Yo La Tengo are “the quintessential critics’ band” who have been making low-fi melodic indie-rock since 1984. They hail from Hoboken, New Jersey, which for those who don’t know, is right across the river from New York City. Most mainstream music fans do not know who these guys and girl are, but for real music fans, it doesn’t get much better than them. They are indie-rock pioneers and are a band’s band.
They started their first set off with a 20 minute dreampop medley, and didn’t address the crowd until after their third song. Then they played one of their more poppy songs ‘Big Day’. They then took a brief intermission and came back for their second set which was more rock based and loud, playing one of my favorites ‘Sugar Cube’.
The band took turns playing different instruments on the stage with lead singer Ira Kaplan switching between acoustic and electric guitar, synthesizer, and piano.
Drummer Georgia Hubley took turns playing the drums and singing up front while providing backup vocals as she sat behind the drum kit. She has a lovely voice and provides a nice counterpoint to Kaplan’s more nasaly whinny. Bassist James McNew played an upright bass along with a standard electric bass and supplied vocals for the call and response ‘Nuclear War’ which was preceded by Kaplan imploring those in the crowd to get out and vote if they were unhappy with the way the country is going, which to nobody’s surprise, many people in the crowd weren’t.
Yo La Tengo is a classic and legendary indie band, and while the first set was a little quiet and not very exciting, the second set more than made up for it. It was great to be able to get up close to see them and in such a venue. I’ve described Babeville before, but if you still haven’t been there, get yourself over there for a show – it’s possibly the best venue in the city.