Yo La Tengo At Burton Chace Park, Saturday August 12th 2017
‘We are Yo La Tengo, and it’s sickening to live in Trump America’, this is how Yo La Tengo’s ira Kaplan welcome the crowd at Burton Chace Park on Saturday night. Marina Del Rey organizes free summer concerts, and last Saturday night, the indie rockers arrived on stage surrounded by a thick marine air and a very quiet crowd. The very political tone was given, although the rest of the night didn’t bring any other commentary of this sort, but the trio played their music under the omen of such a declaration, and the lyrics of ‘Mr. Tough’, a bit later during the set.
When it comes to being quiet, Yo La Tengo certainly can do it, and this concert was an exercise in quietude slowly becoming the loudest sound ever, as the tone of concert started relatively low, then slowly grew in a devastating distortion. Beside ‘Sudden Organ’, the first song they played, which raised an angry and menacing organ chaos, and the upbeat and catchy ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ the first part of their show was rather low-key, probably intentionally. There is no frontman/woman in the trio, they all sing one after the other, and drummer Georgia Hubley took the lead during the soothing ‘Tears Are in Your Eyes’,… at this moment her voice was subtle, and you could barely hear her beautiful murmur-like above the exquisite melody. Everyone got very quiet though and being at the front, sitting on the ground in front of the stage, was a very special moment.
Most of the time, the three of them were playing far part on the large stage, Ira behind the organ or on guitar, James McNew on bass or percussion and Georgia on drums or vocals, but their three-apart sounds were conveying into a cyclic melancholia, especially during the circular melody of ‘Autumn Sweater’, a song which probably was there to remind me we were fatally progressing toward the end of summer, a depressing though to have mid August.
But not everything was a downer, ‘Mr. Tough’ brought back Ira’s funny falsetto and a Latin-flavored dance-floor, which made Ira talk about a disco pool party at their Marina Del Rey hotel… ‘We didn’t expect this, but it’s probably our lack of imagination’.
From the delicate dreamy melody of ‘I’ll Be Around’, which was played with an eerie touch and plenty of delicate chord arrangements, to the krautrock soundscape of ‘Before We Run’ which sounded like an endless euphoric sunrise ending in a bizarre chaos of space-y distortion, their sound grew bigger and bigger, getting deeper in the noise with ‘Deeper Into Movies… it was as if they were unleashing all their self-contained rage in a sudden sonic tempest… and they got loud, very loud.
Yo La Tengo are also famous for their covers and they did 5 on Saturday night, a tender and dreamy rendition Hank Williams’ ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ evaporating in subtlety thanks to Georgia’s soft vocals, ‘Little Honda’ by The Beach Boys, which I must admit, I didn’t recognize at all, and that says a lot on how Yo La Tengo can transform oldies into a new sonic experience. I guess I can say that the 10-minute distorted-guitar-wreck at the end of the song was surely not how the Beach Boys had envisioned the song. Just before Jackson Browne’s ‘Somebody’s Baby’, which was requested by the crowd a bit earlier, Ira got very direct: ‘You were asking for this song while we were doing a different song, which is normally the surest way we won’t do it, but that was such a good idea’, he joked. Of course the Ramones cover was a pure crowd pleaser, and an ear candy to me, and they ended up as they had began, in softness and subtlety, with the cosmic eerieness of Sun Ra’s ‘Dreaming’ as the last notes of guitars seemed to vanish in the marine air.
A Yo La Tengo concert seemed like an adventure in sound, moody but always focused, mixing avant-garde distortion with catchiness and old classics revamped to sound like a Yo La Tengo song. ‘We have been a band for over 30 years! Thank you for applauding our tenacity’ said Ira as if he were not aware of their amazing career and numerous albums. On stage, they look totally unassuming and humble, but as soon as they start playing, everything sounds possible.
Tears Are in Your Eyes
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams cover)
I’ll Be Around
Before We Run
Deeper Into Movies
Little Honda (The Beach Boys cover)
Our Way to Fall
Somebody’s Baby (Jackson Browne cover)
Sheena Is a Punk Rocker (Ramones cover)
Dreaming (Sun Ra cover)
More pictures here