Beer and Pavement

Possible Yo La Tengo Set List

Posted in Live by SM on June 18, 2011

Yo La Tengo are set to play Columbia this week. This will mark yet another favorite band from my past make the long journey through the Show-me state since I moved here six years ago[1]. I might not be able to see the Loaf reunion tour, but I will get to see YLT Monday.

A Yo La Tengo set is a thing of beauty. Currently, the band has incorporated a game show-style spinning wheel loaded with a wide array of possibilities for their sets. The band once famously acted out an entire episode of Seinfeld simply because the wheel told them to do so. Even with this little gimmick, a Yo La Tengo set is one that fully exploits both the scope and sequence of the band’s repertoire[2].

With this in-mind, I’ve attempted to make a few predictions about Monday’s set. I won’t begin to predict what the wheel will suggest, but I think I can make ten safe predictions for the rest of the set.

1. Yo La Tengo will play some combination of three of their “hits”/most loved songs. This means that the band could launch into their latest single “Nothing to Hide” in which the video featured Times New Viking playing the part of YLT in a Columbus, OH record store. More likely, this portion of the set will include some version of “Sugarcube[3], the radio-ready “Cherry Chapstick“, or the subdued and lovely “Stockholm Syndrome.” I hope “Autumn Sweater” makes an appearance.

2. Yo La Tengo will play at least one cover song you won’t expect. As far as the ones you might expect, there is “Nuclear War“, “Little Honda“, “Speeding Motorcycle“, “The Whole of the Law“, or any number of covers they’ve made semi-famous. This band could easily make a living as a cover band who takes requests as their knowledge of pop and rock music is unmatched. My money is on “Take Cover”, the Big Star cover at the conclusion of Summer Sun. Big Star somewhat famously recorded a live record at the University of Missouri in 1993. Of course, the track doesn’t appear on the Big Star album. So, we might get another Big Star tune in the set[4]. Or something like this…

3. At some point, Yo La Tengo will stretch a song out for an extended jam that will either leave you breathless of bored. Many a YLT song already fill this niche without supplement as they are upwards of 8, 9, 10 minutes long. If the band does finish with “Nuclear War”, who knows when it will end. However, one should realistically expect one or more of the following to be played: “Big Day Coming“, “Blue Line Swinger“, “Spec Bebop“, anything off And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, “Let’s Be Still“, “The Story of Yo La Tango“…I could go on and on. These are just a few tracks the band already stretches into jam sessions on their records. They may very well stretch any song from their discography into a 15-minute epic trip through shoegaze land.

4. Yo La Tengo will play at least a second cover[5], possibly something newer and more obscure. I’m betting a Times New Viking song makes it into the rotation. This is a left field forecast, but I have a hunch that the band will play something newish that they’ve been listening to, possibly by a band with which they’ve been touring. It may also turn out to be a Teenage Fanclub song as Norman Blake was set to be a part of the bill but had to drop their tour at the last moment.

5. One extended jam will spiral out of control, completely deconstructing before our eyes. Additionally, Ira Kaplan will convulse uncontrollably on his Hammond B3 organ or guitar[6]. Songs that may earn this treatment include “False Alarm“, “My Heart’s Reflection”, or possibly anything from that Condo Fucks record, in which case it will be an extremely fast deconstruction.

6. One of Yo La Tengo’s more gimmicky routines will rear its ugly head. Most likely, the song fulfilling this prophecy will be “You Can Have It All” where Ira and James McNew do a dance routine and Georgia Hubley plays keyboards and takes lead vocals. This honor could also go to “Nuclear War” where the band creates a drum circle on stage to perform the Sun Ra classic before marching their way to the back to the venue as an encore.

7. At some point in the set, there will be a pop block[7]. This means that a selection – probably 3-4 – of the band’s poppier fair will make a showing. This could include a nice ditty like “One PM Again” or something more ambitious like “Here to Fall.” Either way, this should be the portion that will win over the more skeptical members of the audience. I suspect “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” will win a few folks over.

8. There will be at least one really obscure track from Yo La Tengo’s vast discography. This is the kind of stuff that fills old hats like myself with eager anticipation. Of course, these will also be the songs you’ll hear that drunk dude in his mid-to-late-thirties scream for all evening. Although they’ll play something old and obscure[8], I suspect they won’t play everything I want to hear. My list includes “False Alarm”, “Decora“, “Barnaby, Hardly Working“, or anything with “Hot Chicken” in the title.

9. Being that the show is scheduled for a hot and steamy summer night in Columbia, I expect a slow, summery kind of section in the YLT set. The band writes songs that were meant for summer evenings on the porch, sipping a beer. “Pablo & Andrea” is one of those songs. “Autumn Sweater” is another. “Our Way to Fall” is a third. Let the summer of cicadas[9] roll on.

10. The last prediction has little to do with individual songs but is sort of a summary of the previous nine predictions. Monday’s Yo La Tengo set will include way more than the tracks off their last album, Popular Songs. The album came out two years ago, meaning their newest material is relatively old. So, I expect a set filled with songs from various points in their 27 year history. Sure, it will probably be heavy with songs from this century, but I won’t be surprised to see a smattering of songs from the previous two decades as well.


1There’s no official list, but Archers of Loaf and Sonic Youth are the only two bands that come to mind I haven’t seen in the last six years in Misery. Loaf doesn’t look promising, but Sonic Youth should come through at some point. I wanted to see SY in StL a while back, but the planets just didn’t align.
2Of course, as mentioned before, I haven’t seen the band perform in over six years. Who knows what kind of set they play these days. As with most of my heroes, I just hope they’ll throw me a bone for a few songs. Otherwise, I’d be happy with a set heavily leaning toward their recent releases, particularly Popular Songs as it is their strongest effort of the last ten years.
3There are both fast and slow versions of this song out there. I’d be happy with either or some combination of the two. Hell, even a mid-tempo version would be cool.
4I am not that familiar with Big Star’s discography. So, whatever BS song they play will be somewhat new to me.
5I admit that this is a copout, but I’m basically suggesting they’ll play a cover you recognize and one you won’t.
6Actually, he may start dry-humping the equipment. I’ve seen him do this on numerous occasions. Somehow, it always sounds incredible.
7YLT have a portion of their repertoire that nods to the likes of Cat Stevens, Elvis Costello, and Harry Nillson. This might not be what some people consider pop, but the music these artists (among others) have created fit better in a pop context than they do rock or anything else. YLT have this same pop sensibility…when they’re not shoegazing.
8In this case, “old and obscure” really refers to anything from the early or mid-nineties. It’s easy to forget that was 15-20 years ago. Many kids weren’t listening to YLT back then. Hell, most of them weren’t even born really.
9Apparently, the cicadas around here were deafening. Luckily, I missed the worst of it. I also missed the local ice cream parlor’s cicada ice cream and my neighbor getting accosted for using a power saw that tricked many a cicada into trying to mate with him.
10This is the hidden footnote with no link above. Sorry for not posting at all this past week. I wanted to, but I fell asleep in front of the TV every night since returning from Spain. I finally feel as though I’m getting my blogging legs under me again. I may have a beer post coming up and will definitely let you know how this show went. For a truer preview, check out what Tina Roselle wrote over at the mother ship.

Image lifted illegally from Three Imaginary Girls.

7 Responses

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  1. Pizza Cottontail said, on June 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I saw YKT last night in Santa Fe. Our wheel spin gave us The Freewheelin’ Yo La Tengo, so the first set was a Q&A session/acoustic set. It was a lucky spin, because all three are pretty funny. We also got a Beach Boys cover and a Carole King tune.

  2. johndakar said, on June 18, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    I will be the mid 30s guy screaming out for ‘Mushroom Cloud of Hiss’ and ‘The Summer’ or ‘Blue Line Swinger’. I will be standing next to you so you get the full effect.

  3. Jim said, on June 19, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Never posted on your blog but it’s great to hear your love of my 3 favorite bands. But one the coolest indie rock/craft beer moment was sitting at the bar at Great Divide Brewery talking to the guy next to us about beer and bands when they played “Underachiever’s March & Fight Song” when this bearded guy yelled to turn “this shit off” it was Eric Bachmann. I guess he was living in Denver and was a regular at Great Divid.

  4. […] but I’m doing it anyway as that other site pays in paper. This was last night’s show I previewed over the weekend. The hope here is to follow this with a beer review and who knows beyond that. Maybe I’ll […]

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