Monday, March 26, 2007

I Went To Kiasuland And Yo La Tengo Beat My Ass...

Listening to: Yo La Tengo - I'm Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass


For some undetermined reason, most international bands mainstream or indie, would bypass Malaysia and head for Singapore instead. Yo La Tengo was among those who gave us the pass, and they were in Kiasuland for the Mosaic Music Festival. Unlike Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, or Roskilde, where you get all down and dirty with the chance to swim in a sea of mud like piggies …

"Oink... Oink..."

…Mosaic would be a prim and “proper” music fest at The Esplanade, which is a bunch of posh concert halls, exhibition galleries, and auditoriums overlooking Marina Bay. Seating here will be numbered… and expensive. Despite the average price of Sg$90 (RM200) for a good seat in the middle, the auditorium was packed. O yea… no photographs allowed.

There was no opening band. After a robotic introduction by the emcee, the band failed to immediately appear, and the audience started getting rather noisy. And then… the Trio appeared… kicking off two pieces from their earlier works… and later, the song “Pass The Hatchet” from their newest album “I’m Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass”.

From left: James, Georgia, and Ira

This whole track lasted a good over TEN damn minutes. Very… very… prog-rock.

Now, the thing about Yo La Tengo is they’ve been around for over 20 years, almost as old as me. Try as you might to pigeonhole them into a genre... YOU will fail. Lead guitarist Ira, drummer Georgia, and bass-man James has covered a wide variety of styles, most often putting their own innovation and twists to a particular genre they decided to do. Jesus & Mary Chain style shoegazing? Did that with a cover of the Beach Boys “Little Honda” among all else. Country? Ja! Ambient style electro music? Yep. Twee style pop? … its in their latest album, Track No. 12.

Working quietly in the darkened corner of the stage, was a bald dude tuning and preparing Ira’s guitars. For almost every different style of song they will next play, Ira Kaplan would swap guitars with the tech. I reckoned he went through around 5 guitars and did more than 8 swaps at least…

Even after this awesome sonicworks display of Yo La Tengo’s musical ability, I have to admit… I’m STILL not a fan, even after owning two albums, a single, plus an E/P that I fished out of the discount bin in a San Jose record shop this January. But lets just say that I do appreciate their music in a good way. As for the rest of the audience, it seemed the entire battalion of Singapore’s Yo La Tengo fans came out in full force tonight to have a good time.

The Trio left the stage, but later returned for an encore of two more songs. The first was just… to me… just got ‘interesting’ towards the end. Ira decided one more time to display his skills with his guitar by smacking his electric-guitar’s strings on his lap… an action that somehow produced a sound that melded coherently with the last third of “We Are An American Band”. For the last song which Ira decided to ask the crowd to choose, my request for “Little Honda” was drowned out by a cacophony of screams from the others for a whole other titles like “Sugarcube”, to “Danelectro”, to stuff which I’ve never probably heard. They settled on “You Can Have It All”.

Is Tiger Beer Singaporean?!

Sixty folks had the golden chance to meet them after the show. I was among them...

One of the lucky fans...

This girl above asked Ira if he's "enjoying the beer". When he said yes, she
said it is "our very own" Singaporean brewed stuff.


And me finally getting to meet Yo La Tengo.
(For mystery points, I've cropped the portion where I am)

The Trio and I laughing at a funny piece of trivia in the mag they were
signing. Seems like Ira doesn't own a cellphone... a perplexity for many folks
today, especially Singaporeans & Malaysians.

Milling about in the foyer, I chatted with a bunch of Norwegians who were at the gig. Apparently they’re with this jazz band known as the Jaga Jazzists, playing tomorrow. has a review here of their performance.

A couple of Singaporean bloggers were also there and wrote reviews.
And, you can download two of Yo La Tengo’s songs for free:

Beanbag Chair
Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind


Likki said...

hey thanks for the great review. the leave was well taken it seems! :)

BrightEyes said...

Yep, t'was a good trip down there. I'll do the non-concert related stuff later...

I was thinking of seeing Rachael Yamagata as well, but she & YLT was placed a week apart. Anyway, I went to her gig in Wisconsin back in 2003. Back then, she was just coming up.