Your Worst Memory of
Playing with Yo La Tengo?
Newgarden, ex-Run On
Lounge, Santa Monica, CA 10/95. While I was minding the Yo
La Tengo T-shirt table, two cute chicks (alleged names: Kirsten,
Ryan) flirtatiously distract me in order to shoplift three
Camp Yo La Tengo shirts right under my nose.
Blake, Teenage Fanclub
winter in Minneapolis, our first time in this city and it's
We'd driven overnight to get there and had arrived very early
in the morning of the day before our show together. The bus
had pulled up outside our hotel and the driver woke us and
asked to disembark and check-in early so that he might take
his bus out of town, where it was cheaper to park. We stumbled
into the lobby, dazed, rubbing sleep from our eyes. We didn't
notice how cold it was.
We slept all day. We met in the lobby at 7:30 having arranged
to get some food. Raymond was wearing his red jacket, the
one that someone had stolen his passport from.
We pushed our way through the revolving door to meet the night.
It was freezing. We could feel the hairs in our nostrils stiffen.
We were dizzy. And that's when it happened: Raymond's jacket
froze. He couldn't move. He tried to move his arms but it
was impossible. We were getting worried, and Raymond was turning
blue. Something had to be done.
We positioned ourselves around Ray, one to push him over and
two behind to catch his fall. We heard a crack as his shoes
broke away from the pavement. We then carried him overhead,
back to hotel kitchen where we defrosted him in front of the
After a short time, Raymond had recovered. The oven had given
us an idea, so we ate pizza and drank beer in Raymond's room.
He was still wearing the jacket.
Greenberg, formerly of The Coctails, now of the Log Letters.
The last time Yo La Tengo played Chicago, Ira called me and
my bandmates and asked us to bring our instruments and join
them in a few songs. I felt lucky because I got to play vibraphone
on two very beautiful, quiet songs. The show progressed until
it was my turn to go out and play. At that point, Ira (Jewish
person) introduced me (Jewish person) to the 1000+ crowd as
"Mr. Adolf Hitler on the vibraphone." I got a look from him
as if to say "YOU know what I mean..." I didn't. If I weren't
holding mallets in both hands I would have scratched my head
in confusion. Luckily I was too nervous to let it affect me
and I went on to play the song with much concentration and
even more "clams." (It wasn't terrible, though. I probably
deserved a strong B+) It wasn't until about two months later
that I got the reference when Adam Jacobs (you know, the taping
guy) gave me a tape of a Bonzo Dog Band song in which Adolf
Hitler is introduced as the vibraphone player, along with
about 60 introductions of different people on different instruments.
I finally get it. Thanks Adam!
Merritt, Magnetic Fields
When we played with you at NYU, there was a convention of
Baptists in the building. The Baptist students were having
a Ben & Jerry's eat-a-thon on the rooftop patio, blasting
Christian rock, directly under our dressing room. As everyone
knows, the Magnetic Fields don't like rock. We disapprove
of rock and Christianity, especially in combination.
I have, as a rule, tried to avoid the possibility of embarrassment
on-stage since the time I took a quaalude before attempting
a soft-shoe in the middle of a German class reinterpretaion
of a Woody Allen play -- cane and all -- in 1976. And I almost
always have a swell time in the presence of my YLT pals. But
one night I wanted to become one more unidentified puddle
on the rug of the CBGB stage. It was encore time, and I was
asked to join the band on-stage. At the time, Ira took particular
pleasure in asking me to play songs I had either never heard
or at least didn't know the chords to... but that's OK. I
can take a challenge. On the menu that evening: "Somebody's
Baby." It was the first time I played that tune with them.
So I'm psyched... then I am handed the guitar I am to use
as the song starts. But the strap is James-sized, not Iraesque.
I am a very short person. Now I am grappling with chords,
cadence, foreign wail of god knows (or maybe James) what pedals
turned on -- I feel like I'm wrestling a sonic bear. PLUS
I look like an idiot. It was like a elongate world. Wooziness
and vertigo sat in and I felt the same way I did when I dropped
acid for the first time and I had to call my mom to say I
was going to be late while wondering what late meant... and
the numbers on the phone got really big and breathed and I
got really confused... anyway, I chose to sink, down, down,
under the friendly shelter of new member Mr. Acetone and just
ride it out until I could slither offstage.
Needless to say, all of us in Lambchop were pretty excited
when we found out we were going to open a few dates for Yo
La Tengo. Touring isn't something we do often, what with us
being such an unwieldy group and generally afraid to leave
our homes. So to entice us, the YLT crew offered to let us
borrow some of their gear. This was very helpful, as it allowed
us all to fit in the van without having to strap a couple
of people on top. We didn't realize just how nice YLT were
being, though, until we bragged to our friends about our upcoming
tour. They all had the same response: "They're actually letting
you USE their equipment?!"
Sensing possibility for all kinds of disaster, our leader
Kurt gathered the band together before we left and gave us
a very stern speech. He explained to us that we have to behave
like adults and that we were to treat YLT's equipment with
the utmost care and respect.
Everyone listened and took heed: After each set, Buddy carefully
wiped down James' bass amp with a mild solution of Ivory soap
and warm tap water. And every night Allen was there setting
up and breaking down Georgia's drumkit -- she'd just kind
of mumble and point at stuff, and Allen would get to work,
carefully setting up all the cymbals, stands, drums and cowbells
in their correct place. (Of course, Georgia insisted on setting
up the gong herself).
Well the tour was going just fine. We'd played a couple of
dates, and then we got to Albany. We were setting up and I
wandered over to watch Allen go through his nightly routine.
Now that he'd earned Georgia's confidence, she'd hang out
while he was setting up and tell him dirty jokes. He was putting
together some cymbals and, I don't know how it happened, but
I managed to knock one over. (It might have been when I was
running across the stage, swinging my arms around and shouting
"ROCK AND ROLL!") Well, that was it. In the middle of delivering
some punch line about how nobody eats parsley, Georgia swung
around and slapped me full in the face. Then she kicked me
and stormed offstage, yelling "I want him off the tour! NOW!"
James, who was in the middle of showing Buddy some of the
bass licks he'd picked up from Larry Graham, gave me a look
that was a mixture of mocking pity and utter contempt. Meanwhile,
Ira, who had been backstage entertaining groupies with his
impersonation of Lou Reed, came out and lit right onto me:
"You can take your pathetic little self back to Hicktown,
Tennessee, because you're finished on this tour, you hear
me?" If it weren't for YLT roadie Joe Puleo, who quickly intervened,
Ira would have flattened me. I'll spare you the details about
the looks of shame I got from all my bandmates, how I had
to hitchhike home all the way from Albany to Nashville, and
my six-month "Lambchop probation." What can I say? I brought
it upon myself.
Newgarden, ex-Run On
Please don't use the girls' names (Kristen, Ryan) in the issue.
Having to play charades at Thanksgiving with the entire Kaplan
McCaughan, Superchunk, Portastatic
My worst (if hazy) memory of playing with Yo La Tengo would
have to be an incident that took place on the last date of
our Great Lakes/Easter-Central Midwest Tour in the Spring
of 1994. We were opening for "the Tengos" in front of a packed
house at Bogart's in Cincinnati. Our set had gone over pretty
well and after a hot shower and a couple of drinks we were
all enjoying their set from the wings, joking with the friendly
bouncers about Ira's drumming, etc.
Anyway, the show was great, the Ohio crowd was typically nuts
and as the third encore (an extended cover of an obscure 70s
pre-punk gem) built to a furious climax, I was seized by the
moment and the good vibes on-stage, and in an ironic-but-good-natured
mocking of the mashing crowd and a genuine gesture of love
and respect for YLT's musical prowess, I decided to cap off
the night with a tour-ending stage dive. I handed a shocked
Joe Puleo my half-finished Manhattan and took off for the
seething carpet of fans mashing against the edge of the stage.
But instead of the "oh, you guys!" grins I expected to see
on the faces of the band, I have just enough time to read
"Get the fuck off our stage!" on Georgia's lips before James
sticks out his leg and I go down hard, my face slams into
the wedge teeth-first and in about 2.8 seconds flat, Joe has
been hog-tied with a mic cable. James puts down his bass and
holds back my arms while Joe gaffer-tapes my head to the keyboard
of the Acetone somewhere around middle C. Joe picks up the
maracas out of a puddle of my blood and drool and, before
I pass out, I hear the band break into "Sudden Organ." I hear
it was quite inspired.
Lovatt, Containe, Pacific Ocean.
A show that started as "how cool, we're playing with Yo La
Tengo" turned into "let me die before my throat sets fire
to us all" like Drew Barrymore in Firestarter where
she keeps saying "back off, back off." And I wasn't the only
one that felt that way. Fontaine could hardly speak or hear.
We both could hardly walk. Ed was getting our germs all over
him. Ira wanted to know if changing the mics after we played
would offend me. I gave him a big kiss and said not at all.
Georgia said she put henna in her hair the other night and
that when she sweated she smelled like she had never washed
it out. I tried to smell it but got snot in her hair. Sssshhh.
I asked people the same questions the few times over, each
time swearing it was first time asking. When the audience
applauded I called them all liars because my voice sounded
like a puppy in a well. The college we were at gave me cups
with that plastic coating for my tea, which them melted and
coated my already coated tongue. I pulled a muscle lifting
an amp. I couldn't find Fontaine. Then I couldn't find Ed.
The only thing in the dressing room was a cooler and some
ham. Some guy kept giving me pictures of something. Home was
hours away. I hated anything that created noise. James' amp
was bigger than me and had a rosier complexion. The floor
was spinning. The students were spinning. I was in an "I hate
men" phase. I lost my Riccola. I fell asleep next to the ham.
Bruno, Nothing Painted Blue
I've only actually played with YLT once, as a solo act at
Santa Monica's Alligator Lounge (a.k.a. the Aggravator Lounge,
where Jean Smith threw the cash register in the street when
2 Foot Flame got stiffed, but that's another story), so I
guess that it was both the best of shows and worst of shows.
First, I wasn't very good. I was playing through a smaller
amp as an experiment and I was nervous that it sounded farty
and overdriven, so I wasn't really at ease. Then I brought
up my Canadian stand-up bass-playing friend, and foolishly
started the most complicated of the three songs we'd learned
(which we'd practiced twice). I don't know that many people
noticed but I thought it really dragged and I knew where all
the mistakes were (This happens sometimes when you go beyond
the three-chord barrier). None of the above really has much
to do with YLT, who were unfailingly polite about my performance
(as were Run On, who played after me).
The part that was what I guess you'd call bad also merely
reflects on me. Not to put too fine a point on it but the
show was not especially well-attended. YLT was playing two
nights, of which this was the first. As I recall, two or three
other shows were going on in town that night and I got the
general impression that most of the hipsters who packed the
place last time YLT had been in L.A. were going to wait for
night two. (I didn't volunteer the information that I, personally,
am cursed.) I should point out that the openers the next night
were going to be popular "lo-fi" pioneer Chris Knox and my
close personal friends Refrigerator. I couldn't make that
show (another long story) but reports were that it was great,
Also, I was told that most of the 'Fridge and, of course,
the ubiquitous Knox ended up on-stage with YLT. So did, on
the first night, all of Run On, for a version of "A House
Is Not A Motel" that became an atonal "Bad Politics" with
Sue Garner biting guitars with sticks and that kind of stuff.
I remember looking up at the unmanned Acetone during this
and thinking, "Well, I could join in but it would be grandstanding
and I wasn't invited. So basically the point is, in my own
petty little head, I'm the only person in a total of four
opening bands that didn't get to "jam, dude." The whole experience
(like so many others) gave me a twinge of that old high school
"ditched in the mall" feeling. Hey gang! Wait up!
Also, since the main difference between the two shows as far
as the club was concerned was that the night I played, no
one came, they kept telling our booking guys that they won't
put Nothing Painted Blue on shows 'cause we don't draw (like
this is news). The best we can do now is first of four bands,
before Matt Keating, for fifty bucks. I mean, of course I
don't bring as many people out of their homes as Chris Knox;
I usually perform wearing pants!
Cleaver, Ass Ponys
Our second or third ever show as the Ass Ponys was opening
up for Yo La Tengo, at this place called the High Top in Newport,
Kentucky. I think the German guy was playing bass for them
at that point. Or was it Wolf? And they also had some roadie
or something on tour with them who they hated him. Anyway,
about two hours before we went on our drummer, Dan, called
us at the club to tell us he couldn't make it. We went ahead
and played the show as a drummer-less trio and were terrible,
so awful that at one point Georgia actually asked the guy
who booked the place if we were a "real band."
Jones, Cul de Sac In
spite of James' temper-tantrums, Ira's smack-included logorrhea,
and Georgia's constant demand for favors with the hint that
if I'm good, she might give me "the nicest Hagstrom III I've
ever seen," playing with Yo La Tengo has been only the pleasantest
of occasions for us... but thanks for asking.
Butcher, My Bloody Valentine I
have a true memory of doom descending upon me during one of
the shows we played together. We were in Seattle, around 1992.
I'd been chatting to James in the dressing room and got all
excited at the thought of Peter Bagge (of "Hate" comics creation)
being at the gig, not to mention all the other "Seattle-ites,"
like Hole. Well, for a start I ate too many jelly teddies
while we were chatting, which was a bad start to any gig,
wouldn't you say?
YLT played a storming set and then it was our turn. Behind
the stage curtains waiting to go on, someone appeared with
a pure grass joint, and I partook of just one drag, thinking
it might settle my nerves. Anyway, we all then strolled onto
the stage and oh dearie me, my jelly teddies nearly came running
out of my tummy with their little hands raised in horror!
I felt absolutely petrified like never before, and, looking
sick-like at the set list, I realize I have to sing "Only
Shallow" to open the set. When I hit my guitar, it sounds
all peculiar and I just want a big trap door to open up and
swallow me. Oops! And then I have to sing and I just can't,
basically, I sound like Minnie Mouse on her deathbed, and
feel like crying and running away. By this time Kevin is shaking
his head and glowering at me from across the stage, and I
want to go home. Anyway, by the end of the next song, I was
fine again and quite enjoyed myself in the end, even though
I never did get Peter Bagge's autograph!
Lamkins, The Grifters.
We were playing in Columbia, MO, and ran into some of the
guys from St. Monday, and they say, "So, we opened up for
Yo La Tengo last week and we're all hanging out backstage
and we ask if we can have some of their beer, right? and they
(the Tengos) say, 'Well, we told The Grifters to help themselves
to our beer and they drank it all, so...'" So, guilt-ridden,
we had our people send their people a six-pack of something
(I hope it was good beer) and now there is peace.
Kilgour, just kicked out of the Pastels
Due to the rest of the Pastels plus Ira all being tardy for
our New York soundcheck, me, James, and Georgia soundchecked
a Pastels song and YLT song together and I suddenly realized
what a bunch of lame-os I'd been playing with all along!
Breinholm Bendtsen, ex-18th Dye
Being on the road with YLT for 3 weeks in Europe (Painful
tour). I was asked to join the band for an encore on the 24th
of December in a sold-out club in Berlin (our home turf) and
it was terrible... I wasn't allowed to rearrange the drumkit
(I'm right handed), I started in the wrong tempo so the band
stopped and counted me in... and of course I didn't know the
song, which was one of those US rock songs that every born
rocker in America knows.
As most of you know YLT and how bad people they can be, the
story above is not very interesting and getting this request
from James, I actually picked out a YLT album and found the
tour schedule (93-94). This gave me the creeps. Not because
of YLT... but during the tour my girlfriend of 7 years and
I drifted apart. A month after the tour we were separated.
I still love YLT (sorry).
Newgarden, ex-Run On
Let's change "cute chicks" to "attractive females."
Mitchell, the Pastels, Melody Dog
Ira invited me to play maracas on-stage, provided I'd look
as mean as them and not smile.
Krukowski, Damon & Naomi, Magic Hour, formerly of Galaxie
It was at Green St. Station in Jamaica Plains so La Tengo
and we were very excited. So we get to the club and no one
will really talk to us. This was in the era of the very tall
bass player who didn't seem to speak to anyone. But it extended
to Ira and Gerogia as well.
Now we were pretty green and didn't know yet about good and
bad days of touring, or anything like that, so maybe we were
totally off... but we were sure that everyone in the band
HATED us, and they were totally bummed that we were opening
Then, much to our shock, the band played ONE SONG as their
entire set! It was half-hour long as I recall, but aside from
the musical issues involved it seemed to us so ANGRY! ...
further proof that they were miserable and all because of
We spun very elaborate theories as to why Yo La Tengo hated
us so much. Years later, after Galaxie 500 had broken up,
Naomi and I saw Ira and Georgia and everything seemed to be
fine, in fact really nice, between us. It was then that we
realized the truth of that night in Jamaica Plains: THEY MUST
HAVE HATED DEAN!!
10/27/95, Alligator Lounge, L.A, CA. The show actually went
really well, but as we were loading out, Dennis and Ira started
talking about the possibility of having the 'fridge open for
Yo La Tengo again in the near future. By the time I had finished
putting away my drums and joined the conversation, Dennis
was on a roll. Earlier, our (mine, Dennis and Allen's) senses
of criticism were warmed up by a conversation with James about
such schmaltz-metal bands as Autograph and Armored Saint.
Now, Dennis was in the present tense, bagging on the bands
of today as all six of us stood on Pico boulevard. We all
chuckled along at Dennis' cute characterizations:
Dennis: "(so and so) sounds like a watered-down version of
Pavement. (blanketly blank) is too boy-rock. They're such
an emo-band. Hey Ira, maybe you should play with _____ next
time instead of us before they sign to a major label! Ha ha!
God, they are so awful!" (nervous laughter from Refrigerator.
Then, dead silence. Uncomfortable pause.)
Ira: "We HAVE played with _____"
Georgia: "They're our friends."
Me: "I have to go make sure everything's loaded up"
Brown, Run On
My few bad memories of playing with YLT are always paired
with a high point (near nadir Berkeley Square the day after
fantastic Great American Music Hall for example). For purposes
of today's exposition, let's say a beautiful spring afternoon
in Swarthmore, PA wondering if Ira's little "talk" with a
murder investigation by campus security, the unpleasantness
of which sullies what could have been a nice memory of playing
w/ the Ass Ponys and the previous night's great show in NYC.
McNeil, ex-Kreviss, now of The Tonics
When we were opening for you, someone threw a bottle on-stage.
It made me really upset and I started crying. Later I found
out it was actually a friend of mine who was really drunk.
He said he didn't mean anything by it, he just thought it
would be funny.
week after agreeing to open for Smog and 2 Foot Flame at the
altogether ridiculous Alligator Lounge (save for New Music
Mondays, the place is a hub for Van Gogh's Daughter, Dishwalla,
and Keel), we were offered the spot of opening for Chris Knox
and Bango Tango. I believe the booker's name was Deb and,
understandably, she didn't want the same band playing at the
same club two weeks in a row. Given the case for such events,
we have used the nom de plume of "The Bux" to throw off any
of the always considerate and fair promoters of the greater
Los Angeles area. Deb booked The Bux and the events leading
up to and during the show went without a hitch. We played
the same lackluster songs that we would normally play as Refrigerator,
presented ourselves as New Jersey's Bux, and had a wonderful
It wasn't the acerbic, tainted tongue of Chris Knox that let
the cat out of the bag, but that belonging to Ira Kaplan.
Ever since this event, we've been blacklisted, even our friends
in the biz refuse to service us promos (It didn't help matters
a week later when Jean Smith and I took the "Alligator Lounge
Surfboard" down form the club's ceiling and threw it into
an onrush of unexpecting cars on the highway).
& Bubba Kadane, Bedhead
It would have to be the time in Seattle, when, much to everybody's
surprise, our tour manager Josh showed up just before sound
check, fresh from the barbershop, where he had traded in his
"Grizzly Adams" beard & hairstyle for a rather questionable
buzz flat top, complete with a handlebar mustache, a la The
Village People. We wouldn't have recognized him at all, had
it not been of the distinguishable garb he'd been wearing
on the road, and since we had to be associated with him and
his new look for the rest of the tour, we wished we hadn't
recognized him. Anyway, the look kind of symbolized the tour
from that date on: fucked.
Büttrich, ex-18th Dye
#1 - The first sentence I ever got to hear from YLT
scene: first show ever together, 18 Dye having just arrived
at the Arapaho in Paris somewhat earlier than YLT. An orange
juice bottle has just slipped outta the backstage fridge,
everything's wet with... well, orange juice.
Ira Kaplan on coming in: "I'm not playing with those guys,
they're smashin' bottles backstage!" hey, rock 'n' roll...
#2 - The second sentence I ever got to hear from YLT (coming
in a verrrry close second):
"It's all damp up here -- he must've done it here, too."
Ira, same night, 20 minutes later, onstage at the Arapaho,
in a typical soundcheck mood.
I could think of dozens more...
Toups, Versus, Containe
Ira asked me to do some 2nd guitar tuning during YLT's set
one night when I was really sick (and on every kind of cold
medicine I could find, particularly Nature's Herb natural
cold medicine, usually a great high, but not on an empty stomach,
like tonight). I said OK but I was really freaking out. I
mean, this was Ira, I can't fuck up. It took me FOREVER it
had to be just right, not too sharp, not too flat: perfect.
I was sweating. I couldn't take it anymore. I put it on the
guitar stand and hoped for the best. Well, it was right, thank
you, God. In the future, I'll try not to take too much of
Newgarden, ex-Run On Go
ahead and leave the girls' names in.