Musical musings: Yo La Tengo/Times New Viking edition

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Here's a little rundown of some thoughts on music from the past week (and for the record LL "I'm too Cool for Columbus" J "missed his flight" and so will be "rescheduling" his appearance here):

Yo La Tengo/Times New Viking at Beachland Ballroom

I headed up to Cleveland last week to see Yo La Tengo team with our hometown heroes Times New Viking in an enticing double bill. TNV seemed like a sure bet—they haven't failed me yet—but Yo La presented a mystery. When I attended back-to-back shows in Columbus and Cincinnati back in 2003, the band was in full downer mode, embracing the quiet and, unfortunately, mundane love ballads of Summer Sun and throwing the crowd the occasional electrified bone. Those shows were about as good as the places they took place—long-gone Columbus outpost The Factory was kind of lame, but day two found us at Newport, Kentucky's beautiful Southgate House, which made for a great show, snoozefest be damned. Oh what a night.

Last summer's set at the Pitchfork Music Festival was a different animal, the band limiting itself to new songs but pulling them from the variety hour that is I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. That made for a concise compendium of the Yo La Tengo sound, if not the Yo La Tengo catalog. (To paraphrase the less pleased members of the crowd that day: "Where's the hits?")

So this one was a toss-up. Where would Yo La's focus lie? But first, TNV, who my buddy David was experiencing for the first time, and it's about time, since I've been bugging him for like two years. Did they deliver? Of course they delivered! David on his first TNV experience: "They were perfect. They were the Beatles up there." The keyboard was a little high in the mix for me, but yeah, he's right. Our art-school heroes blazed through their tiny set with the chaotic precision they've become known for in these parts. They're swell.

The kids must be lighting a fire under Yo La Tengo's ass because they came out with purpose and impaled latter-day wonder "Cherry Chapstick," then left its carcass to rot in the feedback as they kicked out more high-energy jams. The show really kicked off with "Pass Me the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind," which lasted a smidge too long but who cares when Ira Kaplan is f---ing his guitar? Ira, Georgia and James reserved most of the mellow stuff for the set's middle section and kept it just long enough to enjoy without slipping into a coma. Then it was more rock, from "Tom Courtenay" to "We're An American Band" to

They invited their opening act back on stage for part of the encore (a cover of "So Agitated" by the Electric Eels), and boy was that surreal. It brought this idea into even clearer focus; these TNV cats are going places.

The New Dark Ages Bake-Off

So much great music happened last weekend in Columbus (especially for the loud and raunchy types, with Cheater Slicks, The Feelers and more returning to the stage), but I could not resist the siren call of a show that combined so many of my favorite bands in Ohio: The Lindsay, Houseguest and Terribly Empty Pockets to name a few. (I missed most of Beard of Stars and all of Guinea Worms, two upstanding bands themselves.) The New Dark Ages' latest hootenanny seemed perfectly sculpted for a pop-rock fan looking to quell his urge in a variety of ways, be it the noisy scrum that is The Lindsay, the airtight rigidity of Houseguest or the bashful Pockets. It was.