May 18, 2005

Alright, it’s been nearly a year since we updated this web site. The reasons for this are various and ultimately irrelevant. James did not win the Nobel, Georgia barely touched the guy, and Ira continues to maintain that there’s lots of people with that name. Still, that’s no excuse, we’re the first three to admit. But a lot of stuff has happened in the last nearly a year, and should we pretend it hasn’t? No! What follows is a somewhat dated (ok, extremely dated) but hopefully still heart-tugging account of what we were up to . . . last September and October. And while we recognize the danger of making promises, we can tell you that it will be less than nearly a year before we update the site again.

rockingly yours, Yo La Tengo

What do you think of when you hear the word “improvisation”? A 20-minute guitar solo? Hey, us too! But inspired by the political landscape and Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, we decided to improvise a tour that would concentrate solely on visiting the “swing states,” such as Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and, um, Ohio, in hopes that we could encourage a few people to think seriously about their choice and their involvement in the election. The idea was that we’d get a bunch of our friends to join us, whenever they were available. The lineup would change every night, with everyone playing each others’ songs (usually not all at once) and lots of cover songs. Intersperse it with some comedy. So Yo La Tengo’s Patriot Act was born, three weeks in September and October, an 18-show tour through many of our lesser-played cities (Kansas City, here we came).

Rehearsal was limited to sound check. James finally found a use for his three semesters at cartography college, and whipped up a slew of charts, both for our songs and covers. 20 years in the business, and we finally have a “book.” Awesome. The shows were long–no opening act–and spontaneous. No set lists–it was not unlike a game of Spud. Ira would call out a song, and some people would scramble for the cheat sheet, others for the maracas. And, well, even though the tour couldn’t prevent the 2nd term of an administration that’s worse for you than being under the (allegedly–legal dept.) Dave Matthews Band’s tour bus, it was hugely important to us and our friends to let you know how we felt, and equally as important that you came. Thanks.

So many highlights . . . playing Dave Schramm’s brand-new song “Honestly Now;” Eugene Mirman’s “Swiftboat Veterans” video and air brushes; learning “Hungry” in honor of Yom Kippur with Dave, Fred Armisen, William Tyler and Sue Garner (so much fun we had to do it again the next night with an even bigger band including Doug McCombs); fucking Knoxville: Todd Barry got pelted with a glass of water, Ira invited the audience to go home, and the nine-piece band (Sue, William, Deanna Varagona, Paul Niehaus, Rick Brown and David Kilgour) took it out on a murderous medley of “From a Motel 6” and “Point That Thing Somewhere Else.”

Too many highlights . . . James howling out “Psycho” in St. Louis as a tribute to the late Janet Leigh; the look on Sue’s face when Sun Ra Arkestra members Tyrone Hill and Danny Ray Thompson took off on her “Asphalt Road” at the last show in Philadelphia; Fred Armisen as Saddam Hussein jamming with James and Georgia, and then answering questions from the audience with an aging British rock star’s accent and attitude; Georgia’s achingly beautiful vocal on George Harrison’s “Behind That Locked Door,” with the steel-guitar lead handled by Dave, Doug or Paul Niehaus, depending on the night (and oh man what about William Tyler’s atmospheric guitar on that same number); Naomi Yang’s percussion debut; Calvin Johnson’s version of the Chris Stamey classic “The Summer Sun” and especially his preaching-to-the-choir speech.

I wish you could have seen the one-two punch of Georgia and Ira singing “I’m Your Puppet” followed by Jon Benjamin and Jon Glaser singing their original composition “PT Cruiser” (which bore a passing resemblance to “I’m Your Puppet.” Alright, it was the same song). And Hazel Rigby! The 15-year-old dynamo dropped jaws throughout Cleveland’s Grog Shop with her show-stopping version of “The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss.” And somehow we still haven’t mentioned Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, Allen Lowrey and Tony Crow, Mac McCaughan, “I Hate Hate,” Chris Stamey, Rick Rizzo, Victor Halm from the Wombats, “Love Is in the Air,” Leigh Sabo and Gretchen Gonzales (formerly of Slumber Party), Damon Krukowski, Mark Greenberg or Will Rigby, but we want to make sure this update gets out to you in a timely manner.

April 18, 2005

  • 4/28: play some Yo La Breakout.
  • 4/26: new dates on our schedule.
  • 4/18: We have a new CD out, Prisoners Of Love: A Smattering of Scintillating Senescent Songs 1985-2003, a career-spanning 26 songs spread over 2 CDs, or 42 songs on 3 CDs. The two CD version crams together previously released highlights from Yo La Tengo’s pre-Matador tenure along with the hottest moments from their second decade in showbiz. The third disc is the sort of rarities collection that will have you wondering why we bothered to do a two-disc version. And it’s all beautifully packaged with liner notes from Byron Coley and former Yo La Tengo tour manager, Joe Puleo.

July 14, 2004

There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues, as the song goes. But then there’s also that song about there being hot fun in the summertime. Experts agree these are the two generally accepted angles on the whole summer situation, and we are no exception. Our May/June tour was hot hot hot like Suzanne Somers — Antietam were mighty every night, Bonnaroo was dirty and gritty (didn’t seem to be a shadow in the Bonnaroo), and our first-ever visits to Little Rock and Mexico City were insane and delicious. And the Lakers lost! Thanks to Marky, Gilly, Billy, Michael, and everybody who came – it was nice meeting you, if we met you.

Many years ago, Joni Mitchell drew a map of Canada and it’s a good thing she did. Otherwise we might never have found Vancouver, where we were thrilled to play with the Gay – their uniforms made ours look drab. In Seattle, we met up with Antietam and searched the Showbox in vain for Rick Nielsen guitar picks. Portland was rainy, making this nice poster an eerie coincidence.

Three nights in San Francisco, or “Frisco” as the locals call it, were awesome! We hung with local celebrities, played “Every Pretty Girl” and “Scissors” with Barbara and Terri Manning, saw the sights, and played “Shake Some Action,” “I Can’t Hide” and “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown” with Cyril Jordan!

Around this time it began to get very, very hot outside. In L.A. – the city that never sleeps – we found that when one door closes, another opens and lets you hang with local celebrities. Tucson – too darn hot, still we we found the energy to hang with local celebrities. Albuquerque – also hot, compounded with the news that the M&J Sanitary Tortilla Factory had shut down, almost insurmountably so. But Georgia knows the show must go on!

Austin + 800 degrees + outdoor show + there’s a motorcycle rally 20 feet away = touchdown! Team players to a fault (just ask anyone), we didn’t do "Speeding Motorcycle" or "Little Honda," but we took a whack at "Wasn’t Born to Follow" from the Easy Rider soundtrack. And Ira joined Antietam for "Two-Headed Dog!" Oh, it was also the night of the Texas Pride parade. Who else but Austin could pull off that combo? Dallas – we arrived at the club to find this poster on the door and this poster on the wall – the second oddest welcome we’ve ever received. Then we packed up and got our passports ready for our first-ever show in Little Rock, AR, and it was ducktastic!

It’s now even hotter outside. Memphis was so hot that no one took any photos, but James did buy this great 45 by the Malibus. In St. Louis we played a fun in-store at the fantastic Euclid Records, and bid farewell to Antietam. See them if you can, and by all means pick up their new record Victory Park.

Bonnaroo – good god was it hot. Oh man. Luckily we were able to seek relief in the presence of the always-cool Todd Barry . We jammed with the String Cheese Incident, saw Neko Case with the Sadies, Patti Smith, and a little of Bob Dylan, and I think maybe Chris Robinson in the catering tent. Sweet. Till we realized that we had left our tents, sleeping bags and hacky sacks back in Texas. Sheepishly, we got the hell out of there and went straight to—

MEXICO CITY! Where, if freetranslation.com is to be trusted . . .

. . . fuimos saludados por tiempo de 70 grados encantador, Alfonso, Uili y el Monica muy-bien vestido. No sólo era nuestra primera exposición en México, era nuestra primera visita de cualquier tipo. Tuvimos un tiempo tremendo, y el concierto emocionaba realmente. Seremos espalda, como algún gobernador dijo una vez.

Who likes bunny rabbits? Everybody, that’s who, but especially James, who has designed a t-shirt for Seattle’s estimable Sonic Boom Records shop.

Does anyone have video of The Millionaire on "Jeopardy!"? Hook us up.

Robert Quine R.I.P,
Love,
YLT

April 16, 2004

Hi everybody,

Well, here we are, springtime again. It’s nice. Here’s what we’ve been doing. Mostly we’ve been watching our Freaks & Geeks DVDs. Some of us were so caught up in Freaks & Geeks fever that they even went to see Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and oy, such a mistake that was. To wish Jose Reyes a speedy recovery, we’ve all pulled our hammies. What else, what else . . .

At the end of February, we played as part of the Tibet House benefit concert at Carnegie Hall — and we weren’t even asked! We just showed up! We figured that’s how you do it. Kidding, of course. We did “Autumn Sweater” (Ira playing Philip Glass’s piano), “From Black to Blue” with acoustic guitar by M. Ward (on loan from Bright Eyes), and “Tears Are in Your Eyes” featuring the natty Mr. David Byrne on guitar and vocals. Not only did we fulfill the life-long dream of playing at Carnegie Hall, we also fulfilled that of sharing a dressing room with Keb’ Mo’. Namaste, bitches!

The next day it was off to the sunny, tropical United Kingdom. We spent two weeks on tour with the flabbergastingly great Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. We had a great time with them, and on the tour. Both bands celebrated St. David’s Day in Wales by playing “Rebel Rebel” together. Highlights included our first ever appearances in Cardiff AND Basingstoke! And meeting the Terraplanes and John Perry of the Only Ones! James bought the Thin Lizzy box set! We ate haggis! It rained a lot! Then we came home!

We got home and found out we had a book out. The highly-motivated staff at Map have devoted their Special Issue #1 to us! It’s filled with tons of info, exclusive interviews, reprints of old YLT Gazette stuff, a Gorky’s board game, photos, color reproductions of posters, a manga comic adventure, cut-out figures, and 2 super-color postcards of Jad Fair’s YLT portraits. Oh…did we forget to mention it’s all in Japanese? Well, it is. If you ever learned how to read Japanese, this could be the reason why. Or it’s a good reason to start, if you need something to do this summer. Check out mapup.net if this applies to you, or if you just like looking at things.

We got home and found out we had a new record out. Or at least a song on a record. It’s called The Q People: A Tribute to NRBQ, and we perform “Magnet,” sung by Georgia, with Lambchop/Calexico member Paul Niehaus on pedal steel. You’ve got to hear the Spongebob Squarepants track to believe it.

The next weekend we returned for our annual set on the beloved WFMU. For the ninth time, we took requests live on the air in exchange for pledges. Joined as always by the intrepid Bruce Bennett on guitar and vocals, we grappled with such requests as “White Light/White Heat,” “Hey Ya” and “Close to Me.” We were even joined by a few special guests — our own Leila Rosenthal Singers on “Build Me Up Buttercup,” and DJ Tom Scharpling’s velvety rendition of Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Night.” Thanks to everybody who called in — sorry if we didn’t get to your request (Larry from Summit, NJ, we owe you one), and most likely, sorry what we did to your request (Al from Edinburgh, Scotland, we definitely owe you one).

Now when we’re not listening to Air America, we’re rehearsing for some upcoming dates. Where, you ask? Check it out. We’re thrilled beyond belief to announce we’re bringing with us legendary NYC rock band Antietam, who’ll be promoting their first record in way too long, Victory Park (including Ira on “Chronicle of a Gift Horse”). Hope to see ya soon.

Go Knicks,
YLT

February 8, 2004

A rare news flash from us that’s all news. We wanted to let you know that, coming up very soon, are two programs of the films of Faith and John Hubley, one in each hemisphere.

On February 19 and 21, Masters of Animation – Faith and John Hubley will be taking place at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. All the information you need can be found at Inside Film.

For those of you who find yourselves closer to New England than New South Wales, on Saturday, Feb. 21 and Sunday, Feb 22, the Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton, MA will be presenting two noontime matinee shows of Hubley Studio films. The programs are as follows:

Saturday 2/21 (the kid-friendly show):

  • Hello (Faith – 1984) Music: William Russo
  • Moonbird (Faith & John – 1959) Voices: Mark and Ray Hubley – Academy Award winner
  • Urbanissimo (F&J – 1968) Music: Benny Carter.
  • Seers and Clowns (F – 1994) Music: Don Christensen
  • Tender Game (F&J – 1958) "Tenderly" performed by Ella Fitzgerald and the Oscar Peterson Trio
  • Dig (F&J – 1972) Music: Quincy Jones
  • Cockaboody (F&J – 1973) Voices: Emily and Georgia Hubley – Academy
    Award nominee
  • Yes We Can (F – 1988) Music: Don Christensen

Sunday 2/22 (slightly-older-kid-friendly show):

  • Northern Ice, Golden Sun (F – 2002) Music: Don Christensen
  • Zuckerkandl (F&J – 1968) Written and narrated: Robert M. Hutchins
  • Amazonia (F – 1990) Voice and trumpet: Dizzy Gillespie, Music by Don Christensen
  • Date With Dizzy (F&J – 1956) – Dizzy Gillespie is asked to score an animated TV commercial
  • The Hole (F&J- 1962) Voices: Dizzy Gillespie and George Matthews
    – Academy Award winner
  • Our Spirited Earth (Faith – 2000) Music by Don Christensen

December 27, 2003

Hi everybody. We’re back after a super-excellent tour of Japan. Our trip started with our first-ever visit to Fukuoka, home of the 2003 Nippon Series baseball champs Daiei Hawks and the occasionally lethal fugu. We were unable to convince Toshiya Sugiuchi to come to our concert, nor could we find the time to visit the Cross Beat bar, but we did live out another Simpsons fantasy with a delightful fugu dinner. Next up: clown college!

After Fukuoka we headed for Nagoya where we first heard our tour theme song. It’s only just now occurring to us that the reason we heard so much Christmas music in Japan was that we only stopped shopping to eat and rock. The most curious seasonal selection we encountered was a medley of Christmas songs arranged in the form of a Beatles medley. It was annoying the first time we heard it, we heard it incessantly, and have yet to find anyone else who knows what we’re talking about, and this includes everyone at our concerts and a search engine called Google. Nagoya is looking forward to their Exposition of Global Harmony, taking place next year, and after one look at the expo’s spokesguys, so were we.

Next stop Osaka. When we told Gil, our lovable but food-wary guitar tech, that we would be eating pancakes for dinner that night, he thought he was finally about to encounter some Japanese food he could eat that didn’t have a Mc in its name. That was before a live shrimp was tossed on the grill, and our tasty okonomiyaki was placed before us. Luckily for Gil, there was also steak on the menu.

Finally, we arrived in Tokyo. As in any big city, meeting celebrities was high on our must-do list. We met Yoshitomo Nara at our first show at Club Quattro and attended his gallery opening for The Good, The Bad, the Average… And Unique. And then imagine our shock when we happened upon one of the great military minds of our generation. Individually we spent so much time at this one noodle shop in Shibuya they named a dish after us. At our last show, we got into the Christmas spirit, all dressing up as Santa Claus to perform "Rock N Roll Santa" (sorry, no photo available)….

We interrupt this travelogue to deliver the sad news that for the benefit of you last-minute gift shoppers, we have no more copies of Merry Christmas from Yo La Tengo.

Finally, it was time to go home. We went our separate ways: Georgia and Ira on a fruitless search of Narita for the Kazuo Matsui press conference; James had a much more successful visit to his ancestral home.

Now that we’re back, we’ll either see you at the Onion party or New Year’s Eve at Maxwell’s or in 2004.

happy holidays,

YLT