Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Yo La Tengo at the Cat's Cradle - 1/23/2011

Yo La Tengo
Cat's Cradle

What are the odds you'd find yourself standing next to an overweight middle-aged man with poor hygiene at a Yo La Tengo concert? I know I know, it's hard to imagine, but there he was right next to me - stinking up the immediate area with a smell best described as "three day programming binge". As per usual the show was very schlongtacular as a whole, cause for some reason YLT attracts as many dude nerds as Rush, even though it isn't masculine music at all.

This whole tour the band was playing two sets, with the first set decided from a random audience member spinning their "wheel of fortune", which featured a number of different themed sets the band might play. Some of the options included "Sounds of Science", "Condo Fucks", "Dump", "S Songs", and a few others. I was hoping for "Condo Fucks" but we got "S Songs", which was totally fine cause it meant they played two of my very favorite tracks - "Sugarcube" and "Stockholm Syndrome" from their best record "I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One".

After about 45 minutes of "S Songs", the band took a short break and then came back out and played a random assortment of their other songs. I specifically remember "Tom Courtenay" and "Decora" and a couple of newer songs. Here's the thing about "Decora" - I thought the version they were playing sounded "off", but then realized I'd listened to the Spoon cover so often that it was clouding my memory of the original. Both versions are stellar, for the record.

This show was on a Sunday night and like an idiot I took off after the second set, skipping the encore, cause getting up early and work and all that stupid adult shit. And then I read online they not only played their cover of Daniel Johnston's "Speeding Motorcycle", but another of my all-time favorite songs "Autumn Sweater" as well. Sometimes it just doesn't pay to leave shows early out of laziness and/or dumb adult reasons. A few extra minutes of New Jersey rock wouldn't have killed me the next day.

Archers of Loaf / Love Language / Cellar Seas at the Cat's Cradle - 1/15/2011

Archers of Loaf

with Love Language and Cellar Seas
The Cat's Cradle

It happened, it really fucking happened...Archers of Loaf reunited, and I was there. My good man Brian, who is sometimes in the know, contacted me in mid-December saying that there was a strong rumor that the Archers would be part of the Love Language bill coming up at the Cradle, so he got tickets and made plans to come up to the Triangle for a bit of rocking out and dicking around. The gig was never confirmed though, leaving me plenty anxious. At some point a week or so before the show a "and special guests" line was added to the Cat's Cradle website on the date, but unless you knew someone who knew someone, you probably didn't know they were playing. Sometimes it's good to know people who know people who hear rumors of things happening.

When I got there my man Roy's band Cellar Seas was playing. Great gig for them, though a rough crowd...it was about 50-50 surly old dudes like me waiting for the Archers and 19 year old girls wound up for the Love Language and wondering why all these old people were at their show. That didn't stop Cellar Seas from powering through a nice slight twangy Americana set, and I did my best to enjoy it while knowing that a few minutes from now my favorite band of all time was going to be taking the stage for the first time in a decade.

And then it was officially official the Archers were playing - Matt, Mark, and both Erics were setting up their gear on the stage. Between my head and the band there was some hair missing from the last time this happened (which according to the poster on my wall was Saturday, December 5th...1998 I'm pretty sure), but with no less enthusiasm. They came on like a badger in a chicken farm, wailing through a 45 minute set that was exclusively from their first three releases ("Icky Mettle", "Vs. the Greatest of All Time" EP, and "Vee Vee"), and sounding like they played their last show last week not a decade ago. Just like the previous three dozen times I saw them, I found myself watching Matt lurch around the stage most of the time...pitching back and forth like a ship in a strong storm, and then earnestly thanking the crowd after almost every song. It was good to hear Bachmann pull out the full-on rock voice after many (great) years of mellow Crooked Fingers folk and Neil Diamond impressions according to most folks I know. Not that there is a goddamn thing wrong with a Neil Diamond impression.

I'm not usually a "list the track list" sort of dude, but this was a monumental occasion and even if it's only for my own reference, this is what they played:
Harnessed in Slums
Lowest Part Is Free
Freezing Point
Greatest of All Time
You and Me
Web in Front
Slow Worm

The crowd during this performance was a trip unto itself. You had the older folks like myself who clearly knew who the Archers were and were singing along, dancing and basically going nuts for the return of one of our favorite bands. And then you had the kids who were there for the Love Language, mostly (but not exclusively) very young girls in the 18 to 21 year old range, who had the most confused looks on their faces - the sort of confusion they probably last felt when the release date of one of those Twilight books got pushed back. They spent most of their time tweeting and texting, and would occasionally look up frustratedly, waiting for the old men the age of their dads to get off the stage. It was all pretty entertaining to me to be quite honest.

The Love Language were obviously the headliners, and they sounded great, but I just couldn't concentrate on them after seeing the Archers. They certainly know their way around some pop hooks and had a great polished sound...I especially love the giant drummer, who is not only a bad ass but is so big it looks like he is playing a toy kit. I hung out with some friends and listened to a few songs, but my brain was swimming and eventually I just went to the back and sat down. The Love Language deserve more attention than I was able to give them this night, but they got it in droves from the rest of the house.