by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
When I got to The Waiting Room Saturday night at around 8:30 I thought the show was going to be a dud. Maybe 20 people were wandering around the club. A guy outside with connections told me pre-sales had been disappointing, especially considering that Yo La Tengo rarely plays such small venues anymore. Last time they came through (in 2009) they nearly sold out The Slowdown. In fact, the reason I got there early was to make sure I could snag two tickets and a table.
But within a half hour the place was nicely filled, and a line of people waiting to get in snaked out the door. I didn’t get numbers, but it felt like at least 250 were there to see what arguably is one of the most influential indie bands of the past 20 years. Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew came on at about 9:20 and announced they were doing two sets, starting with a “quiet set” that included soothing renditions of soothing songs from albums that reached all the way back to 1993’s Painful LP as well as stuff off their latest, 2013’s Fade (Matador).
Don’t get me wrong, this was beautiful, lush, moving stuff, but after four or five songs, it all began to bleed together, and sure enough people started to get bored and turned their attention away from the stage and toward whoever they came with. Muted chatter slowly became a rolling roar that rose from the back of the room. This is the point in the review where I’d normally chastise the crowd, but I can’t blame them for getting restless.
After about 45 minutes of soothing stuff, the trio left the stage for about 20 minutes, than returned for the “loud set,” which was indeed more interesting, more upbeat, and loud enough to discourage casual chatter. You had to yell if you were going to cut through the dense noise generated by Ira’s guitar shredding. Again, the band played a fine selection from a variety of albums, including favorite “Tom Courtenay” off Electr-O-Pura. Nice stuff, but again, one after another after another — including extended Ira guitar solos — started to become dull indeed, and we ended up leaving five songs into the “loud” set.
I love Yo La Tengo. This is the third time I’ve seen them live. The best time was when they played Sokol Underground back in 2006. That set was broad and varied and Ira was reined in. Then there was that Slowdown show in ’09. That one felt loud and chaotic and while Ira was in full-on jam mode, the sheer overblown power of the set made it memorable. Last Saturday’s show was memorable too, but dividing the set into “quiet” and “loud” made for too much of one thing or another.
I don’t know if it was because I still had YLT on my mind, but Eros and Eschaton kind of reminded me of that trio when they played at Slowdown Jr. last night. This was an early show — starting at 7 p.m. — which made it possible for me to actually attend. Why more shows — especially on Sunday or “school nights” — don’t start at 7 or 8 remains a mystery to me. It’s nice to be able to get home before 11 p.m.
In this case, I was home before 10 because E&E played a severely short set. The band consists of former It’s True frontman Adam Hawkins and his wife Katey Sleeveless (Kate Perdoni), along with a bassist and (I’m told) the drummer from It’s True. The It’s True influence was distinctive during the first half of the set, which sounded very much like material that would have fit in well on It’s True’s last album. The difference is the harmonies between Hawkins and Perdoni, along with a bit more heft in the arrangements.
Things got heavier in the second half of the set, as the band pulled away into the more brutal territory heard on their new Bar/None album. The musical violence reached a fever pitch when a song closed with what seemed like a full five minutes of battering guitar and feedback noise — a noise collage — that had the guy next to me holding his ears.
At their best, the band epitomizes the ’90s shoegaze of bands like Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, while the quieter numbers recall the Velvets or, yes, Yo La Tengo. The prime moment was the closing song, a hard, fuzzy droner that I wanted to go on and on, but instead closed too quickly, marking the end of a set that couldn’t have been more than 30 minutes (including five minutes of guitar-noise filler).
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The week starts off strong tonight as Lincoln’s UUVVWWZ takes the stage at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Power Haunts (ex Eagle Seagull, ex Black Hundreds) and Dirty Talker. $5, 9:30 p.m.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
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