YO LA TENGO Scrap Spin the Wheel Yet Still = Rad

Huh. That was not the Yo La Tengo show I was expecting.

I mean, there was all this play in the meejah around how the Jersey trio were gonna bring this indie-rock Wheel of Fortune thing to the hipster masses. Ira Kaplan did a hell of a lot of explaining at the start, while Georgia Hubley and James McNew looked on awkwardly. We all laughed. Oh the mystery of surprise! Hurrah for crowd interaction!

Ira Kaplan, Yo La Tengo, Mikala Taylor, backstagerider.com photoHere’s how it works – it’s complicated, try to keep up – a fan spins the wheel and depending on where it lands, maybe you get a skit, maybe you get songs that start with S, maybe you get some cover songs, maybe you get to ask questions. You know, whatever. Yo La Tengo’s only been around for 27 years, so there’s OPTIONS.

Our option was a local chick with patterened tights named Lauren. She spun…and then….WTF? “SCIENCE”? Okay, yeah, that’s exactly what Vancouver wanted right off the bat…an unending amount of minutes of drowsy instrumentals from underwatery¬†The Sounds of the Sounds of Science. THANKS A LOT, LAUREN, NICE ONE. I confess, I did a bit of a Tweeting during set one. Nice to listen to, but a bit noddy.

Then the band disappeared and returned…. and the Wheel was very quietly scrapped. Ira announced they were gonna play as their alter-egos Condo Fucks, from their album Fuckbook, “‘cos we’re sick of not playing the Condo Fucks.” Interactive? Sorry, folks, the wheel’s rolled away.

And that’s when Yo La Tengo totally spun out awesome.

Now, Condo Fucks isn’t everyone’s cuppa but the rawkabilly of “Come On Up” woke the room and Georgia’s version of the Troggs cover of “With a Girl Like You” (ba-ba-bah-bah) was so divine. But my fave? James’ “Dog Meat”. That man can fiddle knobs AND play some mean bass. And sing. Yay for Dump!

What else? “More Stars Than There Are in Heaven” from Popular Songs, was trippy, (“If it’s True” from PopSongs also made it on the list), Georgia doing “The Room Got Heavy” with James also on drums was doubletime super-groovy – one of my faves of the night, actually. In fact, anything Georgia sang, was pretty much insane. She also rocks metal drum brushes. The crowd actually went a bit apeshit for “Deeper into Movies”, which came on all ridiculously wondrous and full. Yeah, “You Can Have It All” was there, as was “Tom Courtenay”, “One Good Reason”, “Autumn Sweater” and “Blue Line Swinger” was Mogwai-epic.

In other words, set two was a fair-old VAST IMPROVEMENT. Some fans even chucked up their own requests in the form of a setlist which Ira – who didn’t do much chatting – reviewed. And then dismissed. Nicely. “Nope…..Not a chance. Nuh-uh. Wow, you could actually be 0 for the whole piece of paper, that’s amazing.”

For the final encore – two and a half hours later, with a break in between – came Georgia doing “Nowhere Near” and and the divine Daniel Johnston cover “Speeding Motorcycle” – a version which also totally transported me to first-album Luna era.

So, Yo La Tengo, I kinda wanted to see the wheel more in action. But I dug what you did instead. Rock and roll on. \m/

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