In 2007, we were asked by someone at NYU to deliver a lecture, and yes, that’s “we” as in the three of us, not in the royal sense. Confused about what this could mean, we were assured that we had free rein to define lecture however we chose. How could we turn this down? On this date seven years ago, the three of us assembled at the Skirball Center, with an acoustic guitar, an electric bass, a snare drum, a floor tom and a cymbal. We played two songs, and then announced that the lecture was over, leaving us time for a Q and A (seems to work for Jerry Lewis). For the next 90 minutes, we answered questions and let the conversation steer us to another nine songs, at least one of which we’d never played with that instrumentation. It was slightly terrifying and a lot of fun. Six months later, we took the “lecture” on tour, and have been doing it off and on ever since, dubbed “The Freewheeling Yo La Tengo.”
Four years earlier, we were booked to play the Beacon Theater with Portastatic. A week earlier we had played for the first time with members of the Sun Ra Arkestra, and we wanted them to join us in New York as well. Arriving so late, we were seconds away from going on without them, Tyrone Hill, Danny Ray Thompson and Dave Davis joined us on the opener, “Nuclear War,” and two more songs, then returned later for four more. The set concluded with a second version of “Nuclear War,” accompanied by nearly a dozen nieces, nephews and other teens and tweens (I believe that’s the first time I’ve ever used that word). I hope every one of them remember the night as fondly as I do.