City Slang macher Christof Ellinghaus suggested that Eleventh Dream Day and Yo La Tengo tour Europe together in the spring of 1991, taking turns opening and closing. Twenty-three years ago today we played our fifth show together, all in Holland. The night before we were the headliners and had brought Rick Rizzo up during the encore for a couple of Neil Young songs. Now, at the Burgerweeshuis (which I’m told translates to “burger weeshuis”) in Deventer, it was our turn to support. We played our set to palpable indifference, the first and only sign of life from the audience being the perversely persistent clapping for an encore. Our first thought was not to bother, but then we reconsidered. For the last three weeks, we’d opened most of our shows with a new song, a slow, dreamy instrumental, as-yet untitled. We hadn’t played it in Deventer, so we decided this was the perfect moment–seemed to strike the right passive aggressive note. Afterwards, I went to the merch table . . . you know, now that I think of it, with the details that follow, perhaps we were the headliner on this night too. Anyway, Eleventh Dream Day guitarist Wink O’Bannon was making a rare appearance as salesman, aided by a bottle of bourbon and two Dutch drinking buddies. Upon my arrival, one of them sneered at me, “Your music is like a sleeping pill to me.” I don’t remember my response, but presumably I was insufficiently chastened because he added, in the withering tone the Dutch have mastered, “Burger eater! Burger eater!” Naturally the instrumental soon acquired the name “Sleeping Pill.”
Elsewhere in Europe, Todd drops us a line: Greetings from the very small village of Jettenbach, Germany (population 900 – salute!). May 20 is my birthday; it also marks the first time I saw the band live, in Karlsruhe, Germany in 2000. I had been a fan since I read a concert review in one of the San Francisco area weekly alt-papers, probably in autumn 1993. The review was celebratory, and within a week I had purchased Fakebook, Painful, and May I Sing With Me. I missed the show, but I caught the fever. My career path sent me to off live in various locations around the world, unfortunately none within striking distance of a live YLT show. Nonetheless, and sometimes with great difficulty, especially in the pre-internet days, I managed to keep track of my favorite band, buy your records, and, as many commenters have already noted, you’ve become the soundtrack to my life. Fortune smiled in my direction when I moved to Germany in 1999, and on May 20th, 2000, I embarked on a short hour drive to Karlsruhe, Germany for the best birthday present a YLT fan could ever ask for – a show! The show exceeded all expectations and I mustered the courage to talk to Ira afterwards. I mentioned it was my birthday and Ira, ever the quick wit, signed my ticket “Happy 18th!” (My true age was somewhere just slightly north of 40 at the time.) Fast forward three years and on May 20th, 2003 I found myself at your show in Frankfurt, Germany, at the Mousonturm. Once again I approached Ira after the show, mentioned that it was my birthday, and when I produced my ticket from the Karlsruhe show, Ira gleefully grabbed the ticket and proved that the intervening three years had not diminished his wit, as he signed it “Happy 21!” No YLT show in Germany on my birthday this year; however I will enjoy the wonderful memories of the 2000 and 2003 shows as well as the many other YLT shows I’ve attended here in Germany and Switzerland in the past 14 years. Thank you Georgia, Ira, James for the amazing performances and the music! Thanks also to the YLT extended family of musicians, sound crew, engineers, producers, road crew, Matador, etc., for all they do. Looking forward to seeing you all again soon.