Oddly, we’ve only played three shows on this date over the years, and even one of those nearly didn’t happen. A few underperforming concerts cut drastically into the endowment at Stache’s in Columbus in 1988. Accurately predicting that the paying audience for the Half Japanese/Yo La Tengo bill would not cover our guarantees, the promoter tried to cancel at the last minute, only to find that we’re not that easily gotten rid of. Both bands agreed to play for the door, split 60/40 for Half Japanese, which in our case totaled $24. Handed a twenty and a five, we were asked if we could make change. Demonstrating the hardball tactics without which we could have never survived this cutthroat business, we said no. In 2006, we play with Minotaur Shock in Cambridge, England–even looking at the setlist, all I can really remember about this day is a pre-soundcheck band outing to go see Borat.
Thirty years of shows, and a combined four of them in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Bozeman, Montana; and Zagreb, Croatia–mostly on this date. In 1988, Georgia and I kick off a duo acoustic tour at Play It Again Records in Bethlehem where, I’m happy to report, it remains open for business (closes at 8pm tonight). Five years later, we are at the Filling Station in Bozeman. The promoter brings us to his apartment for a delicious posole dinner (though Georgia will cause a minor scandal by adapting his recipe to include greens), and then it’s off to the club. Opener Don Caballero arrive so late, they don’t end up playing. No such controversy in Zagreb last year–we’re the only band on the bill. Awesome show!
On this day 27 years ago, Georgia and I play an in-store at Rocks in Your Head. It’s our very first acoustic show, and consequently the first time Georgia ever spends the better part of a set singing. When we release Fakebook three years later, three songs will date back to that night: “You Tore Me Down,” “Andalucia” and “Oklahoma USA.” Also on November 7, a couple of benefit concerts. In 2005, we are among the “others” at Wedrock in Los Angeles, raising money to fight for legalized gay marriage (Torii Hunter sends his regrets). The response to our performance, even our version of “Hey Paula” with revised lyrics (“Hey hey, Paul, I wanna marry you”), is tepid at best. Things go better at the I’m Not There show at the Beacon Theater two years later, a concert for 826 National. With Terry Adams, Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, and Pete Phillips on hand, I sing “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” then John Convertino takes over for Georgia on the drums, and she comes up front to sing “Fourth Time Around” (David Mansfield played too). (And in Manchester in 2009, scene of Dylan’s so-called Albert Hall concert, we encore with “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” aided by Euros Childs and Stephen Black.)
Dateline: Vancouver, 21 years ago today. Show’s over and we’re packing up. It’s been a particularly fun night, a great bill with Kreviss and Cub, and Joe Puleo’s feeling fine. He could walk from the loading dock to unlock the van, but opts instead for a toss to James. Behind his back. James has a long reach, but he doesn’t stand a chance–the keys land on a dumpster. There’s a lid on the dumpster, but the keys manage to locate a gap and fall inside. Joe rolls up his sleeves, eventually finds them, and we’re on our way. One thing leads to another, and 19 years later, we’re in Tokyo, doing advance promo for Fade, which includes a Freewheeling Yo La Tengo concert. We talk so much at those shows that we know we’re going to need a translator. And in fact, we talk SO much that it’s decided that it would be helpful if each one of us had their own translator. In standard Freewheeling style, we open with two songs, then announce the Q&A format, and introduce the translators, who enter dressed and bewigged as us. Quoting Felix Bressart in To Be or Not to Be, it gets a terrific laugh.
Michelle and Greg write from Cornwall-on-Hudson: Our specific memory is the birth of our second son to “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House.” Date: November 6, 2002. I was pretty far along in labor when we got to the hospital, so we started the album and he emerged with the song playing. We left the CD in the labor room, and the next day the labor nurses returned it. They told us they listened to it!
Two weeks of shows with Chris Knox come to a conclusion 21 years ago today in Seattle, on a bill that also includes NYC expats Kicking Giant. We play “Let’s Compromise” to salute their old home, and “Cast a Shadow” to acknowledge their new one, then bring on Chris to sing “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.” In 2006, our five-day Scandinavian tour with Elope ends in Copenhagen, and we take their request for “Almost True,” a song we’d never played live previously, and follow it with “Time Fades Away.” Seems only fair since we’ve been enjoying their version of “Bad Fog of Loneliness” all week.
Our second appearance ever in Chicago takes place 27 years ago today, and it hasn’t taken long for it to be high on the list of our favorite cities. Tonight we’re at the Cabaret Metro, and it goes well, a nice sendoff for the 12-hour overnight drive home as this is the last date of our tour. As you’ll note, the beginning of our show is timed so that one can go see R.E.M. first, or indeed so that R.E.M. themselves can come hang out. And sure enough, at one point in the evening, someone bursts into the dressing room–in my memory, his clothes are in tatters due to the difficulty of his trek, but surely I’m embellishing–to report, “Mike’s here! Mills, not Stipe.” In 2011, the Condo Fucks open for Athens’s own the Glands at the Mercury Lounge.