In last week’s top-5, I predicted there would be some indie rock tribute beers this year. Since I want to be part of the solution and not the problem, I have decided to post five possible examples of beers that could be brewed as a way to properly recognize the chemistry that exists between indie rock and craft beer.
5. Dogfish Head Guided By Voices Heavy Lager – I once heard Bob Pollard proclaim on stage that he drinks “Bud Heavy” and not Bud Light. So, I think Dogfish Head needs to produce a “heavy” lager, maybe an imperial pilsner or high ABV bock of some sort and dedicate it to the reunited classic GBV lineup. I chose Dogfish Head because they’ve done this sort of thing before and there’s a picture of Sam Calagione wearing a GBV t-shirt out there somewhere.
4. Stillwater Bright Eyes Angst-Ridden Saison, Aged in Red Wine Barrels – I once had a pretty in-depth discussion about Bright Eyes with Stillwater brewer Brian Strumke. So, I know he’s a fan and would totally be into this sort of thing. I also know that Conor Oberst loved some red wine. If anyone could figure out a way to brew the perfect beer involving a red wine barrel (Pinot Noir possibly?), it’s Brian. This is actually the beer on this list that I personally think has the best chance of actually happening.
3. The Bruery Pavement Pilsner, AKA Watery Domestic – Of course I had to figure out a way to work Pavement into a beer. I suspect The Bruery could tap into Pavement’s Northern California aesthetic from their early days and brew their first commercially-available pilsner in the process. Since it’s from The Bruery, expect some flavors and adjuncts that will throw you for a loop.
2. Shmaltz Brewing Company He’Brew Yo La Tengo Barley Wine – A better brewery and band pairing would be hard to conjure. Shmaltz calls NYC home and specializes in Jewish-themed brews with their He’Brew line, particularly their Hanukkah gift pack. Yo La Tengo hails from across the river in Hoboken, but they spend a lot of time in the City. Every year, YLT celebrates their Jewish heritage with a set of shows each night of Hanukkah. A huge barley wine that improves with age would be ideal.
1. Just About Any Portland Brewery to Brew an IPA in Honor of Just About Any Portland Band – I get that this will be seen as a cop-out, but how could one narrow Portland’s beer and music scenes to just one brewery and one band. The one thing that isn’t hard to figure out is the beer’s style. An IPA makes the most sense here as some of the best come from Portland. Their bitterness can be a turn-off for some at first, but eventually the joy that is a Wests Coast IPA is discovered. The same goes for the average Portland indie band.
Update: This happened today. Let’s get on this, Stillwater, Bruery, Schmaltz, et al.
I hate posting two things on the same topic/event so closely together, but this allows me the opportunity to regain some followers as they see my rate of posts increase. Also, I hate to post simultaneously on two sites, 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 eventually write that Spanish beer post I’ve been sorta promising.
Yo La Tengo and their wheel of fortune/fate/salvation took the stage in a partially-filled Blue Note last night. There might not be a more ideal summer show in Columbia. The audience was dominated by locals who were mostly old enough to have seen Yo La Tengo in the early and mid-nineties, not undergrads as the kids were home for the summer. Still, YLT just seemed happy to be there and played two well-received sets.
The first set was determined by said wheel. CoMo YLT fanatic Karen Truckey was virtually pushed on stage by friends to take a go at the wheel. However, guitarist/vocalist/organist Ira Kaplan added a twist. Courtesy of Gotcha!, Kaplan revealed masks he and Truckey would wear for the ceremonial spinning. The “contestant” smartly opted for the Power Rangers helmet so as to avoid any rousing about furries and whatnot. Kaplan was left with a dog mask and the spinning of the wheel commenced.
The wheel started spinning at some point in 2010. Yo La Tengo had been together for over a quarter century and needed to spice up their live show. The wheel leaves a set or a portion of their set to chance. Possibilities include sitcom reenactments, sets consisting of songs that entirely start with “S”, a request/Q&A, etc. The wheel has allowed YLT sets to be free from repetitiveness and banality.
The wheel was finally spun after Truckey leaped onto the stage and masked were donned. For me, the worst would have been the sitcom reenactment. It’s been done and you can see it on YouTube. The second-least anticipated result would have been either part of The Sounds of the Sounds of Science soundtrack…and that’s what we got.
It’s hard to get excited for 20-30 minutes of music created to soundtrack a French documentary about fish, but it actually blew away that limited perspective. Employing a wall of sound built slowly from a simple keyboard progression, Yo La Tengo demonstrated chops to make beautiful noise not normally witnessed outside anything associated with Sonic Youth. The mini-set was explosive and powerful. It’s a wonder to watch Kaplan strum, beat, dangle, scrape, whatever to get the most perfect feedback. I’ve been witnessing it for almost twenty years and it never grows old. Sounds of Science was that rare moment when one of your favorite bands finds yet another way to impress you with something new.
The wheel set concluded with three Condo Fucks tunes. I assume the band picked up on the crowd’s preference for the material they recorded under the CF moniker and obliged with “So Easy Baby”, “With a Girl Like You”, and “Come on Up.”
After a brief intermission, the night continued with a proper Yo La Tengo set, a set that could be described as a “dream” or “ideal.” It opened with “Autumn Sweater” followed closely by the sprawling and beautiful “More Stars Than There Are In Heaven.” The somber “Tears Are In Your Eyes” and fan-favorite “Stockholm Syndrome” after that. “Beanbag Chair” and “Black Flowers” from I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass came next; the second of those two featured the forgotten vocal talents of bassist James McNew. Then, the band worked through an acoustic “Big Day Coming”, the groovy “Periodically Double or Triple”, the driving “From A Motel 6”, the ever-present near-hit “Sugarcube”, and the epic “I Heard You Looking.”
At that point, the Yo La Tengo faithful received their money’s worth. Still, YLT returned for an encore of the Tom Courtenay b-side “Bad Politics”, acoustic rarity “Alyda”, and the subdued and lovely “Center of Gravity.” The finish provided time to reflect and be content with the evening behind us.
In the conversations that followed our Evening with Yo La Tengo, several themes emerged. Ira Kaplan is a madman on the guitar, but tonight, he was restrained and provided just enough theatrics to enthrall his minions. James McNew is the steady bassist with surprising vocal chops that every band needs. Georgia Hubley has earned the distinction as one of indie rock’s finest drummers as well as the owner of a killer voice that soothes and fills a room without flash or bombast. But the impression that was most indelible is that Yo La Tengo is an ageless wonder who play with the same youthful fervor they did 15, 20, 25 years ago, not to mention their appearances demonstrate the same agelessness.
Yo La Tengo owned CoMo last night. This will be a tough show to top for some time. The kids don’t know what they missed.
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. 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.
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“, 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. 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, 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. 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. 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, 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 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.
Pitchfork recently started does a cool little feature where they ask an artist to identify their favorite songs at the ages of 5, 10, 15, etc. The first in the feature is the incredibly hard-rocking Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney fame. I’ve done something like this before, but I wanted to do one of these features for this blog. Of course, I don’t get to interview cool indie rockers. So, you just get me. Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments or write your own post in response.
I turned five in 1980. It’s honestly very hard to remember music when I was five. I do know that my parents were Rolling Stones fans. Mom was a huge fan and my dad saw them in the ’60’s at Dayton’s Hara Arena, the same venue I saw Nirvana many years later. A particular song that resonates throughout my life is “Satisfaction”. It was so raw and powerful. That song was the opposite of sunny, top-40 pop. There’s a direct line from that track to the garage rock-turned-punk of the 1970’s and beyond. Whenever I listen to the Replacements or the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion or Titus Andronicus, I think of the raw dissatisfaction of that one song. I took special notice when PJ Harvey and Bjork once performed “Satisfaction” together, Cat Power remade the song for a covers records, and even when I found myself singing the song to my infant daughter. That song will stay with me forever.
In the summer of 1984, my brother and I discovered Prince (and his/the Revolution). The little rocker from Minneapolis released a movie, Purple Rain, we were not yet old enough to see. Then, right after my tenth birthday, my mom went on this trip to visit family in California. Dad let us see some rather racy movies. Purple Rain was one of them. We had the LP since September when my brother turned 8 and we quickly gathered as many of his records as Columbia House would allow. Among those purchases was Prince’s classic 1999, another great album loaded with killer track after killer track. Among all the Prince songs we listened to over that two or three year period, I’ve gone back and forth as to which song made the biggest impact, but I’ve somehow landed on “Little Red Corvette”. It had the hook, a story, and well…It was all Prince. From the 1982 album by the same name, this was the hit we played more than any other.
Truth be told, my introduction to indie/alternative music was not Nirvana. That came a year later. No, the shit hit the fan in 1990 with Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual De Lo Habitual. That record came at a time when I was listening to a lot of classic/hard rock. Radio stations had picked up “Been Caught Stealing”, a track I was all over. I mean, it had dogs barking. However, even my gateway track was not the most memorable off the album. “Ain’t No Right” which might not even be the best track on the record touched on a lot of anger I had stewing beneath when I was 15. It was the punkest thing I had at the time. Anything remotely punk was a rare thing in those days in West-Central Ohio. Somehow, Jane’s Addiction combined hippie-like politics, heavy metal heroics, and punk grit to everything they touched. It would be another year before the inaugural Lollapalooza and another three before I’d start even going to shows, but this was the track on the record that sent me on my way.
In 1995, I saw Pavement for the first time. I attended the third of three Lollapalooza’s. It was the middle of my college years, years that were greatly influential in shaping my musical tastes. Although Wowee Zowee was in full rotation for much of the year, I discovered another band on Matador that had been around for a while who was also playing Lolla that year. The band was Yo La Tengo and the album they released in ’95 was Electr-O-Pura. The track that has always given me a tingle was “False Alarm”. I saw the band twice that year and “False Alarm” was easily the highlight of both sets. Ira Kaplan just seemed to fall all over his Hammond B-3 organ, choosing to play with his elbows or chest rather than the more conventional fingers. The song is so loaded with angst and lust and jittery goodness that I didn’t hesitate when I hit my 20th year on this list.
2000 was a strange year for me, musically. Pavement was out of the picture for a year, a reunion a long way off. I struggled to find that groove in the scene within I used to fit so comfortably. Modest Mouse was leaving their indie years behind and fully embracing their major label selves. My music collection needed a swift kick in the ass. Enter The White Stripes. De Stijl was not a wickedly popular album at the time and Jack and Meg were still siblings/married couple. My sister turned me on to them. I still remember picking up the record in a tiny basement record shop in Athens, OH where she was living. “You’re Pretty Good Looking (for a Girl)” was the opening track that pulled me in. Despite the fact that it’s nothing like the rest of the album, the song made the rest, which was the jolt I needed, so much more approachable for me. Anyway, say what you will about Jack White, but he made some pretty amazing music back in those days.
Thirty may have been the year of the greatest change for me. Within a week in July of 2005, I passed a Master’s exam, supported my partner as she successfully defended her dissertation, closed on our first house, married said partner, and moved 500 miles from the only state in which I ever lived. It was stressful to say the least. I needed some music to address this uneasiness.
Spencer Krug’s “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son” hit me like a ton of bricks from the first listen. My sister had pushed Wolf Parade on me, citing the fact that Pitchfork loved them and they were from Canada, which at the time was a winning combination. Anyway, that song still gives me goosebumps. Instead of flipping the record on that first go around, I simply moved the needle back to the beginning just so I could here that song with that drum beat, those piano blasts, and those lyrics. Man. Goosebumps.
Oh, that’s now. Well, I’ve decided not to over-think this one. Easily, the song that has it’s stamp all over this year is “I Won’t Lie to You” by Let’s Wrestle. Again, my sister is to blame. She put the track on a CD for my daughter. We played that thing into the ground for most of this year. Then I bought the Let’s Wrestle album and it was all over. The song is still the standout track, but the entire album has captured my longing for days gone by and that giddiness I used to get at rock shows or in record stores. The opening lines say all you need to know about me: “No matter how many records I buy, it still won’t fill this void.”
Those were the most meaningful songs to me every five years of my life. What were/are yours?
1OK. So, it was nothing like this post. That older link is to a post where I picked an album for every year of my life using my current experiences and perspective. This list takes into account what I was into at each age.
2Normally, this would have been a footnoted item. Oh, wait. I did just footnote it.
3Which was OK, but way better than her last covers record, Jukebox.
4In retrospect, might have not been the best move. It wasn’t perverted or anything. We watched Purple Rain, Up the Creek, and Revenge of the Nerds. These films are pretty tame by today’s standards, but they did have an effect on my perspective of sex and women. The good thing my dad did throughout the weekend moviefest was remind us that none of this was real. It was pre-AIDS can infect straight people. It was a simpler time for sure. Where was I going with this footnote?
5I don’t know how many times we joined one of these clubs. It was always a penny plus shipping for something like 10 or 12 records/cassette tapes. We would just stock up, buy a few records over the course of the three year commitment, quit the club, and join another. The best was when one of them started offering Matador albums in the mid-nineties.
6The first was on the second stage at the aforementioned Lollapalooza. The second was a great little show at Stache’s in Columbus, OH.
7However, Modest Mouse did release Building Something Out of Nothing, a collection of rare EP and 7″ tracks from their indie label Up (RIP). I had all these songs on the original EP’s or vinyl, but it was a nice collection all together and helped expose a lot of major label Mouse fans to their earlier work.
8Very popular with the lesbians. I ran around with a lot of lesbians in those days. Of course, I’ve been called a “lesbian” before, but that is another post/footnote for another time.
9It could be argued that Jack White still does make good music, but I’m not the one to make that argument.
10Actually, I had very little to do with her successful defense and possibly less to do with her finishing her book earlier this summer. However, whenever she feels the stresses of the academy, I feel them too and remind myself why I never took that route.
11This does not count the summer I spent in Seattle. Of course, does a summer spent anywhere really count as living there?
12Actually, my siblings and I have influenced each other’s music collection than is normal. I love Swearing at Motorists and other Dayton, OH bands because of my brother. I still remember my sister sneaking my CD’s in high school and college so that she could dub tape-after-tape of her own mixes. Music is a huge connection for the three of us, maybe even more than that whole blood thing.
13Although, the version my sister sent us was from an earlier release which is superior to the one on the proper album. It’s rawer, more immediate, livelier.
14Thanks to Carrie the Wade for setting me straight on this one. Sometimes in my old age I get the facts mixed up or am totally out of the loop as to what all the kids are into these days. Had she not pointed out this grave error I would totally look like an out-of-touch, aging hipster. Just to be clear, Carrie Wade reads the P4k all the time, a pursuit my frail old body cannot handle anymore. For more information I am too old to share with you (I mean, I’m thinking of writing an Arcade Fire review next. What am I? NPR?), go to Carrie’s blog where she covers way cooler music than I do. See you at Pavement, Carrie!