On Saturday night I went to the New Yorker College Tour event where author and New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki (The Wisdom of Crowds) interviewed Yo La Tengo, and not very well. Surowiecki was clearly excited and nervous which led to long, unstructured questions that got round a point rather than at it. I felt for him as I've experienced the same, but others in my seating area were quite exasperated. The band was very much Yo La Tengo, alternating between coy, wry answers and earnest, thoughful ones.
The funniest answer was in response to what they do as a band when they're not on stage. Ira responded that over the past year they've been learning a lot of cover songs for friend's weddings, "We've spent an inordinate amount of time trying to learn 'Brick House' without much success."
Then came audience questions which tended toward the geeky. A friend asked them about their many love songs, whether they were written for each other (drummer/singer Georgia Hubley and guitarist/singer Ira Kaplan have been a couple for something like 20 years) and what were their favorites by them or other bands. Ira was glad for the "out" and told the story of when bassist James McNew and Ira learned Gary Lewis and the Playboy's "Count Me In" secretly so they could play it for Georgia at a show on her birthday. Ira specifically cited the last line as the inspiration, "Count me madly in love with you." Awwww.
After a break, they came back to play a short set. They opened with a stripped-down, rawk version of Devo's "Beautiful World" something that had played at Rock Against Bush (or some other similar thing) in swing states, "For all the good that did us," Ira noted. As for covers, they also played a Neil Innes song as they had just seen him in Austin the previous night and "Count Me In". They played six or seven of their own songs, I remember a very quiet "Big Day Coming", "Autumn Sweater", "Little Eyes", and there my memory fails me.
While tuning extensively between songs, Ira observed that since this was not a regular show they didn't have any people to tune his guitar for him, "It's not that I can't do it, it's just beneath me."
Great evening for only $5.