, and to see all the people I hadn’t seen practically since the last dB’s show.)

Anyway, Sunday—when the Dave Clark 5 sang about “Having a Wild Weekend,” I’m pretty sure this was the weekend they meant—was also the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival.  This story’s gone on way too long already, so I’ll spare you the local color.  It was pretty fucking colorful, ok?  And I was rushing around, what with Allen Toussaint and all, and didn’t arrive until the second song of the headliners, the Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie (which means I missed “You Baby” and don’t think I wasn’t sick about that).  That second song being, as no student of the Turtles discography will be surprised to read, “Dirty Water.”  What?  Apparently, your ’60s Oldies circuit expects each act to perform a tribute to the ’60s, one that dips liberally into their own catalogue, but still finds space on the set list for “My Girl” and “Twist and Shout.”

Going back at least as far as their work with Frank Zappa, Flo & Eddie have worked humor into their act.  (Come to think of it, even further back too—The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands for one, and how about that chorus to “Elenore”: “You’re my pride and joy etc.”)  So mid-set, the band starts the intro to “She’s My Girl.”  Some guy up front whoops, and lead singer Howard (Eddie) Kaylan (nĂ© Kaplan) warns the guy: not so fast, you don’t know what we’re doing.  What they’re doing is offering us a history lesson, claiming that the Turtles, in addition to their many hits, were also the band playing on records released under other names.  Like the Doors, for instance (cue a few seconds of “Moonlight Mile”), and the Iron Butterfly (who goes home from a music & arts festival satisfied without hearing a little “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”?), and not only the Young Rascals, but the Rascals and the Old Rascals.  And the O’Jays and Britney Spears. And Weezer and Green Day and Yo La Tengo.

What?  I almost choked on my funnel cake.  The weekend of a thousand shout-outs concluded most improbably.  I high-fived Dave Schramm, and we lifted our voices extra loud for the singalong to “Happy Together.”

–Ira, September 26, 2005

August 18, 2005

Hey everybody, how’s it going?  Like Mayor Tommy Shanks before me, I’m doing pretty good myself.  Haven’t had a nightmare about squirrels in days (although I feared a relapse after seeing Charlie & the Chocolate Factory).  Leaving for Europe in a couple of days, so it’s time to tie up a few loose ends.

Speaking of the cinema, we want to encourage everybody to go see Junebug, which opens on August 3 in New York and Los Angeles, and elsewhere later.  It’s the feature film debut of Phil Morrison, who directed many of our rock videos, including “Sugarcube” and “Tom Courtenay.”  We scored the movie, and we couldn’t be prouder to be part of such a beautiful work.  For more information, check out the web site.

A lot of you—to be more precise, none of you—have been asking about the progress of Yo La Tengo, that plucky group of sixth through eighth grade girls who rampaged through Division 3 of this year’s Maplewood softball league (see Letters: May 2005).  To be frank, the season was a bit of a disappointment.  The schedule appeared to be being made up as they went along.  There were mutterings that this was all done to disturb the between-starts sideline throwing of star hurler Leila Rosenthal.  Perhaps that’s just raging paranoia, but undeniably it was all but impossible to keep track of their exploits, so let’s check the web site.  What the . . . ?!  0-3!?  That simply cannot be.  We were in attendance on opening day when Yo La Tengo vanquished The Law Office of Drew J. Bowman.  Calling John Sayles—it’s time for your next feature, Eight Girls Out.

Do I have another complaint?  I’m afraid to say I do.  I don’t want to point any fingers, but we’re getting an unusual amount of emails asking for information that’s easily available to anyone with a computer and a search engine.  Like the guy, once again not to point any fingers, who wanted information about our appearance in Urbino on August 7th.  I know we don’t have a link to the festival on our Schedule, and of course we should.  But still, how hard would it have been to look it up yourself?

Well, thank goodness Rob, I mean he, didn’t.  Because it got me to do a search of my own.  Going into it all I knew was the date and the city.  I discovered the festival’s name is Frequenze Disturbate, and performing another search was directed to their official site.  As I speak no Italian I took Google up on their generous offer to “Translate this page.”

First of all, you can see we’re in some esteemed company:

DINOSAUR JR – YO I HOLD IT – ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN – BLONDE REDHEAD

Scrolling down, there’s a bio of the band.  You’ll note that there’s a few words of Italian that apparently can’t be translated, and have to forgive misspelling of a famous singer’s name:

The Yo I hold It are one of the band piu’ important of world-wide the independent scene. One inexhaustible source of ideas that give the end of 80 years ‘ door ahead with succeeding its job through the lines of shadow of the rock intellectual. Music of this band, true and just beacon for the cult scene Indian rock, leaves from an exquisite search in within POP, going to touch the nervous angles and noisy facts of walls of feedback of matrix postpunk experience them, in a sonorous synthesis that does not have equal and possible imitatori. Recently the sound of the Yo I hold It e’ always turned piu’ towards a sound that it absorbs times and ways of the jazz and the free jazz as testifies the homage to Sun Ra of the recent EP Nuclear War. Ira Kaplan (guitar and voice), Georgia Hubley (battery and voice) and James McNew (low and voice) represents how much more better in these years has moved the American world underground; a band in a position to creating a various and innovative language that has conquered one large first formation of artists between all Micheal Stipe of the Rem. The Yo I hold recently have published It a triple collection that between unknown and bside it tells their history from 1985 to the 2003 (Prisoners Of Love – Matador/Self).

you go to the situated one: www.yolatengo.com

Feel free to ignore that last sentence, because you’re already here.  But I’m gone.  See you in Europe.

—Ira

July 6, 2005

Don’t miss our next adventure:

Squirrel Bait

— or —

Pardon me, miss, have you ever been kissed by a real live squirrel?

July 4: Rocked, rolled, etc. in Battery Park with Stephen Malkmus, Laura Cantrell, and 15,000 screaming punters. (Are they still punters if it’s a free show? Must ask Noel Gallagher next time I see him.) Had a great time, almost got out without getting stuck in fireworks traffic.


artist’s rendering

July 5: Woke up much too early, the unbearable sound of jackhammers leveling the building across the street doing the job usually assigned to the clock radio tuned to Modern Rock. Made my way to the living room, looked out the window and found myself staring at a squirrel perched on the sill.

Hey, like the singer of “Lola,” I’m not the world’s most masculine guy. And one thing I’ve taken for granted in life (so much so that I took it for granted that I’d taken it for granted) was that when approaching a squirrel, the squirrel heads for the hills or the nearest telephone wire, whichever is closer. Not this one. I stared at the squirrel, the squirrel stared back. It was kinda unnerving. Was this scene one in some rethink of “Willard” or “Night of the Lepus”?

It appeared to us (by now I was in consultation with noted rocket-j-squirrologist Dr. Georgia Hubley) that this might not be the healthiest specimen in the animal kingdom, and that it might be time to bring in a professional squirrel-catcher. But first, a fact-finding expedition was deemed in order. Dr. Hubley utilized a probe that looked to the layman like a drumstick, and banged twice on the screen. The squirrel . . . well, it . . . honestly I’m not sure. It didn’t seem to actually run away, more of a fall. In any case, there it lay, on our fire escape, having left in its wake some squirrel poop and a bit of blood.

I picked up the phone and, calling upon every bit of bravery I possess, resisted the urge to call 911. The phone rang and rang over at the Hudson County SPCA, without being answered by human or machine. The Hoboken Health Department transferred me to Environmental Services, who switched me to some other area code. Maybe I caught the Humane Society on a bad day, but sadly they seemed part of that increasingly prevalent trend of being named for precisely what they don’t provide (Customer Service, Clear Skies Initiative, etc.). I’m certainly willing to consider that I mistook the dispatcher’s grace under pressure as apathy.

Have I mentioned that it was over 90 degrees and the squirrel, since vacating the window sill, had not moved in two hours?

Presently I received a call back to assure me that help was on the way and to warn me that said help was “retirement age.” It was recommended that I remain at home, though the Humane Society’s ability to pinpoint his arrival made the cable company look like a synchronize-your-watches heist by comparison. Time marched on, the squirrel didn’t, and I called back. More than once. Not every word out of my mouth was profane.

I was informed that in fact the driver had been by, but had not been able to spot the squirrel, so had departed. I inquired why no one had bothered to call me when that happened, and we agreed to disagree on the quality of the response to that question. The driver was on his way back, sooner or later. I sat tight.

A mere six hours after the first phone call, the driver arrived. He was easily identifiable by both his badge and the know-it-to-smell-it stench of someone who spends his day collecting dead and dying animals. I expressed some regret for our earlier phone conversation, specifically what my mom would refer to as “a few choice words,” and then stood back to watch the professional at work.

Armed with nothing but raw guts, a pet carrier, and one of those gizmos used to get the single roll of toilet paper off of the highest shelf in the bodega, it was man vs. squirrel. It was a rout. The squirrel somehow eluded the gizmo’s clutches, relocating to the fire escape landing below ours. Our next incursion originated from the street. I pulled down the fire escape ladder and the “retirement age” squirrel-catcher climbed up. The squirrel easily made his way back to our floor and then, in what looked to me–admittedly not an unbiased observer–like a suicide attempt, leapt to the street. Fully expecting to see its carcass splattered on the sidewalk, instead I saw it run away. Pressed, I might even concede it scampered.

When the jackhammers awoke me today, I was almost surprised when I didn’t see it back on the sill. I’ve typed this entire scene report facing away from the window, and still anticipate my nemesis to have returned the next time I dare a look. I don’t know what the hell happened, although I’m pretty sure I owe an apology to more living things than I want to think about right now.

–Ira

You guys are following the Nike vs. Minor Threat stuff, right? We first read about it on the WFMU blog, and if you missed it, here’s the original story and the followup. Anyway, among dozens of suggestions for future album art/advertising tie-ins was, pardon our immodesty, our favorite, submitted by Pleasant Plains.

Yo La Tengo - We Will Leave A Light On For You