Yo La Tengo brings two sets, a spectrum of tones and a jam with Kurt Vile to Union Transfer - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Yo La Tengo with Kurt Vile | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

You have to love a band that’s not so jaded, after being at it for over thirty years, to come out to their own merch table after a two-hour show to meet their fans. Yo La Tengo‘s Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley did just that on Saturday night, mingling with the last of their most devout devotees to finally drag themselves out of Union Transfer close to midnight, earnestly and charmingly thanking those who came out to the sold-out event and signing everything from free copies of a crossword puzzle Kaplan drafted, to fancy limited-edition orange vinyl copies of the new studio album There’s A Riot Goin’ On which they’re touring to support.

Yo La Tengo | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

The band played two discrete sets that night. The first curated a mood so subdued you could hear Ira’s guitar pick against the acoustic strings even off-mic, while the second was more discursive, meandering from the extended experimental instrumental interludes of a seminal indie rock band at their indie-rockiest, to perfectly crafted ballads, to a showcase of their punk and noise-rock roots. This is a band armed with a truly enormous and beloved catalog – 15 full-length studio albums since their debut in 1986, and as many EPs too — and a band that won’t be pigeonholed: Yo La Tengo can play almost anything, as Hubley and bassist James McNew all take turns with vocals, and at several points trade their main instruments for a turn on the keys as well. Although they shined a generous spotlight on their newest material, they dug deep, too, pulling out older favorites like “Five-Cornered Drone (Crispy Duck),” “The Ballad Of Red Buckets,” and “Blue Line Swinger.”

Yo La Tengo | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

The Hoboken rockers went the extra mile in the hospitality department too, as they seemed to take some deliberate measures to cater to a Philly crowd. Rounding out the first half of the night, they brought up native son Kurt Vile to support two songs, including a cover of the Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love.” During the encore, they extended an open opportunity to a fan in front whose Swans tee caught Kaplan’s attention, and played “Detouring America With Horns” for him on request, from 1992’s May I Sing With Me, Kaplan noting with a smile that it was a “slightly deep cut for this hour of the night.” Finally, they paid tribute to Philly jazz giants The Sun Ra Arkestra, covering their 50’s ballad “Dreaming” with Hubley on vocals, following poignant commentary by Kaplan about treasuring the legendary Philly music collective.


Set 1:
You Are Here
The Ballad Of Red Buckets
She May, She Might
Is That Enough
Black Flowers
Friday I’m In Love (The Cure cover) (w/ Kurt Vile)
Here You Are (w/ Kurt Vile)

Set 2:
Dream Dream Away
False Alarm
For You Too
Shades Of Blue
Five-Cornered Drone (Crispy Duck)
Autumn Sweater
Nothing To Hide
Blue Line Swinger

Right Side Of My Mind (Angry Samoans cover)
Detouring America With Horns
Dreaming (The Cosmic Rays with The Sun Ra Arkestra cover)

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