Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo

WYBC MusicFest ’99 at Yale University, New Haven, CT • April 24, 1999

One of the best things in this world, besides love, is freedom. This past weekend demonstrated that to myself and my group of friends in a way that will be remembered for the rest of our lives. We were in New London, CT with Tracy Shedd, who was opening up for Edith Frost and Danielson at T.A.Z. The other “regional” opening performer was Hrishikesh (pronounced Ree-shee-kesh). He is from New Haven, CT, and plays cute pop stories on his guitar by himself. This isn’t much of a review of that show, but it amazed everyone there. We were awestruck that someone of this caliber was so unheard of.

Anyhow, we all became really good friends that evening, and Hrishi decided to invite us back to his apartment in New Haven to spend the night. He mentioned that his other band, Pinstripe, and his friend I-Huei’s (pronounced Ee-way) band Sea Ray were playing this festival Saturday at Yale University. “Yeah, we’ll probably hang around for a while.” Then he mentioned Yo La Tengo would be there to headline. “Cool, we can probably stay for that too!”. Finally he mentioned it was going to be opened to the public. We yelled “Kick ass!”

It was already enough to have been introduced to such a great guy and his friends and all this new music, but to get to see such superheroes as Yo La Tengo for free…it just made the weekend so much more magical. The other bands that were on the bill were all related to Yale in one way or another. Most of them had current students in the band, but some were alumnae — Hrishi is a student.

The show was opened at 3:00 PM by a band called the Trumbull City Heartbreakers. They are a five-piece consisting of two guitars, bass, cello, and drums doing the ever-so-popular beautiful rock that you may find, like the Sonora Pine or Retsin. Not bad, but typically local. Gaslight was next. They seemed to fall into the cover band/frat crowd. Not bad if that is what you want, but I did not, so that is when I took my lunch break. Cassius was after them, pulling out all the stops with their indie-rock/emo flares. I really liked them! They did not fall into the “just another band doing the same ol’ crap” category, they really added to a growing scene of rock ‘n’ roll.

I have to give credit to the guys at WYBC and Yale who put this showcase on: they really knew how to operate things. Everything went real smooth. There was never more then a ten minute wait between bands. And they were giving away free T-shirts, and since it was getting colder and colder by the minute, that was a definite plus to the already free show.

The fourth band to go on was quite a surprise, in the best possible way. The Pearly Sweets and the Platonix, with backup singers the Pearl Drops! Wow! Apparently, the frontman of this soul-powered trio is “that guy every school has that is the ‘cool’ class clown”! When they got on stage, everyone began to scream. There were at least one hundred kids out in the 30 degree springtime weather, and they all wanted the Pearly Sweets! Unfortunately, I am not too familiar with soul music, but I can say it reminded me of James Brown. I know that is easy to say, but it is all I can say. It was fun, though!

After that was 33.3. They are all graduates of Yale, living in New York, I believe. Their lineup was cello, guitar, and drums. Their sound falls between beautiful and emo rock, similar to Karate or June of 44. The cellist was very good at filling in the void of a bass. She explored all possible ways of playing it, separating her style from most cellists. The guitarist had a repetitive melodic style that I found almost mesmerizing. Quite nice! Hrishi’s band, Pinstripe, was up next. They definitely had a large mix of influences. Everything from roots, to pop, to emo. Hrishi played drums and did half of the singing. He shared with the guitarist. I like Hrishi’s voice, but he did not use it to his fullest potential like he did the night before, playing solo. I am not sure if it is because he’s also drumming. If so, it is understandable — his drumming is phenomenal, very tight and expressive. And finally, the last “opening” band, Sea Ray, took the stage. Bass player I-Huei is a student at Yale, while the other members live in Brooklyn. I wonder if they know all the kids from the Marlborough Farms crew (Ladybug Transistor, Saturnine). Their sound reminded me of that, but not as cute pop… more on the innocent side. Sea Ray like to develop a good groove and ride it out with their sounds, something I like a lot in bands. The singer reminded me of Bedhead, with his quiet monotone way of singing. Very complementary to what was about to come…

Yo La Tengo! Yes! Do we have to say anymore? If you have not heard of Yo La Tengo yet, then you obviously have not been listening to music! I remember the day that I was first introduced to them. It was like the world stopped and nothing else mattered except the good vibes sent through your body! At 8:30PM on Saturday, April 24, 1999, the world came to a stop again! And like I said, all we cared about was the feeling you get inside when listening to Yo La Tengo.

They played a good mix of songs from different albums and singles. Some songs were new, or at least not recorded, covers perhaps. As always, they explored their songs dynamically. Georgia sang like a Sunday school teacher, so sweet we listened like her class. And with great passion, Ira would bring out his most heartfelt expressions with his performance, whether it be on guitar or farfisa. It was explosive!

Yo La Tengo is one of the greatest bands ever! I don’t even care that the frat boys were enjoying it. Maybe they might begin to understand life…no! People were on the roof dancing, hanging out their windows screaming, just loving life everywhere. There must have been at least three hundred kids out by then, barely filling the courtyard area of Yale. Earlier that day, when we were walking around New Haven, we saw handmade signs taped to the streets giving directions to Yo La Tengo with arrows. Like I said, the world stopped that day. Or at least it did in New Haven. It was a beautiful thing!

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