Photos: Yo La Tengo @ MCASD La Jolla
Impose Magazine Review – photos by me, words by Gordon Downs
Last Friday, I was contacted by Gordon of Impose Magazine and asked if I wanted to shoot the Yo La Tengo show, which he was reviewing. My answer was something along the lines of “Yes, please,” because if I had gotten my shit together sooner, I would have tried for a photo pass myself anyway. So it worked out nicely.
I like Yo La Tengo, but I’d be lying if I said I was familiar with their entire back catalog. It’s pretty…formidable. I’m familiar with their sound though – a mix of sweetly melodic pop songs that can suddenly devolve into distortion and noise, and then just as quickly resolve back to melody. When they go the noisy route, comparisons to the Velvet Underground are obvious – especially with Georgia’s vocals recalling those of Nico.
Even though they are only a threesome, the range of songs that they can produce is enormous. It helps that all three members share vocal duties, and all have distinctive singing styles. Next to Georgia’s Nic0-esque tone, Ira’s vocals sounded delicate and sweet, carefully articulated and always subtle. In contrast, James’ voice, used mostly for backup duties but taking the spotlight on one of the songs that night, was a fluid, forceful instrument that felt like there could be much more to it, if only the small auditorium would allow for it.
They played quite the mix of songs Sunday night, and every single one sounded perfect. The sound was perfectly balanced, if maybe a little too quiet. Or rather, it would have been too quiet if the audience wasn’t completely captivated by every note. I have never been to a show where the audience was more respectful than this one. You could tell by the Q and A that interspersed the set that the audience was comprised of mostly hardcore fans.
The band member’s banter with the audience was intimate and humorous the entire night. It was easily the type of setting that could have been intimidating for questions, but there seemed to be no barrier between the audience and the band. If they had been playing in your living room, the show could not have been more inviting, nor the band members more charming. It was quite an enlightening evening, even for a casual fan such as myself, and it definitely inspired me to finally start tackling that intimidating back catalog.