Yo La Tengo at Detroit Bar Last Night
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

Yo La Tengo at Detroit Bar Last Night

​​Yo La Tengo
Feb. 24, 2011
Detroit Bar

It was the most soothing of times; it was the most startling of times--it was the tale of two dramatically different sets. It was a night of answers; it was a night of variety. It was a packed-house show at Detroit Bar. It was a swath of fan favorites; it was the occasional cover. It was lulling the crowd into a peaceful ease; it was the awakening with scratching guitar solos. It was the first OC show; it was the last stop on the current tour.

The crowd had everything before them--Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, James McNew and a pinwheel--and no room behind them. It was a night to enjoy the music; it was a night with Yo La Tengo.

The "SOLD OUT" signs at the front door and the line stretching along the sidewalk indicated this night was to be something different at Detroit Bar. An hour before the first chord was struck, the room was packed tight. Trips to the bar led to inappropriate contact with a neighbor. 

There was no opener on this night, but nobody cared. If you were willing to pay the $30 face value of a ticket for a show at Detroit, you were there for the headliner anyway. When the band of three finally took the stage, game-show music escorted them. The tour gimmick dictating the first set was a Wheel of Fortune-type pinwheel. It could be a re-enactment of the Roots mini-series or "Spinner's Choice," among other options.

Questions was the winner.

Yo La Tengo at Detroit Bar Last Night
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
​The music began with "Tom Courtenay"; the questions led with why no pinwheel option for the band's alter ego, Sleeping Pill? 

The set continued with a number of Yo La Tengo's softest pieces, from "Decora" to a Neil Young cover, with the lyrics faintly distinguishable over the even-softer guitar, bass and brushes melodies. Hubley's low, comforting voice carried the set.

By the time the crowd had asked the band about first albums purchased and "Why the Mets?", the question emerged: "What song have you recorded that you're most proud of?" It took two days for the band to record all 17 minutes of "Night Falls On Hoboken," and the challenge of shuffling between sound rooms and playing various instruments until an ideal track was ready was the one that stood out for Kaplan. And so they played an 11-minute version.

After leaving the audience in a near-comatose state of mind before intermission, Yo La Tengo began their schizophrenic second set with "Spec Bebop." After whispering lyrics and delicately picking his guitar in set one, Kaplan adopted an aggressive persona after the break. He slammed his forearm into the keyboard and dug the headstock of his guitar into the stage, while releasing the strings from the neck, in order to manipulate the sound. One abrasive song bled into the next. He seemed to be a man possessed. 

And the audience loved him for it. And the music. And Georgia. And James. And OC hopes it will be sooner than 26 years before Yo La Tengo comes back again.

Yo La Tengo at Detroit Bar Last Night
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Personal Bias: Teetering on the fence between noise and genius.

The Crowd: Packed tighter than the dark brown curls on the head of lead singer Ira Kaplan.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Good music to trip to," one man commented, while watching me scribble notes. He'd just stepped in after gobbling a few herbal substances.

Set List: 

First set
Tom Courtenay
Double Dare
Gimme Some Lovin'
(Neil Young Cover)
Night Falls On Hoboken

Second Set
Spec Bebop
Avalon or Someone Very Similar
On My Way
Let's Save Tony Orlando's House
Sudden Organ
From a Motel 6
I Heard You Looking

(Black Flag Cover)
Mr. Tough
Barnaby, Hardly Working


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