Last Sunday I went to see Yo La Tengo at Cat’s Cradle near Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They’ve been one of my favorite bands for a while and I’ve been waiting for a chance to see them live. The band is made up of Ira Kaplan (guitar, vocals), Georgia Hubley (drums, vocals) and James McNew (bass, vocals). Yo La Tengo means I have it in Spanish.
“They look like parents!” a friend I went with said when they came out. And sure enough, the three members of Yo La Tengo do, and they should, as they’ve been together since 1984. Since they’ve been around that long they’ve recorded numerous songs under multiple genres, anything from instrumental, rock, slower and down-beat music, all of it alternative. But even though they may look older, they sure know how to rock. Ira Kaplan, the lead guitarist, would get down on his knees or drop quickly to the floor, bend over and keep playing his guitar.
Before they began the show, Yo La Tengo brought out a Wheel-of-Fortune looking wheel, based on one of their album covers. They chose someone in the audience to spin to see what kind of songs they’d be playing for the night. I’m guessing they chose to do this to narrow down their selections because they have so much music. For our show, the wheel stopped on “Songs beginning with ‘S’.” They have plenty of songs beginning with ‘S,’ enough to fill a whole set list. But it was funny, in the middle of the show Yo La Tengo ran off stage for 20 minutes to write up a new set list.
While they played many songs, I do wish they’d have played some of my all-time favorites, such as “You Can Have it All,” “Season of the Shark,” “Today is the Day,” “By the Time it Gets Dark,” “Our Way to Fall” and “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got” and more.
William Tyler opened for Yo La Tengo and kept expressing how grateful he was to be on tour with them. He held his own, despite being shy.
His instrumental guitar songs lasted anywhere from three to 20 minutes, although he cut them shorter for his opening act. It seemed like we traveled to India for one of his songs, which was amazing since he was only using guitar. His techniques were very interesting and exciting. He used a violin bow to strum across the guitar strings, at times. He also mixed his guitar and then played over it, keeping the mixing going for minutes on end. Check out this song to hear what his music is like.
In the interludes, he said softly into the mic, “I’m sorry, you have to understand, there’s not much to say when you play instrumental music.” It seemed sad, at the time, but true. His music spoke for him.