Yo La Tengo Returns to the Loew’s Jersey Theatre
By Lenore Holz
The Garden State’s own champions of indie rock, Yo La Tengo, returned to the historic Loew’s Jersey Theater in Jersey City on April 9th since their last performance there about 10 years ago. That show supported their 2006 album I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. I was there! You don’t forget a show like that, and I must have seen YLT about a dozen times over the years. The 1,500 fans who made the recent sold-out Saturday night reprise gig were treated to just as much specialness.
Georgia, Ira and James greeted us with a somewhat short but sweet acoustic first set, highlighted by a mellow “Deeper Into Movies,” a YLT classic reimagined on their 2015 release, Stuff Like That There, the band’s fourteenth full-length album. Their 2-in-1 concert format itself is a throwback to their shows supporting their previous release, Fade in 2013. With no other act on the bill, YLT basically opened for themselves.
Yo La Tengo’s acoustic set. Photo by Bork Lord via Twitter (with permission)
The trio must have felt at home so close to Hoboken, where the band originates and rehearsed in the once near-condemned Neumann Leather Factory-turned-artist-colony on Observer Highway.
The early intermission worked well for the venue whose volunteers were ready with a full selection of house concessions. According to Loew’s management, sales were excellent, and every nickle counts for this retro-palatial nonprofit community arts center and movie house desperately in need of renovation.
The second set sent us on a sonic journey like only YLT can, filling the cavernous venue with gorgeous searing, soaring, jangling, wandering sounds. I half expected the stage to shatter and the band to ascend beyond the proscenium defying gravity and taking flight by the sheer awesomeness of their improvisational rocking. Their music often exhibits a surrealist tinge and psychedelic influence, with a consistent optimism at heart.
YLT graciously delivered popular live favorites “Autumn Sweater,” “Sugarcube,” and “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House,” and hearing “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind” made me a happy fan. We were also treated to “Before We Run,” a mellow but mighty “Big Day Coming,” as well as “Sudden Organ,” “Decora,” “Ohm,” and Wire’s “Too Late” set completely on fire. Like savasana at the end of yoga class, the band closed with an acoustic “Tom Courtenay” with Georgia’s mapley vocals.
Maybe the shabby, gilded age time capsule theater influenced my perception, but the audience was pretty eclectic for the Journal Square neighborhood, but still keeping it real. You know how we do in JC. YLT fans tend to be an arty, chill, and introverted bunch, built up over the band’s 30 year history. Some Brooklyn folks found their way to the show, as well as a fair concentration of Europeans, and hey, that’s great, they support the band and were willing to venture so many stops on the PATH, halfway to Newark, even. Points, hipsters!
Pattie Giordan, one of two paid staff at the theater noted, “the crowd was pleasant, polite and accommodating. They really enjoyed being there. The whole vibe was very special, and the theater did very well with concessions and the bar, and donations, too. The volunteers were tremendous. Getting 1,500 people into their seats is no easy task.”
According to Giordan, the idea for the show originated with Todd Abramson, founder of Maxwell’s Tavern in Hoboken, where YLT famously play their ultra fun Hanukkah shows where everyone goes bananas for eight nights in a row (if we’re lucky that year). Like, Jersey bananas. They’re such fun—a mini festival—with A-list comedians, jams with special guests, and proceeds donated to a different charity each night.
Abramson’s worked with Loew’s Jersey Theater for “a long time,” booking one or two concerts per year. Giordan hopes to host more concerts, especially anticipating the influx of neighbors that new residential towers around the transportation hub will bring in the next few years.
Awww… we think you’re beautiful, too!
YLT is a steadfast supporter of indie radio station WFMU 89.5, currently the longest running freeform radio station in the United States, broadcast out of Downtown, Jersey City since 1995. WFMU is your #1 listener-supported, non-commercial source for a-tonal, a-rhythmic music generated with harmoniums, theremins and moogs that your parents would surely hate! I’m kidding, mostly! YLT can typically be heard playing improvised covers on-air by request during fundraising drives, and with notable musicians joining in. ¡Escuche!
YLT began their legacy with their first album, Ride the Tiger, on Coyote Records in 1986, and now 30 years and over 14 records later, few other bands enjoy such a serendipitous combination of compatible artistic genius, eclectic repertoire, and broad, adoring fan base.
From the 2015 album Stuff Like That There listen to “Deeper Into Movies," a re-recording of a Yo La Tengo standard first released in 1997. Like butter!
About the Writer
Lenore Holz landed in Jersey City in July 2001 and hasn’t looked back. She helps others solve problems as Brownstone Concierge, crafts organic teas and fresh lemonade as Iced Tea Fusion, and teaches yoga as Lenorative Yoga. A self-identifying progressive, Lenore is committed to her community through advocating for animals, the local economy, and keeping Liberty State Park free and green. Lenore can be reached at Lenore@BrownstoneConcierge.com. #SaveLSP