Last night started off my month of rock with Yo la Tengo at the Grand Emporium here in KC. It was kind of an unusual show format, but one that I really liked. Instead of having any opening bands they’ve been touring with a rotating line up of members of other bands playing together as one big band. Last night they had Rick Rizzo, Doug McCombs, and David Kilgour. Instead of just playing Yo la Tengo songs, they played a mix of their songs and songs of the people they were touring with plus a healthy dose of covers. I really enjoyed their versions of Devo’s “Gates of Steel” and George Harrison’s “Behind That Locked Door”. The unusual lineup made for a pretty long show too which was great. I’ve always loved how Yo la Tengo mixes their melodic pop with drawn out fuzzy guitar squalls and having more guitars on stage = more noisy guitar freakouts. Can’t really beat that.
They were calling this particular tour the Swing State Tour because they were hitting all of the swing states for the upcoming election in an attempt to get people registered to vote and discuss political issues. That, I thought, was a little odd since on the scale of politically active bands one would generally imagine Yo la Tengo to be just above Steely Dan or something. There’s just not any hint of it in their music. I think its a pretty good indicator of the state of politics in the country that Yo la Tengo is now out there doing some pre-election political stumping. I always get a little uneasy when I hear that a band is trying to spread a political message. I mean, it seems to me like its probably going to be preaching to the choir for one thing. I could be totally wrong, but I get the impression that most crowds at small rock shows are generally pretty politically homogenous, and probably share similar views with the band. So even though I don’t know how effective it was, it was definitely low-key and not at all preachy so it was fine. And besides if a few people registered to vote, hey that’s a good thing.