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.