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Review Sun Nov 08 2015

Yo La Tengo Mixes Acoustic Country and Electric Noise at the Vic

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Yo La Tengo is as known for their covers as their originals. Or at least when performing live, because with an acoustic set at the Vic the New Jersey group rumbled through classic songs, both popular and obscure, with enough twang and noise that their reinterpretations may have created new songs entirely.

And their fabled and aptly titled 1990 record Fakebook received acclaim for this reason. They covered anything from "Griselda," by '60s Greenwich Village denizens the Holy Modal Rounders, to "golden age" Kinks to even themselves. But Fakebook also included the last contributions by the band's original lead guitarist, David Schramm.

It's been about 25 years since Yo La Tengo has been without Schramm. When they released Stuff Like That There in late August, they brought their story full-circle by adding Schramm back into the mix, and by following a similar format as Fakebook.

Bassist James McNew thumbed along on an upright bass that made this tall man look small while songwriter Ira Kaplan strummed his acoustic-electric guitar with deliberation. Singer and drummer Georgia Hubley stood up while playing her drum kit with brushes (her kit included no bass drum) and she even masterfully alternated where she landed strokes on the ride cymbal, creating different timbres and tones.

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An air of awe, admiration, and, most of all, appreciation filled the old vaudeville house. It was a concert without hollering or heckling, and the volume would have been Goldilocks' ideal level: not too loud, not too soft. Couples even danced and waltzed to their softer songs, like the lilting and adolescent fondness heard in the shy vocals of "Our Way to Fall."

And during a short intermission (the band played for around two hours throughout the night), the crowd's collective chattering was even louder than the band during their height of noise-filled jams.

Speaking of which, while the band touted the night as an "acoustic evening," they left plenty of room for amplification and electric improvisation. Between Schramm's clean, round-sounding Telecaster and a pedal steel guitar, the band sounded like The Tennessee Three, Johnny Cash's backing band, if they were exposed to Sonic Youth and the realm of free jazz improvisation -- including a noise jam with the pedal steel on "Pass The Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind."

It was all too fitting for them to cover songs from the twang of the Minutemen's "Corona" (perhaps best known for being the Jackass theme) to their bittersweet sounding cover of the Cure's "Friday I'm In Love."

With a largely acoustic arrangement, Yo La Tengo sounded hushed and intimate, but their performance was not silenced of any musicianship or energy. They hashed out songs old and new with enough interpretation to make them more than mere imitations.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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