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Festival: Squeeze a Drop of Blood from a Sugarcube

Filed under: New Yorker Festival   Tagged: , , , ,

If the New Yorker Festival Debate hadn’t ended so early (about 9:15), I might not have bothered hauling my sorry ass out to Gowanus to see Yo La Tengo. I’m lucky I did. Ben Greenman did a fine job ushering the band through an always potentially awkward blend of music and Q&A in a large darkened space. His suggestion of “Autumn Sweater” was particularly genius; that was the high point for me. I saw YLT do a proper rock gig at Irving Plaza years ago, and I must say I prefer the quasi-unplugged variant quite a bit more. YLT trades on its remarkable flexibility—every time you think they’re a step and a half away from becoming a folk band, they bust out a dose of skronk that would rouse even J. Mascis from slumber.

From the interview portions, my two favorite comments came from bassist James McNew (these are very close paraphrases): “An English teacher gave me a copy of White Light/White Heat, and it just broke my mind…. I was like, ‘I hope you realize this means I’ll be flunking your class….’” and, “A lot of the songs I write are messages to present-tense-me from just-slightly-future-tense-me telling me everything will be all right.”

Here’s what they played:

The Cone of Silence
Stockholm Syndrome
Story of Yo La Tango
Magnet (NRBQ)
Autumn Sweater
I Heard You Looking
Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind
This Man He Cries Tonight (The Kinks) (live debut)
Sugarcube [excellent choice for a closer]

(Accurate set list provided by Jesse Jarnow.) —Martin Schneider

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