Yo La Tengo/The Rosebuds—Sonar, Baltimore, 2.09.07

  • Posted on February 10, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Let me start by saying that I really like Yo La Tengo. I was excited that we had tickets to see them at Sonar in Baltimore last night.

I had never heard of the opening band, The Rosebuds, but I ended up really loving them! Their songs were catchy little indie-pop numbers with lots of sha na na nas and la la las. In some of the songs, the male singer’s voice reminded me a bit of Morrissey by way of the Smith’s, but in a good way, and not whiny like Morrissey. Sort of like a little British accent, which is a bit strange since the band is from North Carolina. But it works. The female keyboardist sang lead vocals on a couple of the songs, but it seemed to me that her microphone wasn’t loud enough—at times I saw her mouth moving but I couldn’t hear her.

Larry was really impressed by the bass player, commenting on his excellent tone, and noting that the bass player and the drummer were “playing in the pocket quite well.” (Translation: bass player and drummer play in synch very well, so much that the bass guitar and bass drum sound almost like one instrument.)

By the time that Yo La Tengo started, the Sonar Club was packed. Somehow, we ended up behind two of the tallest guys in the place—I’m sure that one guy was a defensive tackler, and the other one was an NBA slam-dunk superstar. So this was basically my view for the entire show:

My View of the Stage at the Yo La Tengo Show

I really enjoyed the short, pop-driven songs that Yo La Tengo played. They were energetic and sounded great. I knew that there were going to be some longer improvisational songs, too—the band has a few longer, jazzy songs on their latest album I Am Not Afraid Of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. They played one song that I have to admit I usually fast-forward after the first couple of minutes, because I get tired of hearing the same two note bass-line repeated for over eight minutes. So when they played that song live, I had to admit I got a bit sick of it, looking at my watch and wondering when it was going to be over. The song is a chaotic, freestyle jam, but it is a planned chaos, if there is such a thing, because it sounded pretty much the same live as it does on the album.

Yo La Tengo at Sonar in Baltimore, February 9, 2007

They played several slow, melodic songs in the middle of their set, songs that sounded almost like lullabies, especially with the female drummer singing vocals—her voice is whispery and ethereal. It was really amazing to me that the chatter level in the club was so loud—I could hardly hear the songs over all the din in the background! The male singer announced that the acoustics of the club were not well suited for songs like this, and he asked the audience to please shut up and listen to the music (ok, maybe not in those words, but pretty close). I didn’t understand why so many people were talking so loud—why pay $17 plus all those extra charges to go to a concert and then not even listen?

The last two songs of the set were more improvisational jams, and both songs went on for over 15 minutes each. As I mentioned, I really like Yo La Tengo, but that was just too long. I stood there, staring at the shoulders of the defensive tackler in front of me, wondering when the first song would finally end, and thinking that would be the end of the show. When it finally did end, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I realized that they were starting up another song, equally boring and long. When they finally left the stage, we headed for the coat check, not wanting to stay for the encore.

I don’t think I’ll see Yo La Tengo live again—I still love them, but they are a band that I actually prefer to listen to on my iPod. If nothing else though, I discovered a great new band to love—The Rosebuds! And Larry bought two of their albums! Woot!

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