Yo La Tengo: Romance is a prog guitar solo

Ten-minute thrash solos don't usually make the cut on romantic soundtracks so Yo La Tengo must have been doing something right during their Garden stage headline set last night. You couldn't move for couples wrapped around each other and for once the cold had nothing to do with it. This owed a lot to the atmosphere which was dictionary-defined romantic. Miles away from the nearest large town, the sky above Larmer Tree Gardens was mapped with stars which, combined with an excellent light show and a fairly drunk audience, turned the field into a psychedelic arena, and served to spur the band on to new frenzies of effort.

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Ten-minute thrash solos don’t usually make the cut on romantic soundtracks so Yo La Tengo must have been doing something right during their Garden stage headline set last night. You couldn’t move for couples wrapped around each other and for once the cold had nothing to do with it.

This owed a lot to the atmosphere which was dictionary-defined romantic. Miles away from the nearest large town, the sky above Larmer Tree Gardens was mapped with stars which, combined with an excellent light show and a fairly drunk audience, turned the field into a psychedelic arena, and served to spur the band on to new frenzies of effort.



Singer Ira Kaplan swapped between keyboard and guitar with even more energy than usual, providing huge swathes of fuzzed noise on both, repeatedly smashing his guitar into what, from a distance, looked worryingly like his ankles. Instead of a standard song-based set, the band drew from the proggier elements of their 20-year back catalogue and threw themselves into creating huge soundscapes, with audience chat reserved for the occasional “Thank you” and dedicating a song to a particularly enthusiastic member of the front row.

Returning for a well-deserved encore, bassist Mike Lewis moved to a tiny drum set at the foot of Georgia Hubley’s own for a jazzy “Nuclear War”, before Kaplan duetted with his wife. As the crowd continued to call for more, an audience member summed it up with a satisfied sigh: “That was beautiful.”

Hmm, wonder if we can persuade Hallmark to have a rethink. Probably not.

Words: Kat Brown
Pic credit: Miles Johnson

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