Written by James Dillon
Jan 27, 2010 at 08:00 PM
ImageI can only imagine that when an established indie rock group, such as Yo La Tengo, goes on tour they hope for people to buy tickets to their shows, have a good time at their shows, and maybe buy a t-shirt. When I go to such a concert I hope to have fun with my friends, enjoy the music of the band performing that night, and have a drink, maybe two. I also can only imagine that most people leave their homes for the concert with the same hopes. Sadly, it seems these days that the concert-going population of Houston has a few bad seeds that ruin the hopes of both the bands performing and the majority of those who have paid (an alarmingly increasing price) to get in and see good music. It seems these days that more people are flocking to the smoking patio, drinking themselves stupid, and even heckling the band they paid 25 dollars or more to see. This is why we can’t have nice things as. Or at least that is my two cents. Even if my theory is off, Houston is being skipped over by bands for Austin and Dallas(!) more and more frequently.

I will admit that I have only really been to shows in Austin and New York, but it seems like those going to shows in those cities are actually there to enjoy the music. Such a novel concept. So I am left with the conclusion that bands might actually not like playing in Houston. Just on the off chance I am right, I offer up a few tips to make concerts in Houston a more enjoyable experience for both bands coming through and those who spend their hard earned money to see their favorites songs performed in front of them:

1. Watch the fucking show. I understand that concerts are social events, but try not to spend the entire three hours you are at the venue out on the smoking patio or at the bar. Go watch the band you paid to see perform.

2. If you can’t hold your alcohol, don’t drink so much (or at all) at the show. No one likes the super trashed guy or girl shouting obscenities at the band or the other people in the audience. I will admit to having been drunk at number of shows, but I’ve always tried my best to not infringe on anyone else’s happiness.

3. Don’t be a dick to those around you. Concerts are crowded, hot places. Try to make friends with those around you, not enemies. If you start talking to someone at a concert you know you have at least one thing in common with them, liking the same kind of music. Also, don’t push your way to the front unless you got their early to get a good spot. If you know that you want to be in the front row, get there early and wait in line.

Now that I got that off my chest, I can tell you about how wonderful Yo La Tengo is live.

When I got to Warehouse live Thursday night, an oldies cover band was playing in the small room. The Allen Oldies band to be specific. I’ve seen many oldies cover bands, but these guys were at least more fun than most. Even though they were only playing to about twenty people, including the bar staff, these guys were playing their hearts out.

The Allen Oldies band finished playing for Times New Viking to take the stage in the Ballroom. Oh! how I wished that Times New Viking hadn’t gone on and that the Allen Oldies band just moved to playing the big stage. But unfortunately this wasn’t the case. Times New Viking is one of those really annoying noise rock bands that only hipsters like. The group consisted of two guys playing drums and guitar, and a girl playing keyboards. The drummer screamed over top of his loud fast drumming while the guitarist played riffs that didn’t sounds good at all, way too loud. It looked like the keyboardist was playing, but I couldn’t hear it at all in the mix. Luckily for me the group didn’t play too long.

Not too long after Times New Viking left the stage, Yo La Tengo came out and made my eardrums very happy. First of all, Yo La Tengo doesn’t feel the need to be the loudest band. In fact, at one point during their set I was able to hear the click from a guitar pedal being pushed. The band’s songs are so pretty, even when they use noise, that playing quieter than most bands suits them very well.

Even though the band has been together for over 25 years and have released 12 albums they are still going quite strong. The band has successfully managed to avoid the one major pitfall that most bands can’t avoid, not being able to write great songs anymore.

The set list was quite varied, pulling songs from their entire career. Older songs such as “Stockholm Syndrome” still sound fresh when played live, and songs of their most recent album “Popular Songs” make the listener believe that Yo La Tengo have still yet to peak.

I have seen Yo La Tengo before and I am still amazed at how full the band sounds as a three piece. For the most part they are still a guitar/bass/drums band, but the sound was never thin. The group does break away from the guitar/bass/drums set up for a few of their songs.

Guitarist Ira Kaplan plays piano and organ but manages to do so without losing any of the moment of the show. In fact it was his use of wah on his piano that was the biggest surprise of the night. I am sure that I have had to have heard wah piano before, but this is was the first time I was aware of it. Normally I hate wah, but Kaplan’s use of wah was tasteful and gave the song a very funky/dance vibe.

Even though Times New Viking gave me a headache, I left the show with happy ears. As long as Yo La Tengo continues to write great songs, which I believe they will, I will continue to see them. I only hope that next time I see them it is with a better crowd.