words and photos by Chris Gersbeck
Last night was night six, and Yo La Tengo played their fifth night of Hanukkah shows on Sunday (12/5), with their eight night stay at Maxwell's quickly coming to an end. I can only imagine the amount of exhaustion that comes from planning and rehearsing these shows, though you'd never know it thanks to consistently great performances from Ira, James and Georgia.
The legendary Mission of Burma, who just may be the greatest long-running live act of all time, were tapped to open the night. Playing almost entirely new material, along with a slew of covers including the Buzzcocks' "I Don't Mind" and the Wipers' "Youth of America", Burma continue to prove that they're one of the few, if not only bands to reunite and still produce material as innovative as in their heyday. And maybe I just haven't seen them live in a while, but Roger Miller's new hairdo is fantastic. I'm looking forward to seeing them again in January.
Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac was the comedian guest of the night and his act was well received by the crowd. Cenac's stories were at times a bit convoluted, but the payoffs were definitely worth it. Apparently he and fellow correspondent John Oliver have a show coming in 2011 to follow the Colbert Report, which makes perfect sense.
It's kind of amusing that Yo La Tengo opened with the somber and mesmeric "Green Arrow", considering how intense their set would later become. Tearing through "The Room Got Heavy", Richard Hell's "I'm Your Man", and ending with "Mushroom Cloud of Hiss", Yo La's songs often collapsed into long, droning swells of feedback. Adding to the noise collage was Burma's tape-looper (and Shellac bassist) Bob Weston, who was sitting in with the band for the night, albeit from the soundboard. Manipulating YLT's vocals, guitars and percussion throughout, Weston added that unique quality that has become synonymous with Mission of Burma's sound.
All of this lent itself well to the encore, first with Roger Miller returning on organ to perform Jonathan Richman's "Astral Plane" with WFMU auction winner Jason Kaufman on vocals (who did a great job), then with MoB drummer Pete Prescott singing one of his and Weston's Volcano Suns songs (Weston came out to play bass on this one). Before long, Clint Conley also returned to the stage on guitar to perform as the supergroup I personally have dubbed "Yo La Burma". To say it was incredible to watch is an understatement. It's not too often you get to see things like this happen in such an intimate venue, so if you get the chance to check out any of the remaining shows, definitely do so.
More pictures from the fifth of eight crazy nights at Maxwell's are below.
Mission of Burma
Yo La Tengo
5 December 2010
*(Hanukkah, night 5)* (via)
Mission of Burma and Wyatt Cenac opened.
benefit for International Rescue Committee & Partners In Health
Mix disc by James.
(whole set with Bob Weston of Mission of Burma/Shellac/Volcano Sons mixing/looping/dubbing)
Evanescent Psychic Pez Drop
Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1)
The Crying of Lot G
Periodically Double or Triple
The Room Got Heavy
The Empty Pool (Yung Wu)
Pablo and Andrea
Paul Is Dead
Nowhere Is Near
I'm Your Man (Richard Hell)
Double Dare (fast)
Mushroom Cloud of Hiss
Astral Plane (Jonathan Richman) (with Jason Kaufman, WFMU auction winner, on vocals and Roger Miller on organ)
Cover (Volcano Sons) (with Peter Prescott on vocals and Bob Weston on bass)
Ben Wa Baby (Phil Milstein) (with Clint Conley on bass, RM, and PP)
Frenzy (The Fugs) (with CC, RM, PP)
So Tough (Dredd Foole) (with CC, RM, PP)