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
After months of acoustic shows, on this day in 1990, we dust off the fuzzboxes and perform a set at CBGB, after which one satisfied customer looks me up, down, then up and down again before asking disbelievingly if we’re the Yo La Tengo that opened for the Sundays at the Marquee a few months ago. Ten years later, we conclude our Japanese tour with a performance at Club Quattro, and it’s a wild one. Salon Music is on the bill and they join us at the start of our second encore for a version of “Rocket #9” that becomes a medley with “Muck Muck” before it’s over. I surf the crowd during “Love Power” and live to tell the story. We return for two quiet songs; Georgia sings “Take Care” and that’s that.
Of the dozens of times we played at Maxwell’s, the oddest might have taken place 22 years ago today. We’re set up in the front room to provide some between-speech acoustic entertainment at a Clinton/Gore campaign event, and it turns out that my political rally default setting–basically less talk, more music–is not as universal as I once thought. The only two people who don’t appear impatient for us to finish are Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate–I know they enjoy my mom’s rendition of “Griselda” (almost as much as they enjoy taunting my brother afterwards about missing it). Three years later, our tour with Run On concludes at the Alligator Lounge in Santa Monica. All four members of the band find their way on stage before the night is over, most spectacularly in a death-defying (perhaps I exaggerate) guitar handoff from Alan Licht to Sue Garner during the segue from “A House Is Not a Motel” to “Bad Politics.”
Our run of shows with Tall Dwarfs comes to a close at J.C. Dobbs in Philadelphia with Chris and Alec joining us during our encore for a big-band rendition of “Crush,” 22 years ago today. Things go somewhat less swimmingly five years earlier at the same venue. It’s game 7 of the World Series, and there’s a lot more interest in the Twins victory over the Cardinals than in our opening set for the Windbreakers. Not that I don’t understand why, but did there have to be a tv in the bar to drive the point home? Unaware that the Windbreakers are planning a two-hour set (I mean, come on, who plays that long?), we go on surprisingly early and, completely dispirited afterwards, plot our strategy for the next time we feel so taken for granted. Little do we know that that will be our very next show, three days hence. See you soon!
Georgia and I make the unwise decision to take a tour of the Anchor Brewing Company 19 years ago today, and our show that night at Berkeley Square with Run On is a disaster. Just looking at the set list, I still cringe. On the bright side, three of the four pint glasses we acquired not only made it home in one piece, but survive to this day. More awkwardness at T.T. the Bear in 1992. I accomplish a personal best by thanking the opening act, the Willows, by two different names, neither of them correct. Then we bring Steve Michener on stage to perform Big Dipper’s “All Going Out Together,” pulling him away from the final game of the Blue Jays/Braves World Series, having neglected to inform him that our arrangement includes an extended guitar solo. I’m pretty sure he was offstage in time for the 11th inning, but I couldn’t swear to that.
On this day in 2006 we play at the Henry Fonda Theater in–where else?–Hollywood, the last night of our U.S. tour with Why? Yoni, Josiah and Doug help us out on “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” One year later, we’re Freewheeling in Alexandria, Virginia, on a bill with the late, great Jack Rose. I don’t remember why we decided that “I Hate Hate” would make a good next song–a question about Double Dynamite? the Swing State tour? or perhaps a political number for the Beltway crowd. In any case, I was all set to fake the lyrics when it occurred to me that the words were on my computer, which was nearby in the dressing room. We brought someone out of the audience to make sure my screen didn’t go black in the middle of the song. And speaking of Washington D.C., in 1992, we play at Maxwell’s with Tall Dwarfs and close our set with the first performance of President Yo La Tengo’s “The Evil That Men Do” since 1989 (the long version, that is), and according to my records we haven’t done it since.