Ah, glorious Webster Hall in all its booty dancin’, sleazy nightclub glory. There’s nothing more unsettling than attending a show here on a dangerous weekend night, where seconds after the band has played their encore, the stages becomes crowded with skanky nymphettes with grubby bills crammed down their G-strings. On this most pleasant of Sunday evenings however, the old building with its cavernous rooms and endless sloping staircases was actually quite pleasant. The atmosphere retained an appropriately casual, evening of pleasantries sort of feel, as people gathered round to enjoy the venerable indie heroes Yo La Tengo. But first, we were to enjoy the ear shattering, wobbly wall of sound producing Oneida.
Straight from Brooklyn (holla!), where all the good bands be at, these dudes surely got the musical and entertainment juices running. A three-piece that succeeds in producing an amazing amount of sound from the humble setup of guitar, drums, and keyboard, these here fellas preformed with an enthusiasm that made me happy deep inside. Indeed, it’s quite rousing to watch a keyboardist who pounds those poor little keys with flailing arms that become absorbed in a non-stop banging rhythm. The dude also had to keep reaching up to secure the placement of his glasses, an action which came across as rapid lurches of hand-to-face arms on some sort of epileptic, optic frenzy. After their excellent opening set, my ears were whirring with that “I’ve attend a rock concert” ring and I was ready to take in some permanent ear damage from our fine headliners.
Yo La Tengo, with a career spanning twenty years and a ridiculous number of albums, have certainly done it all. NYC missed them last year without their usual eight nights of Hanukkah run (although the Sounds of the Sounds of Science at Prospect Park was the shit), but ‘tis no matter, for here they were now to take us to a world that is jammy, sweet, and mind-blowing all at the same time. The backdrop—reminiscent of the infamous Lite Brite toys we all once enjoyed in years past—sprayed a real nice starry sky atmosphere over the band. They seemed to be standing and performing in their own sprawling field of moments magical, which was perfect when they brought out the lengthy numbers like I’m Am Not Afraid of You and Will Beat Your Ass’ ambitious opener “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind.” Through tunes like these, Ira Kaplan really wailed it on the guitar, acting as the most outgoing member of the band. He was all over the damn place.
All these aspects lent to the overall exuberance of the well-behaved little audience that evening. Their ears had been rewarded with a fine sampling of their beloved band’s catalog, including both lengthy, rock the hizzy jams and tight numbers perfect for calculated rump shakin’. More so than usual, the peeps making up the crowd took in the wonderful feel of the evening and let it ride effectively through their spines, resulting in what I was raised to call “dancing.” To be sure, I’ve complained more than once of the oft stiff and immovable demeanor that some NYC show attendees unfortunately possess. So when it got ‘round to encore time, Yo La rewarded its most excellent audience not only with glowing words of gratitude, but by taking requests from a screaming lucky few up in the front row. One such number was “My Little Corner of the World,” which is a fine song in and of itself, but was made just dandy with the jazzing up of the solo. Although the usual keyboard was all set up and clearly had been functioning properly all evening, they had this dude run onstage and whistle the thing. Now, this was impressive. It ain’t no easy task to whistle those high notes. During this moment, and for most of the show, joy abounded.